Jonah Sage is Connect Director at Sojourn Community Church, and guest blogger this week at DanielSojourn.com:
The fool says in his heart, ‘I should only read Christian books.’ Here are a few reasons why I say this (in no particular order):
- The whole notion that a book can be “Christian” is silly because books don’t have souls.
- The belief that only books explicitly referencing Jesus can teach you about Jesus would make Jesus cry.
- Most of the world doesn’t read books about Jesus.
- Beauty pushes us to experience God and there are thousands of beautiful books out there.
- Reading from different perspectives gives us clarity on our own.
This doesn’t mean we should do something just because most people do it, this doesn’t mean you’re a “bad Christian” if you only have Max Lucado on your shelves, and this doesn’t mean you’re a fool if you don’t like reading. It just means that you might be surprised how much your love for Jesus can grow if you branch out a little. With that in mind, I humbly submit five of my favorites:
1. Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees
Martin Rees is Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University and holds the hilarious title of “Astronomer Royal.” That just means he’s smarter than pretty much everybody. This book discusses six numbers that hold the universe together (like the force of gravity). It helps to know a little physics but it is by no means necessary. He writes for simpletons like you and me and the results are breathtaking. I read most of this with my jaw on the ground. Naturally, there are a few thoughts here and there I disagree with, but the book, big-picture, is stunning. If you want to feel small, if you want to get a tiny glimpse of the power of God and the wonder of creation, this is a great place to start.
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
I cringe every time I read or say this book’s title, but that doesn’t take away from the gems it holds within. Don’t look at this title and think this must be a book on how to get popular. Instead, think of it as a book about communication. Many people my age (late 20s) had lackluster examples of what manhood and womanhood looked like. Simple lessons like looking people in the eyes or having a firm handshake were missed. Topics include becoming a better conversationalist, making good first impressions, and how to get along with people. The Apostle Paul encourages believers to be at peace with all men whenever possible (Romans 12:18). Learning how to interact and communicate well with people is a great step in that direction.
3. Food for thought: Resurrecting the art of eating by Robert Capon
This is kind of cheating since Capon is an Episcopal Priest. This book isn’t about Jesus though, so it’s all good. This book is about cooking, eating, and enjoying life. It discusses everything from how to equip your kitchen to picking a favorite style of cuisine. You’ll find recipes, knife suggestions, and lots of subtle jokes. This book will make you see Genesis 2:9 (And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food) in a new light.
4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
It was really difficult deciding which novels to put on here. I chose this one because it’s one of the more popular in history, it comes in plenty of inexpensive formats, and because the story revolves around two of my longest standing struggles—feelings of betrayal and entitlement. The Christian reads this and is left in awe of the love of God that takes rebels and makes them family. Dumas consistently confronts my half-hearted understanding of forgiveness and my sinful desires for worldly vindication. It’s a LONG read, but absolutely worth it. Download it for free and start whittling away.
5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
This is my favorite of Steinbeck’s work, and I’m in the minority for thinking so. It raises countless questions regarding morality, right and wrong, family life, love and hate, and starting over. The real agony of this book, though, is that many of the questions are obvious yet the reader is left hunting for the answers. The story itself is beautiful, but there is so much going on underneath. Read this first for the sheer joy of the story, then go through it again letting the story “read you.”
So that’s my list. Two novels, a self-help book, a science book, and a culinary book. What did I miss?