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The Book Bucket List

Aug 18, 2012

In a bucket list a person draws up a listing of all the things he wants to do or see before he dies. As each activity is completed the item gets scratched off the list. I here propose a book bucket list: a listing of all the terrific books a Christian should read before he dies.

I have actually thought about making such a list for some time now, but the idea quickly came undone for various reasons. First, there are far too many books I would want to include in such a list. Hundreds of volumes come to mind.

Second, even if I narrowed things down to, say, just Christian books, there would still be too many which I would want to include. And third, there would be too many categories to run with, such as theology, or church history, or apologetics, or ethics, or the Christian life, etc.

Perhaps the best way of proceeding then is simply to list some of my favourite authors as opposed to my favourite books. I will still get to discuss many of my favourite books of course, but will be spared some of the problems listed above.

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And I will certainly need to do more than one such article as this, since so many authors can be mentioned. So here I will just offer a few of my most highly recommended authors. And I need to narrow things down further as well. Too many good ones exist, so I will just focus on more recent writers.

Thus all the old authors of the old classics I will not here mention, be it the Confessions of Augustine or Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. They will have to wait for a future article. So let me offer what will likely be an ongoing series. It contains seven authors and some of their volumes which I think every Christian should read, and read often.

In order to resist the temptation of trying to list these authors in terms of my most favourite to somewhat less most favourite (if that makes sense), let me just present them alphabetically.

G. K. Chesterton. There is so much to say about Chesterton and so much to like about him. Even trying to pick a few of his works is hard, since so many can be run with here. But perhaps it is no surprise that I have to nominate his 1908 classic, Orthodoxy as something we all should be familiar with.

I still have to say it is perhaps my all-time favourite book. One can easily read it every year and benefit from it immensely each time. For more on him and this book, see here: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/24/notable-christians-g-k-chesterton/

C. S. Lewis. Wow, where does one begin with this guy? So many books to choose from. But one has to start somewhere, so how about these as first steps in your Lewis library?

The Problem of Pain (1940)
Mere Christianity (1943, 1945, 1952)
The Great Divorce (1946)
Miracles (1947)
The Screwtape Letters (1942)

For much more on the man and his work please go here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/01/19/notable-christians-c-s-lewis/

Martyn Lloyd-Jones. One can never read enough of “the Doctor” (of course that is true of all the other writers I feature here as well). The expository preacher of last century excelled in so many ways. His classic two-volume Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (1958) is still readily available today in one volume.

Obviously if you have the time and money you must get his 14-volume masterwork, his expository commentary on Romans. Barring that, at least try to get his eight-volume set, the expository commentary on Ephesians.

Leonard Ravenhill. Another giant who must be read, and re-read. His sermons and devotional writings on the deeper life, on holiness, on revival and related themes are almost second to none. Whatever you read of his (all to great value), make sure you get his 1959 classic, Why Revival Tarries. That book alone will change your life and change your world.

J. C. Ryle. The somewhat older pastor, writer and expositor is always worth reading, whether for the first time or the fiftieth time. His 1877 volume Holiness is still readily available in various editions and remains a foundational volume all believers should master.

For more on this great man and his tremendous writings, see here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/08/08/notable-christians-j-c-ryle/

Francis Schaeffer. This great apologist and prophetic voice is as relevant today as when he ministered so effectively late last century. Start at least with his trilogy of earlier works which lays the groundwork for his thought: Escape from Reason (1968); The God Who is There (1968); and He is There and He is Not Silent (1972).

And don’t forget his later works such as How Should We Then Live? (1976) and The Great Evangelical Disaster, (1984). Much more about this great man and his writings can be found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/10/14/notable-christians-francis-schaeffer/

A. W. Tozer. One can never stop raving about this mighty modern-day prophet. He and Ravenhill should be read by every single Christian, and anything one can find by these men should be snatched up, treasured, and read over and over.

While new collections of his sermons and writings continue to appear (for example, a never-before published compilation of his material has just come out: The Dangers of a Shallow Faith), there are plenty of editions of his older works still widely available.

Perhaps start with The Pursuit of God (1948), or The Knowledge of the Holy (1961). But anything you can lay your hands on by this wonderful man of God will be well worthwhile. One can never get too much of Tozer.

So start shopping and start reading – and be blessed big time as you do. And stay tuned for the next instalment of The Book Bucket List.

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6 Responses to The Book Bucket List

  • An absolute MUST for me is W. Norris Clarke, S.J.’s Person and Being;

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0874621607/moreccommunin-20

    It is for those more philosophically inclined but definitely a life changer for me.

    Damien Spillane

  • I’m glad I have read some of the works listed, including Doctor Lloyd-Jones’ series on Romans and Ephesians, because at my age it’s not wise to have too much in the bucket! Reading the biographies of these men is also a very rewarding experience, especially the Puritans and their successors up to and including the Doctor.

    David Morrison

  • For me “Till We Have Faces” is my favourite of C S Lewis books. It does not seem an overtly Christian book, but I was literally awe-struck when I discovered the allegorical Christian meaning in, what seems to be, just the retelling of a Greek myth, slightly amended.

    Joost Gemeren

  • Simple Bill,

    You must be ruthless. Start with categories etc and get the bucket list down to a hundred of your favourite books of all time. I think it could be done. I counted 18 or so books. I didn’t mind the Screwtape Letters but that is one example of letting a book go for others.

    Carl Strehlow

  • re CS Lewis : his books of short essays (e.g God in the Dock & Present Concerns) have a great deal to contribute to the themes often explored in this forum. One essay ‘Modern Man and His Categories of Thought’ shows that he saw our day a-coming from a distance.

    Terry Darmody

  • Yes great essays indeed Terry.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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