The Best Christian Books of All Time

Must Reads in a Lifetime

Leaders are readers, they say. Whether this is because leaders inherently love to read, or because reading helps to make a person a leader, I cannot say. I can say, however, that our culture needs leaders who love the gospel of Christ and desire to see it transform culture, and I can also say that there are few better things you can do to cultivate effectiveness in body, soul, and spirit, than to enthusiastically engage a good book with your mind and will.

This list is not exhaustive, but it contains great books which have proven themselves by Scriptural soundness and cultural relevancy over many years. I challenge you to read at least three books from this reading list this year, and take a step forward as a leader to help with the reconstruction of a sound and God-glorifying culture.

The Must Read: The Holy Bible

Written by forty authors who were divinely inspired by God. For sheer literary content alone, there's nothing like the exciting stories of Genesis, Judges, and the Samuels; the flowing, metaphysical poetry of Ecclesiasties; the song and drama of the Psalms; the cut-and-dry wisdom of the Proverbs; the pathos of the Gospels; and the logical rhetoric of the letters of Paul; followed by a brilliant and blinding description of the throne room of heaven and the judgment of hell.

But most of the billions of people who read the Bible every year will tell you that they read it because it is food and water to their souls, and because it is the one rule for life and practice.

Famous Quote from The Holy Bible:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17


Stone carving on John Bunyan's grave in Bunhill cemetery, London.
Stone carving on John Bunyan's grave in Bunhill cemetery, London. | Source

Great Book #2: The Pilgrim's Progress

By John Bunyan. This is the most widely published and widely read book after the Bible, and has been prized over the centuries for being the first and best spiritual allegory of all time. Though written in the old English of the 1600s, its simple, poetic storytelling is not hard for even young readers to understand (and there are many edited and abridged versions available, though they lack the purity of quality in the original).

Follow the pilgrim through the Slough of Despond where he struggles to be free of the burden on his back, and through Vanity Fair, where he is tempted away from his journey by enticing distractions, and cheer for him as he slips from the clutches of the man-eating giants, slays the dragon, walks through the valley of the dead, and finally makes it across the river to the Celestial City.

Famous Quote from The Pilgrim's Progress:

"In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without heart. Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer."

Tyndale just before being strangled and burnt. Illustration in original Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
Tyndale just before being strangled and burnt. Illustration in original Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
The Roman Colosseum, the setting for many of the stories in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
The Roman Colosseum, the setting for many of the stories in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. | Source

Great Book #3: Foxe's Book of Martyrs

By John Foxe. A book of true stories about the Early Christians in first-century Rome and the medieval world, documenting their stunning testimonies as they were being tortured to death. It's a sobering and convicting book to read, because it makes the reader think about whether he would be willing to die for the gospel of Jesus Christ with such confidence, conviction, and even joy.

Read about the martyrs in the Colosseum, who were eaten alive by voracious animals. Also read about the martyrs of the Protestant Reformation, who suffered death by burning for translating and publishing the Bible, or preaching the truth. John Foxe, the author, writes with feeling and masterful storytelling.

Douglas Campbell, author of "The Puritan in Holland, England, and America," says of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, "Those who could read for themselves learned the full details of all the atrocities performed on the Protestant reformers; the illiterate could see the rude illustrations of the various instruments of torture, the rack, the gridiron, the boiling oil, and then the holy ones breathing out their souls amid the flames. Take a people just awakening to a new intellectual and religious life; let several generations of them, from childhood to old age, pore over such a book, and its stories become traditions as individual and almost as potent as songs and customs on a nation's life."

Famous Quote from Foxe's Book of Martyrs:

"The procunsul then urged him, saying, 'Swear, and I will release thee;--reproach Christ.'

"Polycarp answered, 'Eighty and six years have I serve him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?' At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the gabots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, then so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire."


John Calvin, author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
John Calvin, author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. | Source

Great Book #4: The Institutes of the Christian Religion

By John Calvin. The two most important questions that every human being asks are, "Who is God?" and "Who am I?" John Calvin, called "The Theologian" by his peers, addresses these questions in his lifetime work, The Institutes.

His writing is vibrant, warm, and fatherly, with precious expositions of the Word of God that have long been valued for their wisdom and soundness. For impact on culture, there are few books like this one. It explores the ideas of God's sovereignty and man's free will, God's law, God's grace, man's deadness in sin, man's purpose, the Trinity, how to pray, how to be saved, and other doctrinal and devotional questions. Calvin spent most of his life in Geneva, Switzerland, and helped to establish a church & state relationship that was eventually paralleled by "Calvinist" colonists during the birth of the young nation of America.

Famous Quote from Calvin's Institutes:

"Such is the arrangement of the Institutes which may be thus summed up: Man being at first created upright, but afterwards being not partially but totally ruined, finds his entire salvation out of himself in Christ, to whom being united by the Holy Spirit freely given without any foresight of future works, he thereby obtains a double blessing—viz. full imputation of righteousness, which goes along with us even to the grave, and the commencement of sanctification, which daily advances till at length it is perfected in the day of regeneration or resurrection of the body, and this, in order that the great mercy of God may be celebrated in the heavenly mansions, throughout eternity." (From Calvin's "Method and Arrangement" Introduction)

The Valley of Vision book.
The Valley of Vision book.

Great Book #5: The Valley of Vision: a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Edited by Arthur G. Bennett. For richness of language to express the depth of the heart's cry, there are few books like The Valley of Vision. This book is a collection of prayers, some private, others corporate, written and used by Puritans.

Contrary to the conception about most prayer books, this one does not force you to pray in rote recitation. Instead, it enhances the thoughts and desires of the one praying, and helps him to pray in a way that is at once closer to the heart of God and closer to the heart of what the is really needed! Some prayers "wrestle" with God for blessings, others praise Him for His actions or attributes. Some prayers ask for personal wisdom (the valley of vision) and enablement in the Christian walk. The layout of each prayer almost looks like poetry, but the lines do not rhyme or have rhythm, and are merely meant to be a flow of thought from one subject to the next.

Famous Quote from The Valley of Vision:

"Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory."


Great Book #6: Confessions

By St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine tells the story of his rebellious youth, and how he followed after every lust he desired, to no satisfaction. Eventually he tells of the dawning of the light of Christ in his heart, and how it changed his actions, thoughts, and desires. His cry to God in this book is much like the petitioning King David's Psalms. Augustine desires to be righteous, to not be tempted by worthless things anymore, and to truly be filled by God in every way. He understood that all good things come from God, including his own ability to obey God and trust Him for righteousness. He expressed this by saying, "Grant what You command, and command what You will."

Famous Quote from Augustine's Confessions:

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, You put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted You, and feel but hunger and thirst for You. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is Yours. (X. xxvi.)

A few more great books to add to your list...

  • The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges
  • Institutes of Biblical Law, by R. J. Rushdoony
  • In the Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot, by Elizabeth Elliot
  • Confessions, by St. Patrick (first missionary to Ireland)
  • Missionary Patriarch, autobiography of a John G. Peyton, Scottish missionary to the cannibalistic New Hebrides
  • My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers
  • Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
  • The Westminster Confession

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Comments 34 comments

Robin Cristy profile image

Robin Cristy 5 years ago

Interesting.


zuriki profile image

zuriki 5 years ago

A great list. Will start on the pilgrim's progress, thank you for sharing.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

As a writer I also love to read, but I must confess as a Christian, I've only ever read the Bible. I have never read a Christian book. I've read magazines, poetry and the daily word but never like what you have mentioned above.

Thank you for the encouragement and the information. I must get at least one of those that you have recommended.


Ms Dee profile image

Ms Dee 5 years ago from Texas, USA

What a great introduction to some very great classics! I've not read The Valley of Vision, and am glad to be introduced to it. You've peaked my interest :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

I have only read a couple of these and appreciate the excellent list. Thank you for the information. God Bless.


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 5 years ago from American Southwest

I have several of those books, and by association, the others must be great. Thank you for the recommendations!


Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

Of your top 6, I've only read 2, so I better get a move on! Mere Christianity is on my "Read Sooner" list (as opposed to the "Read Soon" and "Read Eventually"). Thanks for the encouragement!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Jane I am impressed with your list without a single Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer. I feel C.S. Lewis' "Case for Christianity" should be on the "must read" list for every believer.

My brother has John Bunyan's personal copy of Pilgrim's Progress--what a kick to hold that in your hand. Isn't it interesting that both St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi were both rogues as youths but the most readable and admirable as adults? I like Augustine's statement: "You have made us for yourself and we are restless till we rest in You."

Thanks for the reviews. =:)


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Zuriki, I hope you'll read it along with the Bible, as there are many analogies that Pilgrim's Progress uses which you will not enjoy or understand if you have not read the Bible yet!


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Cardisa, I honestly cannot imagine a world in which Christians don't write and read the best books on the planet! There are millions of books the world has written that promote self-centeredness, illicit romance, sinful behavior, blasphemy against God, etc., etc., but as Christians we should be filling our minds with righteousness, truth, beauty, and goodness. So much of my joy in life and my ability to serve God faithfully has come out of being built up and edified spiritually by these great Christian classics. And there are many, many more that I have not even been able to list! As you begin to feast on these books, I pray your appetite will increase even more for the meat of sound Christian writers and thinkers.

The best to your reading,

Jane


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Ms Dee,

The richness of the Valley of Vision will certainly edify you and spur you on to greater devotion to our Lord! I have many friends and several family members who have read it as well-- we just can't say enough good things about it. For depth and devotion, and Scriptural accuracy, there aren't many writers like the Puritans!


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Pamela, I hope you will make the time to read at least one of these this summer! I believe it is a worthwhile use of anyone's effort, for the long-term effects are huge.


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

aethelthryth, I can definitely thank my church elders and church family for introducing me to many of these books! The effect that most of these have had on our culture over the years is outstanding. I wish I were able to read more, and over and over again too, but it takes a developed appetite for this kind of reading, and sometimes it's hard to make the time for it!


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Rose, I'm sure there are many others that you would have included which I have not read, so I'm sure we're tied on that account! :) I do hope you get to Mere Christianity soon; it's not your average nonfiction book-- there's so much that applies so deeply, yet he writes it so winsomely! As I'm sure you know from his other books...

I'd love to hear about what you're reading these days too!


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Winsome, thanks for your thoughtful comments!

I really haven't been intrigued by Joyce Meyer's pat-yourself-on-the-back Christianity or Max Lucado's teddy bear Christianity (enough to read through an entire book of theirs, that is). The books I've listed have been highly recommended by Biblical theologians, scholars, and culture-changers, both of my generation and hundreds of years ago. I have deep respect for the classics because they've withstood the test of time.

Wow, to have an original edition of Pilgrim's Progress! Those treasures don't come easily.

I didn't know about the raucous lifestyle of Assisi, but Augustine really outlines his own in Confessions. Just shows what a transformation Christ causes in a life that He has taken over for Himself! A complete execution and mortification of the old man, and a miraculous rebirth of a new man.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

So I'm reading through this wondering how I missed it until now...

Very nice top ten list. So glad to see it posted! You might like to add Baxter's Christian Directory to the next list.


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

RTalloni, I'm glad to see you come by! I am unfamiliar with Baxter's Christian Directory. Are you talking about Richard Baxter, the author of the book, "The Reformed Pastor"?


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Yes, the same Richard Baxter. You would most likely appreciate his work very much. Have you read Evidence Not Seen from Darlene Deibler Rose? It is more contemporary, but a rare jewel that I intend to read again soon.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Would like to link this hub to my book review for Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy if you have no objection. Thanks!


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

I'll have to look it up then! Sounds good, especially if it's by Baxter. Thanks for your recommendation about Evidence Not Seen! I'll make a note of it and look into it. I always love getting good book recommendations from like-minded people!

Thanks for linking to my hub! I much appreciate it. :) Now I'm off to read your book review!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

I am pleased to say that I have read all of these except "The Valley of Vision." In your honorable mention list I see two books I adore: "Mere Christianity" and "My Utmost for His Highest."

Thank you for a needful and wonderfully made article. :)


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

James, you've read more than I have if you've read those books all the way through! I am still working on Institutes, but I hope to finish it within a year.

I'll enjoy hearing what you think about Valley of Vision if you decide to read it!


Alan 5 years ago

Though I'm not Catholic, I have found much to commend Thomas a Kempis', Imitation of Christ. He has wonderful insight into the nature of man, and how to stay close to Christ.


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Alan,

I'm not Catholic either, but I found much to edify in Kempis's book. Thanks for your insightful comment!


Nurfninja profile image

Nurfninja 5 years ago from Earth

This looks really cool, congratulations on being so well read!


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Thanks, Nurfninja! What books do you consider classic "must-reads"?


Fuller-Life profile image

Fuller-Life 5 years ago from Washington, DC

This is a great hub. I am definitely going to make sure I read these classics. I have read scanty passages from some of them, but I guess, reading them in their entirety to gain more from them. Thanks for sharing.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Great Hub. I have read several of those books, and would like to read the one by Augustine and Calvin. I have read Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard several times. I like anything by Charles Spurgeon. I also think every Christian should read The Screwtape Letters By CS Lewis,Dietrich Bonoffer's The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, and A W Tozer's Knowedge of the Holy.


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 4 years ago from Oregon Author

I enjoyed Hind's Feet by Hurnard as well! I've been asked to illustrate a copy of it... haven't gotten to that yet, but it is full of vivid descriptions that should be fun to put into art!

Your other book recommendations are great, and I've read them too! Thanks for reminding me! Bonhoeffer's Life Together was a favorite I'll be coming back to again. :)


Dave Smith 3 years ago

Add this one to the list. A book that will change everything: http://www.amazon.com/---logical-S-James/dp/061578...


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 3 years ago from Oregon Author

Dave, I haven't read than one and I don't know much about it. I can say, if it changes "everything" then it's probably not going to uphold the orthodox Christianity that Calvin, Rushdoony, Bunyan, and the Puritans held so steadfastly to. It's usually an unsafe practice to embrace a new interpretation of the Bible that pays no respect to the theological giants of past centuries who were for the most part in agreement with each other and who were dedicated to interpreting the Bible to the best of what God intended.


Jennifer 3 years ago

Have you tried any other fictional books, or other modern books on Christianity or politics?


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 3 years ago from Oregon Author

Yes, some of my favorite fictional books (not necessarily entirely Christian) are Tolkein's works, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Jane Austen's books. Modern books on Christianity or politics, yes, but they don't go in my list of "best Christian books of all time." I've read some of John Piper, Jerry Bridges, Sproul, Chesterton. I haven't done much reading on modern politics-- more just historical politics like 1776 and John Adams by David McCullough, and De-Tocqueville's Democracy in America, though not in its entirety. Were there any you had in mind?


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 2 years ago from California

That is a wonderful list! Fox's Book of Martyrs is a must read. I also enjoy the writings of Jonathan Edwards--talk about a life set apart.

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