A few weeks ago I listed the 25 books that have influenced me the most. In that post I promised a second list, namely my catalog of the 10 books every Christian should own.
These are books that, from my perspective, transcend time and culture. They are the kind of resources that should be frequently published and first translated when we take the gospel to a new group. They would help anyone, in any age, in any place to know, defend, and articulate the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Of course, my frame of reference is limited, limited by language (English) and limited by scope (what I’ve actually read). So I reserve the right to update this list as my own library grows. Also feel free to leave your own suggestions/criticisms in the comments. But for all that, remember:
It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make one wise, but the well-reading of a few, could they be sure to be the best. ~Richard Baxter
So here are the best of the best for my evangelical money.
1. The MacArthur Study Bible
John MacArthur, Editor. If I was stranded on an island and could only have one print resource, this is the one I want. Though I don’t carry or read my MSB on a daily basis, it is an absolutely essential tool. The background on the Canon, the overview of systematic theology, and the topical index are brief but outstanding assets. It is a one-stop shop for book overviews and outlines, not to mention the many helpful interpretive notes.
2. The Sovereignty of God
Arthur W. Pink. Though it is #2 on this list, it is #1 on my personal impact list. No man will be humbled appropriately without understanding of, and submission to, God’s sovereignty. Neither will man’s capacity to worship God be elevated sufficiently without acknowledgment and admiration of His supremacy and authority over all things. [Make sure to get the unabridged version that includes Chapter 5 on Reprobation].
3. The Master Plan of Evangelism
Robert Coleman. If making disciples is the Great Commission–and it is–then those of us who are His followers ought also to follow His example in spreading the news of the Kingdom. The Master Plan of Evangelism is an oldie but a goodie (with hundreds of thousands in print) and explains the process of disciple-making unlike any other, with both simplicity and substance.
4. The Gospel According to Jesus
John MacArthur. If we are commissioned to teach the nations to observe everything that Jesus commanded then we ought to know (and obey ourselves) what Jesus commanded. This is the classic treatment on following Christ as Savior and Lord and the firestorm of the Lordship salvation debate.
5. Living by the Book
Howard Hendricks. If the Bible is the Book we are responsible to know, this book is the best resource for those who study in English. Hendricks helps us bridge the historical, cultural, geographical, and grammatical gaps as he covers the three basics of Observation, Interpretation, and Application.
6. The Holiness of God
R.C. Sproul. The “fear of the Lord” is largely absent and undoubtedly that stems from our ignorance of the Lord. The Holiness of God is classic Sproul, presenting God’s holiness and pressing for our proper response. Knowing God by J.I. Packer is along the same lines.
7. Desiring God
John Piper. I didn’t “get” this book until I read The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards. However, though TEFWGCTW is shorter, it is much heavier. Desiring God is essential Piper, but more than that it is essential explanation that God is glorified not only by His glories being seen, but by their being rejoiced in.
8. Concise Theology
J.I. Packer. This is a pocket resource on systematic theology, quickly covering most subjects in three or four pages while providing key Scripture references. If you’re ready for something less concise, than I’d suggest moving right to Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.
9. The Cross-Centered Life
C. J. Mahaney. A happy Christian life depends on the definitions and distinctions between justification, sanctification, and glorification. Though other books dig deeper into the individual elements, this is a great primer on living in light of each part of our salvation.
10. Why One Way?
John MacArthur. 10 years ago this would not have made the top 10 list, and that’s not simply because it wasn’t published yet. The ever rising animosity toward authority and truth make this book both timely and vital. It is the most accessible treatment of modernism/postmodernism I’ve read while defending the exclusivity of the gospel and God’s Word in this inclusive age.
There are other classics that make my Honorable Mention list, such as:
- Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Anything on Prayer by E.M. Bounds – A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson, also on prayer – Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell on apologetics – Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by Piper & Grudem
Specifically For Men:
- Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle – Future Men by Doug Wilson
Specifically For Women:
- The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson
Remember, these are some of the best and not the only books to own and read. No doubt I’ve missed something, so let me know.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.—Francis Bacon
May these books, and other good books like them, be digested by believers with diligence.