Sunday, December 2, 2012

My top 20 Christian books + wish-list


I read this post about the top 25 must-read Christian books.  I’ve only read two from that list, although I’ve heard of most of them and read extracts from a few others.

I thought I’d compile my own personal list of the top Christian books that I have actually read, and that have helped inform and shape my faith over the years.

1.  The Bible.  The original list assumed the Bible was an “of course”, but sometimes I find myself in conversation with other believers that leaves me wondering how much of the Bible they’ve actually read through, not just re-reading ones favourite chapters over and again.  Children’s Bible Story books only count if you have a children’s reading level.  There are so many Bible reading plans out there, most take you though the Bible from Genesis to Revelation over 12 months, other work through chronologically.

2012-12-02 15.58.21
When I was a teenager and new to the faith I spent a summer reading my NIV Study Bible for hours at a time.  I still have the same Bible 20-something years later, although I’ve made a couple of different covers for it at different times.  This is it’s current appearance.

2. Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.  My copy is an older edition, but the words are ageless.

3. The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis

4. ‘Till We Have Faces
by C S Lewis
– it wasn’t easy finding a copy of this when I first tried to read it.  I eventually got an old copy through the inter-library loan system.  I have later bought a Selected Works by C S Lewis that included this.

5. The Great Divorce by C S Lewis -  Another one in my Selected Works.  Not what I expected it would be, but I keep coming back to it.  I find it a challenging look at how preciously we hold onto what is eternally superficial – even “Good” stuff and “Religious” stuff can become stumbling blocks.

. Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis – Lewis’ autobiography, but with some profound messages throughout about the meaning of Joy and some of the reasoning for his faith. 

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  I tried starting a blog series on this a while back but didn’t get very far with it.  I’ve read the book through but I’m still working on putting it into practice.  The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is because of so many C S Lewis books get in the way.

8. Kneeling with Giants
by Gary Neal Hansen
– This would be the newest book on my list but it’s on the way to becoming a much loved classic already.  Published in June 2012.  A journey through praying alongside Church history’s greatest – from Saint Augustine through to the Pentecostal styles.  This is deserving of a more thorough book review so a separate post on this will follow.

9. The Pilgrim’s Progress
by John Bunyan

10-12. The Case for the Creator, The Case for Christ, the Case for Faith etc.. by Lee Strobel.  Lee Strobel was an atheist, and a journalist, and in 1979 began two years of investigating the claims of Christianity with an intention to disprove them. He became a Christian in 1981, and write about the evidence he found that convinced him of the truth of Christianity.

13-14. In His Steps and Jesus is Here by Charles Sheldon.  The first of these was republished a few years ago with the title “What Would Jesus Do” and go a lot of hype and merchandising along with it, then everyone got tired of it and it went away again.  I’d read the book before it was popular, and still believe it to be a classic to return to and be reminded of.

15. Church History In Plain Language Bruce L. Shelley.  I read a borrowed copy of this several years ago, and it’s on my wish-list to own my own copy so I can re-read it.  I believe it’s important to know why we believe what we do and how Christianity has developed over the generations. 

16. Know the Truth by Bruce Milne - Another part of knowing what we believe as Christians and why we believe what we do.  This book is a good lay-persons summary of basic Christian theology, without getting too bogged down in the serious textbooks that are written for theological students.

17. A Prisoner and Yet by Corrie ten Boom
- Not the first book that comes up on a Google search for this author, but the one I happen to own a copy of. (My copy is a plain hardback with no dustcover, but anyway…)  It’s not just a story of how Corrie ten Boom survived Nazi prison camps, but also with important lessons about how faith sustains you in the face of that kind of suffering.

18. Honest to God by Bill Hybels  Being a real and authentic believer is important to me and I think this is the book that probably taught that to me.  Echoes back to “Till We Have Faces” above – the challenge is to remove the masks we wear and be honest before God and each other.

19. Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend
I read this one when I was first married, and while I haven't reread it, I do think the principles covered in this book are still important to me.

20. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  Actually I’m not convinced about this been in the top 20, but I’m trying to make up to an even number of what I have read without resorting to more works by C.S. Lewis or novels.

Now for the “Want to read” wish-list:

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I recently read a modern biography on Bonhoeffer which has inspired me to put this on my wish-list, as well as any other works I can find that have been translated to English.  A man who not just wrote about the cost of discipleship, but paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.

2-3. The Everlasting Man
and Orthodoxy  by G. K. Chesterton – an author who influenced C. S. Lewis whom you may have gathered has been a strong influence to me.

The Practice of the Presence of God  by Brother Lawrence I’ve come across references to this book in a number of others I’ve read, and would like to read it for myself instead of just reading about it.

5. Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill – This one joined my wish-list from Lent Madness earlier this year, when Evelyn Underhill was one of the “saints” facing off. I was actually quite disappointed when she lost to Mary Magdalene in round two.

6. Phantastes By George MacDonald.  C. S. Lewis described George MacDonald as an author who “baptized his imagination.”

7-8. Confessions and The City of God By Saint Augustine. A bit like Bonhoeffer, I was inspired to put these on my wish-list after reading a biography I stumbled across at the local library.

I think I’ll be spending a bit more money at in the near future.  If my husband will let me.

What are the top books you’ve read? What’s on your wish-list?


  1. I have a copy of the practise of the presence of God if you want to borrow it you are really welcome. Also you are aware of the big second hand Christian bookshop some where in Chch I assume??

  2. is still on Acheron Drive off Blenheim Rd. :-)

  3. Wow what a fantastic list. Have you discovered Audible, which lets you download books to your iPod or iPhone to listen to on walks or as you do housework. A book speaking to me in my pocket is becoming one of the highlights of my day

  4. Claudia, many thanks for including "Kneeling with Giants" here, with the hope of a further post on it! I am very honoured to be included on your list -- and humbled by the good company. I'd love to hear how you came across my book.

  5. Anita, do you know whether Audible works on Android phones?

    Welcome to my blog Gary. Your book was the right word in the right season for me earlier this year, so thank you for writing it. I'll include the story of how I came across it in my next post.

  6. On my shelves (and read) are the titles by Richard Foster, Evelyn Underhill and Brother Lawrence. I've read, but don't possess, the Bonhoeffer and Surprised By Joy, but I'm afraid I'm not a big fan of C S Lewis. A book which was very significant on my journey to an adult faith back in the mid-1970s was The Foolishness Of God, by John Austin Baker, who was later Bishop of Salisbury.