Favorite books

I am often asked to list my favorite books. So this week I’m going to give you my top 20 and reviews of my top 5. Drum roll, please. Here are my (ever changing) top 20 favorites …


1. Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Newer translation that is excellent in many ways.

2. The Precious Things of God, by Octavius Winslow. No book more relishes in the preciousness of the eternal things. I’ll give a fuller recommendation later in the week.

3. The Everlasting Righteousness, by Horatius Bonar. Many great books have been written on justification (how sinners are made right with God). But this one, written over a century ago, is my favorite, the most passionate and the most quotable.

4. The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” Fabulous book for those who want a grand view of God. A tiny book with a heavy message.

5. The Glory of Christ (Vol. 1 of Works), by John Owen. Few things are better than to look at the depth of Christ’s beauty. Though Owen is not easy to read he is very valuable.

6. George Whitefield, 2 vols., by Arnold Dallimore. This is my favorite biography ever. Very readable. This set of books will inflame a desire to be extinguished for Christ.

7. The New Park Street Pulpit (1855-1860), 6 vols., by C.H. Spurgeon. The early sermons of the greatest preacher in church history. All of his books and sermons are recommended but these volumes are especially precious. There is a youthful zeal to the early sermons.

8. The Works of John Bunyan, 3 vols., by John Bunyan. Bunyan was an uneducated man who was imprisoned for his non-conformist preaching of the gospel. Few have plumbed the depths of the human heart deeper than him. He remains one of the greatest preachers and maybe the most famous writer (The Pilgrims Progress) in church history. These three volumes contain all of his works and require diligence and patience. To the patient these volumes contain a lifetime of treasures!

9. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford, in my opinion, is one of the most overlooked Puritan authors. He wrote so many beautiful books and preached so many Christ-exalting sermons yet few are in print. This collection of beautiful letters was written with great spiritual insight. The Banner of Truth just released an unabridged version unavailable for many years. It will be of great use for pastors wondering how to address the Cross to specific pastoral situations.

10. Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. My favorite biographer (Dallimore) + my Christian “hero” (Spurgeon) = a classic! Spurgeon focused on preaching, caring for widows and orphans, training pastors for the future, etc. A man who extinguished himself for the gospel!

11. Communion with God (Vol. 2 of Works), by John Owen. Deep scholarship with a burning affection for Christ. How do we relate and respond to God personally? This is the question that he answers thoroughly.

12. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols., by Jonathan Edwards. The greatest American theologian. These two works contain many of his best sermons and books. A lifetime of eternal gems are here contained for the patient reader. Though I also recommend preachers purchase a few of the Yale edition volumes (Donald Whitney especially suggests vol. 14).

13. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden. A fabulous biography whose author shows tremendous spiritual sensitivity while looking at the life of America’s great theologian/preacher.

14. God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards. Not one of Edward’s easiest books to work through but a very powerful one. God does everything for Himself. Gets to the heart of the most important reality we can ever comprehend – that God loves nothing more than Himself. (A special thanks to my friend Rick Gamache for his editing of the book).

15. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. A classic book that allows the heaviness of God to come down upon the reader.

16. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. A transforming book.

17. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made by Mark Dever. A new book of Dever’s sermon manuscripts covering a broad and sweeping overview of the Old Testament. This book has drawn the Old Testament together for me in great ways. I now see the cohesive big picture like never before!

18. The Confessions by Augustine (Maria Boulding translation). Great classic and from what I am told this is the first true autobiography in history. In this book a sinner’s soul is honestly opened for all to see.

19. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. I like Reymond, Erickson and others, but this is my favorite systematic. I also really like what Jeff Purswell did in editing it into the book Bible Doctrine.

20. Lectures to My Students by C.H. Spurgeon. No pastor should be allowed to lead a church who has not read it at least 10 times.

Now you tell me. What are your top 5 favorite books ???

14 thoughts on “Favorite books

  1. How about my top three?

    1. Holy Bible, New American Standard Version
    2. The Mortification of Sin / John Owen
    3. Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness / Andrew Murray

    (Notes at http://www.traviscarden.com/faith/books/my-top-ten/)

    I’m presently reading Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections and The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter is coming up. I have Grudem’s Systematic Theology, but haven’t finished it yet (and haven’t been in it in a while). On my wish list are Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry, The Glory of Christ by John Owen, Charity and Its Fruit by Jonathan Edwards. With your comments on Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students I feel like I’d better slate that one for reading soon! Your list here will be a valuable resource as I grow my library. Thanks! =)

  2. I just found your sight while doing research.

    I’ll give you my top few:

    1) Holy Bible
    New American Standard Bible / English Standard Version / New King James (It’s a tough call.)

    2) The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment – Jeremiah Burroughs

    3) The Death of Death in the Death of Christ – John Owen

    4) Holiness – J.C. Ryle

    5) The Christian in Complete Armour – William Gurnall

    6) Charity and its Fruit – Jonathan Edwards

    Thank you so much for your encouraging website! I’ll be visiting again, I’m sure.

  3. I will never understand how people can get sucked into the Christian fantasy world. It’s just old myths and superstitions people! Get a brain!

  4. Too many people do not take care over their Bible Version. Many books are written and use modern tranlations when quoting the Word of God. Do folk know why they use such versions or do the just find them easy to read/our church uses them/our pastor uses them – I could go on…..

    ‘New American Standard Bible / English Standard Version / New King James (It’s a tough call.)’

    This suggests that choosing Gods Word which suits best is a problem. What method has been used in making the choice.

    I suggest folk take an interest in the version they read as God has preserved his Word. We are dealing with Eternity and it behoves us to take care over the very Word of God.

  5. Are suggesting people use the ESV without any good reason why? The Word of God in English by Leland Ryken is an excellent answer why the ESV is a worthy translation.

  6. Campbell, I don’t know of anyone recommends reading only one translation. I study out of the ESV, NASU, NIV, KJV, NKJV and a few others. It comes down to literal faithfulness to the Greek/Hebrew. Like I said, The Word of God in English by Ryken is the best resource I’ve found on this. Tony

  7. Have you spent time on the links that I left.
    It is the where the versions come from that is important.

    The NIV/EVS comes from Westcote and Hort and the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus texts which diagree widely with Texus Receptus and they diagree also each other.
    Vaticanus differs from the received text 7578 times whilst the Sinaitus differs from the RT 8972 times.
    What I am suggesting is that folk should be aware of where their versions come from. I would think that as we are dealing with the Word of God, it is our duty to be sure of our foundations. There has been an expolsion in versions whih has been confussing to Gods people. In some book shops it is hard to get a KJV (as it is hard to read!!).

    Reading suggestions, There are many more books on the subject.
    Three Modern Versions Alan J McGregor The Bible league ISBN 0-904435-87-3
    Plea for the Old Sword Ian RK Paisley Ambassador
    ISBN 1-84030-015-9
    Accuracy of Translation Robert Martin Banner of Truth
    Final Authority William P Grady Grady Publications

    There are good biliographies in some of these for further reading

  8. Yes, I am aware there are different sources. Ryken handles this as does James White in his excellent book The King James Only Controversy. Any serious student of the Bible should be reading from 5-8 mainstream translations. … The ESV, NIV, NASU, KJV, NKJV will all point sinners to the beautiful Cross. T

  9. Reading 5-8 mainstream versions? What do you mean by that?
    What does mainstream mean?

  10. I mean use all of the major translations: ESV, NIV, NASU, KJV, NKJV which come from these various and similar texts. Here are two dilemmas, Campbell: First, there is no perfect English translation. Our translations are fallible English translations of an infallible Greek/Hebrew text. Second, it seems to me that you are attempting to use English translations to answer textual criticism issues. These issues are best answered — esp. in the NT — in the Greek. There are hundreds and even thousands of NT manuscripts and fragments scholars work with. Instead of dealing with broad family distinctions you can study the specific passages and variants in the Greek for yourself. I use two Greek resources: 1993 editions of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected ed.), published by the United Bible Societies (UBS), and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.), edited by Nestle and Aland. These were central in the translation of the ESV. I especially love the Greek New Testament (4th ed.). Any variants in the NT text are brought to discussion in the footnotes and the specific manuscripts in question are cited and a committee ruling is made as to probability. It’s very useful resource if you know a bit of the Greek to identify variants and look at the textual criticism in detail. I would recommend learning Greek and diving into specific details of textual variants. But if this is no possibility continue to read those 5-8 translations, note the variants, hit the commentaries. It’s amazing how similar all 5 major translations are! All are excellent for understanding salvation and God’s grace. He is kind to bless us with so many excellent translations! Blessings! Tony

  11. Hmmm…favorite books? Off the top of my head: Holiness by Ryle, Treasury of David by Spurgeon, Desiring God by Piper, Knowing God by Packer, Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell…and, if I were to include Systematic Theologies, I would go with Hodge and Berkhof, though I also love Raymond’s and Grudem’s.

  12. Thanks for these recommendations, Tony. Can you speak to the merits of the Banner 2 vol. set of Jonathan Edwards works versus the Yale editions? I heard somewhere that I should get the Yale, and I now have the Religious Affections Yale edition. But I’m a sucker for clothbound, sewn books…so if the Banner editions are just as readable, I may have to invest in them. I appreciate any input you may have.

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