What one book do you think every Christian should read? Share your One Book!

So, I’ve been thinking about how to pull off the Seminary Stories series, and I’ve decided to start this way. One of the things that I struggled with the most when I was started feeling the need to dig deeper into what I believed and why was just not knowing where to begin. What books should I read? What podcasts should I listen to? There’s no shortage of books, and let’s face it, the meatiest ones are seldom the ones getting full-page spreads in the CBD catalog. It would have really helped to have someone suggesting books that could feed my ravenous desire to learn.

So I thought it would be great to compile lists of people’s One Favorite Book on a wide variety of theological topics, but let’s just start with a general book about Christianity. Anything. What’s your One Book? The one you wish everyone would read?

Oh, and the Bible TOTALLY doesn’t count for these purposes, because every Christian knows they should read the Bible, right? NOT HELPFUL!

So, what’s the One Book you think every Christian should read, and why? Tell me a little bit about it in the comments, and I’ll compile them into a handy-dandy list for people who are hungry to learn. Thanks!

51 Responses to What one book do you think every Christian should read? Share your One Book!

  1. Don Johnson January 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    The book that made me realize I could greatly misunderstand some texts in the Bible due to my lack of cultural knowledge was David Instone-Brewer’s masterwork, “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context”. It totally changed my paradigm on how I approach reading the Bible and cannot recommend it highly enough.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

      I’ve heard great things about that book from so many people. I’m looking forward to reading it some day.

  2. Laura M. January 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Knowing God by JI Packer

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

      You know, that book has been on my bookshelf forever, but I’ve never read it. It’s Aaron’s, I think. Someday!

  3. Alan January 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Re-imagining Church by Frank Viola. You may or may not agree with much, most, or any of it, but it offers us the possibility that we’ve missed the point in a lot of ways in the Church. It showed me I wasn’t the only one who was having these sneaking suspicions that a lot of what the Church does causes a lot of problems and creates roadblocks to us functioning completely and in unity. It opened me up to a whole new world in Christ that I had only seen glimmers of before.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      Those are the best sort of books–the ones you’re not sure you agree with, but that get you thinking while reassuring you that you’re not alone. Like friends. :-)

  4. Wim January 20, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    Simply Christian by N.T. Wright, because is tells basic christianity from a different angle. “Heaven touches earth in every christian” is a rich and humbling thought!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      I love Wright! Actually, though, I don’t think I’ve read that one yet (weird, I know). So many masterpieces, so little time!

  5. G.J. Schaap January 20, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    ‘Killing Fields, Living Fields: Faith in Cambodia’ by Don Cormack.

  6. Valerie January 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    The Other Side of Sin. It is an incredibly insightful look at the difference between beliefism and Christianity.

  7. zhou ya January 20, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    “Humble Apologetics” by John Stackhouse. The title is a bit self-explanatory, but it goes beyond apologetics or presenting our faith to others to how we think about and hold our own faith…and interpretations. Honesty vs. “pat” answers. Acknowledgment of what we can factually know vs. what is held by faith. Stepping back from the “must win an argument” mentality.

  8. Gail January 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    “With” by Skye Jethani. (It will make you think, though it wasn’t one of my textbooks.)

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

      It’s on my list! Although if I read anything that hasn’t been assigned to me this semester, it will be a miracle!

      • Gail January 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

        *snicker* Oh, I completely understand! I am, at present, traveling with 4 “school” books. Thankfully, only portions of them have to be read before I get home. “With” is an easy read that speaks to five different positions in which we tend to live our “christian” lives; life over God, under God, from God, for God, and life with God. Jethani was a plenary session speaker at the CRU conference this past year.

  9. Paul Rivas January 20, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. A simple book that brings the reality of God’s presence into everyday life.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

      So, I was going to reply that that was a great book, and then realized I was thinking of “The Table of Inwardness”, I now I can’t remember if I’ve read Brother Lawrence at all, or just read about him in other books (this would have been nearly 20 years ago). Hmm. Must investigate.

  10. Tamara Cedre January 20, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Hi…new reader. Incredibly interested in the questions you pose in your articles and on your website, Jenny. :) I hope it’s okay to comment…

    As of late, my taste in Christian literature has changed. I’m finding elegant illustrations of Christ and more sophisticated apologetics in books like Terry Eagleton’s “Reason, Faith & Revolution: The God Debate” and other philosophers like Greg Boyd and C. Stephen Evans that flip assumptions on their head about how Christians perceive their faith ontologically, historically and culturally.

    It’s hard to recommend one book, because they lead to others. I read “Training/Practice in Christianity” by Soren Kierkegaard and found primers by C.Stephen Evans to be helpful in understanding his writings. It had me rethinking a lot of things and also opening my heart and mind up to the possibility that there was a way to look at the world critically and materially, but still leave open spaces for transcendence.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

      Hi, so glad you’re here, Tamara! Comments are great–blogging is all about the dialogue. :-) I actually haven’t read any Kierkegaard yet, but I’m sure that will change before very long. I will keep C. Stephen Evans’s work in mind when it does!

  11. Natasha Sistrunk Robinson January 20, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    Definitely, “The Next Evangelicalism” by Soong Chan Rah!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      Natasha, I’m taking his discipleship and evangelism course at NPTS this semester. SO excited!

  12. Scott January 20, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    At this point, especially on MLK Day, I have to say N.T. Wright’s _Surprised by Hope_. It corrects a number of things that large numbers of Christians believe by default and calls Christians to invest in God’s work in the world in view of knowing where God is taking history.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Great book! I just read that for one of my classes.

    • Suzanne Burden January 21, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      I am joining Scott in this recommend. Just got through it in our book club. A challenge to live out God’s desire to reconcile and restore all things. Today, as we build his Kingdom, and tomorrow as we long for a restored Heaven on earth. A great starting point that forces us to confront our escapist theology/eschatology and to make it our heart’s cry: “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

  13. Megan January 20, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    The Powers that Be – Walter Wink

  14. Donald Guffey January 20, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    My one book that totally changed my life ( other than the Bible of course) was hands down t

    The shack by Paul Young

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong January 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      I think that one had a powerful impact on many people’s lives. It seems like a lot of people felt really, truly loved by God, perhaps for the first time, after reading it.

  15. Mark Eikema January 21, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    Surprised By Hope – NT Wright

    (Runner up would be Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton)

  16. Amanda January 21, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

    • Chrs February 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Also his Divine Conspiracy. It’s been six years since I read it, but it keeps coming back to me.

  17. Judy January 21, 2014 at 2:54 am #

    Lately I’ve been inspired by Peter Enns “Inspiration and Incarnation”. I don’t know about required reading for *every* Christian, but I’d certainly appreciate it if more had!

  18. Tim January 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    John Stott’s “Basic Christianity”. More comprehensive than Josh McDowell’s “More Than A Carpenter” and more focused than C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”.

  19. Diana Trautwein January 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Sorry, Jen – can’t do just one. Eugene Peterson’s 5-part opus that beings with, “Christ Plays in 10000 Places,” and includes “Eat This Book,” “Tell It Slant,” ‘The Jesus Way,” and “Practice Resurrection.” I loved “Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright but I much prefer Peterson’s writing style. Every one of those 5 is gorgeous, but maybe “Eat This Book” is the shortest, simplest way into them all.

  20. Diana Trautwein January 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    It’s called his Spiritual Theology series and it’s just terrific.

  21. Polly January 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Diana! I read Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places last year and was so inspired. Just recently started Eat This Book and am equally enthralled, and wondered what the titles of the other books in the series were!

    I would like to add NT Wright’s How God Became King. Made me long to go deep into the Gospels….and I’m still there.

  22. Donna January 21, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    I immediately thought of Philip Yancey’s Reaching for the Invisible God, which is Yancey at his best…but the book that changed the way I think about Christianity is Chuck Swindoll’s The Grace Awakening. For someone who had spent her entire life in legalism, it was like being born again again for me.

  23. Jamie Roman January 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    The book I wish every Christian would read is Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd. I think this book corrects a lot of misconceptions about the role of the church and the role of Christians. I like it for other reasons, too. It draws me closer to Jesus. I can say that the book is also transformational. Recently, I re-read it while feeling very angry with someone. I mean REALLY angry. While reading it my heart changed, I let go of my anger and was able to forgive, not even needing an apology or a talk to resolve things. To me, it was amazing.

    • Donna January 22, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      Boyd’s Letters From a Skeptic is also phenomenal; I must get this one you named!

  24. Susanne January 21, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    Great post. I love seeing what others recommend. Thank you!

  25. Jessi January 22, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Just like when asked what my ‘favorite movie’ is…I totally freeze with these questions…and feel like I’ve never read a single book in my life! ha. So, mostly I’m just really re-inspired to get into one…or a few…of the books mentioned above, several of which have been sitting on my shelves for years now!!

    On basic beliefs, I have appreciated Greg Boyd’s book “Across the Spectrum”, but I’ve used it almost more as a reference than a ‘life-changing read’…because it lays out, side-by-side, different viewpoints held within Christianity on a variety of topics. I’ve not read the whole thing…it isn’t (wasn’t for me, anyway) and sit down and read-through type book…but I’ve found it helpful in understanding points of view held by brothers and sisters in Christ that are different than my own. It has helped me have more of an “Okay, I at least get where you’re coming from…” attitude.

    Not as much on a ‘general Christianity’ level, but more specified to my own struggle with the role of women in Christianity…”Men & Women in the Church: Building a Consensus on Christian Leadership” by Sarah Sumner was my ‘life changer’.

  26. Jeanne January 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    The book that influenced me the most was “God Without Religion” by Dr. Andrew Farley. I have always seen what I believed were inconsistencies in the Bible, and things that would contradict other parts of the Bible. This book shows the reader what the Bible says, and what it doesn’t say. There are so many things that people have added to God’s word that truly don’t belong there. I have never felt as free in my soul as I did after reading this book. We have really made some mistakes as a church in showing people what God’s love is, and this book shows us what God’s love really says and really does, without add-ons from people.
    Dr. Farley has another book called “The Naked Gospel” which is great, but read the other one first.

  27. Lacey Louwagie January 23, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    This reminds me of a book I have on MY to-read list called “25 Books Every Christian Should Read” edited by Julia Roller.

    I think the one that made the biggest impact on me was “Love Wins” by Rob Bell; I wouldn’t call it exactly meaty, but I found it beautiful.

  28. Kari January 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    I think I would say An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.

  29. Amanda B. January 26, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    I am so bad at these “favorite/pick one” questions. But to force myself to choose one that hasn’t been mentioned yet: “Way of the Heart” by Henri Nouwen.

  30. janis v February 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    “With” by Skye Jethani. Not ‘over God’, ‘under God’, ‘for God’ or ‘from God’. Ignore this book if you see God as a vending machine or that He owes you any favors for following ‘all the rules’.

  31. Kristen Rosser February 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    I would have to say the one book on general Christianity I remember that really helped me as a new Christian to understand what this thing was that I’d just joined, was Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little.

  32. Chris February 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    “Young, Restless And No Longer Reformed” by Austin Fischer. It’s really been refocusing my eyes on Jesus as God, and the incredible love He has for us.

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