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100 must-read books about Christianity

30 May 2017

Someone posted this list of 100 must-read books about Christianity. I had a look at the list, and most of the titles I had never heard of, much less read. I had only heard of about 8-9 of them, and had read about 4 or 5. So what makes them “must-read”?

100 Must-Read Books About Christianity:

According to Pew Research, Christianity is the world’s largest religious group, so it’s worth knowing something about it, whether you’re a Christian or not. And if you’re interested in learning more about the Christian faith, there’s no lack of books out there. It’s hard to know where to start! I’m here to help with enough recommendations to keep you reading for a long time.

So I thought there really needs to be a better list

As an Orthodox Christian, I also thought that it was a bit inadequate that there were only two books by Orthodox Christians on the list. Not that such a list should be composed entirely of Orthodox books, but there should be more than were included on that list.

So if I were compiling a list of such books for someone who knew little or nothing about Christianity, what would I include?

My starting point would be The Lion Handbook of the History of Christianity as the best introduction for someone who wanted to get the big picture, an idea of how Christianity has developed and spread and changed over the centuries.

After that it should be possible for the reader to decide which strands to follow next.

The original list was divided into various categories, and I haven’t done that, and I suppose most of my recommendations would fall into the categories of theology and history.

I can’t think of 100 books, but here are some I think should be included, which were not on the other list:

Anderson, Allan. 2014. An Introduction to Pentecostalism. 
               Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
               ISBN: 978-1-107-66094-6

Bowden, John. 2007. A Chronology of World Christianity. London: 
               ISBN: 978-0-8264-9633-1

Dalrymple, William. 1997. From the Holy Mountain: a journey in
               the shadow of Byzantium. London: Flamingo.
               ISBN: 0-00-654774-5
                   A travel writer follows in the footsteps of St
                   John Moschos, who described his own journey
                   through the Christian Near and Middle East in
                   AD 578, over 14 centuries earlier, shortly
                   before much of it was conquered by the Muslim
                   Arabs. For most of those 14 centuries, the
                   Christian communities have survived, if
                   somewhat precariously. Now, in the 20th
                   century, they are in danger of disappearing
                   altogether, as they face the greatest threat
                   to their survival in 20 centuries.

Hopko, Thomas. 1981. The Orthodox Faith: Volume 1 - Doctrine. New
               York: Department of Christian Education.
               ISBN: 0-86642-036-3

Hopko, Thomas. 1984. The Orthodox Faith: Volume 4 - Spirituality.
               New York: Department of Christian Education.

Hopko, Thomas. 1997. The Orthodox Faith: Volume 2 - Worship. New
               York: Department of Christian Education.
               ISBN: 0-86642-012-6

Hopko, Thomas. 1998. The Orthodox Faith: Volume 3 - Bible and
               church history. New York: Department of Christian

Huddleston, Trevor. 1971. Naught for your comfort. London: 
                   The death of Archbishop Trevor Huddleston in
                   April 1998 was the prompt for re-reading his
                   book after 40 years. Huddleston was a
                   missionary priest of the Community of the
                   Resurrection who ministered in Sophiatown, a
                   black township near the centre of
                   Johannesburg, whose inhabitants were forcibly
                   removed in the name of apartheid.

Hughes, Philip. 1976 [1924] A history of the church to the eve of
               the Reformation. London: Seed & Ward.
               ISBN: 0-7220-7663-0
                   History of the church from a Roman Catholic
                   point of view 

Jones, Alexander (ed) 1974. The Jerusalem Bible. London: Darton,
               Longman & Todd.

Schmemann, Alexander. 1973. For the life of the world: sacraments
               and orthodoxy. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's
               Seminary Press.
               ISBN: 0-913836-08-7
               Dewey: 264.019 SCHM
                   Orthodox sacramental and mission theology.

Schmemann, Alexander. 1977. The historical road of Eastern
               Orthodoxy. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary
               ISBN: 0-913836-47-8
               Dewey: 281.9
                   Theological reflection on the history of the
                   Orthodox Church.

Ware, Timothy. 1986. The Orthodox Church. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
               ISBN: 0-14-020592-6
                   A general introduction to Orthodox Church
                   history and teaching and the current state of
                   the Orthodox churches.

If you can suggest any others that you think ought to be on such a list, please add them in the comments.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. misseagle permalink
    30 May 2017 12:03 pm

    Then Cloud of Unknowing – author unknown (The oldest book on Christian spirituality in the English language)
    The Ladder of Perfection by Walter Hilton
    Prayer of the Heart: writings from the Philokalia
    Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean P Caussade, SJ
    Christ the eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene
    The Essence of Prayer by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
    A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly
    Silent Music by William Johnston SJ
    A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R Kelly
    Practical Christianity by Rufus Jones

  2. 30 May 2017 2:50 pm

    I’m surprised to find I’ve read sixteen of the books on the list you linked to, and we have at least four or five of the others. They seem like a good mixture to me, although it does sound unbalance if there are so few recommended by Orthodox Christians. I hate to prescribe ‘must-read’ lists to anyone, though. I find different books helpful or compelling at different times of life. Right now I’m loving anything by Brian McLaren, Philip Yancey and John Ortberg, and being challenged by one of Richard Rohr’s books.

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