Click here for information on how FCF is managing risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

xclose menu

Books for Growing Christians

steve-cole

(Updated & Revised, June, 2020)

Bringing good Christian books into your home is like inviting godly, wise Christian leaders to share their insights with you and your family. It’s a worthwhile investment. I recommend that you budget money to purchase good Christian books. If you spend money for cable TV, videos, & movies, why not budget some money for books to help you and your family to grow in Christ? I usually purchase books rather than borrow because I can mark them and write comments in the margin as I interact with the authors. I also set goals on how many books I want to read each year to help me keep at it. I try to vary my reading between devotional (often sermons from the godly men of the past), biographical (see my separate book list entirely on this), and theological.

I usually buy books either used or at a discount. One source: for some harder-to-find, but solid books: Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service, P.O. Box 613, Carlisle, PA 17013. Phone: (800) 656-0231. Web: www.cvbbs.com Even with shipping costs, you can usually beat retail prices. Also, try www.monergism.com & www.Amazon.com. Go to www.campusI.com to compare prices on books. There is now a lot of helpful free stuff available on the web (see my favorite links on fcfonline.org).

This list is selective. There are many other worthwhile books. I’ve listed some that have helped me. Being on this list does not imply total endorsement. Read critically and prayerfully, comparing everything with Scripture!

 

REFERENCE WORKS, BIBLE STUDY AIDS

 

Note: You can now purchase many of the following works in various combinations in electronic format. Generally, you can get far more books for your buck this way, if you don’t mind having them in this form. And, you can find many Bible study helps such as concordances, commentaries, and sermons online at monergism.com, Bible.org, Sermonaudio.com, and other sites. You will have to search around and determine what best fits your needs.

 

  1. New American Standard Bible. It is the most literal translation, although sometimes not smooth. Get the updated version.
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible. This is a literal translation also, attempting to be a bit smoother than the NASB. There are extensive helpful notes and articles.
  3. New International Version Bible. For alternate reading & study; less literal than the NASB, but easier to read. The New King James Version is a modern update of the popular old version. Generally the Greek text behind the KJV & NKJV is not as authentic as the text behind the NASB & ESV (although this is hotly debated!).
  4. Exhaustive Concordance to the NASB. A concordance lists every word in the Bible and where it occurs, so you can locate a text if you can remember one word from the verse; or do a theme or word study by tracing every occurrence of a word in the Bible.
  5. The New Bible Dictionary.
  6. The New Unger’s Bible Handbook.
  7. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vol. Best evangelical, multi-volume commentary set. This set has been abridged into the two-volume NIV Bible Commentary, Kenneth Barker & John Kohlenberger III, eds. If you purchase this shorter set, you could also purchase vol. 1 of the Expositor’s set, which contains some very helpful articles.
  8. The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament & New Testament (2 vols.). Brief commentary on the whole Bible (dispensational perspective, written by Dallas Seminary faculty).
  9. Calvin’s Commentaries. Expensive and does not cover whole Bible. But he is devotionally as well as exegetically good. You can read these on the web (monergism.com).
  10. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 vols.).
  11. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W. E. Vine. Word studies for students who don’t know Hebrew or Greek.
  12. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, ed. (4 vols.). More scholarly word studies than Vine, but you can use it even if you don’t know Greek. There is also a one volume edition of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
  13. Any good Bible atlas.
  14. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed.
  15. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J. D. Douglas, ed.
  16. Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity, ed. by Tim Dowley.
  17. Unlocking the Scriptures, Hans Finzel (principles of inductive Bible study; or, there are several other good books that help you learn to study the Bible on your own).

 

THEOLOGY/DOCTRINE

 

Don’t be scared off by this section! Christian families used to teach their children through catechisms, which are great summaries of biblical truth. John Piper offers a Baptist catechism on DesiringGod.org. American Christians need sound doctrine! In addition to the specific works listed below, I highly recommend that you read any of the Puritans. Also, men like Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones have many sermons in print that combine solid theology, devotion to God, and practical application.

 

  1. The London Baptist Confession of 1689 (this is now available from Cumberland in a modern version called A Faith to Confess: The 1689 Confession in Modern English).
  2. The Westminster Confession of Faith (along with the Longer and Shorter Catechisms; I don’t agree with their position on baptism and the Sabbath, but it is an excellent summary of solid doctrine).
  3. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (buy the edition by J. T. McNeill, translated by Ford Lewis Battles, which is more up-to-date than the Beveridge edition). While some sections are hard to read, others are outstanding (the section on prayer is great)! Next to the Bible, Calvin’s Institutes is far and away the most profound book I’ve ever read (twice at this date)!
  4. The Institutes, Tony Lane. A greatly condensed edition of the original. Maybe start here.
  5. Calvin: An Introduction to His Thought, T. H. L. Parker (synopsis of the Institutes).
  6. Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem. Contemporary, Reformed on salvation. I do not agree with his charismatic views. A condensed version of this book is called, Bible Doctrine.
  7. Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge (get the one-volume abridged edition; Hodge was a solid Reformed professor at Princeton in the 19th century).
  8. The Works of Jonathan Edwards (2 vol.). Edwards is difficult to read, but immensely rewarding. He knew and loved God as few men have.
  9. The Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther (a classic; a modern English edition is available from Cumberland called “Born Slaves”).
  10. Faith Works, John MacArthur, Jr. On “lordship salvation.”
  11. The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul.
  12. The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, Thor Ramsey. Brief, helpful, at times humorous, defense of hell.
  13. Knowing God, J. I. Packer.
  14. The Existence and Attributes of God, Stephen Charnock (2 vol.). Very good, although wordy and repetitive.
  15. The Doctrines of Grace, James Boice & Philip Ryken (on Calvinism).
  16. Chosen by God, R. C. Sproul. Clear, convincing, and practical.
  17. Chosen for Life, Sam Storms. Helpful treatment of divine election.
  18. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, John Owen. The best defense of “particular redemption.”
  19. Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, John Murray. The Reformed doctrines of salvation.
  20. Still Sovereign, ed. by Thomas Schreiner & Bruce Ware. A collection of essays on the vital subject of God’s sovereignty. Some are very helpful.
  21. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, D. A. Carson. Short, but provocative.
  22. The Love of God, John MacArthur.
  23. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Bruce Ware. Short, helpful treatment of the trinity.
  24. Our Triune God, Philip Ryken and Michael LeFebvre. Basic, non-technical treatment of the trinity.
  25. Living for God’s Glory, Joel Beeke & others. Helpful, devotional, practical.
  26. The Blessed Hope, George Ladd. Argues irenically, yet convincingly, for the post-tribulation rapture.
  27. The Presence of God, Ryan Lister. Really helpful. He ties all of Scripture together around the theme of God dwelling with His people.
  28. The King in His Beauty, Thomas Schreiner. Overview of the Bible, tying everything into the theme of God’s kingdom and Jesus as the beautiful king.
  29. Five Views on Law and Gospel, ed. by Wayne Strickland. Point/counterpoint on a difficult subject!
  30. God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants, Peter Gentry & Stephen Wellum. Condensed version (300+ pages) of their Kingdom through Covenants (800+ pages). Both are good! Traces the story line of the Bible through God’s covenants.
  31. The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Greg Beale. Provocative and insightful.
  32. How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament, Jason DeRouchie. Overall, very helpful. You can skip his more scholarly sections on using Hebrew.

 

SPIRITUAL LIFE/ DEVOTIONAL

 

  1. Any of Spurgeon’s sermons (many are available in paperback and online: spurgeon.org). They’re a bit wordy, but devotionally meaty. Worth the effort!
  2. Any of John Bunyan’s sermons or devotional writings. The Acceptable Sacrifice and Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ are now available from Banner of Truth. Both are wonderful!
  3. Newton on the Christian Life, Tony Reinke. One of the best books on the spiritual life I’ve ever read!
  4. Edwards on the Christian Life, Dane Ortlund. Good treatment of Edwards’ spiritual life.
  5. Schaeffer on the Christian Life, William Edgar. Helpful overview of Schaeffer’s life and thought by a man (now a seminary professor) whom Schaeffer led to Christ.
  6. Spurgeon on the Christian Life, Michael Reeves. Convicting on prayer!
  7. Owen on the Christian Life, Matthew Barrett & Michael Haykin. Not easy to read because of long quotes by Owen, but helpful.
  8. Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life, Jason Meyer. Good overview of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  9. Augustine on the Christian Life, Gerald Bray. Difficult at points, but overall helpful.
  10. The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, Richard Baxter (a Puritan, old English, but a wonderful exposition of the fact that our hope is in heaven, not in this life).
  11. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, J. I. Packer. (Packer isn’t easy to read, but this is a great book. I’ve read it four times so far.)
  12. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, Donald Whitney. A study guide is also available.
  13. Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper. I wish this had been available when I was in my 20’s.
  14. Desiring God, John Piper. Provocative and life-changing.
  15. When I Don’t Desire God, John Piper. How to fight for joy and against depression.
  16. The Pleasures of God, John Piper. What God delights in.
  17. God’s Passion for His Glory, John Piper. The first half is Piper’s introduction to Jonathan Edwards. The second half is Edwards’ difficult, but rewarding essay, “The End for Which God Created the World.”
  18. Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, ed. by John Piper and Justin Taylor.
  19. One Thing, Sam Storms. On God’s greatness and glory.
  20. Temptation and Sin, John Owen (a condensed, modern English version is, What Every Christian Needs to Know) This is the best treatment of how to deal with temptation. I’ve read it at least 4 times. Owen, a 17th century Puritan, is meaty, but very hard to read in his original works. You might try Overcoming Sin & Temptation, by Owen, ed. by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor.
  21. The Enemy Within, Kris Lundgaard. A modern version of Owen’s Temptation and Sin.
  22. The Obedience Option, David Hegg. Basic, helpful study of obedience and overcoming temptation.
  23. Practical Religion, J. C. Ryle (a 19th century Anglican, but contemporary and solid; read anything of his you can find. This work is now in a modern, condensed version titled “Walking With God,” available from Cumberland).
  24. Holiness, J. C. Ryle. A classic. The last chapter, “Christ is All,” is wonderful.
  25. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, 4 vol., J. C. Ryle. Great devotional insights on every paragraph in the gospels. This makes for great daily devotional reading as you read through the gospels. It is available for free online.
  26. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan. Get a modern English version. Read and reread it yourself & to your kids. Spurgeon read it through yearly!
  27. Revival, Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  28. The Sermon on the Mount, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (incisive analysis of Matthew 5-7). All of Lloyd-Jones’ books of sermons are devotionally rich. He has 8 volumes on Ephesians and 14 on Romans.
  29. Our Sufficiency in Christ, John MacArthur, Jr. Attacks the modern intrusion of psychology & pragmatism into evangelical circles.
  30. The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur, Jr. (on worship). Excellent!
  31. A Praying Life, Paul Miller. One of the best I’ve read on prayer.
  32. A Journey to Victorious Praying, Bill Thrasher. Another helpful book on prayer.
  33. Taking Hold of God, Joel Beeke and Brian Najapour. On the Puritans and prayer.
  34. A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry. Helpful, but convicting.
  35. The Hidden Life of Prayer, David McIntyre. Short, helpful, on prayer.
  36. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law (18th century, get a modern English abridgement if you can). A bit out-dated, but it shows you the solid spirituality of these godly men of the past in comparison with the flimsy spirituality of today.
  37. From Pride to Humility, Stuart Scott. A short booklet, excerpted from The Exemplary Husband. Every Christian should read this booklet repeatedly! It is really good and practical.
  38. Humility, C. J. Mahaney. Short, helpful look at this important virtue.
  39. How Does Sanctification Work? David Powlison. Shows the multi-faceted way that God sanctifies His people.
  40. No Quick Fix, Andrew Naselli. He refutes the Keswick view of the “higher life.” However, I thought that his favorable citations of Martyn Lloyd-Jones overlooks Lloyd-Jones’ view of the Holy Spirit, which is similar to the erroneous Keswick view.
  41. An Infinite Journey, Andrew Davis. Very helpful treatment of sanctification and discipleship.
  42. A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament, Alec Motyer. Helpful, short treatment from a scholar in his nineties who obviously loves God and His Word.
  43. The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Ladd. Helpful, devotional study of the kingdom of God.

 

CHURCH HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY/MISSIONS

 

(I have benefited much from reading in this area. See, also, my more extensive biographical bibliography, “A List of Christian Biographies,” on fcfonline.org. Some of these are of more interest to preachers, but would benefit any believer. I’ve listed them separately below.)

 

  1. George Muller, Roger Steer (Muller was a giant in faith and prayer).
  2. George Muller of Bristol, A. T. Pierson. An older treatment. This book profoundly influenced me.
  3. Hudson Taylor, Roger Steer (recent treatment of this great pioneer missionary to China).
  4. Hudson Taylor and Maria, John Pollock.
  5. It is Not Death to Die, Jim Cromarty. Longer, helpful biography of Hudson Taylor.
  6. Jonathan Edwards: A Life, George Marsden. Longer bio on Edwards. Very good.
  7. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, George Marsden. Good shorter bio on Edwards.
  8. Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life, Stephen Nichols. Good introduction to Edwards.
  9. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, John Piper. God’s triumphant grace in Augustine, Luther, & Calvin.
  10. Contending for Our All, John Piper. Short bios on Athanasius, John Owen, & J. Gresham Machen.
  11. The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper. How God used affliction in the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, & David Brainerd.
  12. The Roots of Endurance, John Piper. How John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce persevered through many difficulties.
  13. A Camaraderie of Confidence, John Piper. Short bios on three giants of faith: Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, and Hudson Taylor.
  14. The Reformation, Stephen Nichols. Short, helpful introduction to this important movement in history.
  15. Martin Luther, Stephen Nichols. Short introduction to Luther.
  16. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Ruth Tucker (great, moving historical biography of missions).
  17. John Paton Autobiography. Amazing story of a 19th century missionary to cannibals in the South Pacific.
  18. Bruchko, Bruce Olson. Exciting story, great for reading to family.
  19. The Tapestry, Edith Schaeffer. Life of Francis & Edith Schaeffer, a real