Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

The Top Five Books

  • Dr. James Emery White

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

  • 2014 May 01

Christianity Today magazine has an interesting piece they run monthly that asks a specialist or someone versed in a particular field to list their top five books related to their expertise.  Recently, they featured noted historian Mark Noll on his top five books for igniting a passion to read history. 

That got me thinking…

If I simply wanted to ignite a passion in someone for a subject – meaning, I wasn’t trying to impress academicians, intellectual sophisticates, or cultural hipsters – what would the top five be for various areas if all I wanted to do was turn them on, through reading, to that area?

Let’s add in the desire to ignite a passion for the pleasure and joy of reading.  And just flat-out raw inspiration.

Okay, I’m off to the races.

I didn’t worry about being exhaustive or systematic with my categories – this was too much fun.  Fastest blog writing ever.  So…here you go!  (And yes, I gave myself permission to include a few of my own works).


Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

A Search for the Spiritual by James Emery White

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

Becoming a Contagious Christian by Billy Hybels, Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg

Out of the Saltshaker by Rebecca Manley Pippert


The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

Churchill: The Unruly Giant by Norman Rose

Young Children’s Books:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Older Children’s Books:

The “Little House” books (series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Harry Potter and the… (series) by J.K. Rowling

Christian Living:

Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey

The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning


Serious Times by James Emery White

The Gravedigger File by Os Guinness

Culture Making by Andy Crouch

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester

The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


From Good to Great by Jim Collins

Built to Last by Jim Collins

Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell

Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman


Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott

A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke

Who Needs Theology? by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson

Wrestling with God by James Emery White

Bonus (but just three)

Mystery Novels:

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers

(But read everything you can by all three of these authors)

Happy reading.

James Emery White

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 latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon.  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can 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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