#TheBookshelf - Peter Lynas
Two years ago I read a book by Ben Sasse, a young senator from Nebraska called The Vanishing American Adult. He discussed the lack of a shared canon of books that everyone has read, that could be referred to by politicians, preachers and others without the need to refer to the whole book. He proposed a five foot bookshelf with sixty books, five books each in twelve categories, from God, to Greek Literature, to markets. Then a few months ago Alain Emerson posted on Facebook suggesting five books a year for the next four years he was recommending for a young Christian leader. It sparked a flurry of interest in the comments section.
So combining some of these ideas, we decided we would build a short bookshelf in our EA office and ask a variety of people to make suggestions. We were looking for twenty books that we could recommend to any Christian to read. There are lots of amazing books out there, but there is also, frankly, a lot of rubbish. The idea is to get suggestions from a range of contributors, but also to get everyone involved in making suggestions - so we hope there will be lots of social media engagement.
To help structure things a little we have split our shelf into five categories and are ultimately looking for four books in each category. Below I outline each category and make my own suggestions for each:-
Christian Classics - it could be a biography or a book by a great Christian author, but it should have stood the test of time.
I love so much of what CS Lewis has written, but for me Mere Christianity is his classic work. It is reasonably short and accessible and sets out the radical nature of following Jesus for those already on the journey and those who aren’t yet.
Theological Foundations - these are a little deeper and do a little theology.
This is a close call between Knowing God by JI Packer and the Cross of Christ by John Stott, but Stott just pips it for me. People seem to be struggling with the cross and why it is central to Christianity. Stott sets out clearly and biblically why it matters and how we live in the light of it.
Discipleship & Development - these are about helping a person grow in their faith
Lots of great books in this category and I hope someone else suggests Bonhoeffer and Dallas Willard. However, my suggestion is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Again it is simple and accessible but sets out clearly certain practices that disciples should follow.
Church & Mission - this section is about Evangelism and Church
Anything by Lesslie Newbigin is my answer. I have been re-reading a couple recently and love his insights as someone who returned from mission in India to a radically different Britain. I am going to nominate Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth which I think is a little more accessible than The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. The gospel is not about good personal values, but public truth.
Culture & Literature - this could be about Christians engaging in Culture, or a classic work of literature
It is so tough to narrow it down. I was so tempted by Culture Making by Andy Crouch, The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Bruggemann and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. However, my suggestion is going be A War of Loves by David Bennett. Tom Wright wrote the foreword and the book is really the unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus. In this cultural moment, I think it is the best book wrestling with sexuality and it does so in a very missional way. I have written a fuller review here.