On Bibliographies and Recommended Reading Lists

Looking for a good book?

Let me start this by reciting a memorable line from The Fellowship of the Ring. It was delivered by Bilbo Baggins at his 111th birthday party: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

If it is not too sacrilegious to Tolkien fans, I would like to apply that line to my books! I have many that I do not know well enough, while others may not have been appreciated as much as they should have. Whether I can get away with such a use of this sentence, it serves to make a point.

I have lots of books (over 8000) and a big part of my ministry is sharing and teaching, much of it based on my library. But as I am getting older, I have realised I need to cut back on buying new books. I still get them, but believe it or not, not as much as I have been just up until recently.

And my standard answer when I am often asked, “Have you read them all?” is this: I have read all of them some, and some of them all. I like to share my awareness of good books with others. There are 730 full or partial book reviews on my site. That is one way to alert others to worthwhile reading.

And just yesterday I started a new category on this website: “Bibliographies”. I have perhaps several hundred bibliographies and recommended reading lists all up, many of which I have turned into articles here. The problem with making a new category for a site that is getting on to twenty years old, with 6468 articles posted so far, is trying to go back through them to add those that fit into this new category.

So far I have 46 pieces in it, but I am sure I will find many more from my archives in the weeks ahead. Some of those biblios might only contain a dozen or so volumes, while others might have a hundred books featured. If I guess an average of at least 30 books, that comes to almost 1400 books all up.

So why do it? Well, I think it is important to alert folks to worthwhile volumes in various areas. And quite often I will get folks coming to me, asking me what books I recommend on any number of subjects. Having a ready-made recommended reading list is a quick and easy way for me to respond.

Of course some folks might be overwhelmed if I come back to them with an article featuring, say, 80 titles. That is why quite often at the bottom of the piece I will suggest what I consider to be some of the best titles, or some of the best authors.

Of course any recommendations I offer would be biased – as would be the case with anyone else. I usually say at the beginning of a bibliography where I am coming from. And that is a Christian and conservative point of view for the most part. So if I list theological titles for example, they tend to reflect where I am at: a biblically conservative evangelical.

But my lists are certainly not limited to that perspective. I may include titles by non-evangelicals and even non-Christians. I might also break down a reading list into Christian authors and then non-Christian authors for example.  

And sometimes I will feature reading lists with pro and con points of view, or various points of view. That way the reader can run with books from the camp they are happy with.

As mentioned, my recommendations can be somewhat skewed by where I am coming from, but I try to offer good lists, even including authors or titles I am not always that keen on. But I believe in general I have good book sense and am able to point folks in the right direction when they ask me. As I wrote in an earlier piece:

And I think my sense of which are among the better ones is not too shabby. Indeed, once when I was at Wheaton College I invited my political science prof over for lunch and he looked over my (then) somewhat small library and said, “You have good book sense”. I have often felt that I am fairly good at zeroing in on some of the better authors and better books in various areas.


Some years ago I taught a course on “Analytical Thinking” at a Melbourne Bible college. I included a session on how to pick the best books, especially in the area of theology. I included the obvious things like being aware of the solid publishers, knowing something of the author, checking out blurbs on the back cover, noting who they quote, and so on.


There are zillions of books out there, and many of them are just not all that good or worthwhile. Others are much better, and some are always worth running with. So we have to be discerning and selective. Indeed, sometimes on this site I will have an article simply listing some of my favourite authors or some of my favourite books – or sometimes even my fave publishing houses. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/09/21/on-book-reviews-recommendations-and-bibliographies/

Since I am no spring chicken anymore, I will keep trying to get more reading lists and bibliographies posted. And of course old ones that I have already posted will need to be updated as well somewhere along the line. But this is a labour of love, and something I enjoy doing.

It is part of how I might leave a legacy. I will be gone one day, but perhaps these lists – like my other articles in general – will be of some help to others. As I have often said, if you need help fixing your car or making your garden grow, you better not call me.

But if you want some good reading lists, or a daily supply of new articles, this site might be of some use for you. It is part of my ministry. It is part of what I am called to do. So I will keep doing it for as long as I can. Yes, it might be a rather limited sort of ministry, with perhaps most folks not that keen on reading lists, but for those you are, happy reading!

I finish with a few quotes on – you guessed it – books and reading:

“Reading Christians are growing Christians. When Christians cease to read, they cease to grow.” John Wesley

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” Anna Quindlen

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” Dr Seuss

“Your book bill ought to be your biggest extravagance.” C. S. Lewis

“The decline of reading has impoverished our culture and individual lives. We have lost mental sharpness, verbal skills, and ability to think and imagine. Our leisure has little meaning, and we’re consumed with self. We fail to recognize beauty or the value of either the past or essential human experience. We suffer from a lack of edification and a shrunken vision.” Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes, Recovering the Lost Art of Reading

“If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn.” Mortimer Adler

“We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books” — join in the cry.” C. H. Spurgeon

“Please bring with you … the books, especially the manuscripts.” Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:13, Phillips

“I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.” Anon

[1389 words]

3 Replies to “On Bibliographies and Recommended Reading Lists”

  1. Love books and love anything you post about them. I’m indebted to your ministry for some good reads. A friend gave me two the other day.
    Bought four this morning. Thanks, Bill.

  2. I know, I have piles and piles and piles of them of them too, on at least five bookshelves- works on Catholic theology, professional nursing, European history, pro-life concerns and disability rights. I’ve had to have a miniature lift installed to get to my top shelves as my legs aren’t what they once were.

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