The Best Books Every Christian Should Read

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Have you ever read a book that set your mind and heart on fire? That radically changed the way you viewed life, read Scripture, or interacted with God and others? All of the books below did this for me. These are the best books which every serious student of Scripture and theology should read.

I previously called this list of books my “Burning Books List,” not because these books must burned, but because they branded themselves into my mind. These books set my mind on fire and my heart ablaze. The ideas they contain smolder in my bones, shed light on the Scriptures, and help bring life to the world.

When I read, I underline key points and scribble notes in the margins. With these books, it sometimes seems that every sentence gets underlined and every margin gets filled. Some of them answered a Bible question I always had, solved a theological dilemma I was facing, or helped with an issue in a way I had not found elsewhere. These books changed the way I think, ignited my passion for a purpose, and gave me an “Aha!” moment that sent me in a new direction.

The books below have done all these things for me. These are some of the book that have helped form and change my theology. These are the books I recommend the most.

Note: more books will be added to the list as I think of them (or read them). If you have one you think should be on the list, let me know in the comment section below.

Click a Category to Jump to that Section:

Bible Study: | Bible Backgrounds | Bible Commentaries |
Theology: | General | Bible | God | Jesus | Holy Spirit |
Humanity | Salvation | Church | End Times | Angels & Demons |
Life: | Discipleship | Prayer | Marriage | Parenting | Mission & Purpose | Fiction |

Best Christian Books for Bible Study

Best Books on Bible Backgrounds

One of the best ways of learning what the Bible means is by studying the historical and cultural background of the various Biblical books. While I have read dozens of such books, here are some of the best Christian books in the area of Bible backgrounds.

Best Bible Commentaries

I own thousands of commentaries, and while it is difficult to recommend a commentary for pure “reading” enjoyment, every once in a while I run across a commentary that has far-reaching ramifications not just for the book which the commentary explains, but for numerous other passages in Scripture as well. The Bible commentaries listed below did that for me.

Old Testament Commentaries

New Testament Commentaries

Best Books on Christian Theology

The following list of theology books are divided up into the various categories of systematic theology. My theology is always in flux, due in large part to the wide variety of books I read on theology. The books listed below have changed my theology the most and caused me to see God, life, and certain key theological issues in a new light.

Best Books on General Theology

These books are not dealing with any particular area of theology, but present a new paradigm or a new way of looking at theology that really helped my theological development.

Best Books on the Bible

These books provide new insight into how to read and study the Bible, and what sort of book the Bible really is. As the Bible is a primary source for Bible knowledge and theology, these books are vitally important for my theological thinking.

Best Books about God

No theological system is better than its view of God. In my opinion, most theologies go wrong right from the start because they have a wrong view of God. The books listed below helped me learn about God in a new way, and come to see God in a new light.

Best Books about Jesus

Jesus is the center of our theology and the cornerstone of our life as Christians. Jesus reveals God to us, and shows us how to live as a true human being. The books listed below helped me learn more about who Jesus truly is, what He came to do, and how He reveals God to us.

Best Books about the Holy Spirit

There is so much confusion out there about the Holy Spirit, that we must make sure we know Him properly, and allow Him to function as He wants in our life. Sadly, I have not yet read any great books about the Holy Spirit. If you have any to recommend, let me know in the comment section below.

Best Books about Humanity

We tend to think that since we are human, we know everything there is to know about us. But this is not true. A large part of theology lies in understanding ourselves correctly. So far, I have not read any books in this area that have substantially changed my theology of man. If you know of any, please recommend them in the comment section below.

Best Books about Salvation

This life is short, but what comes after this life lasts forever. As such, it is critical to properly understand issues related to eternal life, assurance of salvation, the role of faith and good works, and all related issues. The following books will challenge your thinking in these areas and provide much-needed clarity on the Gospel, evangelism, and eternal life.

Best Books about the Church

My views on church have radically changed in the last decade. The following books led to some of the greatest shifts in my thinking about church. If you have questions or concerns about what church is, how to function as the church, or what the Bible says about church, I recommend you read the following books. Also, I have written several books of my own on this topic (and am writing more), and while these didn’t make my “Best Christian books” list (how arrogant would that be?), you can see a list of these books in the sidebar on the right.

Best Books about the End Times

Books about the End Times are a always a hot topic. If I ever read a book which provides some clarity to all the confusion about what is supposed to take place in the future, I will list those books here. So far, I have not found anything that is really worth recommending. If you know of a book or two, let me know in the comment section below.

Best Books about Angels & Demons

Somewhat like books about the End Times, books about Angels and Demons are quite popular. But I am typically not into popular books. I want books that push away the fog and bring some sanity to the hype and confusion about angels and demons. The books listed below helped do that for me.

Best Christian Books about Life

I do not just read books about Scripture and theology. In fact, since my goal on this site is to Bring Scripture and Theology to Life, I also read lots of books about how to live life, and how best to put my theology into practice. Scripture knowledge and theology should lead to changes in our life, or all that study is worthless and pointless. Here are a few areas of books that have been helpful for me.

Best Christian Books on Discipleship

Best Christian Books on Prayer

Best Christian Books on Marriage

Marriage is tough. In my experience, the marriage relationship of a husband and wife is the most difficult and demanding relationship two people will ever experience, but also the most rewarding and enjoyable. In a marriage, you will experience the highest highs life has to offer, and also the lowest lows. There is nothing more thrilling or depressing. And yet, most marriage books are relatively worthless. Every once in a while I read one that seems particularly helpful. These are listed below.

Best Christian Books on Parenting

Along with marriage, parenting is full of potential pitfalls. I am a father to three girls, and the books listed below have been most helpful to me as I learn to be a father and raise my girls to be the godly women God wants them to be.

Best Books on Christian Mission & Purpose

Having Bible and Theology knowledge is good, but it is even more important to put what we know into practice. Lots of Christians seem to think that this life is little more than a rest stop on our way to heaven. We are here to sit in Bible studies and Sunday services while we wait for the cosmic bus ride to heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. The books below challenge Christians to get up off their couches and pews and get out into the world to follow Jesus into the dark and sinful places. If you are looking for books to challenge how you live your life as a follower of Jesus, these are the books I recommend.

Best Fictional Books

I read fiction too. Did you know that books of fiction can teach you theology? Believe it or not, certain aspects of my theology have been radically changed by what I read in some books of fiction. Here are the fictional books which changed or challenged my thinking the most.


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Comments

  1. says

    For me one is “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen. The shame and guilt was wiped away that I had been holding because of my drill sergant type view of God. With my background, obedience was really pushed (not that that is entirely bad), but without an understanding of grace.

    Those feelings of guilt and shame have popped up again lately, but I am almost finished reading it a second time, kind of refreshing that “Aha!” moment.

    One more was “Fasting” by Scot McKnight.

    • says

      I just recently read “He Loves Me.” It was good, but didn’t make it onto my Burning Books list.

      I have not read Fasting, but if I get a chance, will give it a read.

      Thanks!

  2. says

    Thank you for sharing this list. You obviously like NT Wright! I do also, but I haven’t read as many of his books as you have. I also like Ellul.

    And Frost. Have you read “Exiles” and especially “Rejesus”? I love ReJesus. His bud, Alan Hirsch has a couple I like, “Untamed” and “The Forgotten Ways”. (Alan lives near here.) Then there are Brian McLaren’s books. We may not agree at all points with his creative thinking, but he has some real gems and reading him may help us understand the thinking of the folks who read him.

    Michael Spencer’s “Mere Churchianity” is a special book, Michael’s one and only before he died. Michael has a pretty firm grasp on focusing on Jesus. (If it weren’t for Jesus I’d chuck the rest of Christianity. I kinda have anyway.)

    At the top of my list is my favorite author, Donna VanLiere. I like her Christmas series, starting with “The Christmas Shoes” (the series is fiction) and probably my favorite book is her “Sheltering Trees” (Hardcover with enclosed CD), which is not fiction.

    • says

      Yes, I like Wright. He has turned my world upside down. I have several more by Ellul, but have not read them yet.

      I should probably add the others by Frost and Hirsch, and they are all excellent.

      And I really debated Brian McLaren. I remember being challenged by his books, but they apparently didn’t make a lasting impression on me, because I can’t remember much about them. So I left them off the list.

      I do not have those other books you mentioned, and so will add them to my Amazon wish list. Thanks for the recommendations!

  3. says

    Hi Jeremy,

    It’s amazing how many books you’ve read~!!! I’m right now reading… “The Dark Side Of Calvinism” by Bryson, but it takes me so long to get through even one chapter. But I keep poking along, and it’s been good.

    I noticed you don’t have any book listed under “End Times.” I LOVE John Claeys’ book… “APOCALYPSE 2012 The Ticking of the End Time Clock”… “What does the Bible say?” I like it because it’s convincing me based upon scripture.

    And of course you know I love ALL of Zane Hodges’ books. I see you’ve listed “James” by him. Yes, that’s a GREAT book. “Harmony With God” is another master piece in my opinion.

    Thank for your list of books. YOU ARE A THINKER~!!!

    God’s best to you and your beautiful family,
    Diane
    :-)

    • says

      Thanks Diane.

      Yes, I average about one book per week. Some are longer, some are shorter, but over all, I end up reading about 50 books per year. That is my goal and so far, I’ve been keeping it.

      Some of these books on this list may actually get a second or third read.

      Regarding Zane’s books, I love them too, but I have always leaned toward books that really focused on individual texts and passages of Scripture and explained them in detail. Zane was more of a topical writer. Dillow made the list, of course. I think if I was going to include more FG books, I might put Wilkins’ on before I put on Zane’s (of course, neither one would be too happy that I put Greg Boyd or NT Wright on this list…but oh well…it my list! ha ha.)

  4. says

    Love this post and your play on words about burning books. Nicely done!

    Top Five Books that Left Me Burning:

    1. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.
    It’s Brennan Manning! Need I say more?

    2. The Road my Cormac McCarthy
    Fiction is the lie that tells the truth truer (a quote by Portland novelist, Tom Spanbauer) The Road is a meditative, dark read with a thin thread of light shining from first to last page. That thread is the masterpiece of this Pulitzer winning book. I read it once a year, and yes, I saw the movie. Brutal like the book, yet that thread of light in the boy shines and shines.

    3. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    Compelling account of a renowned psychologist who survived a Holocaust concentration camp. Absolutely compelling, a deep look at the dark abyss that is found in the human soul, and the flicker of hope that keeps a man from getting lost in it. Damn good book. I reviewed it at my blog a while back.

    4. Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham
    I have been a longtime supporter of women and equality in the church, but kept it on the downlow for such a long time for all kinds of reasons. Cunningham and his cowriter, David Hamilton, wrote a supreme treatise on why not women indeed! Presented with theology and narrative integrated together, this book made my heart and mind soar that no, my tension with gender inequity is not “my thing” but is a real, pulsing beast of injustice. I have given five copies of this book away to date.

    5. The Pleasures of Loving God by Mike Bickle
    This book deeply affected my perception of how to relate to God. The strongest takeaway I got from this book was that God doesn’t just love me (and I so him in return) but God actually likes me, and this liberates me to like me, too. Simple, profound, totally set my mind and heart on fire.

    Bless ya Jeremy!
    (btw, my son’s name is Jeremy and I’m married to Jerry! Love this name!)

    • says

      I have Ragammuffin Gospel, but have not yet read it. It is in my “To Read” pile.

      I saw the movie “the Road” which was brutal, as you said. However, I remember sitting there stunned about the truths in the movie. I’m sure the book is better?

      I think I also have Man’s Search for Meaning, by Fankl. Not sure. I will have to look around for it.

      The other two I have not heard of. Thanks for the suggestions!

      • says

        I had a stomach ache the entire time I watched the film and don’t know if I’ll ever watch it again. Brutal like Passion of the Christ brutal. But a masterpiece nonetheless.

        Love your blog, btw, and have subscribed. See ya around the blogosphere!

  5. Greg D says

    For some reason this list doesn’t show up in my browser. It only shows the different categories, but not the actual books or titles. Am I missing a certain plug-in?

  6. Jason Reimer says

    Two books that had a major impact on my life”

    The Trouble With Jesus by Joseph Stowell

    The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus

  7. Will Rochow says

    Thanks for that, Jeremy. I’m always interested to see what others are reading and what they’re recommending. Some of these are going onto my “wish list” right away, and just in time for my next Amazon order. Blessings :)

  8. says

    Nice list! Boyd and Claiborne are personal favorites of me as well, nd eveb though I have not read so much by Wright yet, I’ve heard many Good things about him.

    I see that you don’t have a book about the Holy Spirit yet though. Perhaps it is because you aren’t a Charismatic (but here I want to point out that Boyd, Wright and Claiborne believe that God can perform miracles today, I recommend you seeing the film Furious Love sometime where Boyd is present). I have some recommendations on books representing, in my view, good and sober theology about the Holy Spirit, får from Benny Hinn, close to Scripture. I recommend you to look them up and see if they may get as burning as the books above. For me, they almost burned off my hands:

    Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere. Deere, a Presbyterian professor of the Old Testament, here presents how he as a cessationist had to turn his theology around when the power of the Holy Spirit simply jumped in front of his face. With ambitious Scriptural support he argues for a Charismatic theology that avoids the many pitfalls that Charismatics often has fallen into. I cab also recommend his sequel Surprised by the Voice of God that deals with the prophetic gift (which I also quoted in a post åt Grace Ground recently, http://www.graceground.com/sweden/holy-spirit-activism/is-the-church-of-acts-abnormal/ )

    Power Evangelism by John Wimber. In this quite Classic book, Wimber outlines his Kingdom theology and his idea of spreading the Gospel in the power of the Spirit, which bitter the Vineyard movement of which he is seen as the founder of. As a former cessationist, he combines evangelical and charismatic theology and point out the problems with denying the present work of the Spirit while he keeps away from the hysteria, authoritarianism and prosperity preaching that often characterises traditional Pentecostals. His main thesis is that miracles are strongly connected to Jesus’s message about the Kingdom of God, and they are powerful tools for evangelism (see Mark 16:20, Acts 14:3), thus they cannot have ended since we still are to spread the Kingdom and the Gospel also when we have the Bible.

    So, please check these books out and see if they can be something. God bless you!

    Micael

    • says

      I have to excuse my bad spelling, the phone I’m writing on automatically corrects to Swedish words (e.g. so that far becomes får, which means sheep).

      Another book I can recommend on the same topic is Naturally Supernatural by Gary Best. Best is the leader of Vineyard Canada and a personal friend to both Wimber and Deere. He writes about striving for a sober Charismatic theology in a more light-weighted style than them, with many accounts of his personal failures and angers along with the breakthroughs and signs and wonders. With a lot of humour as well as wisdom, he writes about how to become naturally supernatural – a wonderworking disciple that doesn’t fall for crazy Charismania. I recommend you to start with Deere and Wimber, and if you got interested, you’ll probably get out something from Best as well.

      Again, God bless you!

    • says

      Yes, I have read “Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit” by Jack Deere. That is a very good book. Maybe I should put it on my list here…. I was also encouraged and instructed by some of what RT Kendall has written about the Holy Spirit. Have you read much from him?

      • says

        Oh, great! I’m glad you enjoyed it, I think I got the wrong impressions of your views before, sorry for that. I haven’t read Kendall yet unfortunately but I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, I defenitely like his idea of combining the Word and the Spirit.

        If you liked Deere I’m sure you’ll like Wimber and Best as well, not to mention Deere’s sequel Surprised by the Voice of God.

        God bless you!

        Micael

  9. Ant Writes says

    May I add a book for your parenting book?
    “What He Must Be if He wants to marry my Daughter”
    by Voddie Baucham
    He’s a quiverfull homeschooler and what he said shot me right between the eyes. I’ve become a better parent because of it.

    He has a few more older titles that I’m fixin’ to get my hands on.

  10. Deb says

    I forgot about Richard j. Foster on prayer, I really enjoyed both of His Books, you might like them, one is on prayer the other is called a Celebration of Discipline,

  11. Wendy says

    The Little Prince may not be a book that caught me on fire, but it’s message warms me. It is achingly beautiful in its simple message of what is important in life. I have read it over and over again when I need to remember wonder, love, and innocence, needed to be childlike in my faith and actions. I strongly recommend it to any and all

  12. Kathy says

    You asked for recommendations for your “End Times” section. I read one recently that was very interesting. It’s called End Time Delusions by Steve Wohlberg. It does a very thorough job of addressing many of the confusing misconceptions about end times, exposing where those ideas came from, and proposing solutions. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but it definitely changed the way I think about end times. He also put out a small book called Rapture Delusions, which is just an excerpt from the rapture section of End Time Delusions. I hand that one out to people all the time because it’s so good…. and it baffles me how many people blindly accept rapture theory as true without even thinking about it.

    One more thing… I noticed that you had Pagan Christianity in your church section. Excellent book. I also highly recommend Frank Viola’s follow-up book to that one, Reimagining Church.

  13. Lutek says

    I don’t see any books listed, either. I looked around in Firefox help and googled ‘iframes help’ as well. HTML is still mostly Greek to me and the answers are all too technical, but no one seems to offer an easy way for a site visitor to see the intended text. That’s too bad. I’m always looking for another good book to read.

    As I was reading this page, I was hoping to think of a book I could add to the list. Near the end I found that one of the most inspiring and heartwarming books I had ever read was already mentioned in the comments. I wholeheartedly agree with Wendy’s suggestion of “The Little Prince”, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This wonderful little children’s story for grown-ups has become one of the top best-selling books ever published. A definite must-read.

  14. Robert says

    Maybe this will be of help. About the books not appearing; the same is true for me with Firefox. I use a little piece of software called Ghostery. It supposedly stops some of the bots out there. Amazon Associates is one of those. When I stopped the blocking (it shows 17 blocked at your site), the books then appeared correctly under their catagories.
    A couple of book suggestions of my own. Baxter Kruger’s books have been incredibly great helps on my journey. Has videos on Utube also.
    Also, I have been a missionary now for some years. Not as much so now, as views have changed too. But other people’s views were challenged on (very) foreign mission fields, and their views and lives were changing half a century ago. One of those people is Ken Rideout. He writes passionately about his time in Thailand and China in a book entitled “The Truth you know you know”. One of my all time favorites, as is also the author.

    • Lutek says

      Thanks, Robert. I’ve been using Adblock Plus, but my limited research on iframes didn’t indicate that they might link to an external site. I disabled Adblock Plus on this page, and all is now as it should be.

  15. Kim Hutchinson says

    What about books on mission? We overlap on some authors but the Bible is mission focused so I would expect some authors to be included. Interesting. Thank you for your blog.

  16. Joe Doudna says

    Great book on the Holy Spirit …

    The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
    R. A. Torrey

    Well written, and plenty of scriptural references.

  17. felix duraisingh says

    on the topic about end times i read Jonathan Welton’s book Raptureless . i find many clear thoughts about revelation in that book.

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