I sat down to write this Jym Shorts on my 52nd birthday. I don’t feel 52, but alas, what am I to do about it? Actually, birthdays don’t bother me in the least. Age comes naturally to me.
As I reflect back over the years of my life, I find myself grateful that 38 of them have been as a follower of Christ. That comes to me by God’s grace and a brother (biological) who loved me enough to share the gospel with me. For that I am eternally grateful. I often have people from the church family ask me about good books to read. I thought this might be the appropriate time to share with you the few books that have impacted me the most over my life, outside of the Scriptures, of course, so here they are:
- Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain: Twain is my favorite American writer. This is the first book I read on my own from cover to cover. It made me a lifelong reader and a lover of language and how it is used to affect our emotions and intellect.
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee: Opened my eyes not only to great writing, but to how to tell a story, and to the realities of injustice in our world.
- Knowing God, by J.I. Packer: Took me more than one read to really get it when I was in college, but when I got it, it opened up my eyes to the great truths of God.
- Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis: A great autobiography of a writer I love (along with almost everyone else in Western culture). It showed me that Christianity stands up to the closest scrutiny by the most intellectual of minds.
- Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe: Published in 1719, it had me riveted to my reading chair for days in 2001. I waited way too long to read this book. It entertained the boy in me and confirmed some of my theological convictions.
- Mark Twain: A Biography, by Albert Bigelow Paine: Love this biography, even though it is four volumes in length. Twain, although never a convert to Christianity, led a life of adventure, joy, and great loss, and embraced it as an astute observer and commenter on all of it, and the God he believed made it possible.
- The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer: Tozer was relentlessly active in his desire to know God in the deepest way possible. This book continues to make me want to know God too.
- The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan: This one is even older than Defoe’s great book, published in 1678 and written while Bunyan was in prison for refusing to stop preaching the gospel. It stands on its own without my endorsement. The great classic of Christian literature.
- Out of Africa, by Isak Dinisen (Karen Von Blixen): The best prose I’ve ever read, and a beautiful story, sad and compelling. I read it on average every other year.
- A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean: A beautiful story of a Presbyterian father and his two sons, one a rebel, the other a follower, and the lessons learned on a great trout-fishing river in Montana. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read this one.
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by R.R. Tolkien: The story of good and evil told in a vivid, rich way that continues to grip me.
- Desiring God, by John Piper: Once you have read one of Piper’s books, you already have his main point in every book he writes, but I still read most of them anyway, and benefit from each one. This is his best in my opinion.
- Abraham Lincoln, by Carl Sandburg: Wonderful multi-volume biography of our best president and one of the greatest men of the 19th century (in my humble opinion).
- John Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, by John Paton: This is a breathtaking missionary autobiography, and my favorite of one of my favorite genres: missionary biographies.
- Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor: Second best missionary biography.
Well, there they are for what it’s worth. Obviously, many others have influenced me throughout my life, but these are the books that come quickest to my mind. Hope this motivates you to find time to read. Start with the Bible, and then go from there.
Grace and peace,