The Purpose and Focus of My Lists
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Phil. 4:8
It has been said, that, “A reading people will soon become a thinking people, and a thinking people must soon become a great people.” That being said, Christians should be readers, particularly of God’s Word, but of other books as well. The question is, how does one choose what to read?
I love reading lists! For example, 0ne that I’ve been working off for the past few years is Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die*(Actually it’s almost 1300 if you combine the original list with the current updated one on which some originals were replaced with newer titles.) This list has been useful to me because it has introduced me to new authors and challenged me to read books that are outside of my comfort zone. But I know I will never complete that list, because 1) Some of them have content and subject matter that I find unappealing or downright offensive (some people may call this censoring, but I call it discernment), and 2) There are too many OTHER great books to read that aren’t on that list. The 1001 Books List is mostly fiction novels, but I try to balance my reading out with non-fiction, history & biographies, religion, etc. Thus I am obligated to stray from the above list on a regular basis. (By the way, in case anyone is curious, I’ve read 176 books of the combined list of 1300 titles.)
As a literature student and teacher, I have been motivated and challenged to increase my exposure and knowledge of classic and modern English and American writers and works. But as a Christian, I also want to gain a better understanding of God and His Word and to learn to apply biblical truths in my life. I know that not everyone has the same desire, tastes or interests in literature as I do, but it seems to me that even if a Christian is not a novel-lover, he should at least be willing to read material that will inspire, instruct and encourage him to be a more knowledgeable and godly Christian. In his book The Holiness of God, theologian R.C. Sproul talks about the importance of being transformed by the renewing of the mind. He comments,
This means nothing more and nothing less than education… Disciplined education in the things of God…We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have change. True transformation comes by gaining a new understanding of God, man, and the world…To be conformed to Jesus we must first begin to think like Jesus…We need to value the things He values. …The key to spiritual growth is in-depth Christian education.
So I decided to put together a list I’m calling “Books Every Christian Should Read,” which I’ve divided into three separate lists by type: Fiction, Non-fiction, and History & Biography. I know there are other such lists out there; I also realize that many people will not necessarily agree with my list. “Why is/isn’t Such & Such on your list?” some will ask. Well, I have defined certain criteria to help me decide whether a book will be included on my list, and I would be happy to share that with anyone who is interested. But for the time being, let me just say, This is my list, take it for what it’s worth. Enjoy browsing each category and exploring new books and authors. And if you don’t exactly approve of my selections, why not consider making a list of your own?
*If you’re interested, here is a checklist of the titles on the 2012 edition of Boxall’s List.After browsing my lists, what book or author do YOU think should be on a list that isn’t there?
- How do a reading people become a great people? (pilgriminstitute.org)