Everyone who reads intersects with books at just the right time that speak just the right words in just the right ways to leave an indelible imprint. Sometimes they shape, sometimes they direct, sometimes they lift up, sometimes they inspire, and sometimes they just fill you up. These eleven books, in no particular order, have been such for me.
1) Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey
I stumbled in to this book at a time when I wasn’t sure what was next or how to get there. Harvey’s combination of practical wisdom and pastoral counsel was just what I needed. He helped me feel free to pursue great things without the burden of pseudo-humble guilt I had born, that lie that pursuing excellence was a pathway to pride. It was encouraging and freeing.
2) The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor
I could have listed any of several books by Taylor, but this one stands out for the impact it had in helping me learn how to process questions, doubts, and uncertainty. So much of traditional American evangelicalism has little room for these things, but Taylor artfully upholds a high view of God while honestly encouraging exploration and questions.
3) Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
I don’t necessarily think this is the best of Keller’s books (though I’d be loathe to choose which is), but it’s the one that pierced most deeply when I read it. In his reasonable, methodical way Keller puts his fingers on the idols of the heart and presses. It hurts. But it identifies areas that need addressing so clearly.
4) When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett
“Paradigm forming” is not a phrase to be used lightly (or almost ever), but this book deserves it. Fikkert and Corbett entirely dismantle the standard American mindsets toward poor people and charity. In its place they offer a paradigm of need and wealth which shapes missions efforts, outreach efforts, personal relationships, and even one’s relationship with God.
5) Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Love him or hate him, Donald Miller offered a book that broke the thinking mold for many young Christians in the early 2000s. I was one of them, and it was a good thing for me. Miller’s book reframed how a Christian can talk about faith, ask questions, and encounter God. It was a nudge toward a direction of faith I needed.
6) Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy is sort of like a much smarter and more grown up Blue Like Jazz, at least in its effect on me. Chesterton’s writing and exploration of truth are brilliant. He manages to be both incredibly worshipful and properly irreverent at the same time. It game me something to aspire to.
7) Whiter Than Snow by Paul Tripp
Nobody likes to look into their own heart and deal with their sin, but this little book by Tripp is a marvelous and devastating resource for doing so. It helped me at a time I had fallen and didn’t know if God wanted me to get up. Tripp’s reflections on Psalm 51 were just the words I needed to read.
8) Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis
I’ve read almost all of C.S. Lewis works, and this one stands out to me for its sheer sweetness. He was brilliant, had a devastating wit, wrote millions of words, and his sweet letters to children with questions are among the best he ever wrote. The fact that Lewis stayed connected to the realities of real, normal children is what made his brilliance so brilliant instead of being esoteric and useless to the masses.
9) A Praying Life by Paul Miller
I’ve known how to pray since I could talk, but this book taught me what it means to really pray. It is such a normal, practical book but so rich and deep too. It helped me actually love to pray instead of just knowing how.
10) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I never read this in high school, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve always loved a great story, but Lee’s classic showed me in a brand new way the power of story. I was moved by it. I wanted to be half the man Atticus Finch was. This goes down as my favorite novel.
11) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Potter books were my reintroduction as a grown up to the wonder of children’s stories. They were everything a children’s story should be – noble, beautiful, fun, funny, gripping. They reminded me that many (most?) of the best stories are not written for grown ups but for those readers who are unimpressed by anything less than the best.