Pastor David’s Reading List
A note from Pastor David:
Do you wish you read more? The average American now spends around 4 to 5 hours a day looking to screens for entertainment. But what if you could grow in your faith simply by reading books instead of watching yet another random thing on Netflix? The good news is…you can!
Quite frequently I get asked for book recommendations, so at the beginning of every new year, I send out a “Reading List” to our church. These are some of my favorite books that I read in the past 12 months, and also books that I think you might spiritually benefit from! The books below are ranked (with #1 being my favorite book that I read that particular year), and they also include a short description and a link to purchase (or you can try finding it at the library too!).
This page now includes reading suggestions from 2019, 2020, 2021, & 2022. That’s a total of 42 recommended books! Happy Reading!
#12 God's Hostage
This is the story of missionary Andrew Brunson who just a few years ago was arrested and put in a Turkish jail for sharing his faith. It’s challenging to read what he went through, but he is painfully honest about what he endured.
#11 God is Red
This book is in interview format and tells the story of the brutal persecution that Chinese Christians endured under communism in the mid-20th century.
#10 Edge of Eternity
This is Alcorn’s attempt at writing a Pilgrim’s Progress style allegory of faith. It is at times repetitive, but at other times it’s absolutely brilliant.
#9 Where The Garden Begins
Another fantasy allegory book about faith. This one is probably good if you have someone in your house that is into YA fiction.
#8 The Benedict Option
It may be one of the more controversial books on my list, but I read it because I thought it would challenge my perspective. Dreher takes the position that Christianity has essentially lost to modern secular culture in America, and the only way we will survive here is by going into a survival mode he calls “The Benedict Option.” While I disliked that he wasn’t thinking about evangelism (and he was a bit too alarmist for me), we would still do well to listen to his warnings.
#7 The Lost Letters of Pergamum
I actually secretly hate historical fiction (gasp!), but somehow I ended up reading this one by New Testament and Church Historian Bruce Longenecker. The story is the fictional correspondence between the Gospel author Luke and a non-believing Roman civic leader. It transports you back to the days of the early church, and actually was one of the more inspirational books for my faith that I read this year!
I finally got around to reading this classic Christian autobiography about the woman who became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. What I loved most about this book was actually Joni’s honesty. She openly talks of her despair, anger, rage, confusion, loss and renewal of faith. It’s as raw and as good as it gets.
#5 The Kings Scrolls
Book 2 of the Illyon Chronicles. I really like this fictional and Christian fantasy series. They are excellent!
#4 Stealing From God
This is an excellent Christian apologetics book! Turek brilliantly shows that most atheist arguments have to steal logic from Christians to make their points (i.e. they believe in objective morality but can’t explain where objective morality comes from).
#3 Strange New World
This is Trueman’s simpler version of “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” (#4 on my list last year). It’s perhaps a tad bit simpler (and definitely shorter), but it’s still pretty deep. If you’re a Christian that likes philosophy and sociology, you should read anything Trueman writes!
#2 Ember Rising
To the best of my memory, I’ve only cried twice while reading a book, and ironically, they were both children’s books (this was one of them). I read this series (The Green Ember) out loud to my twins this past year or so, and we LOVED it. This book, the 3rd of the series, was my favorite one.
#1 The Boy Born Dead
Wow, I loved this book. It was the most enjoyable and inspirational book I read this year. It was gripping, funny, emotional, and inspiring. It’s an incredible story of a boy growing up with cerebral palsy. The audiobook was an A++ performance!
Bonus: Bible Infographic for Kids
Our kids LOVE these books (there are 3 of them). It’s amazing what they recall about the Bible from the excellent charts and graphics they read in these books. They are such a great way to help kids get a better grasp on the stories and teachings of the Bible. I’d recommend for ages 6 and up. Honestly, I’m going to buy my own version for my office, they are so great!
#14 Through The Gates of Splendor
I’ve referenced this book several times in messages. The story is inspiring (and heart wrenching!). The only reason it’s not more highly ranked is because a lot of the book is diary entries, and it doesn’t flow quite as well as some of the higher entries on this list.
#13 Out of the Saltshaker
I finally got around to reading this classic on evangelism. If you want to feel more comfortable in sharing your faith, definitely check this one out.
#12 Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
Our staff reads one book together every year, and we read this one in 2021. It’s the story of The Brooklyn Tabernacle and how they’ve grounded their church in prayer.
#11 The Last Battle
I finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia (“The Last Battle” is book 7 of 7) to our twins back in January. Lewis’ take on heaven in this book is amazing! If your kids are 7+, read them The Chronicles of Narnia. They’ll thank you, and you’ll love it too!
My friend, and a leader here at church, Sarah Hawkins, told me last year that I need to “read for fun” more often, so I read this Christian fantasy book this year. Pretty solid if you’re into that sort of thing.
#9 Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
I try to read one parenting book every year, and this is one of the better ones I’ve read. Unlike other books that stay ultra-practical, this book gets you focused on broader (and more important) Gospel themes.
#8 The Green Ember
My good friend Pastor Josh Pollard recommended to me this fantasy book about rabbits fighting wolves. This is a children’s book (a 365 page one!) written in Narnia-style, and it’s great for ages 7 and up. I read it aloud to my twins, and the series itself develops great Christian themes!
#7 The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
I must admit that the basic “Christian Living” genre is not really my favorite, but so many people told me to read this book that I gave in and read it. It’s actually very good and has lots of solid, practical advice. John Mark Comer might be this next generation’s Timothy Keller.
#6 The Happiest People On Earth
The Sherrills are the best Christian biographers of the last 100 years. Period. They wrote, “The Hiding Place,” “God’s Smuggler,” “The Cross & the Switchblade,” and more. This story chronicles one of the leaders of the Pentecostal movement. The theology is slightly different for many readers, but the story is a really engaging read.
#5 In The Presence of My Enemies
This is the gripping story of Martin & Gracia Burnham who were missionaries in the Philippines taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in 2001. The “afterword” of this book (which was written 10 years later) was one of the best chapters I read all year.
#4 The Rise & Triumph of the Modern Self
In some ways I was tempted to make this #1, but if you don’t like philosophy and thinking deeply when you read, this book is definitely not for you. But if you do, you HAVE to read this. If you want to understand exactly HOW our culture has gotten so confused on so many things (especially when it comes to sexuality and gender), this is the best book out there.
#3 Peace Child
Richardson is a great author, and this is his own story of how he brought the Gospel to the cannibalistic tribes of Papua New Guinea. This book has such a great “turn moment.” I gasped out loud and pumped my fist when it happened. It takes a bit to get there, but when it does, wow!
#2 Evidence Not Seen
This is the autobiography of a female missionary who had to trust God through some incredibly difficult circumstances in Indonesia during WWII. This book is filled with amazing stories of God’s providence!
#1 Saving My Assassin
The true story of a Christian woman in Romania who is persecuted for her faith under the communist regime. It’s riveting, inspiring, and strengthened my faith. A must read!
Bonus: Little Pilgrim's Big Journey
This was the best “short” book I read to my kids this year. This book was a little too short for me to count on my list of 14 books, but it is fantastic! If you have kids ages 5-12, seriously, spend the money on this book, and read it out loud to them. It’s an illustrated kid’s version of the 2nd best-selling book of all-time, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Our kids LOVE this book, and so do I!
#8 William Tyndale
Tyndale was the first man to translate the Bible into English, and the English government, considering it to be a crime, murdered him for it. The Catholic church had such a hold on people in those times that they literally didn’t want the average person to understand what the Bible truly said!
#7 Letters to the Church
As we say often on Sunday mornings, so much of the American church is currently designed to entertain and feed consumerism. Chan does a great job of attempting to bring the church back to its Biblical roots and rediscover its Biblical purpose.
#6 The Pastor
Eugene Peterson is most famous for writing “The Message” (a paraphrase translation of the Bible), and this book is his memoir. It’s an honest read and shows the joys and challenges of life in ministry.
#5 The Reproducers
This is the story of the beginnings of Calvary Chapel, a group of churches that now totals 1,700 churches. It takes place in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and much of the “Jesus People” hippie revival was born out of this movement. The link is to a free online version of the book Calvary Chapel provides at no cost!
#4 The Heavenly Man
The amazing true story of one of the main leaders of the Chinese House Church Movement and the absolutely brutal persecution Chinese Christians have faced under the communist regime. The prison and torture scenes are hard to read, but the dedication of the Chinese Christians is incredibly inspiring.
#3 The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse & His Boy
I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to our twins. I think many people are familiar with the original book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but many of the books in the rest of the series are just as good, if not better! Lewis’ deep spiritual teachings in this book will minister to both you and your kids!
#2 To End All Wars (Through The Valley of the Kwai)
The true story of a man who met Christ in a WWII Japanese Prison Camp. The Christian community he started there was so real, so authentic, and so powerful, the men legitimately missed the prison camp when the war was over! It’s such a great read!
#1 God's Smuggler
This might even be tied for the best book I’ve ever read (along with last year’s #1: To The Golden Shore). It’s the amazing true story of a man who smuggled Bibles into communist Europe. It’s an absolute page-turner and co-authored by the same couple who co-authored “The Hiding Place.” This book ministered to my heart so deeply and increased my faith greatly!
#8 The Tech-Wise Family
Let’s face it, our families spend way too much time with our faces in front of a screen. Andy Crouch is a Christian researcher and author who gives great principles for how to help your family become less screen-dependent.
#7 Green Leaf in Drought Time
This is the story of the last missionaries to be kicked out of China when the communists took over in the late 40’s/early 50’s. It’s not the easiest read, but if you are going through a hard time, read this book! Its wisdom on suffering is unbelievably deep, and it really ministered to me.
#6 Old Paths, New Power
This book had a profound impact on how I view ministry, particularly prayer. A well-written book on how churches need to get back to the basics! If you’re a leader in our church, definitely read this book!
#5 In His Steps
This is the book that WWJD (what would Jesus do?) came from. It’s a novel about a group of people who take a pledge to not make any decision without first asking, “What would Jesus do?” It was written a century ago, but feels like it was written yesterday. It’s short and a easy read.
An entertaining and inspiring autobiography of a missionary doctor who reaches many for Christ in war-torn Bangladesh. There’s much to learn in this book about how to listen for God and follow His leading.
#3 Sacred Marriage
This is a VERY good book on marriage. It has a really balanced approach of the practical and spiritual aspects to marriage.
#2 Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
A fascinating autobiography about a devout Muslim who, after years of research, becomes a Christian. I learned more about Islam from reading this book than I have from anything else.
#1 To The Golden Shore (The Life of Adoniram Judson)
This is the story of the first American Missionary and is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read. It’s 500 pages, and I read it in a matter of days!