I admit it - I’m a biblio-holic. I actually take seriously Erasmus’ motto, "When I get a little money, I buy books; if any is left over, I buy food and clothes." In my teenage years, I literally spent the clothing allowance that my parents gave me on books. I read voraciously and rapidly. I’m too impatient to read in any way other than rapidly. Unless they are extremely intricate, I can polish off most novels in an evening or two. My only complaint about The Lord of the Rings (at 1500+ pages) is that it is too short.

My voracious appetite has led me to read many things that turned out to be less than completely productive or edifying. "Of the making of books there is no end." I have a CD-ROM version of Books-In-Print, and it tells me that there is, at present, something like 1.2 million books in print. Most of them are not worth my time. But, based on my own eccentric tastes and dabbling, I thought I would share some of the cream of the crop. In future columns (if there is enough interest), I’ll try to review more recently published books and recommend the best of the more recently published titles.

The books I have listed below have been those I continue to refer back to. Some, I first read over twenty years ago, but the ideas I gleaned from them continue to influence my thinking. My list of "most influential" reflects my convictions as a Christian, a lover of history and learning, and as a father and a husband. Here they are, with some notes on each one.

The Most Influential Books

Confessions, St. Augustine
Augustine is one of the giants of church history. He was a successful, pagan professor of philosophy when he was captivated by the gospel and converted by the preaching of Ambrose of Milan. Interestingly, what first drew him to church was the beauty of the congregational singing at the cathedral. And what prevented him for a long while from becoming a Christian were not intellectual doubts, but the prospect of having to reform his licentious ways. The prayers of his mother, Saint Monica, availed much, and the Spirit did bring him to faith. He then used his formidable intellect in the service of the faith and the church. The Confessions is his autobiography, brutally honest and very compelling. The tone is reverent, grateful, and full of praise and worship for God.

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
100 years from now, there are few 20th century authors who will still be read, but C.S. Lewis is almost certain to be one of them - much to the chagrin of more "progressive" intellectuals. Lewis was Oxford Professor of Renaissance Literature and one of the great intellects of our time. Yet he had an incredible ability to present the gospel in terms understandable by everyone. My faculty advisor in college became a Christian listening to the radio addresses that were the basis for this book. Many others have as well.

The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer
Dr. Schaeffer is another 20th century writer whose books show signs of surviving the test of time. I read this book first when I was 17 and it opened my eyes to the answers that the Bible provides to the tough questions posed by 20th century philosophy. Schaeffer deals with the questions honestly - and they are good questions - but shows how the answers provided by the modern world are totally inadequate to the reality of man and his history. God is real, He is there, and He has spoken.

Men and Marriage, George Gilder
A brilliant analysis of the sexual revolution that clearly shows how and why the institution of marriage is central to the survival of civilization. Men are barbarians and women tame them. They do this by using the institution of marriage. Destroy marriage and men will remain barbarians.