Friday, January 6, 2012

The 15 Most Impactful Books On My Life

It’s hard to quantify just how much of an impact a book has had on one’s life—especially when that book is judged against other books. But I got to thinking today about the books that have had the greatest impact on my life—outside the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy—and these ones came to my mind the quickest. It is these ones that I find myself going back to time and time again. They are the ones that have impacted my life more than any other—my theology, my worldview, my thinking, my living.

The keen observer will probably notice that most of them come from the same genre and the same theological slant. This is further insight into my worldview.

If you have not read any of the books listed, I would encourage you to run, not walk, to get them (links are provided for them for quick ordering access). And since it was so hard to narrow it down, I am providing my "Top 15" (it started with 10, then went to 11, then 14, and now, finally, 15). I am sure there are some that I have overlooked, and these may not be the exact order I would list them in a week or two. but it is what it is at this point.

Without further ado, here are the non-biblical, non-SOP, books that have had the biggest impact on my life. 

  1. The Return of the Latter Rain, by Ron Duffield. This work is so exhaustive and so eye-opening when it comes to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It pulls the curtain back on where we are as a denomination.
  2. See With New Eyes, by Ty Gibson. I read this my freshman or sophomore year in college and it was an incredible revelation. It gave me a totally new—and refreshing—picture of God. Perhaps the single most memorable thought of any book I have ever read comes from Ty: "There is nothing more healing to the sinful heart than to be fully known and yet fully loved. . . . [It] is the essence of redemption" (pp. 55, 56). Both this book and Duffield’s book are really 1 and 1a in many senses. (NOTE: for some reason I lost my original copy and just finally picked up a new copy last week, after not having it for nearly a decade.)
  3. Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed, by Donald K. Short. In some ways, it has been easy for me to overlook this little book, but it cannot be understated how monumental it was in my realization of what Christ is trying to accomplish in the plan of salvation. It is small yet packs a powerful punch!
  4. Lessons on Faith, by A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner. This is a must-read for those who want to understand how to live the life of faith. I finally read it about three years ago and it was revolutionary in my thinking.
  5. The Good News Is Better Than You Think, by Robert Wieland. Though I have read numerous books of his, Elder Wieland’s preaching has really been more impactful on me, but this book probably stands out above the rest of his.
  6. Agape and Eros, by Carsten Johnsen. This powerful book is in many senses a response to Anders Nygren’s seminal work by the same name. It is an awesome vignette into God’s heart and character. It is deep, deep, deep, though, and may be a little challenging to follow for some. The recipient of multiple PhDs, the late Carsten Johnsen was a theological giant (and one of my dad's biggest mentors).
  7. Can Man Live Without God? by Ravi Zacharias. Ravi Zacharias is to me what C.S. Lewis has been for a lot of other Christians: a convincing apologist for the Christian faith. This little book has been the most helpful for me in helping me realize that Christianity is not a blind commitment to illogical ideas, but a very reasonable and convincing worldview that makes more sense than the alternatives. It has also helped me to see that atheism is, in fact, an absurd and self-contradicting philosophy.
  8. Darwin’s God, by Cornelius G. Hunter. This book was eye-opening in helping me see that most Darwinists actually present theological and metaphysical arguments, rather than purely scientific ones.
  9. The Glad Tidings, by E.J. Waggoner. Both Waggoner and A.T. Jones have written numerous books that are worth mentioning, but I think this one stands out above the rest (besides the Lessons on Faith compilation, which has selections from both of them).
  10. Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This is the most fascinating and exhaustive biography on Abraham Lincoln that I have come across. Goodwin is such a brilliant and fascinating writer and she provides amazing insight into Lincoln’s leadership skills and struggles. It is being turned into a movie and I am very eager to see it.
  11. What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey. I read this my freshman year of college and the wonderfully gracious presentation of Christ that Yancey presents is very compelling.
  12. Amazing Grace, by Eric Metaxas. This is a powerful, powerful biography of William Wilberforce. And Metaxas is one of the most brilliant writers I have come across (even though his biography on Deitrich Bonhoeffer has been somewhat of a letdown). As someone has said of Metaxas: he writes biographies like fiction (which, in this case, is a good thing).
  13. Should We Ever Say “I Am Saved?” by Herbert Douglass. Both this book and A Fork in the Road by Douglass have been very helpful in my thinking.
  14. The Cross of Christ, by John R.W. Stott. This is a monumental book when it comes to the atonement and the cross.
  15. The Knocking at the Door, by Robert Wieland. This connects the message to the church of Laodicea with the Song of Solomon in a powerful way that appeals to God's lukewarm church to open the door to Him. It really was huge in starting my deep interest in the Song of Solomon.

What about you? What books have been the most influential and impactful on your life?

(UPDATE: Yup, I already realize that I missed a couple huge books that would probably make the top 5 or 6: Joshua Harris's two books, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl. How could I have forgotten them??)


Rondi said...

I love challenges like this. They get me thinking about one of my favorite things: books! I am definitely going to do this (will post it on my blog at some point), but it's not something I can come to without a lot of work. Very different question for "what is your favorite book" because the favorites might not be life-changing in the way your list is...

So, thanks for the challenge. I'll let you know when I complete it!

Shawn Brace said...

Awesome!! Please do let me know when you complete it, Ms. A!

Blake Jones said...

Here's my list...

1. The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. I got this book originally to help solve some conflict in my church. I had no idea the concepts would impact my life, marriage, ministry and my churches as much as it has. I agree with Christianity Today in calling it a modern classic. We read this at my church and it totally changed the congregational culture. Seeing that was a miracle that I will remember for the rest of my life.

SOS: Help For Emotions, Lynn Clark. This is a great book for developing sound emotional intelligence and overcoming negative emotions. Made a big impact on me at a time when I was wrestling with some challenging life circumstances. I am a lot wiser as a result of reading this.

Choosing God's Best, Don Raunikar. Read this as a single Christian young adult. It gave me a sound, Biblical view on Christian singleness and how to look at my future, relationships, God's will, etc. I put it to practice and have the confidence of knowing that I’m married to the woman the Lord choose for me. Another one that made me much wiser after reading it. Is very similar to Josh Harris’ books, just is written for a more adult and less teen audience. Harris’ books were a blessing too.

Body by Science, Doug McGuff. Read this just under a year ago after a friend literally pushed it on me. Has totally revolutionized my understanding of exercise and fitness. 8 months ago I went to the gym and started out by bench pressing 80 pds. Yesterday I went to the gym and worked out pressing 160 pds. All of this by working out one time every 1-2 weeks (for 15-30 minutes). I know it sounds crazy but it's true. The concepts here are fascinating and I have found them to work. I had been trying for years to exercise regularly but never could keep up with it cause I didn’t have the time. This book gave me a method I will use all my life. It is effective and takes very little time commitment.

Inspired Section:
The Great Controversy by EGW. Read this my senior year at FSU business school. I was still evaluating the claims of SDA theology. This closed the sale. It has given me a frame work to build my theological understanding for the last decade.

Gospel Workers, EGW. Read this when I was starting out as a pastor. Totally helped me see how to do ministry. I am a much better spiritual leader because of this book.

Honorable Mentions:
Cultivating a Life for God and Organic Church, Neil Cole. I don't agree all that Cole says (especially his congregational views of church) but his material on discipleship is great. It has helped very much in knowing how to work with people who desperately need Jesus. If you only go with one I'd read Cultivating a Life for God. It has a very simple method of working with someone to lead them to Jesus. I’ve done this with several young men over the years and seen them all find Christ. It’s simple and cool but might not be for everyone (i.e. be ready for some accountability).

Shattering the Myths of Darwinism, Richard Milton. I'm not sure where this book stands in the line of books against Darwinism. But I came across it at a time when I was really struggling with worldview issues. Written by a secular Englishmen with no religious agenda it helped me to see that there really are reasonable, non-faith based reasons to doubt macro-evolution. This book helped me turn from secularism to Christianity.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey. Success is a Choice, Rick Patino. Read these books many years ago and they really motivated me to stop being a beer drinking, goofing off Florida redneck and actually do something with my life. Glad that happened.

Thanks for taking me down memory lane Shawn. It was fun to think about this. I look forward to checking out some of your books. God bless.

My Strength and Song said...

While I have had read several of those books, others spark my interest. But I must say the one has been at the core of my experience; for I have lived through the years of its writing. The nights and days when we poured over manuscripts past; deciphered hand written letters from a century ago, felt heaven touch our home when a link of the puzzle was FOUND! Delays, discouragement, illness, trials touched our lives. Then the day came, we were holding our breath as the project was launched public two years ago. My conscience compells me and has for a long time that the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church is a most compelling story! It has been an anchor to my soul and it needed to be told. Yes I was there, in the shadows of it's writing.... "The Return of the Latter Rain" ~author's wife

jse7en said...

Shawn, I was curious if you ever read this SDA book review of Phillip Yancey's "What's So Amazing About Grace?"

It's an excellent critique and review.

Andrew said...

I tried to read "What's So Amazing..." recently (after years of hearing about it). The writing style didn't grab me at the time. Maybe it had to do with my mood.

Many books have helped me (religious and secular). One that I love a lot is:

Searching for a God to Love by Chris Blake.

I also liked Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

I have read those books multiple times (and I don't usually like to read books twice.)

I also liked Steps to Christ because at the times in my life I have read it it has encouraged me a lot to keep going on. I have also read it multiple times.

Andrew said...

I like Searching for a God to Love so much that I have given away nearly 40 or so in 8 or 9 years and continue to do so.