Five Essential Books for Christians?

I’m trying to get some thoughts going for a little thingy I’m working on, and it involves this question: What five books, besides the Bible, do you think every Christian ought to have on his or her bookshelf (and to have read, not just to look smart). I have my starting points, but I want to know what others think they should be. Naturally, it could be anything, but try to be realistic, so try to choose books that are comprehensible to the ordinary layperson (which isn’t to say they can’t be challenging).

So. Five essential books for the Christian. Go.

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12 comments so far

  1. Mark Eddy Smith on

    Five is too limiting, since there are seven books in the Harry Potter series, and it doesn’t really work to skip any of them.

  2. jeffreimer on

    Sorry, Mark: I should have said, “besides the Bible, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter.” (Cue protests at my lumping Potter in with Tolkien and Lewis.)

  3. Mark Eddy Smith on

    I sense that our aims may be at cross-purposes. I apologize if that’s true. Nevertheless, here’s a less flippant list (in no particular order):

    Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
    Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
    World Religions, Huston Smith
    The Odyssey, Homer
    Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard

    I should note that although my Potter suggestion was flippant, it was not frivolous.

  4. jeffreimer on

    I wouldn’t expect any less from you, Mark, flippant or frivolous notwithstanding. That’s a good list. I didn’t know you were a Huston Smith fan. Is that some cross-pollination from our mutual friend Matthew J. Smith?

  5. Mark Eddy Smith on

    Indeed it is. We Smiths are a surly bunch.

  6. Ryan Cordell on

    I’m going to say
    1. The Prayer Of Jabez
    2. Radically Saved (the book, not the album) by Carman
    3. The Satan Seller by Mike Warnke
    4. Still Standing by Carrie Prejean
    5. I Kissed Dating Goodbye by J. Harris

    In all seriousness, I’ll suggest any of these:
    Celebration of Discipline by Foster
    The Great Divorce by Lewis
    The Ragamuffin Gospel by Manning
    The Practice Of The Presence Of God
    A New Way To Be Human by C. Peacock
    The Cultural Savvy Christian by D. Staub
    Whistling In The Dark by F. Buechner

  7. Tim Cairns on

    one of the books has to be: The Parables of Jesus by David Wenham. A great book!

    Another one needs to be The Cross of Christ by John Stott and maybe throw in Knowing God by Packer just for good measure!

    The other two can be anything you want! Although I might suggest The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer and Surprised by Hope by NT Wright.

  8. Ben on

    This is a tough question. Do the books come with any other instruction? I’m going to assume the answer is “yes” and go from there.

    -The Apostolic Fathers (Loeb Classical Library, trans. Ehrman)
    -How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, Fee and Stuart (or some other basic introduction on how to read the Bible)
    -The Gift, Lewis Hyde (not the children’s book)
    -I and Thou, M. Buber
    -Crime and Punishment, F. Dostoevsky

  9. RC on

    Confessions by St. Augustine
    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    Knowing God by J.I. Packer
    Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
    Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden

  10. Greg on

    “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan should be on the list of required reading for all humans. Christians are humans, ergo…

  11. Veda on

    Hi Jeff, just stumbled across your site today. My first thought – Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I didn’t go to a Christian college. This book is accessible to those without a lot of Bible courses.

    I started reading Mere Christianity last month. Perhaps I quit too soon, but I didn’t find it helpful.

    I don’t read much fiction, but I love the Harry Potter series. It is not misplaced beside Tolkien.

  12. ryandavidhawk on

    Jeff.
    I stumbled across your blog from your Athanasius post about Christmas and smiled because we had just read “On the Incarnation,” in my Historical Theology I class, and talked about much of what you said. So as I kept reading other posts I decided to jump on here and give my favorites. I must admit beforehand that I am a C.S Lewis geek like most liberal christian college educated kids our age. Oh well. I also must agree that Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are must haves for any book collection because they all are simply brilliant stories.

    Surprised by Joy by C.S Lewis

    A Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

    The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    The Screwtape Letters/The Great Divorce (tie or flip a coin) by C.S. Lewis. Humanity relates to story and these are two beautiful, (and scary) stories that encourage Christians to think about real things through a different context of lenses.

    The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson. This book is more friendly for a lay person than most on the subject. It has been a great resource for understanding some basic history of Christianity without having to learn Latin, German or Greek. I think Olson is concerned mostly with the story of salvation throughout the history of Christianity in this particular book, but it is a great start to understanding Christianity from a historical perspective.

    Honorable mentions for those who want more meat with their potatoes…
    Confessions by St. Augustine
    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (Suprised by Joy is book one in what I think is the series of Lewis’ conversion and belief system and much of Mere Christianity has roots from Suprised by Joy)
    Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell


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