After receiving a nomination to do so, I listed on Facebook the top 10 favorite books sitting on my bookshelves. All of these books have been read within the last fifteen years of my life and I selected each because of their impact when I read each book. I’m listing them here with a brief comment for each book as to why it makes my top 10 list. Regardless of what edition I read, I am providing links (click on the titles) to each of the latest book editions. Also, this should go without saying but for the sake of clarity, this list pertains to non-biblical books. The Bible is obviously my favorite and most read book.
So here are my top ten books… for now:
- Vincent J. Donavan, “Christianity Rediscovered.” This is the story of how one Catholic missionary begins anew with one desire, to teach the Masai people about Jesus, and rediscovers what it means to live by faith as a follower of Jesus. The book is full of fascinating insights for the missionary, pastor, or parishioner.
- N.T. Wright, “Surprised By Hope.” This book is about what the future life to come will be like because of what God has redemptively accomplished in Christ. It gave a succinct voice to a lot of thoughts I was already developing as I read scripture.
- Jürgen Moltmann, “Theology of Hope.” This book is fairly dense reading on the subject of Christian eschatology rooted in christology. The idea of our future being present to us in the resurrection of Christ was a theological paradigm shift for me and remains very provocative idea in a good sense.
- Alan Hirsch & Micheal Frost, “The Shaping of Things to Come.” This is the book that opened me to the missional church conversation that had started emerging. I read the book just after having moved from Memphis, TN to Ithaca, NY and I needed to think more like a missionary and help lead churches towards a missional (as opposed to pastoral) stance.
- John Howard Yoder, “The Politics of Jesus.” Um… Although this is a pretty dense book, I managed to read it during my last year as an undergraduate student at Harding University. Major paradigm shift! Prior to that, living as a Christian in America was easy because both my understanding of the life Jesus calls us to follow him in living and the American life were pretty much flowing in the same direction. After reading this book, everything changed.
- Christopher J.H. Wright, “The Mission of God.” This book offers a comprehensive theology of the Bible showing how the entire Bible is the story of God’s mission and how this shapes the way we read scripture. The author’s treatment of sub-topics such as faith, idolatry, covenant, and so forth are also more than worth the time you’ll take to read through this tome.
- N.T. Wright, “The New Testament and the People of God.” This book really helped unlock the culture and mindset of the world of Second-Temple Judaism which the gospel unfolds within, giving rise to the New Testament. Wright’s treatment of how this shapes the way we understand the New Testament and his “five-act play” treatment of how we read and practice scripture as participants of the story is essential reading, in my opinion, for any minister of the gospel.
- Michael Goheen & Craig Bartholomew, “The Drama of Scripture.” A friend and fellow Christian gave me a copy of this book and since reading it, I have been recommending it to other people (I’ve even given a few copies away myself). The book is an easy read, written for undergraduate students with little to no understanding of the Bible. Therefore the book is sort of a “cliff notes” version of the Bible, presenting the coherent account of the Bible as a single narrative projecting it’s own worldview which Christians are called to live out of.
- Rubel Shelly, “I Just Want To Be a Christian.“ At a time when my understanding of Christianity was very sectarian, this book helped me see a vision for nonsectarian Christianity by showing me what the formative leaders of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement were seeking in attempting to restore New Testament Christianity. I believe this book and the author, more importantly, is the most important piece of literature to be written among the Churches of Christ in the last fifty years because of the impact this book had (for the better too).
- Walter Brueggemann, “The Prophetic Imagination.” This book is a short treatment of the prophetic voice in the Old Testament and the author is challenging and thought provoking as he seeks to have the reader take seriously the alternative vision of the prophetic vision. I can assure you that the next time I preach through one of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, I’ll be reading this book again.