I don’t know about you, but I think this is such a fun exercise. I love reading other people’s journeys and how books have influenced them. But picking my own favorites is challenging and rewarding. Even if you don’t post it here (and we hope you do!) I recommend going through the process. It is a good self-reflection exercise and you remember a lot about yourself and how you have grown. It is hard to break this down into ten influential books. So instead I broke it down into categories of things which have shaped me, are important to me, or just otherwise beautiful.
1. John Ortberg
One of the first Christian authors I ever read was John Ortberg. Ortberg initially introduced me to spiritual disciplines and God being close and available right here in this moment. From there, I just kept reading every time he put a book out. I haven’t read his last few because I listen to his podcast every week and he usually preaches through most of his books first. Ortberg also may be one of the best communicators on the planet. He is who I want to be when I speak or write because he is just so unbelievably good at it. Besides the two I linked, I would also recommend his newest book Soul Keeping.
2. Greg Boyd
Confession: I have only read one of his books. But I listen to his podcast every week as well. And he certainly doesn’t shy away from theology in a sermon. In fact, I haven’t read a book because I devour everything I can from him on podcast and know his theology pretty well. And Greg’s theology has really set me on a new course with my faith. The problem of evil is always a difficult question for people who take Christianity seriously, and Greg handles it in the most thoughtful and acceptable way I have found. He also brings a different perspective into the Calvinist / Armenian debate which I think is a better option than either. He definitely challenges comfortable Christianity but he always calls us to be re-examining our view of God in light of Christ on the cross. I would recommend starting with Benefit of the Doubt and Present Perfect. Then for you theology nerds God of the Possible and God at War.
3. Selling Water by the River by Shane Hipps
We mentioned yesterday the influence of Rob Bell. Rob Bell was another weekly podcast for me back in the day. While Rob was at Mars Hill, they decided to hire another teaching pastor – Shane Hipps. He has a completely different style but his teaching and thinking is beautiful and deep and challenging. Most of his sermons at Mars Hill got put into this book in some form or fashion. I love being able to go back and read through his beautiful description of the Christian life.
My Favorite Things: God / Family / Education
4. Theology Game Changers:
I listed these in order of accessibility as well as outside of the box theological thought. Hall’s book is very accessible and he puts an entire theology together on what it means to be the Church and love the world in light of the centrality of the cross. He articulates so well a lot of the concerns I have with modern Christianity and offers an alternative. Paul Tillich is just brilliant. He comes up in theology, philosophy, and even education. This is a good intro to him and help makes faith something compelling and beautiful and dynamic. Johnson writes a feminist theology. But rather than burn a lot of things down, she upholds a solid system of Christian theology and shows how we have missed the feminine side of God. Be warned, its intense.
5. How Children Raise Their Parents by Dan Allender
Dan Allender is a stud. Not only does this have a lot of good parenting advice about listening to your children and allowing them to shape you, it is a theology of parenting. He talks about creation and joy and suffering and creativity and wraps it all into a way of thinking about how you parent. It is challenging at times but it is the one of the best parenting books I have found.
6. Education Books
For those of you who care about what I am doing with my Ph.D., my two favorite education books are Big Questions, Worthy Dreams by Sharon Daloz Parks and Exploring Spirituality and Culture in Adult and Higher Education by Elizabeth Tisdell. Both of these wonderful ladies talk about faith and spirituality in terms where they can be discussed in a larger (non-Christian) academic world. Which is a pretty incredible feat. Parks focuses on Emerging Adults and how we can nurture them educationally. Tisdell talks about how we can engage learners on a spiritual level as well as help people explore their culture and cross cultural boundaries. These are my two favorite because all of my research interests are touched on in these two books.
Favorite Fiction Books:
7. Harry Potter Series / Dark Tower Series / The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My son is obsessed with Harry Potter so I decided to go back through them. They are amazing stories. The sixth book is my favorite and I think the chapter on Horcruxes is one of my favorite fiction chapters of all time. It talks about the power of love over fear and death and…ah! It’s just so good.
The Dark Tower series is an amazing story and journey that you just never want to stop. Although, give them at least until half way through the second book. It is a huge world King has developed and it is confusing to enter into it. The way he ended the series is also brilliant. I wrote about it once. Reading these series also both coincided with the birth of a child so that probably plays a role too.
The Road is just a beautiful story. I like dystopian fiction, but this one made me cry the whole way through. The story shows this ugly and nasty world, but a boy and his father find a way to bring beauty by their relationship. Great read for dads.