A Christian Library.

Post Published on May 24, 2010.
Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by davemackey.

[This is a work in progress…Revision history now added at the bottom of this article.]


I’ve read a lot of books in my lifetime – some have been life-changing others time-wasting. The sheer volume of books being published each year is overwhelming – how do we choose what books to read? In this article I will attempt to create a constantly evolving corpus of volumes that might serve as a basic primer for individuals looking to progress in their personal and spiritual growth.

It will include, first and foremost, volumes which apply to all readers and which I would consider life-changing for any reader. It also includes more “niche” topic books – books which apply to a single gender or life situation – but the “niche” will be statistically significant (e.g. a good number of readers will either have experienced or will know someone who has experienced these situations). I don’t expect anyone to read all of these niche volumes – they are here primarily as a resource. I don’t know how many times I’ve been faced with difficult circumstances in my life or in my relationship with others and felt at a total loss for how to successfully travel through these dark days. Hopefully, these resources will provide some guidance.

Purchasing Note:

I’ve linked these books to Amazon – b/c I have an Amazon Affiliate account and get a percentage of the sales I send to Amazon. That said, some of these books can be found for cheaper through Christian Book Distributors (CBD). Ach, it pangs me to give up my referral fees. =)


I’m building a library I hope others can use, but it is also a library I will use. As such there are numerous volumes herein which seem to me to be the best possible volumes on a subject – however this comes from appearances, from hearsay, from reviews, from popularity, and so on. Please feel free to suggest alternative volumes. Those volumes which I have personally read are noted with an * following the title. Titles not given a full reading but at least glanced at are marked by **. All others have no markings – indicating I have not read them. Should authors, publishers, or others stumble upon these pages and desire to see these volumes moved to a * or at least a ** status, I won’t argue with free copies of the books in question.


  • NLT (New Living Translation) Study Bible.*1I am a big fan of the NLT as a readable translation of the Bible. I have heard great things about what the Study Bible notes provides, but haven’t personally had the opportunity to read these notes. I’ve decided not to respond to the inevitable criticisms of reading a thought-for-thought translation here, but if you wish to bring up the challenge…I believe I have a good response. =)

Christian Living:

  • Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life (Kyle Strobel).*2An extremely even-handed, readable volume written by a young author who balances the new trends of postmodernity with our historical and evangelical legacy. I especially appreciate his challenge to the new generations to not simply abandon the “old” churches which have hurt us and his extensive bibliography which provides a great jumping off point for further reading.
  • Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (Richard Foster).*3Covers the spiritual disciples. One of the best books I have ever read on the topic – extremely practical in nature. Foster’s Quaker beliefs do place some of his writings outside of what many would comfortably define as fundamentalism. Foster also depends heavily on Quaker figures and mystical figures for his quotations and sources, which will be foreign to many.
  • Desiring God (John Piper).*4It took me three or four times to read this book…and then only a period of over a year. Piper is one of our brightest contemporary theological minds…yet, his pervasive Calvinism in the beginning of the book caused me to throw the volume down several times. Once one struggles past this (for those who struggle with Calvinism) the book is quite amazing.

Bible Study (General):


  • How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Douglas Stuart, Gordon Fee).*5If you only read a few books off this list, make this one of them. Stuart and Fee do an amazing job of enlightening our understanding of Scripture by helping us to understand the importance and role of history, culture, and literary form amongst other items as we read.
  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old and New Testaments (John Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, ed.).**6I read most of this volume during my undergraduate studies at Philadelphia Biblical University. While not extensive nor providing all views on the Scriptures it does provide a great quick reference on a book. In general, I imagine the studies will be acceptable to those in most evangelistic denominations with the exception of some prophetic materials which will be heavily dispensational in slant – something which many churches differ on.
  • The New Daily Study Bible (William Barclay).**7William Barclay is one of the best commentators I have ever read. I have never found a replacement for his DSB series of commentaries – which are written for the lay reader yet reveal insights for all. His ability to make complex truths simple, intimate knowledge of Koine Greek, deep historical and cultural knowledge – all make his commentaries timeless. Barclay does have fairly unorthodox beliefs but tends to maintain a more orthodox position within these commentaries.


8Winner of the 2008 Bible Reference & Study Christian Book Award. See also Tony Reinke’s review.
  • New Testament Theology (I. Howard Marshall).
  • 9Winner of the 2005 Reference Works/Commentaries Christian Book Award. See Robert J. Cara’s review here. Note that Marshall is not dispensationalist, holds a more Arminian viewpoint, and argues against the New Perspective. Volume is generally evangelical in tone.
  • Commentary on New Testament Use of the Old Testament (G.K. Beale, D.A. Carson, ed.).
  • The NIV Application Commentary: New Testament (Zondervan).
  • Church History:




    Personal Development:



    • The Five Love Languages, Secrets to Love that Lasts (Dr. Gary Chapman).13A perpetual best-seller, no personal experience.
    • Love & Respect (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs).**14Heard high praises from many and have read a good portion myself. At times is a bit redundant – but perhaps that is because we forget truths, especially in our most intimate relationships?


    Physical Health:

    Mental Health:


    Sexuality (General):



    17Not read it, but it sounds interesting. At CBD its $2.00! Has received solid reader reviews at both CBD and Amazon.
  • Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw). [HT: Evan Curry]
  • Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America (Stanley Hauerwas). [HT: Evan Curry]
  • Leadership:

    • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John Maxwell).*18John Maxwell is an excellent resource on leadership, has experience in both ministry and corporate leadership and writes in a very readable/enjoyable manner. His books are fairly concise as well.

    Social Justice:



    • The Purpose Driven Church (Rick Warren).*19I know, I know. Everyone hates the Purpose Driven Church…or at least a lot of people who frequent the circles I travel in…but I insist this is due to the misapplication of Warren’s principles rather than Warren’s principles in and of themselves. Warren repeatedly warns against cookie-cutting one’s church after Saddleback, and yet this is what has occurred in many situations and this is (largely) what people revolt against. Give it a chance – its still the best and most practical guide to “doing church” I’ve read.








    Youth Ministry:




    Ongoing Reading:

    • Max Lucado – Facing Your Giants, Fearless*, It’s Not About Me, Cure for the Common Life, The 3:16 Promise, You! God’s Brand New Idea, The Applause of Heaven**, Just Like Jesus, Cast of Characters, In the Grip of Grace, 3:16–The Numbers of Hope, He Chose the Nails, In the Eye of the Storm, Come Thirsty, He Still Moves Stones, God Came Near, The Great House of God, Outlive Your Life, For the Tough Time, Six Hours One Friday
    • John Eldredge


    • Adam (Ted Dekker).
    • Demon: A Memoir (Tosca Lee).
    • The Oath (Frank Peretti).

    Secondary Bible Study:

    Secondary Theology:

    Secondary Christian Living:

    • Inside Out (Dr. Larry Crabb).*21A challenging and insightful book by psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. I don’t agree with everything Crabb says and find psychoanalytic theory (which seems to be appropriated) only a partial perspective…but still, worthwhile.
    • After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (N.T. Wright). [HT: Evan Curry]

    Secondary Church History:

    Secondary Classics:

    Research Sources:

    Revision History:

    • 3/23/16 – Primarily behind the scenes work, updated code overall, removed unnecessary code, increased size of headers, and changed some Amazon links to short links.
    • 6/5/10 – Added additional footnotes. Added Obsessive-Compulsive Trap to Mental Health. Added Secondary Classics section and moved The Great Divorce (Lewis) to it.
    • 6/5/10 – Split Bible Study into Beginner and Advanced sections. Created Secondary Bible Study section, moved Jasper’s Hermeneutics, Enn’s Inspiration and Incarnation, and Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought to secondary.
    • 6/4/10 – Installed WP-Footnotes and rewrote all footnotes using this technology, also, updated footnote content.
    • 6/3/10 – Added friends feedback on various worthwhile books.

    12 thoughts on “A Christian Library.”

      1. Rhonda,
        I’ve been receiving some emails about Jesus Manifesto. I was not particulary familiar with Jesus Manifesto – but I’ll try and check them both out in the near future!.

    1. I LOVE this project, Dave!

      A couple additions to consider for “Church History”:
      Getting to know the Church Fathers (Dr. Litfin)
      Documents in Early Christian Thought (Maurice Wiles, Ed)

      You might consider a section on “Missions”, but that’s a more specialized area…
      Let the Nations be Glad (John Piper – good theological study of missions)
      From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (Ruth Tucker – good historical study of missions)

      Perhaps this would fit under your section on “Grief”, but more specifically “Suffering/ Pain”
      How Long, O Lord? (Dr. D. A. Carson)
      The Gift Nobody Wants (Philip Yancey))
      The Problem of Pain (C. S. Lewis)
      A Grief Observed (C. S. Lewis)
      Tale of Three Kings (Gene Edwards)

      Two thumbs UP for your “Marriage” books! I like ’em both 😉

      Under “Sexuality”, I have read only portions of this book but highly recommend it:
      Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (William Struthers)

      1. Annie,
        Thanks for the recommendations! Getting to Know the Church Fathers looks excellent. Maurice Wiles Documents in Early Christian Thought looks interesting and I’m adding it to the list of books I personally want to read…though I’m going to hold off on it for this list for the moment. 🙂
        You are absolutely right about a missions section! I don’t know how I missed that! I’ve added both of those volumes (Piper, Tucker) to the list.
        I’ve added a section for Suffering and placed How Long, O Lord? and The Gift Nobody Wants on the list. I’ve held off on C.S. Lewis’ duo and Tale of Three Kings but have ensured they are on my personal list. 🙂
        Your suggestion of Wired for Intimacy also sounds great. I have a secular volume on the topic called Pornified, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
        Awesome suggestions! Thanks for all of them.
        I hat-tipped you next to each suggestion where I added them to the list with a link to your blog.

      1. Laura,
        Thanks for the recommendation of A Hole in our Gospel. I have been seeing it “around” a lot but didn’t know it was written by Stearns of World Vision. I’m going to add this one to this blog list momentarily.
        I’ve actually read Crazy Love by Francis Chan and was not a big fan…though I haven’t heard anyone else have anything but praises for the little book…so I’m a party of one. 😉 Maybe someday I’ll read it again…I didn’t think it was bad, just not my favorite.

    2. OK. Let me tell you that many of these books are excellent. I may do something similar on my blog. I will just hit the categories of interest for me.

      1. Mosaic Bible (NLT) – provides a collection of sayings, images, and prayers from global Christianity. My wife has it and loves it. I have flipped through it and it looks great. It also provides devotionals based on church seasons.
      2. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible w/ Apocrypha (NRSV) – this is the study Bible I use. Overall, very good.

      Christian Living:
      1. Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon – I doubt there is a better, more concise book on the topic.
      2. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright – I haven’t read it but it seems great since the first two parts of the series were awesome

      Bible Study (General):
      1. Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology by Joel B. Green, Marianne Meye Thompson, and Paul Achtemeier – this appears better than the one by Carson and Moo
      2. I am not a fan of the BKC

      Church History:
      Agree with your Justo Gonzalez choice!

      1. The Character of Theology: An Introduction to Its Nature, Task, and Purpose by John Franke
      2. Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting God in Everyday Life by Ed Cyzewski – Ed’s a friend of mine, and I highly recommend his book.

      This is my category! I will keep it brief 🙂
      Great choice with The Myth of a Christian Nation. I need to read this too.
      1. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw – I love this book. Very creatively and tastefully done.
      2. Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America by Stanley Hauerwas – One of my favorite books. The title is excellent in itself!
      3. Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire – by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat – they re-read Colossians to speak to us today, and they handle the questions of truth and postmodernity as well.

      Social Justice:
      1. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne – his stories are tremendous. He spent time in Iraq during the current war, in Calcutta with Mother Teresa, and now minsters in Kensington in Philadelphia. Everyone should read this book! It quite literally changed my posture towards the poor, homeless, etc.
      2. Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman – short book by a friend of MLK, Jr’s father and influential in MLK Jr’s life.
      3. Evil & the Justice of God by N.T. Wright – not simply on social justice, but it definitely deals with that. I think this is NTW’s best book.

      1. Church Dogmatics Volume I.1 and I.2 by Karl Barth – if you have a lot of time on your hands. I have a love-hate relationship with Barth. However, anyone who stood up against Hitler deserves a read.

      Surprised by Hope is definitely the way to go!

      I am egalitarian so Piper would not be my first choice even though I respect him. However, I haven’t found another book to suggest.

      1. Culture Making by Andy Crouch – great book on understanding culture and how to relate to it

      Youth Ministry:
      1. Postmodern Youth Ministry by Tony Jones – not a huge fan of Tony personally, but this book was very helpful for me when I was a youth pastor

      Secondary Theology:
      I would suggest reading some black theology or liberation theology. They are helpful perspectives and very challenging, even though, I don’t always agree. I would suggest:
      1. Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann – great book
      2. No Longer Slaves: Galatians and African American Experience by Brad Braxton – helpful reading of Galatians

      Then, I would suggest reading more N.T. Wright 🙂 like:
      1. What St. Paul Really Said
      2. The Challenge of Jesus

      *That may be more than what you wanted, but, believe me, I have plenty more where that came from.

      1. Evan,
        Thanks for the massive number of suggestions. 🙂 I’ve added Mosaic to my personal reading list along with the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Resident Aliens, Introducing the New Testament, The Character of Theology, Coffeehouse Theology. I’ve added After You Believe to secondary Christian Living and Jesus for President.
        Do you mind sharing further commentary on your dislike for the BKC? I am not amazed by it myself – but it does seem a decent “starter” volume for someone interested in studying the bible with a commentary. Do you have a similar alternative volume(s) you would recommend?
        Justo Gonzalez is the man!
        Okay…I’m only halfway through…but I’m excited just looking through these volumes. Don’t take the lack of some of these books making it onto my list as a bad thing – many of them are outside of my “usual reach” as far as the authorial circles I travel in…so I’m going to have to spend some time with them. 🙂 I’ll finish my comments sometime soon…

      2. Okay…second half of comments for Evan. 🙂
        – I added Unleashing the Scriptures to the list.
        – Colossians Remixed has been added to my personal reading list.
        – I’ve seen a lot about The Irresistible Revolution but haven’t had a chance to read it…now added to the list.
        – Jesus and the Disinherited is now on my personal reading list.
        – Added Evil & the Justice of God to the list.
        – Barth’s Dogmatics is on my personal list. I have done almost no reading in Barth [embarrassed].
        – Glad you agree on Surprised by Hope. I have a few others, specifically on hell, I’d like to add…but haven’t actually finished yet like Hell Under Fire which was written by a number of significant contemporary biblical scholars (J.I. Packer, etc.).
        – Kara suggested I add Jewett’s Man as Male and Female and I am in agreement, I’ll add that one shortly. Have you read it? I think Jewett has much for us to learn – though he also (at times) pushes his agenda over Scripture in his attempts at egalitarianism.
        – Added Culture Making to the Worldview section.
        – Postmodern Youth Minister is on my personal reading list as are Prophetic Imagination and No Longer Slaves.
        – Almost all N.T. Wright’s books are on my to-read list. 🙂
        Thanks again for all the feedback Evan. A lot of the books you gave, as I mentioned previously, were outside of my personal readership arena – and I am always looking to expand the areas in which I am reading – so I’m excited for the opportunity to explore these authors and volumes.

    3. Dave,

      I simply don’t like the BKC since I am not premillennial dispensational, and that appears to be the emphasis there. Also, I find it too simple in that it doesn’t provide much information. As for “starter” commentaries, I would suggest the “For Everyone series” with OT by Goldingay and NT by Wright for most books of the Bible since the series is not complete yet.

    4. I can offer two personal recommendations: ON ABORTION: “Open your mouth for the dumb” by Peter Barnes. TWO VOLUME BIOGRAPHY: “George Whitefield” by A.Dallimore.
      Submitted by Greg Andersen

      1. Greg – Thanks for the recommendations. I also responded to your previous comment regarding mental health, but I think your email address was wrong on that one…so if you skip back over to that post, you should see my reply. 🙂 Thanks for visiting the site and sharing your thoughts!

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.