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The Ten Books That Have Most Influenced and Inspired Me

If reading is a journey of discovery, most readers can point to landmarks along the way. Whether it’s a matter of eloquence, conceptual lucidity, or just good timing, these books inevitably serve as signposts to our reading experience. These are the books you keep going back to — if not in thought, in actual re-reading — the ones you tend to judge other books by.

Below is ten of mine. I’m not necessarily saying these are my favorites, nor are they the best in their field. But just that they’ve had more lasting impact on my ideas, outlook, and emotions, than others.  (I’ve purposely omitted the Bible because, hey, every believer is supposed to list it.)

The Pursuit of God — A.W. Tozer’s fiery devotional classic. As much a rebuke against stale orthodoxy as a passionate call to eschew comfortable Christianity. The chapter entitled “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing” should be required reading for every believer.

Godric — Frederick Buechner’s Pulitzer-nominated retelling of the medieval hermit’s battles against the world, the flesh and the devil. A  bittersweet, poetic tale about a quirky, painfully devout  saint. Buechner’s rich, alliterative language is nothing short of amazing.

Celebration of Discipline — Though criticized by many for its flirtations with mysticism, Richard Foster’s contemporary framing of the classical disciplines — prayer, fasting, solitude, meditation, etc. — is a timely tether to monastic history, the saints of the past, and their personal pilgrimages.

Perelandra — The second book of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy and the best of that bunch. The “unfallen” Venusian world of floating islands is unforgettable. But underlying the drama, Lewis demonstrates a philosophical rigor that engages the reader at another level. What Christian sci-fi should be.

What’s So Amazing About Grace — I read this on the heels of a debilitating legalistic relationship… and it was liberating! Philip Yancey unpacks a concept that’s been cheapened by bad theology and flippant culture. Through insightful anecdotes and heartbreaking stories, the author restores the mystery to the most powerful divine force in the universe.

The Lord of the Rings — Tolkien’s classic trilogy remains the watermark for fantasists everywhere. I still view The Two Towers as the book that single-handedly inspired me to become a writer.

The Master Plan of Evangelism — This short book expounds Jesus’ simple strategy for changing the world. Robert Coleman reaffirms the exponential possibilities of human relationships, while alternately dismantling the inherent flaws with program-oriented power structures. Should be studied by every Christian minister or leader.

Amusing Ourselves to Death — Neil Postman’s scathing expose of the effects of television on public discourse, religious thought, and political debate is even more relevant now than it was 20+ years ago. The decline of the written word has been replaced by sound-bite psychology. Thus, as we fixate upon Twitter and the tube, we empower the very mediums of our demise. A must-read for every cultural observer!

Till We Have Faces — Lewis retells the myth of Cupid and Psyche, displaying both his fluency in ancient literature and his worldview regarding myth and Christianity. But, more intrinsic to this story, is the psychology of the human soul. While lacking the overt Christian symbollism of Lewis’ other works, the tale engages at a deeper, more disturbing, level. A haunting, beautiful, story.

The Creator and the Cosmos — Astrophysicist Hugh Ross articulates how the existence of multiple dimensions not only aligns itself with a biblical view of the universe, but provides a paradigm for resolving apparent theological contradictions. This book on cosmology single-handedly helped me overcome a dreaded fixation upon paradox.

Honorable mentions: Lifestyle Evangelism, The Man Who Was Thursday, No Place for Truth, Mere Christianity, Orthodoxy, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dust of Death, and  Pensees.

So I’m interested, what books have most inspired / influenced you?

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Glynn March 5, 2009, 9:00 AM

    I share 8 of your top 9. I think I’ve everything by Frederick Buechner, C.S. Lewis and Tolkein. And Neil Postman has had a major influence on my work and thinking in the communications business. Thanks for sharing your list.

  • GB March 7, 2009, 8:03 AM

    Not many classics on your list.

  • Mike Duran March 7, 2009, 9:09 AM

    Well, as I said GB, my list is not a compilation of “best of’s.” These are simply the books that have served as “landmarks” along my reading personal journey. Perhaps if I read more of the classics that list would change. But as it stands, Lord of the Rings and, maybe, the Man Who was Thursday, are the closest I’ve come to that echelon of recognized literature. Thanks!

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