So I am finally getting around to sharing my list of top non-fiction books that have most influenced me. Many of these were books I read back in high-school, but had significant influence in my spiritual and emotional growth as a young adult. A few are from later on. It is really hard to choose my top ten because I have read so many good books over the years, but I am going to force myself to choose. So here you go:
I can’t remember what age I read this book. I was pretty young and I remember feeling overwhelmed by the density of it and the theological language. I should probably go back and try reading now that I am a 30 something year old adult. I can’t even say for sure if I completely finished it. I just know that when I first read Piper’s thoughts on God enjoying Himself and how God is perfectly perfect in pleasing and satisfying Himself, the concept sorta blew the lid off my understanding of His nature and character. I remember just setting the book down and having a moment of dazed revelation and asking myself “What does that even mean?” “How is that right?” “How can God be that perfect?” Thanks John Piper for writing this book.
Wow, it has been so long since I read this book. I think I was fifteen or sixteen. I’m pretty sure this was the first book that really challenged me to question what I believe. Especially views on poverty and war and taking more literally the teachings of Jesus in the gospels. I’m not sure now years later that I have come to all the same conclusions as Shane Claiborne, but I think it awakened in me a desire to know for myself what I believe and really analysis critically the views and beliefs I am taught by others. I remember the conversations it provoked even among my family at the time as I began to bring up topics that had never been questioned before. Can’t say that everyone was pleased with what I was questioning. I think more than anything it just made something rise up within me that said “Am I really living out what I believe?” Always a good place to start when you are high schooler trying to discover your identity and even who you are as a Christian.
I know this is probably on every older christian millennial’s list from the early 2000s. But hey, it was a good book, beautifully written in that storyteller style of what became classic Miller. I think that’s what I loved most about this book. It was not so much even what he was writing about, but how he wrote it. I remember thinking for the first time that nonfiction did not have to be boring. It could be written in a musically, beautiful and visual way that read almost like fiction. It was after reading this book that I first started to blog and even realized that though my first love was writing fiction, I could still really enjoy writing nonfiction. The possibilities as a writer became that much more broad and full of variety.
(Also there was a movie made about it. Blue Like Jazz )
I’ve never been a big biography reader. My mom made me read tons of them growing up. (I was homeschooled) I think we might have had a whole shelf of books dedicated to biographies, not joking. But this biography about Keith Green was one of the first I chose to read for myself. I think maybe it was because it was not about someone who was from hundreds of years back in history. Instead it was about a man who could have still been alive in my time if he had not so tragically died. His radical obedience and devotion to Jesus was inspiring. He did so much in his short time of life and impacted so many through his worship and evangelism ministry. I wept at the end of the book when he died. Everyone should read this book!
So I can’t even make it through a nonfiction book list without mentioning something written by Ted Dekker. Yes, he is my favorite author and he does not just write fiction. I loved, loved this book of real life stories as Dekker travels with Carl Medearis to meet some of the “seemingly” most dangerous men in the Middle East. The combination of Dekker’s story style of writing and the real life encounters they experience was truly remarkable. The books gives you a whole new perspective on how to view the hyper exaggerated world of the Middle East that our western society has so sadly misinterpreted.
This is the book I have read the most recently of all the books on this list. I read it about a year before we moved overseas to do YWAM in Norway. It was the first book that the founder of YWAM, Loren Cunningham wrote. It is really just a book of stories. These stories have dramatically shaped the foundation of a missions movement that started sixty years ago and has spread across the world since then and impacted millions with the gospel. YWAM is now comprised of over 15,000 volunteers in around 1,100 locations in 181 countries in the world. And this book is just the story of how it started in the beginning years. If you are even remotely interested in learning about YWAM read this book.
So for not reading a lot of biographies it’s funny that I have two in the list. And both are about people who tragically died, though in very different ways. I could not put this book down when I read it. I think mostly because it was about an ordinary Christian girl who could have been me. I read the book (I guess) like a year or two after Rachel Scott died at Columbine. I could not imagine dying with such bravery like she did. Her biography is written by her parents with personal excerpts from her own private journals from even days before she died. It is so deeply moving. I cried through so much of this book. I had read a lot of other books about Christian martyrs who died in arenas and by torture and fire etc., but those were from hundreds of years ago in countries who had no knowledge of God. This was a real life story of a teenage girl in modern day Christian America. She was almost the same age as me and only a couple states away. Somehow dying for your faith suddenly didn’t seem so strange, foreign and far away as it once did. It felt very real, up close and personal.
(There is even a movie made about it. I haven’t seen it so not sure how accurate to the book it is: I Am Not Ashamed )
I love Ann Voskamp and her way with words. I love her focus on gratitude and thankfulness. I have read this book twice and will probably read it again soon. So thankful that my mother-in-law gave me a copy of this as a gift right after Phil and I were married. And can I just say again Voskamp’s way of writing is unearthly, emotional and astounding. I can only list one book here, but you should also check out her other books: The Broken Way, The Greatest Gift and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Anything written by John Eldredge is so good. But this was the most impactful book I think I have read combined with a couple of fiction books back in high-school. I have read it several times. This book helped me understand what it means to truly combine my desires and dreams with healthy perspective of truth from God. I think up until that point I had always seen my desires and dreams as something separate from God that must be controlled and mastered. But it was so freeing to understand that God created me for destiny and purpose and partnership with Him. It was not just about me denying myself and taking up my cross (though that obviously is a part of it) but it is also about living a full and abundant life as a daughter of a King. It felt like I woke up when I read this book.
Just go read it.
Written over ten years ago now, I can’t tell you how much this book has impacted my life. If you know me even a little you know this is my heartbeat. It is just a book of stories about the prayer movement that has been rapidly spreading across the earth, even more now than when this book was written. One of the most powerful things I have ever read is “The Vision” poem written at the beginning of this book that was scribbled on the wall of prayer room in England. I have read this book so many times. And Pete Greig has also written a sequel: Dirty Glory.
(Also they recently made a spoken word film of The Vision that’s on YouTube if you want to watch.)