At the beginning of every year, I always try to put together a list of books that I plan to read before the year’s end. I read plenty of things that are not on the list, but I make a commitment to get through the books I have written down on the list before the year comes to an end. It is a discipline that has been a great help to me over the years, and has broadened my learning and sharpened my focus in most meaningful ways. While I look for new books each year, there are also several books that find their way back to my list again and again, and a few that are even on it literally every year. After years of this practice, I have decided this year to offer up what, in my humble opinion, are five books that every Christian I know should read in 2016. Whether you are a reader or not, whether you have read these titles a thousand times or whether you have never read them in your life, I urge you to take up at least these five titles in addition to the regular scripture reading that I would hope as Christians you would all be doing anyway. Here are my five must reads for 2016:
1.) “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan – One of the most translated works in human history, Bunyan’s little allegory written from prison in the late 1600s has been one of the most transformative and enduring Christian works ever written. Charles Spurgeon said, outside of the Bible itself, it was the most important book, and it is an annual feature on my own list. This simple parable of the Christian life is one we could all bare to revisit and remember who we are, what we believe, the journey we are on, and the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, a sojourner on a perilous trek home. Make sure to get an unabridged version, as the most deep and important dialogues and discourses are always what end up being cut in any shortened or modernized reading of the work.
2.) “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe – This 1719 novel about a man stranded alone on an island is considered to be the first novel ever written in the English language. Defoe’s puritan conviction leads to a deeply philosophical, even theological delve into the life and soul of man fleshed out in the struggle to survive the forces of nature without and the turmoil of isolation within. As with Bunyan’s work, make sure to get an unabridged copy or you will miss out on the real value of this fantastic work that is at once both an adventure story and most useful treatise on timeless truths.
3.) “The Forgotten Trinity” by Dr. James White – The Christian faith rests on the incredible, incomparable, awe inspiring truth that the one and only, true and living God has made Himself known in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to be what Christians since the earliest centuries have called “the Trinity”, yet few Christians today bother to truly marvel at this incredible and unique reality and to delve deeply into the biblical revelation of this central aspect of all that God has revealed Himself to be. Dr. White approaches the subject in a plain, readable, and easily understandable manner and in a way that seeks to wonder at God rather than merely win arguments about the deity of Christ with non Christians. It is thorough, instructive, engaging, and solidly biblical from beginning to end.
4.) “Radical” by David Platt – I am not typically a big promoter of recent Christian fads. Actually, I’m generally fairly prejudiced against them. I prefer time tested works, or the rare recent works with the sort of depth and rigor that will never be popular at the local Christian book store. But in this case I have to be honest and say that this trendy little paperback literally changed my life. It didn’t do so by telling me things I did not already know, but by slapping me in the face with things I shamefully already knew quite well. It presented plain Christian truths in a way that shined an exposing illumination on the fact that I was not living in light of them in ways that I ought. It’s the kind of urgent reminder about the main things that we all need to go back to once in a while, just to be sure we are keeping our priorities straight. I think 2016 is going to be a year we all need to do that again, and I think revisiting this book will be of some help.
5.) “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – My former pastor and mentor back in Kansas City always made much of this book, but I have to admit, my first time through I actually found it pretty underwhelming. That seems like an odd endorsement for a “must read” book for the year, but it’s the truth. It wasn’t until this past year when I revisited the book that I was finally struck by the simple and practical devotional truths and their implications for my daily life in both family and church community. But strike me they did, and I found the book a tremendous help in my daily walk and worship, and began sharing it with others as my old pastor had done with me. It didn’t lead to big, life altering changes, but rather to a thousand little changes that together have had a profound impact on my home life and my walk with other believers in mundane life and in gospel fellowship. It is my sincere hope that it, combined with the other four books above, can do the same for you.
Luke Wayne is a bi-vocational Baptist missionary in Utah and the chief editor for Perilous Trails. He holds an MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MA in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist College. He has served as a church planter in Olathe, KS and a Homeless Shelter Manager in Kansas City, MO. He is also a husband, father, fisher, hiker, security officer, and raiser of livestock.