The Ten Books That Impacted My Life Most (Part 2)

Books have the power to change how we think, allow us to peek into other people’s lives, and inspire us with gripping stories of courage, heartbreak, and love. I bet you’ve read some life-changing books. In today’s post, I round out my top ten list. Did you miss the first five? Check out last week’s post.

Based on a photo from iStock Photo.com © Piotr Krześlak

About this List

Just to remind you, in case you missed last week’s post, the books on this list had some type of transformative effect on my life. Though today’s post features all non-fiction books, the overall list includes a couple of fiction books.

I tend to read mostly non-fiction, but I hope to add in more fiction. In the comments from last week’s post,  a reader suggested a work of fiction by C.S. Lewis and I’m planning on ordering it tonight. (Thanks, Starr!)

For your convenience, I’ve included links to the books on Amazon.com so you can read more about the books and see others’ reviews. Just click the picture of the book covers to get more information over on Amazon.

Should you use these links to purchase one of these books from Amazon, a tiny portion of your purchase will go back to Making It Real Ministries. I appreciate that as it helps offset the costs of running the ministry.

There is no particular order or ranking to the list. I broke the list into two parts so the post wouldn’t be so long for one sitting.

 What follows is a brief description of five books that impacted my life. You’ll find two biographies, one devotional, and two books which beautifully and thoughtfully wrestle with the hard questions of faith and the Bible.

My Ten Favorite Books, Part Two

The Reason for God

ReasonForGodTimothy Keller is one of my favorite authors and preachers. This was the book which introduced me to his work. He has a gift for transforming perplexing parts of Scripture and Christian doctrine into intensely relevant teaching.

Many people wrestle with questions like:

How can there be just one true religion?
How could a good God allow suffering?
How can a loving God send someone to hell?
Do I have to check my brain at the door to be a person of faith?

I grappled with every one of those questions at one time or another. In this book, Keller gives intelligent, Biblically-sound answers that not only satisfy curiosity but go much deeper. He connects real-life challenges to the answers the Christian faith provides.

Keller is one of the rare theologians whose intellectual rigor is equally balanced with deeply personal application of truth and grace. He pastors Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and regularly engages the intelligent skeptics and atheists as well as devout believers. He has been dubbed this generation’s C. S. Lewis. It is an apt description.

This work has much in common with Lewis’ Mere Christianity (also on my list). Like that title, The Reason for God provides robust answers to hard questions but does so via a conversational style and stories. With topics most scholars make dry as chalk dust, Keller engages the reader with personal stories, insightful illustrations, and profound rational reasoning. This book changed how I approach conversations with skeptics and unbelievers. It also strengthened my faith in areas I didn’t realize were weak until challenged by Keller’s arguments.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

bonhoeffer-by-eric-metaxasEric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer inspired me and profoundly impacted how I live out my faith. I was first introduced to Bonheoffer’s writings in a systematic theology class in which we read excerpts of some of the greatest theologians of the past two thousand years. Bonhoeffer’s words are some of the most highlighted segments in my textbook.

But I had read those amazing words as intellectual tidbits separated from the context in which they were written. Metaxas weaves the sermons, letters, essays, and poems into the fabric of Bonhoeffer’s life and his stand against the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s. Concepts, words, and theological principles which were inspiring apart from this setting become gut-wrenchingly poignant and powerful when seen from the vantage point of a man living out his faith on the literal front line of good versus evil, truth versus deception, and grace versus tyranny.

Within this setting, it is impossible to view Scripture, doctrine, and theology as an intellectual exercise. It doesn’t get more real than when your life is on the line for not abdicating what you believe. What gives a young pastor the strength to stand against the power of a despot like Hitler and the ruthless oppression of his Nazi power structure? Read this book and you’ll discover the reality of the peace of Christ and the necessity of the armor of God.

My Utmost for His Highest

my-utmostI don’t typically like devotionals. I find most to be trite and simplistic. But this classic devotional by Oswald Chambers addresses the complexities of life with relevant Biblical wisdom and inspires me to live out my beliefs in practical ways.

My copy is highlighted, dogeared, tear-stained, and treasured. These daily devotionals are excerpts from Chamber’s lectures at the Bible Training College in Clapham, England given from 1911 to 1915, and from his devotional messages delivered while serving on the mission field in the Young Men’s Christian Association from 1915 to 1917. You might think such dated material is unlikely to resonate with today’s readers. Yet this is the best-selling devotional book of all time and is still flying off the shelves because it offers timeless wisdom.

I never fail to be challenged, inspired, and chastened when I open this book. And as any good devotional should, it spurs me to dig deeper into the Scripture and let God speak truth into my life.

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

ComeBeMyLightMother Teresa is synonymous with devotion and what it means to live like Jesus. What is the source of that kind of faith? What goes into living a life of such holiness? While not exactly a biography, autobiography, or collection of writings, this combination of those literary genres captivated me and gave me insight into the answers to those questions.

The sheer beauty of this woman’s relationship with Jesus Christ held me spellbound. Reading this book allowed me access to the intensely personal walk of faith of one of the most respected believers of all time.

Come Be My Light gives the reader a glimpse into the private writings of Mother Teresa and provides the biographical context for the letters, prayers, and journal excerpts. I was so moved by her times of intimacy with Christ as well as her example of how to trust in the truth when one doesn’t necessarily feel the presence of God. I learned so much about making wise decisions, putting the needs of others above my own, and speaking the truth in love.

I’ve always found it instructional to watch mature believers live their lives. Reading this work was like walking alongside one of the greatest examples of living a Christ-like life. And whereas actually coming alongside her would have given me a vantage point to see the outward manifestations of her inward faith, this collection of her most intimate thoughts and prayers went deeper. It ushered me into the interior moments where she worked out her faith challenges. As I read her words, I learned much about how to have an abiding relationship with Christ.

The God I Don’t Understand

TheGodIDontUnderstandI have yet to meet the person who doesn’t struggle with some aspect (or more than one) of God. In this book, Christopher Wright reflects on the tough questions of faith. I appreciated the honesty, humility, and Biblical integrity with which Wright approaches these challenging topics.

He tackles subjects such as evil and suffering, the bloodshed associated with the settling of the Promised Land by the Israelites, and the wonderful, glorious mystery of the Cross. He even addresses the difficulties of the eschatalogical issues related to the return of Christ and the end of this world and the new beginning God has in store for creation.

This is a great book to have on your Bible Study bookshelf. It is not stuffy and academic, but rather practical, conversational, and extremely helpful. Even if you don’t come to the same conclusions as the author on these topics, I can almost guarantee this book will help you think through the sticky subject matter and come out the other side with a better understanding of what you believe and why. It certainly did that for me.

What Are Your Favorite Books?

Now that I’ve introduced you to my favorites, I hope you’ll share some of your favorite books with me today by leaving a comment. Be sure and tell me the title and author and what makes the book one of your favorites.

I know it takes time to engage in the conversation. It also may take you out of your comfort zone. So I want you to know it means more than I can put into words when you talk to me via the comments. It lets me know what connects with you and what doesn’t. It also helps me feel as though I’m not in this adventure alone. So if you can spare a minute or two, I’d love to hear from you!

Your turn: What book(s) have had an impact on your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I hope you'll jump into the conversation by leaving a comment. I would love for each post to be like a dinner party conversation in which many people participate, each adding their own perspectives and ideas. Just keep in mind that we want to treat others as we would like to be treated, so please keep your comments constructive and on topic. Feel free to post viewpoints and ideas that differ from mine or others but refrain from personal attacks or offensive language. I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or which demean or belittle another member of the Making It Real community.

  • Starr Freeman

    Thank you for the list, truly. They are now on my I hope I can read them all list. LOL. I agree on devotionals…. until I picked up one by T. D. Jakes at the Mayo Clinic. Loved it because it is just by days, not dates. It helps because you never feel guilty if you miss a week. You just do it when you can. It also has room for notes. It helps me look back and see how far I have come. And they are meaty.

    • I will have to check that one out. I like the sound of the format without dates. I sometimes just ignore the dates in Chamber’s devo and use the subject index to find one that fits my need for the day. Thanks for the suggestions!