The Top Ten Books Every Christian Should Read: my required reading list for life

I have been thinking about the ten books every Christian should read. I’ve been composing the list in my head, and it’s harder than you think. You need qualifiers. Here are mine: broad subject range, deep but not obscure, non-fiction (with one exception), focused on discipleship and the Christian story, fit more in the theological realm, not biblical studies, philosophy, or spirituality. This is not my list of the all-time greatest, nor is it my ten favorites. This is the list that I would make required reading of every Christian I know, if I had that kind of power; though I clearly don’t have. However, I do have a blog, so I put this out there for any and all.

What goes on your list?

BTW: This list purposefully does not contain any really difficult reads. To help I devised a difficulty scale from one to ten – one being an easy read, ten being more difficult – and none of these scored higher than a seven. The number follows the book.

So, if I could get every single Christian I know to carefully read these ten books I would. If we would all wrestle with these concepts and begin to allow these great writers to challenge us, the impact on our lives and our communities would be transforming.

Here’s my list:

01. The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann (difficulty 06)

02. Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas & William Willimon (difficulty 06)

03. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (difficulty 03)

04. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider (difficulty 04)

05. The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder (difficulty 07)

06. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (difficulty 02)

07. Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright (difficulty 05)

08. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (difficulty 06)

09. For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann (difficulty 07)

10. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (difficulty 05)

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  • I’d repeat any from your list, although you stole a couple:
    1) Called and Committed by David Watson (05)
    2) God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew (02)
    3) Inside Out by Larry Crabb (06)
    4) Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand (03)
    5) Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (04)
    6) Mere Christianity by C S Lewis (04)
    7) In the Backyard of Jesus by Steven Khoury (03)
    8) The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer (02)
    9) The Search for God and Guiness by Stephen Mansfield (01)
    10) The Life of Adoniram Judson: To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (02)

  • Nate Ashley

    so…..the bible covers number 11-67 then? haha

  • scott stone

    I’m horrible at making lists such as this. I tend to vacillate quite a bit. Ask me next month the same question and I’ll probably think of a book or two and then try and figure out which book I’d knock off the list to add a new one. Here’s my list as of today.

    1. Strength to Love by MLK
    2. Justice in the Burbs by Will & Lisa Samson
    3. Love Wins by Rob Bell
    4. Doing Christian Ethics from the Margin by Miguel De la Torre
    5. Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ronald Sider
    6. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
    7. A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
    8. Recovering the Scandal of the Cross by Green & Baker
    9. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    10. The Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann
    10.1 The Promise by Chaim Potok (Outside of your qualifiers but I think it is a must for every Christian)

  • Chris

    First, Eugene Petersen said in a speech he made at the 2003 Christy Awards banquet, “Words amputated from stories lose accuracy, lose color and energy, congeal into god talk. They are flowers that fade and grow limp. For every theologian, we need five novelists to keep the language personally relational; for every biblical scholar we need another five novelists to keep the language participatory; for every church historian the church needs another five novelists to keep us aware that we are in the story”. I agree with this to the point that my list could never be void of fiction.

    Next, these are books I would recommend to all Christians. Not all of them are life changing, deep, challenging, or even theological, but I think they’d put most Christians on a good path to a wholistic walk with God.

    1. Chronicles of Narnia (I’m taking the liberty of making these one book) – C.S. Lewis

    2. A Celebration of Discipline – Foster

    3. Orthodoxy- G.K. Chesterton

    4. A Generous Orthodoxy- McClaren

    5. What’s so Amazing about Grace- Yancy

    6. The Circle Trilogy – Dekker (again, treating all three as one book. the allegory is a little heavy handed, but still worth it. I exclude Green because it just got weird.)

    7. Velvet Elvis- Rob Bell

    8. The Cost of Discipleship- Bonhoeffer

    9. The Hiding Place- Corrie Ten Boom

    10. The Stand- Stephen King

  • scott stone

    Well it didn’t even take a month before I’d change something on my list. Not because I don’t like the list I’ve come up with, it’s just after looking at mine and the others it seems like there are just too many white guys. So knock any of the white guys off my list and add:

    10.2 The Black Christ by Kelly Brown Douglas

  • Chris

    Ugh! I need an 11th.

    11. Inside Out – Larry Crabb

    Maybe even in place of The Cost of Discipleship if pressed to have only 10.

  • Chris

    OK, this freaking list is haunting me.

    12. Confessions – St. Augustine (replace What’s So Amazing About Grace if you must. Every Christian needs Confessions. Nothing makes the faith more timeless)

  • Tim Suttle

    Yes, you guys are my people. You have the same sickness as me. I see we will need subcategories 🙂

  • I always like reading lists like this, so I was drawn in, although I read relatively few Evangelical books now, following a broader theology after most of my adult life in the former. (Mine now is based on extensive biblical and Christian origins study–beyond my earlier MDiv and PhD studies–and certain aspects of science.) It’s good to see Bonhoeffer’s books on people’s lists… hardly Evangelical in the American sense, and based in the cruelest of realities. Also McLaren and other books some would judge too “liberal” or leftist oriented.

  • SteveGillilan

    04. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider (difficulty 04) is highly more very contemporary is The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

  • Fred Anderson

    I would add:
    11. The Powers that Be by Walter Wink

  • Chris

    Crap! Steve got me.

    13. Hole in our Gospel
    14. When Helping Hurts. Brian Fikkert

  • Recently, several people posted Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lists of 8 important books and it inspired me to try to list 8 of *the most influential books* in my life. It wasn’t easy– and I fudged quite a bit in places — but here’s what I came up with (I will expand it to 10 since you discuss 10 above. I am not necessarily recommending these, but in my own life, these have been most important:

    1) The Bible

    2) The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

    3) The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

    4) The Theological-Political Treatise of Spinoza (and later his “Ethics”)

    5) On the Genealogy of Morals, by Friedrich Nietzsche (his other books, too)

    6) The Critique of Pure Reason, by Immanuel Kant (and his ethical writings)

    7) The confessions of St. Augustine (with selected readings in Plato & Plotinus recommended)

    8) Being and Time, by Martin Heidegger (with selected readings in Hegel and Kierkegaard also recommended)

    9) The Perennial Philosophy, by Aldous Huxley

    10) The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle (also “A New Earth” and “Stillness

    Worthy of honorable mention are:
    “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, by Robert Pirsig
    “Siddhartha” AND “Demian” by Hermann Hesse
    “The Courage to Be” and “The Dynamics of Faith”, by Paul Tillich
    “The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”, by Alan Watts
    “The Bhagavad-Gita” and selections from “The Upanishads”
    The Tao Te Ching”, by Lao Tzu
    “Verses on the Faith Mind”, by Hsin Hsin Ming

    Alas, of the praising of many books there is no end! 🙂

  • Duncan

    I’m not a Christian, but I think that Graham Shaw’s 1982 book “The Cost of Authority: Manipulation and Freedom in the New Testament” is one of the very best books by a Christian about Christianity that I’ve ever read. It’s one of the best books, period. Shaw was chaplain at Magdalen College at Oxford, and he seems only to have written one other book. Difficulty level is probably about 06 on your scale. Long out of

    print, but worth tracking down.

    • treacle

      He was chaplain at Exeter College Oxford, not Magdalen College.

      • Duncan

        You’re right — thanks for the correction.