Ok, some of these aren't theology books. But everyone wants to talk about the book that changed their life, or the way they looked at the world, or made them sad. On reddit this week there was a long thread discussing books that changed the way people looked at the world. I figured I'd share my thoughts on that. As a student of theology most of my books will be theological-but a few won't ;) Many of these challenged me and shaped the way I looked at things.
Desiring God by John Piper
What is the purpose of the Christian life? Dr. Piper answers that throughout his whole book with one phrase: To glorify God BY enjoying him forever. Our job is to desire what we will enjoy the most, and according to the Bible, that's who God is. At nineteens years of age I came across this book and years later I still go to it for encouragement, challenge, and wisdom. I was surprised that by the end of I was given what is essentially Reformed theology. And it is no surprise to me that this is the book that has made many people Calvinists. Dr. Piper's passion and love for God's glory shows on every page. It gave me a whole new way of looking at the Bible and the Christian life.
Humanity and Sin by Robert Pyne
Before the word "worldview" entered my vocabulary, I had no idea that that was what Christianity was. It is a way of viewing the world. Pyne's book is a look at what we are as humans and what sin does to us. However, he does so much more. He actually shows how looking at things like evil, vice, drugs, etc... from a Christian perspective can give us an idea of how to deal with them, and how to help people in our churches who are dealing with these issues. I'm sad that it is out of date, but I HIGHLY recommend you get it and read it. It's a great look at what the Bible says about man, his sin, and our salvation.
The Cross of Christ by John Stott
How important is the cross? In Bible college I learned just how much after reading this book. Stott's book covers the cross from so many angles your head might just spin if you're not careful. But that is what the cross is: an unfathomable event that touches us deeply. The different pictures of salvation that he studies are very helpful in understanding just what went on when Jesus died. Today people want to single one view over another, but in reality it's a diamond with many faces, each as important as the other.
How to read the Bible for all its worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart
One of the first books I read in Bible college that actually helped me make sense of the Bible. It reminded me that the Bible is like many great works of literature. It's an anthology of history, poetry, prophetic vision, moral teaching, and gospel. Each one has to be read with different rules in order to be understood. That is something we miss when we sit down to read scripture. If you want to know how to read by the rules, take a look at this book. Just don't take their advice on what Bible to read. They endorsed the TNIV and that was a mistake. I think they should have gone with the ESV.
The ESV Study Bible
The Bible had to be here but I decided to mention one of my favorite Study Bibles. There's just so many these days. I'm glad that they're almost all ESV but this is the one that started it all. Years ago the Bible translation of note was the NIV. I read the entire new testament one week from the NIV. But as I learned more about Bible translations I knew I wanted a Bible that was not too loosely translated. Enter the English Standard Version. An update to the old Revised Standard Version, it quickly got the attention of theologians and pastors everywhere. Somehow in all this, it became the translation to get. In became a rock star in the world of Bible translations and the official bible of Calvinists everywhere. When it was announced that Crossway publishing (publishers of the ESV) were making a study Bible that would have some hefty scholarship, everyone cheered. It has scholarly notes, a gospel centric theme, in depth maps, articles, and even a mini systematic theology in the back. It's also heavy. Too heavy for me to take to church, though it has since been released in a slimmer, shortened version.
On Writing by Stephen King
If you can only get one writing teacher, make it Stephen King. His book is a tour of his imagination. You see what went on as he wrote his now classic horror stories. You also get a lesson in writing that is worth the price of the book alone. His section on where he gets his ideas has always stayed with me and is the reason I've ever attempted to write. If you're looking for a summer read, this is it.
Watchmen by Alan Moore
If comic books can be serious business, then Alan Moore's Watchmen is an industrial complex. Watchmen has been credited with being part of a new wave of more serious comics with complex stories and a deconstruction of the comic book superhero that began in the 1980's. I got it as a birthday present from my friend a few years ago. I read it in a week and it blew my mind and it left me reading comics ever since. Watchmen is the story of retired heroes who are forced to look for a killer. But that's just the start. The real story is the heroes themselves: their failures, their struggles, and fears. It also tackles the nature of crime fighting and the best way to save humanity. Moore's prowess as a comic book writer is that he is able to tell a story using traditional and non-traditional methods. The story is told from many perspectives and through recollections, newspaper articles, journal entries etc... It tackles relationships, rape, justice, the comic book industry, and the ethics of crime fighting. Moore is a master of the graphic novel medium. In one chapter, one character is looking at the various evens in the past and the present. Each page doing something I thought could only be done in the movies. When I first read that chapter is blew me away. Graphic novels are serious indeed. Needless to say, I hope to write my own one day.