I grew up in a home where books lined the walls from floor to ceiling. Books were on every coffee table. Both of my parents were ferocious readers and were constantly talking about some new book they had read. Mom was constantly mailing me books while I was a missionary in Japan. I would devour books as I rode the crowded trains of Tokyo.
I have always enjoyed fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and theology; but my favorite genre is biography. American novelist George R. R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads lives only one.” That is so true of me. I feel as though I have lived through the Civil War, in reading about Lincoln; World War II, in reading about Churchill, Hitler, and Bonhoeffer. I have lived through the turn of the 19th century by reading of Teddy Roosevelt. I could go on.
My office is lined with books. A mirror of my childhood home, our home library is a whole wall lined from floor to ceiling with books. I could pick up any of them and reread with great enjoyment. Though hundreds of titles and authors have helped me “live a thousand lives,” I want to present the top 20 books I’ve loved the most.
I have become a huge Eric Metaxas fan. His writing is extraordinary, and whatever he writes I can’t put down. His book on Luther is groundbreaking. A gripping read. Os Guinness said it best, “Bold, fast-paced, and magisterial like its hero, yet always stylish and witty like its author.” If you have a passion to study and understand the Protestant Reformation and the theological differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, you can do no better than Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas.
Eric Metaxas has also given us Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. This book takes you into Hitler’s Germany and the theological sophistication of the Lutheran Church’s unwillingness to confront the evil of the Nazi’s. Bonhoeffer is everything the title implies and makes for an intriguing read that could change your life.
I have read many books on and by Winston Churchill, but the most gripping and tantalizing is the three-volume biography by William Manchester, The Last Lion. Over 2,000 pages on every detail of Churchill’s adventurous life. I think Alistair Cooke described these volumes best, “Manchester has such control over a huge and moving narrative, such illumination of character, and such steady acceptance of the contrariness of a remarkable man.” Isaiah Berlin’s judgment of Churchill as “the largest human being of our time” is correct. One can learn a lot about courage, resilience, and vision from this biography.
Church and Politics
Wayne Grudem is a remarkable theologian and writer. His book, Politics According to the Bible, is a comprehensive resource on understanding modern political issues in light of Scripture. This is not a book one just sits down and reads from cover to cover, though I did. But, rather, it is an invaluable resource as we face the growing tensions of an ever more powerful state. Grudem covers all the major topics like protection of life, marriage, and freedom of religion and speech. It is a virtual source for everyone who takes their politics and Bible seriously.
Live not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, by Rod Dreher, is a chilling book on the cultural revolution overtaking America. As a new American Marxist revolution aims to institutionalize the tyranny of an authoritarian state, Dreher challenges the Church to stand up, not unlike Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did against Soviet Communism. Live not by Lies amplifies the alarm and explains the dangers of this new totalitarianism in our time. He lays out the steps for resistance and shares stories of modern-day dissidents who preserved their faith and integrity during a time of tyranny.
More to come in our next blog,