What’s the Best Christian Book of All Time? (Call for Nominations)

A potential dark horse for "best Christian book of all time"?

A potential dark horse for “best Christian book of all time”?

We all have our favorite Christian books, as well as our favorite ones for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, Urbana attendees, and so on. But which one is the best, the one book to which all others pale in comparison? Here on the Emerging Scholars Blog, we’re going to find out.

Next month, the best men’s and women’s NCAA basketball teams will battle it out in a single elimination tournament to determine the single best team in the land. While talking about basketball at Urbana, Tom and I thought, “What better way to choose the best Christian book of all time?”

Here’s how it’s going to work:

  • The ESN Tournament of Christian Books will feature 64 great Christian books (no play-in games for us, thank you).
  • We’ll bracket the books according to era (Classic, 20th Century, etc.) and possibly by genre, and seed them according a top-secret method.
  • The books will “compete” against each other through polls. Your votes will determine which book moves on to the next round.. We’ll run the polling on the blog and our Facebook page.
  • The tournament will kick off the week of March 17 and conclude by April 8, just like that other tournament.
  • As the tournament field shrinks, we’ll run features about the final competing books.

But we need your help to select the books that we’ll include in the tournament. Leave your nominations in the comments below. Feel free to nominate as many books as you want.

Which books are eligible? Any “Christian book” may be nominated, including but not limited to:

  • Works of theology
  • Devotionals and prayer books
  • Books of poetry
  • Commentaries on Scripture
  • Novels
  • Biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs
  • Christian nonfiction

For the sake of fairness, the Bible and books of the Bible will not be eligible to compete. Any questionable cases will be arbitrated by our selection committee (i.e. me and Tom).

If you need help thinking of nominations, check the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and Christianity Today‘s list of 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals

Leave your nominations in the comments or share them on FacebookMay the best book win!

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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47 Comments

  • ProfCcr@twitter.example.com'
    colin chan redemer (@ProfCcr) commented on February 26, 2013

    The rule of St Benedict.

  • semslie@mac.com'
    Sean Emslie commented on February 26, 2013

    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

  • Tom Grosh IV commented on February 26, 2013

    Shared by Matthew on ESN’s Facebook Wall:

    The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity by Perpetua (2nd century martyr/prophet)
    The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching by Irenaeus of Lyon
    On First Principles by Origen of Alexandria
    On Christian Teaching by Augustine of Hippo
    The Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

  • pastordrewbrown@twitter.example.com'
    Drew Brown (@pastordrewbrown) commented on February 26, 2013

    Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan)
    Mere Christianity (Lewis)
    Basic Christianity (Stott)
    Confessions (Augustine)
    Institutes (Calvin)
    The Practice of the Presence of God (Lawrence)
    Purpose Driven Life (Warren)
    Search for Significance (McGee)

  • adam@chicago2000.net'
    Adam Shields commented on February 26, 2013

    Calvin’s Institutes
    My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
    Cost of Discipleship
    Life Together
    In his steps by Charles Sheldon
    City of God by Augustine
    Foxe Book of Martyrs

    I don’t know I would vote for any of them, but if you are going to have a full bracket :)

  • danwuthrich1@gmail.com'
    Dan Wuthrich commented on February 26, 2013

    Pilgrim’s Progress – Bunyan
    Desiring God – Piper
    Knowing God – Packer
    Holiness – Ryle
    Calvin’s Institutes

  • schutt.mike@gmail.com'
    Mike Schutt commented on February 26, 2013

    Power and the Glory — Greene
    Screwtape Letters — Lewis
    Leisure, the Basis of Culture — Pieper
    Small Catechism — Luther
    On Christian Liberty — Luther
    Westminster Confession of Faith (maybe this type of work should be excluded?)
    Cry, the Beloved Country — Paton
    The Pursuit of God — Tozer
    Chronicles of Narnia — Lewis
    Lord of the Rings Trilogy — Tolkien

    • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
      Micheal Hickerson commented on February 27, 2013

      That’s a great question about confessions of faith. I lean toward not including them, because they tend to be shorter than traditional book-length, and one’s opinion of their quality depends heavily on whether you adhere to the confession.

      Any differing opinions out there?

  • ProfCcr@twitter.example.com'
    colin chan redemer (@ProfCcr) commented on February 26, 2013

    Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.

  • limet19@gmail.com'
    Tiffany commented on February 27, 2013

    Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
    Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
    Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    I Married You by Walter Trobisch
    Desiring God by John Piper
    Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
    The Martyr’s Song by Ted Dekker
    The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • rcm06f@my.fsu.edu'
    Rachel commented on February 27, 2013

    Just to add a few I haven’t seen here yet…

    The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
    The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
    Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
    Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts

  • swirlybird99@gmail.com'
    Christopher Wehrle commented on February 27, 2013

    The Cross of Christ by John Stott

  • julierey52@hotmail.com'
    Julie Reynolds commented on February 27, 2013

    Will you have fiction and non-fiction categories? It seems like it would be hard to decide between The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity. Both are fabulous books but are very different from each other.

    My nominations are:

    Surprised by Oxford, a Memoir by Caroline Weber.
    A Reason for God by Tim Keller

    • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
      mhick255 commented on February 27, 2013

      Another great question. We’ll probably have a separate bracket for fiction (or possibly a fiction + poetry bracket). I agree that it would be hard to decide between Mere Christianity and the Chronicles of Narnia, though it’s also tough to decide between something like (say) The Imitation of Christ, which is a devotional meant to be prayed and meditated through, and an apologetic book like Mere Christianity.

      We could have a follow-up tournament for best fiction – that would be a lot of fun!

  • mikegehrling commented on February 27, 2013

    The Confessions – St. Augustine
    The Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin
    The Imitation of Christ – Thomas a Kempis
    I Give You Authority – Charles Kraft
    Foolishness to the Greeks – Newbigin
    The Incarnation of the Word of God – Athanasius
    The Practice of the Presence of God – Brother Lawrence
    The Gospel in a Pluralist Society – Newbigin
    Collected Poetry (any edition) – Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Mere Christianity – CS Lewis

    (I’m going to stop myself at 10!)

  • nancyhuerter@comcast.net'
    Nancy Crowder Huerter commented on February 27, 2013

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

  • julierey52@hotmail.com'
    Julie Reynolds commented on February 27, 2013

    A “greatest Christian author” tournament could be an interesting follow up too.

  • dchen.05@gmail.com'
    theurbanresident commented on February 27, 2013

    A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes of This Country Contrasted With Real Christianity – William Wilberforce

    Should also win the award for longest title ever. =P

  • mhron@wlu.ca'
    M. Hron commented on February 27, 2013

    I’ll mention the obvious — the Bible.
    And the devlish — Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

  • mhron@wlu.ca'
    M. Hron commented on February 27, 2013

    Oops I obviously can’t read. The Bible is disqualified.
    Thus for my saintly choices I select Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God and Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises (my favourite “rewriting/devotion” of these being Carol Ann Smith’s Finding God in Each Moment).

    • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
      Micheal Hickerson commented on February 27, 2013

      No worries! It should be the first book on our minds.

  • john.augusth@gmail.com'
    John Hundley commented on February 28, 2013

    The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright
    New Testament and The People of God, Wright
    Proslogion, Anselm
    Meditation on Human Redemption, Anselm
    Collected Works, Nicolas of Cusa
    Forgotten God, Francis Chan
    When Helping Hurts, Corbett & Fikkert
    The Four Loves, Lewis
    Wild at Heart, Eldredge (Yeah.)

  • nate.bilyeu@gmail.com'
    Nathan Bilyeu commented on February 28, 2013

    Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

  • dmelleby@cpyu.org'
    Derek Melleby commented on February 28, 2013

    In no specific order…

    Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
    Confessions, Augustine
    The City of God, Augustine
    Waiting for God, Simone Weil
    Exclusion & Embrace, Miroslav Volf,
    The Call, Os Guinness
    The Challenge of Jesus, N.T. Wright
    Jacob & the Prodigal, Ken Baily (or anything by Ken Baily)
    Creed or Chaos? Dorothy Sayers
    The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann
    Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Anne Dillard
    What Are People For? Wendell Berry
    Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry
    When the Kings Come Marching In, Richard Mouw
    Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper
    The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
    What’s so Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey
    A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson
    The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen
    The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin
    Creation Regained, Al Wolters
    The Contemporary Christian, John Stott
    The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder

    • Tom Grosh IV commented on February 28, 2013

      Great list Derek! I’m ready to take your class or join your book discussion . . . offering one in the area?

  • annalee77@gmail.com'
    Anna Lee-Winans commented on February 28, 2013

    Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen
    Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster
    Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, James Torrance
    Beginning Well, Gordon Smith
    The Great Divorce, CS Lewis

  • hughe036@gmail.com'
    Joel commented on February 28, 2013

    Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee
    Body Life by Ray Stedman
    From God to Us by Geisler
    Walking in Victory by Dennis McCallum
    The Master Plan of Discipleship by Robert Coleman

  • craig.gartland@intervarsity.org'
    Craig Gartland commented on February 28, 2013

    Some already mentioned, others not:
    Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
    Screwtape Letters – ” ”
    The Great Divorce – ” ”
    The Cost of Discipleship, D. Bonhoeffer
    Life Together – ” ”
    The Mustard Seed Conspiracy – Tom Sine
    Celebration of Discipline – R. Foster
    The Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyan
    Calvin’s Institutes
    The Christian Mind – Blamires
    Contemplation in a World of Action – Thomas Merton
    Faith hope love – Pieper
    The Life of Teresa of Jesus – St. Teresa of Avila
    The Imitation of Christ – Thomas a Kempis
    Christ and Culture – Richard Niebuhr
    The Universe Next Door – James Sire
    A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Madeleine L’Engle

  • kathycpope@yahoo.com'
    Kathy Randy Pope commented on February 28, 2013

    Since almost no one chose just one (how could one?!), my list — in no particular order:

    Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
    The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis
    The Weight of Glory (essay), C. S. Lewis
    The World’s Last Night (essay), C. S. Lewis
    Basic Christianity, John Stott
    The Cross of Christ, John Stott
    Knowing God, J. I. Packer
    The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer
    The Mission of God, Christopher Wright
    The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright
    The New Testament and the People of God, N. T. Wright
    On the Incarnation, Athanasius
    Down-to-Earth Spirituality, Paul Stevens
    A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson
    The Problem of Wineskins, Howard Snyder

    How about a list of best books by Christians that aren’t necessary “Christian books”?!

  • commerce@beardens.net'
    Mark Bearden commented on February 28, 2013

    A Horse and His Boy, C. S. Lewis
    The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers

  • hannaheag@comcast.net'
    Hannah commented on February 28, 2013

    I’m all for a lot of the other suggestions here, too, but I have to put in more plugs for poetry. How about these (I know some have appeared already):

    Dante’s Divine Comedy
    Gerard Manley Hopkins’ collected works (happy to see this one already listed)
    The works of Christina Rossetti
    The Temple, by George Herbert
    John Donne’s religious poetry
    Edward Taylor’s Preparatory Meditations
    T. S. Eliot, collected works
    W. H. Auden, collected works

  • hannaheag@comcast.net'
    Hannah commented on February 28, 2013

    Also, thrilled to see so much Sayers.

    In the spirit of mischief, I’m also going to vote for her mystery novel Gaudy Night.

    While few of the characters are Christians, I think it’s one of the most thoughtful reflections I’ve read on the idea of vocation, and the way Sayers writes about it is deeply undergirded by her Christianity.

  • francis.su@gmail.com'
    Francis Su commented on March 1, 2013

    Fun topic!

    I like a lot of what’s been mentioned. Here are some that haven’t yet been mentioned:

    Culture Making, by Andy Crouch
    The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller
    A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken
    The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis
    Pensees, by Blaise Pascal

    And I’d argue this is a very Christian book:

    Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

  • snoke@pitt.edu'
    D.W. Snoke commented on March 1, 2013

    Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
    Confessions, Augustine
    Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan
    Knowing God, J.I. Packer
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin, H.B. Stowe (have you actually read it?)
    The Hiding Place, ten Boom
    Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis

    I have to mention these short books which have been incredibly impactful on many people’s lives:
    The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul
    Encouragement, Larry Crabb

    I agree that Les Miserables is packed with Christian dilemmas and symbolism

    • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
      Micheal Hickerson commented on March 6, 2013

      I have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and I agree it deserves to be nominated.

  • patricia.r.taylor@gmail.com'
    Sapience commented on March 5, 2013

    I’ll nominate:
    George Herbert, The Temple
    John Milton, Paradise Lost (I’m shocked no one has nominated this yet!)
    Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
    A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy
    Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

    • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
      Micheal Hickerson commented on March 6, 2013

      Unfortunately, I’m not surprised no one nominated Paradise Lost (until you, of course) – the difficulty of the language and of Milton’s thought doesn’t make it a very popular devotional read. However, it’s going to take a strong campaign by several other books to knock Paradise Lost out of the final bracket.

  • jim.harrington@gmail.com'
    Jim Harrington commented on March 6, 2013

    Besides several already mentioned, these books have been influential in my walk:

    What’s so Amazing about Grace?, Philip Yancey
    The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning
    Grace Matters, Chris Rice

  • john.augusth@gmail.com'
    John Hundley commented on March 7, 2013

    got a couple more on my blog:
    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Great Divorce by C.S.Lewis

  • ckemere@gmail.com'
    Caleb Kemere commented on March 7, 2013

    Brother Andrew – God’s Smuggler (great book for sharing)

  • grundenad@gmail.com'
    Angelica Grunden commented on March 9, 2013

    Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
    Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
    As Silver Refined by Kay Arthur
    The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
    The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life by Charles Stanley
    Knowing God by J.I.Packer
    Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray

Comments are closed