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A while ago, someone gave me a challenge: “could you put together a list of top 10 ‘classic’ books you think every Christian should read? And then maybe another list for when we finish that list?”

Well first things first — so how about one list for now?

And the more I read, the more I realize there are many books that I haven’t read that I should have read (for example, I have yet to finish Calvin’s Institutes).  So I’m going to tweak the list this way — the list of ten books/authors that have made the greatest impact on my life or that I have read most often.   Many of these lists abound (Nine Marks; Desiring God; Master’s Seminary).  In no way do I suggest that my list is definitive; it’s just the list of books that God has used in particularly influential ways in my life.

So here’s the list (in no particular order), along with some brief comments on each.

  • Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology.  I first learned theology around the kitchen table at dinner with my Dad leading family discussions.  Now, everything I’ve forgotten or didn’t learn is in this book!  This is a resource I use regularly.
  • John Piper, Desiring God.  I’ve read most of Piper’s books.  But he says that he only has one book — Desiring God — that he keeps repackaging in other books and around other topics.  I’ve read this book numerous times and it always stimulates me to delight more in God.  And I need that.
  • Jerry Bridges, Trusting God and The Pursuit of Holiness.  Jerry Bridges is insightful, concise and perceptive.  I always find spiritual encouragement and conviction when I read him.  I began reading him 25 or more years ago and still find his books helpful.
  • A. W. Tozer.  He is insightful not only on the conditions of the human heart, but also the state of the church.  He always challenges me to examine my heart and also to serve the church better (with greater intentionality).
  • Kent Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.  This book was recommended to me in seminary but since money was tight, I didn’t purchase it until after I came to GBC.  Then I read it.  And reread it.  And still turn to on a regular basis to read sections.  And regularly reflect on these principles to re-orient my mind to think truthfully about whether or not I am a success in the eyes of God.  Its value is not only in understanding how to have a biblical perspective on success in the church, but also how to view success in life in general from the perspective of God.
  • Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture and All Things for Good.  A number of years ago someone gave me a copy of All Things for Good.  I dutifully thanked him, cataloged the book and then put it on my shelf.  Then a long time later, while browsing my shelves for a title, I noticed this book and then began reading and was hooked.  That began a journey into the Puritans and while I am a long way from an “expert,” I have gleaned much from them and Watson is my personal favorite.  He is clear, concise (for a Puritan), uses many word pictures and illustrations, and like many Puritans has an ability to look at familiar passages and frame them in fresh ways.  I highly recommend reading Watson, particularly as an introduction to the Puritans.
  • Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  Dad taught me the rule, “you will learn more in 15 minutes in a concordance than in an hour in a commentary.”  How many nuggets I have discovered by simply comparing word usage in a variety of passages — and how often those truths have been overlooked by commentators.  Of course, the paper version of the concordance has been replaced by the digital version — making complex searches much more simple.  The version I use is Accordance.
  • Leon Morris, The Atonement:  It’s Meaning and Significance.  I like to accumulate books about the cross of Christ, because it is the foundation of our faith.  We will forever glory in the greatest crime and sin ever committed for the murder of Christ is the means by which we gain eternal benefit.  This book, along with its companion, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, and The Cross in the New Testament.  Morris is very helpful in his explanations.  I have also appreciated very much John Stott’s book, The Cross of Christ.
  • Christian biographies.  Along with growing in my appreciation for the Puritans, in the last few years I have also enjoyed reading more church history and biographies.  Reading biographies helps us to remember that others have gone before us and been faithful to the Lord.  John Piper’s brief biographies are an excellent introduction to this genre.
  • D. Edmond Hiebert.  I have a pretty simple rule about commentaries — if Hiebert wrote it, buy it.  It’s probably the best commentary available on that  book.
  • Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students. I admit that I read this for the first time only a few years ago.  It’s a wonderful book from the prince of preachers about what it means to be a pastor.  Not only is there instruction there for preaching, but the heartbeat of the book is the preparation of the preacher and pastoring.  This book is a real treasure.
  • John MacArthur.  I’ve read many of his books and use his commentaries pretty close to weekly.  But I’ve learned as much about the spiritual life and ministry from attending his Shepherds’ Conference and watching his church ministry from afar.  In many ways, including his books, he has shaped much of the way I think about the gospel, spiritual life, and the ministry.
  • Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership.  This is my favorite book on leadership.  Just purchase the first edition (still available through used book sellers).  As with most books, “revised and updated” means something like, “we ripped the heart out of the language and structure of the original.”  But the original is still really worth reading.