My wife recently posted her 10 most influential books. (She put my books on her list. Danger of nepotism?) So, here is my stab at my most influential. (Not counting my own. Danger of ridicule?) And, I’ve doubled and trebled up to get in some more. And, I’m leaving out some books that ought to get me banned from libraries and sitting rooms as penance.
1. The Bible. I read through the bible every year at least once and have for many years. It is more thrilling to me every year and is the foundation for my faith and my life. It is really 66 books, of course, but I’ll count it as one for this. If you haven’t read it yet, try starting with John and then Acts. Finish the New Testament a couple of times and then read the entire book.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This is a 7 book set. It is lots of fun to get lost in them. Very easy reading. I love the spiritual connection and the fun. I read them to my children and look forward to reading them to my grandchildren. And, add to this Mere Christianity (Lewis’s best non-fiction, I think) and The Screwtape Letters (tremendous insights into our spiritual battles) by Lewis. A serious Christian thinker not reading Mere Christianity is sort of like a serious student of English novels never reading A Tale of Two Cities–these things ought not to be done.
3. Trilogy of the Civil War by Shelby Foote. These three books are about 2,000 total pages. I’ve read them three times so far. A really well written history of the Civil War. I have learned boldness from Lee and Jackson, determination from Grant, and the danger of inaction from McClellan. Best to read this with the southern drawl of Foote in your mind. I’ve read pretty much everything written by Stephen Ambrose as well (several books on the WW II era, including Band of Brothers– my favorite) and love them. Not as readable as Foote. And, I love Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, the historical novel of the Civil War. Outstanding.
4. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien. I read them to each of my sons when they were young. Great stories well told.
5. This Present Darkness/Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti. These were my introduction to modern Christian fiction. I stayed up almost all night finishing them. Spiritual warfare became much more real to me. And, Randy Singer has some excellent legal thrillers (Directed Verdict is first in a long line) and Randy Alcorn great Christian fiction- Lord Foulgrin’s Letters is an update of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Heaven by Randy Alcorn isn’t fiction, but it is a thought-provoking book on heaven.
6. Falwell: An Autobiography by Jerry Falwell as well as Building Dynamic Faith. The sheer audacity of the faith of Falwell is amazing. His story just caught me at the right time and made me consider that God is big enough to use someone as weak as me- or you. And I love biographies and the lessons learned from them.
7. Full Surrender by J. Edwin Orr, and most everything he wrote. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on Orr and spent countless hours in close proximity to his work. His work stood the ordeal very well. Some of his work is pretty academic and dry, but he was a true man of God. Full Surrender is a compilation of some of his sermons.
8. The Seven Day a Week Church by Lyle Schaller. No book better helped me understand the world of the large church. And, having been a pastor in a large church for a long time now, it has made me a better pastor.
9. Lectures on Revivals of Religion by Charles Finney. A serious man who was serious about revival- not just revival meetings, but revival. Some calvinists have hated Finney too strongly, methinks. Read him and learn. You don’t have to agree with everything a man writes to learn from him. Read some Jonathan Edwards while you are at it. (Though Edwards can be a bit dry.) I argued in my dissertation that Finney and Edwards are not as far from each other on the subject of revival as some might think. But it is hard to read this early work by Finney without feeling something of the fire of spiritual awakening burning your soul. And that fire brings a good pain. (That last line was my best one of the post.)
10. The Case for Christ, (Can we trust the bible, the resurrection of Christ, etc.) The Case for Faith, (If God is good why is there suffering, philosophical issues of the bible) by Lee Strobel, More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell and most everything written by Ravi Zacharias. I love these books on apologetics. Christianity is rational and logical and intellectually defensible. You can be a Christian and be intellectual. Or not. But you don’t have to give up your thinking to be a Christian. In fact, you ought not give up your thinking if you are a Christian.
I’m leaving out too many great books! Steve Farrar men’s books! Leith Anderson on church life. John Maxwell leadership books. Books by my buddies John Avant, Steve Gaines and Alvin Reid. Business books by Jim Collins. I didn’t even mention my own books. (Except for right now in that last line. And at the beginning. Hmmm…)