In previous posts I’ve written about how to choose a good book to read. We discussed reading everything on the front and back cover as well as the inside covers and the front matter. Really try to get a sense for who the author is and where he or she is coming from, as well as how they handle the material. It’s a learned habit, but one that will pay off in the long run. Reading is, after all, a diet.
If you aren’t used to reading Christian literature, though, or are accustomed to reading poor Christian literature, where do you start to improve your reading? Here are a couple of categories of Christian books that you might find helpful…
There are some great Christian biographies out there! Christian biography can be inspiring. It can remind you that other saints struggle with sin and difficult circumstances and find themselves oppressed. Among my favorites are those published by P&R in a series titled, American Reformed Biographies. They have volumes on Van Til, Dabney, Nevin, Hodge, and Boyce. You may or may not recognize these names, but as Presbyterians, you owe them a great debt. They are among those who have handed down the faith as it is being handed to you. You ought to get to know them.
P&R has also published several biographies outside this series, such as D.G. Hart’s book, Defending the Faith, a biography of J. Gresham Machen and Stephen Nichols great little book, Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (Nichols has also done one in this series on Machen). Speaking of Edwards, two other wonderful biographies on him include A Shorter Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden and Marriage to a Difficult Man by Elisabeth Dodds.
Although it’s not a biography, Seeking a Better Country tells the story of Presbyterianism in America and does so in a very easy to read narrative. And finally, I love the very short biography on John Calvin by Robert Reymond titled, John Calvin: His Life and Influence.
None of these is very long and all are deeply edifying.
Of course, this is the kind of reading many Christians do, but it is precisely this category that is the most filled with junk. I recommend you approach your pastors and ask for help in this category. I have a whole host of titles that I recommend often in this category. On knowing God’s will I like Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. On trying to come to terms with the Sabbath and how to observe it biblically I enjoy The Lord’s Day by Joseph Pipa. I think every Christian should read What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert – maybe even annually – along with a great book on the church by Gilbert and DeYoung titled, What is the Mission of the Church? For parenting I recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.
There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, but the good stuff is worth every minute spent reading it. Added to a regular diet of Scripture and even the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, you will find it encourages you and instructs you and brings light to the dark places.
In the next installment, we’ll consider books that will help you understand the Bible better as well as some basic theology books.