Best Christian Book of All Time: Final Elite Eight Selections

Tournament Bracket

The Elite Eight has been set! Who will make it to the Final Four? Click for a larger image or download the PDF.

Our remaining Elite Eight competitors for the title Best Christian Book of All Time have been chosen! Our first number one seed has been knocked out of the tournament in a controversial result, pending an appeal to our judges. (OK — it actually wasn’t controversial at all. Just…disappointing…to the members of our selection committee.)

And now, the results.

Fiction & Poetry

The analysts’ choice for the number one overall seed, Dante’s Divine Comedy (1) was defeated 38-25 by C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (4). This result bothers me a great deal, and my attempts to rally voters to Dante seem to have only sealed his defeat. On Facebook, I was asked to explain why I consider The Divine Comedy to be so much better than The Chronicles of Narnia. Unfortunately, I don’t have time this morning, but I’ll try to write a post later this week about that.

On the other side of this bracket, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (2) overcame Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (43-24). Rumor has it that Russell Crowe’s singing voice was the deciding factor for most of our voters, even after it was pointed out that the original novel is not a musical.

The regional final for Fiction & Poetry will feature two old friends with very different philosophies of fiction:

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (2) vs. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (4)

Memoirs, Devotionals, & Spirituality

Here’s one where I’d like to cast a vote for both . . . (Tom Grosh)

Tom couldn’t cast a vote for both, though, so Confessions by Augustine (1) defeated The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (4) 44-14. (Tom’s extra vote wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.)

Meanwhile, the Cinderella run of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love (11) came to an end, as The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis (2) won 36-18.

The regional final in Memoirs, Devotionals, & Spiritualty:

  • Confessions by Augustine (1) vs. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis (2)

Vote for your choices on Facebook. We’ll leave the voting open all weekend and announce the Final Four on Monday.

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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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  • Tom Grosh IV commented on March 28, 2013 Reply

    Mike, I’m looking forward to reading you post regarding why you consider “The Divine Comedy” to be so much better than “The Chronicles of Narnia” 🙂

    In the current match-ups, I’m fascinated to see how “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien (2) does versus “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis (4). As I shared on ESN’s FB Wall, I have difficulty treating “The Chronicles of Narnia” as a unit, i.e., one story. When comparing in this manner I favor LOTR, but if just given “The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe” vs. LOTR . . . Material for further thought and conversation 🙂

    Elissa commented on March 28, 2013 Reply

    Totally agree with you about the Divine Comedy vs. Chronicles match up! Lewis himself would be horrified and no doubt have opportunity to plagiarize his own line from LWW: “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!” Really a result of most people not having read it, I’m sure.

    Blake commented on March 28, 2013 Reply

    My strategy to “compel” the reformed heroes out of the tournament in response to the Anabaptist snubbing has failed miserably. However, it seems like Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship will run the table and that’s an agreeable consolation.

  • Tom Grosh IV commented on March 28, 2013 Reply

    Blake, Out of curiosity,

    1. who in the elite elite eight do you consider a “reformed hero”? Augustine is the only one which pops out at me and he’s not fully reformed 😉

    2. what “Anabaptist” titles would you offer as possible candidates for the elite eight? Some possibilities which immediately come to my mind are “The Politics of Jesus,” “The Martyrs Mirror,” “Menno Simons: The Complete Works,” “The Upside-Down Kingdom.”

    In Christ, Tom

      Blake commented on March 28, 2013 Reply

      Augustine has two spots in the elite eight. I count Augustine because popular neo-Reformed preachers like to reference him a lot. There were a lot of Reformed heroes in the initial 64: Packer, Augustine (3x), Schaeffer, Calvin, Edwards, Newbigin, Piper, Bunyan, Chambers, and Colson. That’s just under 1/5th of the pool.

      I’m disappointed but not surprised that Yoder, Hauerwas, Boyd, Murray and McKnight were not considered popular enough to include. I was surprised that neither Claiborne’s Jesus for President nor Irresistible Revolution were considered popular enough to make the cut of 64.

        Micheal Hickerson commented on March 29, 2013 Reply

        Thanks, Blake. I’m not sure if it’s fair to group Augustine in with the Reformed crowd, and I wouldn’t consider Bunyan or Chambers (who was a member of the Wesleyan Holiness Movement) Reformed, either. I know at least one Reformed reader who thought Calvin and Edwards got a raw deal by being matched in the opening round.

        As for the authors you mentioned, I tried to stay away from books written in the last 10 years. Yoder & Hauerwas were probably oversights on my part, but we did have only 64 slots.

        My greater concern was the lack of Eastern authors. I wanted to include more Eastern Fathers and Eastern devotionals like the Philokalia, but I wasn’t sure how many of their books our readers would be familiar with. (Frankly, I’m not familiar enough with them myself.)

        Blake commented on March 29, 2013 Reply

        Michael, Chambers and Bunyan were both Particular Baptists.

  • Tom Grosh IV commented on March 28, 2013 Reply

    Blake, Thank-you for sharing more of your thoughts. I haven’t spent time to analyze it, but my first impression of the list (beyond a number of Roman Catholic classics) was a strong Anglo-Catholic influence. Although the categories do not entirely overlap, the British receive a surprisingly strong representation in general [Brontë, Bunyan, Chambers, Chesterton, Donne, T.S. Eliot, Graham Greene, Herbert, Hopkins, Juilan of Norwich, Lewis (2x) Milton, Newbigin, Packer, Sayers, Stott (2x), Tolkien, Wright].

    Augustine winning two spots in the elite eight is a surprise to me. But I am happy to see an African hero of the faith doing so well. I wish that we had more writings from Africans (not sure how to categorize Athanasius of Alexandria), dipping into the Global South.

    For a sense of how these nominations were gathered and chosen visit and

    As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m hoping for a wider pool of submissions for ESN to draw from in 2014. In the mean time, plenty of opportunity for conversation regarding various titles, authors, brackets, traditions 🙂

    PS. As a member of Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church,, I am sympathetic to your concerns. A little more . .. in a few minutes I’ll be leaving for our Annual Maundy Thursday Celebration of the Last Supper with footwashing. Our local assembly has hosted both Kraybill and McKnight, among other Christian scholars, In addition to the titles I’ve previously mentioned, the “Jesus Creed” is a particular title which comes to mind to nominate for next year. Maybe it would be helpful to create brackets of book most representative of various traditions. If such would be the case, I’d swing the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizbethtown College,, for their recommendations. Any change that you be attending their conference this summer, “Amish in America: Plain Technology in a Cyber World (June 6-8, 2013), ?

    theurbanresident commented on March 29, 2013 Reply

    It seems to me that this bracket might be more aptly titled, “Best Christian books that we can remember and admit to reading”! A great run of course that’s compelled me to read more of these, if only to see what the controversy is all about. =P

    • Tom Grosh IV commented on March 30, 2013 Reply

      Well said. Furthermore, I find great encouragement in reading you’ve been “compelled . . . to read more of these, if only to see what the controversy is all about. =P”

      I must confess that’s a significant part of why I find the project worth the investment. I look forward to more discussion in 2013 and an even a better set of books in 2014. Maybe we’ll even have an improved name for 2.0 😉

      Yes, I find great enjoyment in the refining process offered by experiments/conversations such as this one. May that which is intended to be a blessing from God be retained and that which is not to be forgotten. To God be the glory!

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