I’m regularly asked about the books I read.

Some people think I preach vocationally. There is truth to that, but there’s more truth in saying I read vocationally. There’s a sense in which I read books for others. I graze in the field of books and give the milk of sermons. John Wesley said, “Read or get out of the ministry.” I agree. Yes, reading is a big part of what I do. I don’t loan books for the same reason a mechanic doesn’t loan tools. Books are the tools of my trade.

Recently several serious minded Christians have requested that I give them a recommended reading list. I don’t feel like I can come up with a one-size-fits-all reading list; things vary too much from person to person. What I can do is comprise a list of the ten books which have most influenced me in the past two years — the literary equivalent to my recent blog on Music.

So here it is: The Ten Books That Have Most Influenced Me In The Past Two Years
(No reviews…just a list with a few comments.)

The Challenge of Jesus
N.T. Wright

This is the first book I read on this list. I read it in October of 2006. Pastor Joe Beach from Denver introduced me to N.T. Wright and I owe him much for this. When Casey Treat was with us for the Word of Life 25th anniversary in November of 2006 I talked to him about this book and ended up giving him my highly annotated copy. In hindsight I should have given him one from Solomon’s Porch. Anyway, in the past two years I’ve probably read a dozen or so “Historical Jesus” books and this was the best. I remember finishing this book at O’Hare airport during a three hour flight delay and not minding the delay at all because I was so enthralled with what I was reading.

The Resurrection of the Son of God
N.T. Wright

You will notice that half of the books on this list are by the Bishop of Durham. Well, the original list had eight N.T. Wright books on it, but I thought that was a bit much, so I whittled it down to five. This is an 800 page theological inquiry into what happened on the first Easter. I read it in the weeks leading up to Easter 2007.

Evil and the Justice of God
N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright’s foray into the world of theodicy. Probably the best treatment of the subject of since C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. I read it while traveling in Russia during February of 2007 and I had some wonderful discussions with Dmitri Poliakoff about this book.

Paul: In Fresh Perspective
N.T. Wright

I read this on a fifteen hour flight from New Delhi to New York in 2007. It thrilled me. I don’t endorse “New Perspective” theology per se, I endorse N.T. Wright’s “New Perspective” theology on Paul.

Surprised By Hope
N.T. Wright

I read this while in India this spring. (I have more time to read when I’m traveling.) In all seriousness I could have had ten N.T. Wright books on this list. I left off Jesus and the Victory of God, Following Jesus, The Last Word, Simply Christian, etc., etc. But if you are going to read one N.T. Wright book…this is it! I actually read it twice.

The Wild Gospel
Alison Morgan

And if you don’t want to read N.T. Wright, read this book. Another Anglican cleric…a Spirit-filled Anglican cleric. I was so impressed with this book that I invited Alison to speak at Word of Life Church. I think she was more bemused than anything and graciously declined. This book is hard to find in the U.S.

The Prophetic Imagination
Walter Brueggemann

The Bruegger Man!! I could have had three or four Brueggemann books on this list. This guy shakes me up. Brueggemann is the foremost Old Testament scholar of our day and he hits you with the force of an Old Testament prophet. I was introduced to Walter Brueggemann through Alison Morgan.

Between Cross and Resurrection
Alan E. Lewis

A 500 page book on the theology of Holy Saturday — the day that Jesus was dead in the tomb. This is probably the most challenging reading on this list. I read it during Lent and tried to distill its essence into my Good Friday sermon, God Is Dead. I found this book through Pete Grieg’s God On Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer (which also could have been on this list).

East of Eden
John Steinbeck

One of two novels on this list. After reading a lot of heavy theology I wanted to take a break and read something for entertainment. Peri recommended East of Eden. What I found was a masterpiece novel filled with all kinds of theological implications — a modern retelling of the story of Cain and Abel. The Imago Dei sermons were all inspired from this wonderful novel.

David Maine

I just finished this novel a few weeks ago. Another Peri recommendation and a another retelling of Cain and Abel (and Adam and Eve). An amazingly clever, highly entertaining, and thought provoking book. Last week I read Maine’s Book of Samson; it’s pretty bawdy, but hey, that was Samson.

Wait a minute! I finished Anna Karenina last month. Tolstoy’s other masterpiece! How can it not be on this list? It sure portrays with devastating pathos the horrible consequences of sin. Tolstoy was undergoing his own conversion while writing this book.

Oh well, these lists are impossible.

For those of you who have asked me about books, I hope this helps.



There may someday be a blog on Movies.

There will not be a blog on TV. There’s only two: Lost and The Office.