The Top Ten Books

The Top Ten Books

I'd like your help.

Our new bookstore, The Grounds, asked me for the top ten books I would recommend that everyone read. Whether they are simply new to the faith, or just hungry to grow, what would those ten be?

I know, lists. They’re maddening.

But fun.

And also useful. It’s often healthy to think through something along these lines. 

So in this case, here’s the exercise: If you could put ten, and only ten, books into someone’s hands that you knew they would eventually read, which ones would they be?

(*I know, reading isn’t the only way to grow. Humor me.)

Let’s assume the Bible is above any list and is already understood to be required reading. We’ll consider those sixty-six offerings to be on the list above all others.

Let’s also omit hefty systematic theologies, commentaries on a particular book of the Bible, and various reference works and tools (such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks).

Let’s also omit daily devotional materials, such as My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and other such works. 

Finally, let’s not make a list to “impress,” but to “influence.” What I mean is this: let’s pick ten books that are mainstream, accessible to the average reader, and offering foundational help to anyone’s walk with Christ. 

For example, I have been served by such classics as Augustine’s Confessions, or Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, but I’m not sure I would start someone out on either one. 

I’ll suggest the first seven that I’ve already decided will be on the list.   

Your job? Give me your best thinking on the other three.

Here are my seven in alphabetical order by author:

Friesen, Gary. Decision Making and the Will of God.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity.

MacDonald, Gordon. Ordering Your Private World.

Packer, J.I. Knowing God.

Stott, John R.W. Basic Christianity.

ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place.

Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing About Grace?

My choices might surprise you, but they were made very “pastorally.” Again, the selections were not meant to reflect the deepest of Christian writing, the trendiest, the most historic, or any other matrix other than practical discipleship. I’ve seen the power of these seven books over time, and that means something. 

I also stand by their content  If could get these seven books into someone’s hands, that would be a good day. They speak not only to Christian life, but Christian thought; daily disciplines, and the dynamics of following Christ.

Now, log on to and post what you think the remaining titles should be. I've got my ideas, but want to hear yours. You can even argue against my initial seven. I’m a big boy. 

But help me round out the top ten. 

(Bonus: If you’re a subscriber to the blog [it’s free], after we pick the remaining three titles, we’ll choose three of you and send you the book you suggested that made it so that you can gift it to someone you’ve been thinking about!  We’ll also send out the final top ten list to all subscribers, along with a summary of all the recommendations).

James Emery White

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“The Greatest Books for Kids”

“What Book Would You Pass On to the Next Generation?”

“Turning Children On to Reading”

“25 Books Every Christian Should Read”


Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., 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 A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.