If you’ve ever read a book, and felt changed after finishing the last sentence, then you’ll know how I felt after reading each of the following on this list. Each book came along at a different time in my life and left its mark on me, so much so that I’d like to share the list with you. You may or may not have heard of some of them, but I encourage you to search out the ones that you have not heard of, and give them a read. I pray that each has as big an impact on you, as it did on me.
- Simply Christian – N.T. Wright
The first on my list is Simply Christian. I’m not sure I can even put into words what this book did for me the first time I read it. Actually, I distinctly remember finishing it and immediately going back to the first page to begin reading it again for a second time. I did read it a second time, and several more after that. There was something in it that was transforming my worldview as a Christian, and I liked the feeling of being shaken up a bit in what I believed.
Wright draws our attention to what he calls “echoes of a voice”, meaning the universal longings of the human soul, and he proceeds to explain how the teachings of Christ give answer to those deep longings. Wright weaves together the basic beliefs of the Christian faith into a coherent, and beautiful picture of Christian belief and I walked away from this book with one thought in mind, “Christianity is beautiful.” I think you will walk away thinking the same thing.
- Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright
Another N.T. Wright book which had a profound impact on me was Surprised by Hope. If you’ve ever thought, “I know I’m saved and going to heaven when I die, but what am I supposed to do until then, and what does ‘going to heaven’ really even mean anyway?”, then this book is for you. Wright outlines what the Christian hope is for the future, but also what that hope means for the here and now. After reading this book, I felt I had a better understanding of what Christians are actually supposed to do.
There is so much more to Christianity than knowing where we’re going when we die. Wright paints a beautiful picture of what Christian belief means for our lives, and how God intends to empower us by his Spirit to be agents of renewal within his good creation.
- Can Man Live Without God – Ravi Zacharias
This book came along at a pivotal time in my life; a time when I was wrestling with doubts, fears and serious questions. The first time I read it, I understood just how meaningless, futile and hopeless a world without God really is. Zacharias opened my eyes to the tragic consequences of ideas. In short, ideas matter and there are logical ends which come as a result of Godless ideologies.
This book helped me, at a time in my life in which I desperately needed the help, to understand the real world outcomes of personal belief systems. It motivated me toward a journey of really searching out and discovering what I believed. And Zacharias is the best guide that can be hoped for on such a journey.
- Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
I first read Mere Christianity while a High School Student. It was years later that I picked it up again and realized just how much I missed on my first read; it truly is an astounding work. And Lewis’ genius is in just that; that a high school student can read the book and understand the weighty issues discussed while at the same time, a Graduate student can ponder the very profound and significant issues with equal inquisitiveness. Lewis was the master of writing for the lay-person, but at the same time addressing issues which are cumbersome even for the academics.
Lewis breaks down what he calls “mere” Christianity, as in that which has “been common to nearly all Christianity at all times.” Originally broadcast talks on the BBC during wartime, Mere Christianity has become a classic addressing a very wide variety of topics which are common to all Christians no matter denomination.
Mere Christianity helped me develop a coherent and reasonable Christian worldview while in High School, and it continues to do so today. I highly recommend it if you have never read this classic.
- The Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen
The final book I’m including on this list came to me while taking a Pastoral Care class at ORU. I had not heard of Nouwen until that time, and I will be eternally grateful to the professor for introducing the class to him.
The book is the story of Nouwen’s obsession with Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. And I do mean obsession. The painting in a strange way took hold of Nouwen, and I’m sure that the book has done the same for anyone who has read it.
He takes the reader on a pilgrimage of sorts through the parable, and his experiences identifying with all characters involved; Father, prodigal, older son. There is more in the parable than I had imagined at the time, and as I read I too saw reflections of myself in each. You will come to see both God and yourself differently as you read this book.
So that’s it. The five top books that I recommend everyone read. I hope you will consider picking some of them up. And if you do, comment below and let us know the impact they had on your life as well. I would love to hear your thoughts, as well as recommendations on additional reads.