Several times through the years, I have been asked, “What books do you recommend that I read?” And the question is one that makes me happy since it means that someone already understands how important it is to read. Books, as I love to put it, are the ultimate brain food, and Christians especially should never fear to feed their brains since God gave us those brains to start with.
That question was posed to me again yesterday in a more limited scope, and it reminded me that (as far as I know since my memory on that is suspect after a thousand columns or so) I have not written a column on that subject. And so, please allow me to give you a small sampling of my rather eclectic list of preferred books and why. And I will be leaving the books that I have authored off of the list since it would seem pretty self-serving to include them in a column of this nature.
Obviously, the Bible comes first, and I love reading it not just in English but also in Greek (getting rusty on that) and in Spanish (still learning that).
For kids, I still love all of The Sugar Creek Gang by Paul Hutchens. There are thirty-six books in the series, and I still have them all. An absolute classic set; both kids and parents will love them.
This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness, both by Frank Peretti, are phenomenal books that will both suck you into the adventure and make you want to pray more than ever before. But as good as they are, his book “The Oath” is still my favorite of his works. Like the others, it will draw you in and make you feel like you are there as everything unfolds. And it will also put “skin on sin” so that you understand the nature of it better than ever.
Absolutely anything by Louis L’Amour, though I do not hesitate to say that Last Of The Breed is his very best work. You will feel yourself shivering in the Siberian cold along with Joe Mack as he tries to escape and then avenge his captivity.
For Bible commentaries, I still love old classics like Matthew Henry (best devotional thinker ever) and Adam Clarke (a master of culture and history), along with Keil and Delitzsch for the Old Testament and Lenski for the New Testament. And for simplicity, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible by Harold Willmington does an excellent job of helping one to wrap his or her mind around large chunks of Scripture all at once.
On the apologetics front, it would be hard to beat “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” by Geisler and Turek. They do an excellent job of making technical material easily understandable and doing so with grace and good humor.
As a history buff, I absolutely adore both The First World War by Sir Martin Gilbert and Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes. The latter is quite possibly the most quotable book of all time. Oh, and also The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, an absolute must-read both for historical reasons and for matters of faith.
On older/fantasy works, I read Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mallory two or three times before I even got my license, and I still adore it. I also love Dracula by Bram Stoker, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
Dr. James Dobson’s book, Preparing For Adolescence, helped me survive some of the hardest years of my life; I will be forever grateful for both him and it.
Anything and everything Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side. If anyone ever feels inclined to provide me with the complete works of either, I will not turn them down. Guaranteed to make you smile unless you have had your sense of humor surgically removed.
To understand Socialism and its related isms and why they are so fatally flawed, Reflections On The Failure Of Socialism, by Max Eastman, is excellent. He was, in his own words, “the reddest of the red – until he saw the ugly results of his beautiful theory in real life. And along the same lines of thinking, 1984, by Orwell, is so excellent that it almost rises to the level of prophecy, though some of the content is of such a nature that it is not quite suitable for children.
I also love The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, just because it is so well written and interesting, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. Do not miss The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, either; it is arguably the best allegory of the Christian faith ever penned and just plain interesting to boot.
I could go on with the list in much greater length; I have not let a day go by since my early childhood that I did not read extensively.
I understand that reading books is a bit “old fashioned” in these days of Twitter and Tik Tok and Instagram. I also know that memes and short videos will never do for a brain what lots of words on lots of pages organized into a coherent, thought-provoking narrative will do.
So read your Bible, yes. But also read history, biographies, novels, books of poetry, comics, technical literature, ancient works, and, if you are able, even books written in foreign languages.
God gave you a brain; feed it well.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org