Significant Reads

I often am asked what books I would recommend to help in one’s faith journey.  I’ve been thinking a good bit about this the last few weeks and have come up with an initial list.  Feel free to add books you might recommend as well.

These books represent some different periods in my journey, so some are ones that I have not read for several years, but continue to have great significance for me.  There are probably quite a few more that I would come up with if given the time, but this is a starting place:

(in no particular order):

  • The Bible – This is somewhat of a “no duh,” but there is nothing better than going to the source.  All of the books below find their initial meaning and direction from the Bible.  I currently read The Message and New Revised Standard Version translations.
  • Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen – an journey into Jesus’ parable of the Father and his Two Sons through the lens of Rembrandt’s amazing painting.  I have read this book several times now and it continues to encourage me about the incredible depth of God’s love while also challenging me about how I am to love others.
  • The Wounded Healer – Henri Nouwen – a beautiful exploration of what it means to share hope out of our own pains and struggles
  • A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN – Brian McLaren – This book wins for longest title, but also some of the best content.  McLaren does a beautiful job bringing together different streams of faith into who he has come to be in his journey today.  The most important point made in the book is that he may be parts of all of these things, but he is firstly an Unfinished Christian – one who is still on the journey.
  • Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell – Similar to McLaren’s book above, Bell seeks to understand the Christian faith through a 21st century lens.
  • Mere Christianity – CS Lewis – A very challenging but accessible exploration of the basics of the faith.
  • The Screwtape Letters – CS Lewis – Lewis’ fictional reflection upon the ways that Satan works.
  • An Altar in the World – Barbara Brown Taylor – This is one of the most recent books I have read.  You can read my review of it here.
  • The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer – This book is one that convicts me time and time again about the cost of what it means to follow Jesus.  One needs only look at Bonhoeffer’s life to see that he not only wrote about it, but lived it as well.
  • Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Similar to “Cost”, Life Together is a very challenging book.  It pushes the reader to think about the Christian community in radical ways.
  • The Cloister Walk & Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith – both by Kathleen Norris – These two books are very different, but share a common thread of Norris’ “earthy” Christianity.  The Cloister Walk describes the time she spent in a monastery and the experience of living amongst those who have responded radically to Christ’s call.  Amazing Grace reads much more like a devotional book where each chapter is self-contained and describes a different “concept” from the Christian faith.
  • Caretakers of our Common House: Women’s Development in Communities of Faith – Carol Hess – This book really opened my eyes to the experience of women in faith communities – both the ways that women have been vital and ways that women have been pushed to the margins.
  • Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church & Synagogue – Edwin Friedman – Not really a “journey” book, but an excellent exploration of the processes that people experience within a faith community.  A must read for pastors, in my opinion.
  • The Story of Christianity – Justo Gonzalez – This was my Church History textbook in seminary.  A very accessible, easy to follow journey through the history of the Christian church.  Two Volumes.
  • A Timbered Choir – Wendell Berry – A collection of Berry’s poems written as he went on his Sabbath nature walks.
  • Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans – Edited by James Melvin Washington – Beautiful collection of deeply heartfelt and historically powerful prayers by African Americans from the era of slavery to the present day.
  • Faith Seeking Understanding – Daniel Migliore – One of the texts from my Systematic Theology course in seminary.  Similar to the Gonzalez book above, it is a very accessible book exploring aspects of theology.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving – Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time has heard of my love for this wonderful novel.  The story is a beautiful journey into the lives of two young boys as they grow up.  The underlying threads of God’s call, of election, of redemption, forgiveness, and much more are deeply moving.

There’s some of these that will appeal to some and not to others.  Each of these has had a significant impact on my faith journey.  Some have encouraged.  Some have challenged.  Some have frustrated.  But they all have helped to shape my faith as it is today.

Ultimately, however, I cannot recommend the first one highly enough.  🙂   If one wants to get deeper in their faith, it starts with getting into the Bible.  I highly recommend trying to read through the Bible in a year (or less).  It is a discipline that allows a person to get a sense of the whole arc of the story of God’s work in the past and into today.

Many blessings in your journey!

2 thoughts on “Significant Reads

    1. Sad part is that there are a bunch of books on my shelf that I probably need to re-read along with these…or maybe that’s a wonderful thing…

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