About a week ago, a few of us here were going through one of those lists of books with the heading, “The BBC thinks you’ve only read 6 of these books.” We did pretty well (If you could count, ‘I’ve seen the movie, I would have done much better). I hit 16, Liz was in the 30s, and Erin was somewhere in-between. Most of the books were ones I’d read in high school and college and not really the type I generally pick up now.

However, after going through it, Liz and I decided we’d try to knock a few off the list together. I even went out and reactivated my Goodreads account and have been adding books over the past week.

As I was making a couple of updates today, I decided I should add a category of books to my account: “Most Important Books I’ve Read.” Immediately three books jumped into my head. While at least the first two, I believe, would qualify as classics by most standards, I think all three of these had the impact they did because of when I read them. So here’s my list “3 of the Most Important Books I’ve Read”:

1. The Cost of Discipleship – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

I read this book during my campus ministry internship in 1988-89. While I read a number of other great books at that time (a lot of Andrew Murray), Cost of Discipleship was like no book I’d ever read, and I was changed forever. Over the next 10 years, I leafed through that book almost every time I needed to prepare to teach at one of our campus meetings or a church. At this point, the binding is gone, and the book is now held together with electrical tape.

 2. The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard

Again, timing is everything. I read this as I was preparing to plant a church in Ithaca, NY. While Cost of Discipleship had a bit of a bite and edge to it that was appealing to me as a 22-year-old, Willard’s focus on what it means to be a disciple challenged me in ways I never imagined possible. It took me over a year to work through that book. There were other important books that I read around that time, Newbigin’s, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, which would be the next one that springs to mind.

3. Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership – Ruth Haley Barton

If I had read this book twenty years ago, I don’t think I would have “gotten” it. But having read it a couple of months ago and having some time to digest it, its impact on me is clearly up there with the previous two. If you’re at a point where life is going “swimmingly” and you’re just in a good place…I’d hold off on reading this. If you’re at a point where you’re asking God a lot of “What?” “Why?” and “When?” type questions, I’d suggest you give this one a read.

Would any of these 3 make your list?

What books would you rank as the most important you’ve ever read?

[about the picture…the pile of eclectic books in the picture above are on a ledge on the stairway in our house…put there because 1) it keeps Méabh off the ledge, 2) we don’t have bookcases & 3) it looks cool.]