By request: here is a three-year reading plan of the Best Christian Books categorized for rookies, veterans, and burn-outs. You can stretch it to the rest of your life if you so choose. I promise I’ve only recommended books that I have finished by at least 90% (by reading or audio), which means the list will be limited but at least personally experienced. I’ll also include links of other pastors’ recommended books. You’ll literally have hundreds of suggestions.
This list will change over time. I’ll be sure to edit and re-post!
**Last updated 1-4-2015**
Reading Tips For Christian Books:
1) Highlight, write, and journal. — I love highlighting, jotting notes, and having an open journal where I can sketch thoughts. It not only commits things to memory, but helps me to connect random insights together.
2) Discern, discern, discern. — Don’t receive every Christian book as gospel. No pastor, theologian, or professional is ever infallible. Only the Bible is. Always read with a personal and Scriptural filter. Many Christian books, in part or whole and by accident or on purpose, can endorse bizarre doctrines that you should not try at home. But it doesn’t mean you should throw it in a bonfire. Wisely discern what’s to be received or rejected.
3) Zero in on the Bible. — Many times, Christian authors will quote passages of Scripture. Don’t skip or skim. Look them up. Read them in context. I have sometimes disagreed with an author’s use of a certain passage or have found a renewed love for them. Occasionally I’ll set the book aside and just read the Bible.
4) Christian books cannot replace mentorship nor do they buy you worthiness. — We know this, but books can make you snobby in a real hurry before you know it. Finishing a dozen recent bestsellers doesn’t mean you can preach to your pastor. “You read this one yet? Well I guess you’re not a real Christian.” Apostle Paul said that knowledge puffs up and love builds up, because he knew we would exercise our brain-muscle over our heart-muscle. If you’re tempted to lock yourself in your room with that book instead of evangelizing, fellowship, serving, or praying, then repent quick.
5) Don’t rush to achieve your reading quota. — Reading can quickly become a trophy contest or a numb hobby like a Netflix queue. You’ll get eager to finish just to proclaim you’ve finished it. Try to savor the book. Let it settle. Re-read the highlighted parts instead of jumping into the next one.
Bonus tip: Index your favorite parts. — When I find a line or section of the book I want to remember, I’ll flip to the front of the book and write the page number plus a note. Here is an example. I believe e-readers also have their own notes system.
My Goodreads account is here. It has a list of every book I’ve ever read with star ratings.
The following arrangements are in no particular order.
An asterisk is an encouraging book for those “burnt out” — distant, detached, or depressed.
Please know that rookie, intermediate, or advanced does not imply anything about your spiritual life, but rather the increasing complexity of the books. Feel free to flip the order any way you like.
Please also note that I wish there was a wider diversity of male and female authors, ethnicity, age, and lesser known writers. This list will continue to grow over time as we share together as a community, so please feel free to suggest your most impacting books.
=>> Year One, Rookie Level
Mere Christianity — C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain — by C.S. Lewis
The Reason For God — Timothy Keller
Encounters with Jesus — Timothy Keller
The Grace of God — Andy Stanley
Pursuit of Holiness — Jerry Bridges
Crazy Love — Francis Chan
*Radical — David Platt
*Searching For God Knows What — Donald Miller
*A Million Miles In A Thousand Years — Donald Miller
*The Jesus Storybook Bible — by Sally Lloyd-Jones
*Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing — by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Prodigal God — Timothy Keller
*Dug Down Deep — Joshua Harris
*Ragamuffin Gospel — Brennan Manning
What the Bible is All About — Henrietta Mears
The Case For Christ — Lee Strobel
*Counterfeit Gods — Timothy Keller
*Note To Self — Joe Thorn
Introduction To Evangelism — Alvin Reid
The Princess and the Goblin — George MacDonald
*Plan B — Pete Wilson
Enemies of the Heart — Andy Stanley
=>> Year Two, Intermediate Level
Overrated — Eugene Cho
Encounters With Jesus — Timothy Keller
*Trusting God — Jerry Bridges
The Gospel For Real Life — Jerry Bridges
Know Doubt — John Ortberg
When The Game Is Over, It All Goes Back In The Box — John Ortberg
*The Screwtape Letters — C.S. Lewis
*The Great Divorce — C.S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory — C.S. Lewis
*Surprised by Joy — C.S. Lewis
Forgotten God — Francis Chan
Think — John Piper
Little Pot Of Oil — Jill Briscoe
Jesus — Walter Wangerin Jr.
Culture Shift — Albert Mohler
When Life Is Hard — James MacDonald
Seven Words To Change Your Family — James MacDonald
Gospel — J.D. Greear
*The Next Christians — Gabe Lyons
Twelve Ordinary Men — John MacArthur
Erasing Hell — Francis Chan
*You Can Change — Tim Chester
Lifted — Sam Allberry
The Universe Next Door — James Sire
=>> Year Three, Advanced Level
If God Is Good — Randy Alcorn
Systematic Theology — Wayne Grudem
The Cost of Discipleship — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
King’s Cross — Timothy Keller
Generous Justice — Timothy Keller
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale — Frederick Buechner
*You Lost Me — David Kinnaman
Sacred Marriage — Gary Thomas
The Meaning of Marriage — Timothy Keller
*Has Christianity Failed You? — Ravi Zacharias
Simply Jesus — N.T. Wright
Rid Of My Disgrace — Justin and Lindsay Holcomb
Institutes of the Christian Religion — John Calvin
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret — Howard Taylor
Orthodoxy — G.K. Chesterton
Way of Wisdom — James MacDonald
Pure Eyes — Craig Gross
>Books For Pastors and Ministry
*The Minister As Shepherd — Charles Jefferson
Applying The Sermon — Daniel Overdorf
Spirit-Led Preaching — Greg Heisler
Christ-Centered Preaching — Bryan Chapell
Sifted — Wayne Cordeiro
*The Supremacy Of God In Preaching — John Piper
Let Me Tell You A Story — Tony Campolo
The Peacemaking Pastor — Alfred Poirier
*Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry — Doug Fields
Speaking To Teenagers — Doug Fields
Raising The Bar — Alvin Reid
What’s The Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood — John Piper
Between Two Worlds — John Stott
Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church — Mark Dever
Dominion and Dynasty — Stephen Dempster
*Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome — Kent Hughes
Major Bible Themes — Lewis Sperry Chafer
>Secular Books To Consider:
God Delusion — Richard Dawkins
God Is Not Great — Christopher Hitchens
The Quotable Atheist — Jack Huberman
The Da Vinci Code — Dan Brown
Moral Landscape — Sam Harris
James MacDonald’s reading plan for Christian books here.
Tim Keller’s recommended readings here.
J.D. Greear’s recommended readings here.
Feel free to leave your own recommendations and reviews!