There has been a lot of noise over the last week in blogs & chatrooms about the Orange Inheritance prize for vintage classic literature. In short, which book out of all the millions written would you pass down to the next generation? There wasn’t much on the list that took my fancy, Thomas Hardy apart.
The problem with all these 'Desert Island discs' moments is our inherent human dishonesty, allied with our desperate need to impress people. When asked which book has changed our lives, we lie in the face of the uber cool culture police & spout a list of books we feel we ought to read, or at least would feel good about being run over with it open on our kindle! The harsh reality is that most of the really cool stuff in films, music, books & popular culture generally is (say it quietly) a little bit boring!
Have you noticed all those facebook apps that do the rounds asking you how many of the top 100 books or films you have read or seen? They fall into the same trap – we can’t possibly look stupid in front of our 1000’s of unreal facebook friends so we tick ‘yes’ to Dostoevsky when we would really rather curl up with Catherine Cookson & a family sized bar of Galaxy! This Emporors New Clothes approach helps no one, least of all those who just want to enjoy reading or be provoked, stirred or stretched by a good book.
I’m often asked for book recommendations – this alone is a strange one to handle, not wanting to impose my eclectic taste for police crime thrillers & theology on anyone else! If I had to choose only 5 books which every Christ follower should have on their shelf, & invest some time in actually reading – I would highlight the following – Note – I’ve made an assumption that a good translation of the bible is already in your possession!
1/ Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem
Everyone needs to buy at least one big theology book in their lifetime, & if you buy this one, you won’t need another. Quite simply, no one has put it all together in such a straightforward manner & so thoroughly as Grudem has done here. To do so for a modern readership without any of the language or cultural differences that slow us down with the older versions makes this an investment that will be invaluable for years to come. I’m still dipping into mine most mornings almost 20 years on from purchase.
2/ Surprised by the Power of the Spirit – Jack Deere
Again if you are looking for just one book which sets out a clear doctrine of the Holy Spirit & tracks the path which our generation has come down to get there – this book is the one. Still fresh, still thorough, still deeply biblical yet engaging in the narrative of Deere’s surprise encounters with a God he thought he already knew.
3/ The Spreading Flame – FF Bruce
Every believer needs to understand our roots, where we have come from, & to see that most of what we encounter today has been around in some form or another before. Bruce’s masterful retelling of the spread of Christianity in the early years will never lose its relevance for this reason.
4/ Revival – Brian H Edwards
You must have a good book on Revival. Preferably have many, but if you can only buy one, this is the best all rounder. There are countless others which will give more detailed accounts of certain times & eras, but Edwards overview & thoughtful analysis brings it head & shoulders above the rest of the pack.
5/ Operation World – Jason Mandryk
This is no dusty textbook. You will have it down from the shelf every day as you grow in your heart for the nations & the spread of the Kingdom. This incredibly well researched book which began as a labour of love for Patrick Johnstone of WEC decades ago, has been updated recently. There are better text books on God’s heart for the nations, better missionary biographies – all of which will do you good – but nothing will get you engaged in prayer & action like Operation World.
These are 5 books from amongst the many which do have a 'heritage' feel to them & I would be glad to pass onto the next generation.