Most of us have a list, either written down somewhere or in our heads, of important Christian works we’ve been meaning to read, one of these days. My latest book, 25 Books Every Christian Should Read, provides an ideal way to get started. A distinguished editorial board, including Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, Phyllis Tickle, John Wilson, Richard Rohr, Emilie Griffin, Mickey Maudlin, Frederica Mathewes-Green, and James Catford, selected the 25 books they felt were most important and relevant for Christians today. Their picks range across centuries and traditions–from classics like Augustine’s Confessions and Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God to more contemporary works like C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, from familiar books such as John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Dante’s Inferno to books that modern Christians may be less familiar with such as The Cloud of Unknowing and The Philokalia.
My job was to read or re-read each of the 25 selected books and write the chapters. It was a long process, but I learned so much from my immersion in each of these remarkable works. One I particularly enjoyed was G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, his rambling and rousing answer to the question “Why am I a Christian?” By turns hilarious and thought-provoking, often both at the same time, Orthodoxy is a fun read that also served to strengthen and deepen my faith. I love how Chesterton, a Brit who lived in the early twentieth century, describes the paradoxes within Christianity–for example, that Chesterton, as is true for all people, was both chief of creatures and chief of sinners–as both its mystery and its strength, that these paradoxes helped give Christianity its balance and equilibrium. And I will forever remember his line “Joy . . . is the gigantic secret of the Christian” (p. 167).
Another book I loved was Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love. Julian was a fourteenth-century anchoress, meaning that she chose to live an ascetic lifestyle confined to a small set of rooms attached to a church. Revelations of Divine Love is her reflections on a series of visions she received when she became very ill at the age of 31. There are parts of Julian’s book that are difficult for me to relate to, in particular, her desire for illness and suffering. Yet this is a woman who knows God, and her description of God’s love and peace are beyond beautiful. I love the way she writes so casually of resting in God, and I long to know God as she does.
Those are two of my favorites, but I think most everyone will find on the list some important works he or she has enjoyed and also some more surprising selections for future reading. For each of the 25 books on the list,25 Books Every Christian Should Read includes a summary, guidance for reading, and a short excerpt and study guide. I hope that you’ll find 25 Books Every Christian Should Read to be a wonderful companion for your spiritual reading.
Two other recent books of mine I hope you’ll check out… The first, A Year with God, is a yearlong devotional based on the spiritual disciplines. I co-edited this book along with Richard J. Foster. As you progress through A Year with God, you’ll study eighteen different spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, simplicity, and solitude. Each day’s reading includes a Bible passage about the discipline, an excerpt from The Life with God Bible that helps explain the passage and bring out its application for spiritual formation, and finally a quotation, prayer, or reflection question. Throughout the year you’ll find suggestions for different exercises to help you apply the disciplines to your own spiritual practice. Whether you’re a beginner in spiritual formation or have been at it for many years, I hope you’ll find refreshment and insight here.
The second book is a devotional based on C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, including The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Whether you were a child who couldn’t get enough of C. S. Lewis’s classic children’s series, or you’ve just been introduced to these wonderful books through the recent movies or your children have started reading the books and you’d like to revisit them yourself, A Year with Aslan is the perfect way for adults to return to Narnia. Each day includes an excerpt from one of the seven Narnia books and one or more reflection questions to help you dive deeper into the magical world of Narnia and all the powerful lessons it holds for our lives today. I can’t tell you how much fun it was for me to reread all these books and pull out some of the most thought-provoking excerpts.
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