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The 30 Most Important Books I’ve Ever Read (1): Non-Fiction

By April 20, 2011No Comments

When I say most important, I don’t mean the most well written, most popular or most intellectually deep.  I simply mean the 30 books that had the greatest impact on me at whatever stage of life I was in when I read them, as well as the ones that continue to shape the way I see the world.

I will post 15 non-fiction books today and 15 fiction books tomorrow. Here’s the first half of the list, in no particular order:

1. The Holy Bible – 66 books, God-breathed.

2. The Institutes by John Calvin – Huge in scope, deep in beauty.

3. Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer – One of the foundational theological texts in the way I put the world together, always inviting me to faithfully improvise my very minor (but significant!) scenes in God’s great theodrama.

4. Poetic Theology by William Dyrness – The book that ultimately led me to my PhD mentor and doctoral program.

5. Faith, Hope and Poetry by Malcolm Guite – One of the most beautiful books about the poetic imagination that I have ever read.

6-7. Desiring the Kingdom  and Imagining the Kingdom by Jamie Smith – While I don’t agree with everything in these two books, the parts that I do agree with are absolutely central to the way that I think about imagination, education and theological anthropology.


8. The Calvinistic Concept of Culture by Henry Van Til – My first exposure to dutch Calvinism, the theological system that undergirds my understanding of culture and God’s work in the world.

9. When the Kings Come Marching In by Richard Mouw – When I was looking for a way out of Calvinism, Mouw invited me into a different kind of Calvinism. I could list any of Mouw’s books here (Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, He Shines in All That’s Fair, Uncommon Decency), but this one is my favorite.

10. God Crucified by Richard Bauckham – revolutionized my view of God in my early 20s, especially in reference how God defines himself by self-giving.

11. Desiring God by John Piper – gave me a huge vision of God while I was in college.  I’m not as excited about Piper these days, but he definitely left his mark on me during that time in my life.

12. Notes From a Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson – this book filled me with more wonder than any non-fiction book I’ve ever read.

13. Searching for God Knows What by Don Miller – foundational to my relational understanding of the world.

14. Emotionally Healthy Church/Spirituality by Peter Scazzero – required reading in a world full of “grown-up” emotional infants.

15. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – unbelievable book fusing imagination and reason to explain the basics of Christian faith.

Honorable Mentions:

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning – helped me understand what it looks like to define myself by God’s love instead of my performance.

Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason – the only book on marriage that I’ve read or need to read.

Reason for God by Tim Keller – Keller at his best, the product of years of compassionate reasoning and thinking.

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