An impressive group of Christian leaders in spiritual formation have compiled and published a list of 25 books every Christian should read. The board included Gayle Beebe, Richard J. Foster, Emilie Griffin, Richard Rohr, Phyllis Tickle, Dallas Willard, Chris Webb and Frederica Mathewes-Green. The book they've published includes a thorough overview of each book, insight into why it is an essential classic, guidance for reading it profitabily, an extended excerpt and a study guide for each book. And the top picks are:
1. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (~AD 318)
2. Confessions by St. Augustine (~AD 398)
3. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
4. The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict (~AD 400)
5. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (~AD 1320)
7. Revelations of Divine Love (Showings) by Julian of Norwich
8. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (~AD 1420)
9. The Philokalia (4th-15th Century)
10. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
11. The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila (AD 1577)
12. Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
13. Pensées by Blaise Pascal (AD 1669)
14. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (AD 1678)
15. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
16. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law (AD 1729)
17. The Way of a Pilgrim by Unknown Author
18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
19. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
20. The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
21. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
22. A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly
23. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
24. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
25. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen
You may notice that a lot of these recommendations were written centuries ago. This is a good thing for two reasons. First, many are in the public domain and can be downloaded free here. Second, reading only books that have been written in the last 40 years is common practice for contemporary Christians, and it fuels both arrogance and ignorance about the faithful saints throughout history.
I'd love to challenge you: pick up either 25 Books or one of those on the list that you're unfamiliar with and work at it to find out for yourself why its on this prestigious list.
Tip #1: As you read, don't evaluate the book based on whether you, or your pastor, would agree with everything the author asserts. Instead, posture yourself to hear from God as you read. See what affect it has on your heart or mind. What memories or experiences it brings into focus. And let the book be a launching pad for prayer.
Tip #2: A lot of these books can be purchased as audiobooks, which can be a great way to enhance your commute or exercise time.
I'd love to hear: Which of these have you read? Which books would have you chosen?