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100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, Plus One

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery Whiteis the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he…

  • 2014 Feb 10

I’m a sucker for almost any book list.

Amazon decided to go for the jugular and release its list of “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.”

The list spans only the past 200 years or so, and has something of a tilt toward the new and trendy (David Sedaris?  Suzanne Collins?  Really?  Included in the only 100 you’ll read in a lifetime?).  Amazon admits the list was highly subjective, and based on deliberation among Amazon’s editorial team. 

But I found their main filter intriguing:  “One of our tasks was to have books that don’t feel like homework: ‘eat your vegetables’ books.  There was nothing in there except ‘I loved this book when I was 12 for this reason. ’”

I like that.  There aren’t enough lists out there that simply exist to stoke a lifetime love of reading.  Too many are just trying to impress.  So let’s do skip the writings of Immanuel Kant, at least for now, and move on to E.B. White, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Roald Dahl (all of whom Amazon included).

But for a list with such intent, I was struck by two things:  First, the not-so-subtle bias against books related to faith or traditional values.  How else could you explain the omission of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but the inclusion of its much-less-celebrated atheist counterpart, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass?

Second, and more glaring, was the omission of anything related to the Bible.  I know, I know, some would say that violates their screening process.  Too much like vegetables.

But that’s where I would push back.

The book of Ruth is simply one of the best stories you’ll ever read.  Tales surrounding Samson and Joseph, Jacob and Mary, provide many of the archetypes of our day. 

The powerful and popular appeal of the Bible is evidenced by the onslaught of major movies with A-list stars coming our way this year, including the story of Noah with Russell Crowe and Moses starring Christian Bale.

So yes, put Where the Wild Things Are and anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder on such lists.  And more importantly, into the hands of every young reader you can.

Just don’t forget the collection of stories that is the greatest bestseller in all of human history, the Bible.  It keeps selling for a reason.

It’s a good read.

James Emery White



“Amazon 100 books to read in a lifetime,” Dana Sand, CNN, February 6, 2014, read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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