Today, I’m sharing the 10 books that changed my faith. These aren’t necessarily my favourites, or the classics, or the best written, or even my most beloved books about living life in Christ’s ways.

But I wanted to share these ten books because they actually changed how I experience and understand God, and then, how I live my life in response.

These books messed with me, man.

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning. If I could tell anyone to read one book about the Christian faith, this would be it. Hands down. Brennan Manning changed everything for me with this book, I have walked out my life as deeply loved ever since reading it. The truth that he revealed to me in these pages helped set me free from crippling people pleasing and approval addiction, and I fell head over heels in Love. I’d hand it out on street corners.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, … anabaptist/anglican, metho (emergentYS) by Brian McLaren – Brian McLaren has, obviously, been influential in my life through his work and writings. But this is probably my favourite book of us (runner up: Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel, written with Tony Campolo). I am a rag-tag Christian myself, I borrow heavily from other traditions than my own, I learn and appreciate and welcome many expressions of faith, and Brian McLaren writes about the big gorgeous wide-open tent of Christian spirituality, and how we can cross these boundaries and false demarcations boldly, with grace. I’ve been committed to keeping my orthodoxy “generous” ever since.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller – The book that is likely on the short list for 90% of evangelicals my age, Donald Miller made me feel a little less crazy. I was already drawn towards the early emerging-church conversations in the United States (where I lived at the time), and this book was just so different. Donald Miller was one of the first to “go there” and I will always appreciate how he articulated much of my own youthful experience and questions.

Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James. I had read (and cried my way through) Half the Sky earlier in the year. But when I came across James’ book, I had a big old EXHALE. Even-handed, scholarly, well-written, and compelling, this is the book for the Church I’ve been wanting to read for a while. It is empowering without being divisive.

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne – This book ruined my life. And I mean that in the nicest way. Shane has been telling stories and living as an “ordinary radical” for years now, and this book is his invitation to a cluttered and divided church to truly begin to live in The Way of Jesus. This book helped me put legs and feet and arms and a voice to the stirrings towards social justice, intentional community, contemplative practices, and activism in my own life. Shane helped me to move past nationalism towards a Jesus-shaped spirituality that puts people before countries, that gives me first and only allegiance to the Kingdom of God, never The Empire. I was already against the Iraq war by this time, and beginning to investigate the Christian paths for peace, when this book came along, and helped to start me on the path towards the “uneasy pacifism” that I now affirm in my own life. But be warned – it might wreck your life, too.

The Shack by William P. Young – There may be controversy (what? God is represented as an African-American woman? Pass the smelling salts!) but this book changed me, changed how I viewed the Trinity, and began a devout curiosity in me to find out what I thought about God and why.

He Loves Me! Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection by Wayne Jacobsen – During my years of self-imposed exile from the Church, particularly the institutions of church, I leaned heavily on Lifestream Ministries, in particular The God Journey podcasts. I still listen occasionally, but that was how I was introduced to this deceptively slim volume. Jacobsen packs a tremendous amount of theology and age-old questions in there, I particularly benefitted from the discussions about what really happened on the Cross, as it presents an alternative to the oft-memorized penal substituionary (Google doesn’t think that is a word apparently…) atonement theories.

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard. This was one of the first books on Christian spirituality and theology which I remember truly devouring. I have always been more of a literature and poetry kind of girl, and I abhorred self-help-y books (still do, in fact). But Divine Conspiracy is brilliant, insightful, wise, and above all, changed how I viewed discipleship in the Christian faith. His passionate defence of Jesus as the ultimate example and true teacher of our life, as well as his discussions on the “smart” Jesus, and introduction of God’s kingdom theology, stay with me still. It’s my favourite book on what it means to live life in the way of Christ.

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” (Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality) by Kathleen Norris. This tiny booklet of a book gave me back my joy. That sounds a bit extreme, but it’s true. I was in a season of sadness, perhaps depression, particularly worn down by the physical and spiritual demands of my small family and the near-constant “needs” of everyone around me. I felt stifled, like my work didn’t matter, I was futile, and this made me angry in a simmering sort of way, all the time. I found my joy again through her words, because she helped to sanctify and bless and make holy these daily rhythms of a life and a family. I’ve never looked at my laundry pile the same way since. I underlined almost the entire book. And I cried with relief, prayed a lot, and began to change.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Wheaton Literary Series) by Madeline L’Engle. I often refer to L’Engle as my “patron saint” because I simply love to sit at her feet, and learn. I love everything she writes (watch for her in my upcoming post about my favourite memoirs. But this book changed how I saw myself as an artist, and a creative soul. L’Engle’s words seemed to free some part of me, a connection was made between my faith and my art, I didn’t need to be a “Christian writer” (which, as we all know, I’m a bit out of that box by now), I could, instead, be a woman of faith AND a writer. It sounds rather bald when I write it down, but the book was a catalyst, a game-changer for me, as a writer. It felt like a big old permission slip from the hereafter.

I can’t write about books that changed my faith without including something from the emerging Church discussions. There were many books during that season of my life that resonated with me, but one that I often refer back to for those new to the concept is Phyllis Tickle’s Great Emergence, The: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. This book is about the future of the Church as we undergo a massive rummage sale of our beliefs and practices. It gathers together much of the work and writing and interest in the movement.

Runner Up: An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I read this book recently but it’s influenced how I see the world, almost every day, little altars everywhere. And, watch for a few others that impacted my faith but found their way into other categories of the week, such as daily life or fiction or memoirs. (After all, I find Jesus everywhere.)

Your turn, friends:What books have changed your faith?

Sunday: 10 books that changed my faith

Monday: 10 books that influence my parenting

Tuesday: 10 books by Canadians I wish the world would read

Wednesday: 10 books for tinies and 10 books for older tinies

Thursday: 10 books I read over and over (and over)

Friday: 10 spiritual memoirs

Saturday: My daily books + 10 books of poetry


(Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links are used. I might earn 23 cents this way.)

In which I announce 10 Book Week
In which I share the 10 books that influence my parenting
thank you for sharing...
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  • Yes, yes, I felt the same about “The Shack” … being surrounded by the theological conversation all the time, it was easy at times to downplay it, but, I will own proudly, for all its controversy (and not even about the portrayal part, but some of the basic trinitarian theology) it did leave me changed, in tears, in a lot of quiet reflection on the whys of my belief.

    And here, dear friend, is my list:

    • I actually read it before it was a big bestseller. A friend of mine from Australia recommended it. When I ordered it, a couple in Edmonton shipped it from their garage, out of the kindness of their hearts. It was probably 2007? I was AMAZED when it got so big in the following two years. And sad, too, in some ways. 

  • Love this so much! Some old favourites and some I must read ASAP.
    My own journey back to faith can be mapped out in books. From Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines + Bittersweet to Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town, to Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, to Jeff Manion’s The Land Between, Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight and anything Brennan Manning or Tim Keller.
    Thank you for sharing these titles with us Sarah, looking forward to checking out the other categories. And you’d better believe I’ll be sharing top 10 Australians I wish the world would read 😉

    •  I have no way of explaining what I believe or who I am without books.

    • Rachel’s book is so, so good. Jesus Creed, man. So many good ones. I can’t wait to read your Top Aussie list! 

  • My list includes:

    -Blue Like Jazz
    -A New Kind of Christian
    -The Ragamuffin Gospel
    -The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
    -Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
    -Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans
    -Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
    -The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
    -The Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann
    -Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

    • ANKC was HUGE for me, too, Travis. Anne Lamott will show up in my list for memoris but yes, so influential. And my husband already likes you more for the NT Wright reference. 😉

    •  Ooo! The Return of the Prodigal by Nouwen is for sure on my list!

  • those mclaren two were huge for me as well, and i’m pretty sure i need to read the quotidian mysteries right this minute, because, YES.

    i read a lot of liberation theology in college and then a bunch of jim wallis, all of which left a tremendous impact on me as i sorted out the intersections of my own faith and politics. i discovered feminism through theology and history and couldn’t help but find roots there.

    i often come back to rob bell’s sex god and it’s gorgeous, big picture.

    • lindsholifield

      I’d love to hear some of your liberation theology & feminist theology book recommendations!

      • Have you read “With Oil in Their Lamps”? It’s part of the Madeleva lectures, which I believe also included “The Quotidien Mysteries”.  Also, Mollenkott’s “Men, Women, & the Bible” was very eye-opening to me.

        • No, haven’t read any of those  – but I will soon!

      • Me, too!

      • oscar romero is a solid entry point (and there is a movie about him, too). boff and gutierrez are original latin voices. cornel west and james cone write black liberation theology. the book She Who Is and anything by rosemary radford ruether are great feminist sources. The Executed God (death row theology) messed me up. i wrote this post on womanist theology, and it has a good bibliography:

        • A fabulous and somewhat current take on liberation theology is Sigmund’s “Liberation Theology at the Crossroads.” You’ll find Rich Stearns’ “The Hole in Our Gospel” touches on the theological underpinnings without getting political–comparing the two is fascinating. Gutierrez is AMAZING. Will LOVE following up on your feminist sources! Thanks!!

        • Lisa_DiggingForMyrrh

          A fabulous and somewhat current take on liberation theology is Sigmund’s “Liberation Theology at the Crossroads.” You’ll find Rich Stearns’ “The Hole in Our Gospel” touches on the theological underpinnings without getting political–comparing the two is fascinating. Gutierrez is AMAZING. Will LOVE following up on your feminist sources! Thanks!!

    •  I love Sex God.  We tried to do a small group on that book at a church we used to go to, thinking we’d do it for the college age kids, who needed a group…and they all said they’d come.  And then they didn’t.   Which was a bummer.  But when they would announce it at church, they wouldn’t even say the title.  *cue enormous eye-roll*.  It was just ‘that book’.  And everyone knew what they were talking about.  So annoyed.  But love that book.  Especially since I got pregnant before we got married and was really disgraced and punished….his view of it and the why behind it was so freeing.  I had a shit-fit when my pastor used Real Marriage for a sermon series on sex a couple of months ago, so he borrowed Sex God from me to read, LOL. 

      •  Good for you, for steering your pastor in other directions and opening his mind!

      • Amber

        Sex God is one my favorite books. I’m pretty sure some of the passages made me cry. I think I’ll pick it up again…

      • Sex God nearly made this list, Caris. I loved it, too. And good for you!

    • God’s Politics very nearly made this list, Suz. You know. I would LOVE to read a list of your favourites there. Would you post them for me on your blog? I’ll devour them, I know. And that Sex God? ALSO nearly made my list. I loved it so much.

  • There were so many moments where I was like “I need to read that!” If only I had money for books…and another bookshelf.

    •  check out the inter-library loan service…my state has it where I can get books from any library in the state, including college libraries.  It’s amazing.

      • Tiffany Norris

        As a librarian, I just have to put in another recommendation for interlibrary loan! It’s a great service!

    • Another vote for the library! My best friend….

  • One for me is Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner. It’s a memoir – but goes in this category for sure! I picked it up while wandering through the library one summer in college and read it quickly. Passages about feeling the need to clarify exactly what type of evangelical she was, or how she knew Jesus should be, was, enough (but she really hoped He didn’t have to be) gave me freedom to explore some of my early questions about the conservative/evangelical/Bible Belt faith tradition in which I was raised. It didn’t hurt at all that she wrote beautifully and intelligently

    • I loved Girl Meets God! (Watch for it on the memoirs list…)

  • kim

    Sarah, so happy for this opportunity to see everyone’s favorites. My amazon wish list just grew larger.

    Here’s my list:

  • After your invitation, I headed right to the little journal where I’ve kept track of every book {good and bad} that I’ve read the last 20 years … and here’s what unfolded!

    • Lindsay

      Linda, I love that you’ve made a list of all the books you’ve read over the past 20 years! I just started making a list last year to keep track and have found it so helpful. 🙂

      • It’s amazing how what we read changes over time … guess it just reflects how what’s important to us has shifted, too …


        Thanks, Lindsay!

        • I agree – talk about tracing your life and interests for you!

      • Linda, I agree completely with Lindsay – I love that you’ve kept that list since 1992! My mother has a similar list (starting perhaps a few years before), in a basic notebook. I’ve kept a list on and off since about 2001 – mostly on…though most of the books on it are juvenile and teen fiction, as I was a teen at the time. But my list still keeps growing, in different places…but growing.

    • I agree –  love this.

  • Rebecca

    I too abhor “self-help” books and thus can’t read many of the more popular Christian books (i.e. Joel Osteen and Rick Warren). I did, however, love “Wild at Heart” and “Captivating” by John (and Staci) Eldredge. “Mere Christianity” was also a big one and Frank Peretti’s books “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” completely shaped the way I view the world-both physical and spiritual. I recently bought a book called “Seal of God” which is about a Navy Seal and his journey to faith, which appeals to me since my husband is in the military (which means I probably won’t be reading “The Irresistable Revolution” if it influenced you towards pacifism; I could not undermine my husband’s chosen path as a military warrior in that way, although it sounds interesting otherwise). Odd as it sounds, many Science Fiction books have also helped me clarify how I approach my Christian journey, since many authors explore avenues of advancement that make me all the more glad I know the true Creator of the universe. They also explore issues of tolerance/genetic similarity which in turn makes me think about how Christ-followers in different cultures and languages are still brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the differences between them.

    Thanks for the list! I’m always interested in experiencing new authors.

    • Elizabeth

      May I gently encourage you not to write off The Irresistable Revolution?  If you discover it is a bunch of hogwash then you can dismiss it and carry on fully supporting the military and your husband.  If you discover that it contains some truth then the Holy Spirit can help you sift through how that truth can be applied to your life and your view of husband’s work.  
      Truth sets us free.  Don’t be too afraid of exposing yourself to an idea that might (or might not!) be true.  I don’t think our loving God would ever ask you to undermine your husband so you probably don’t have to worry about that.
      Anyway – I do understand your concern but wanted to caution you about putting certain books on a ‘black list’.
      And guess what?  I haven’t even read The Irresistable Revolution so I don’t have a vested interest here.
      Grace and peace to you and happy reading.

    • you must be a L’Engle fan then – the science fiction aspects (or fantasy?) of her books are so interesting, how they parallel with the Creator etc. 

  • Val

    No particular order – both fiction & non-fiction:
    – The Great Awakening Series (Books 1 – 4) Proof, Fire, Storm, Fury: by Bill Bright & Jack Cavanaugh
    – So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobsen & Dave Coleman
    – Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh (non-christian and language, but amazing)
    – And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers
    – When the Last Leaf Falls by Bill Myers
    – Bad Girls of the Bible Series by Liz Curtis Higgs
    – Crazy Love by Francis Chan
    – The Search Commitee by Tim Owens

    • So You Don’t Want to Go to Church was on my short list, too.

  • Here is my list:

    I am a big fan of your blog- read it all the time. I am excited about this week of posts…

  • I love me some Dallas Willard. He was on TV recently and I just stared at him. He was all that I wanted him to be. I could try and find the podcast for you if you want. 

  • Tiffany Norris

    Will definitely be adding these to the to-be-read list! And snooping around bookshelves is the most fun. Here is a peek at mine.

  • Off the top of my head:

    Divine Conspiracy – Willard
    Anything by Tim Keller (most recently, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness)
    Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
    Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
    Real Love for Real Life by Andi Ashworth
    New Way to be Human by Charlie Peacock
    Spirit of the Rainforest by Mark Andrew Ritchie (talk about a new view on spiritual warfare!)
    My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
    The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
    Conversation Peace by Betty Hassler
    Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanon
    Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller

    and many, many more….

    •  Real Love for Real Life is AMAZING!!!!   I love that book so much. 

    • Those are all so, so good. We have similar taste in many of them. That Buchanan one is SO GOOD.

  • I love that you thought the same way about BLJ: a little less crazy. That’s it exactly. Also, not alone. To the list I would add Jesus for Presiden (Claiborne), The Jesus I Never Knew/Surprised by Grace combo (did these as group studies, so didn’t actually read books in entirety) and Surprised by Joy. The Quotidian Mysteries is on the top of my To Be Read list.

    • haha “What’s so Amazing about Grace” not Surprised by Grace… late night mix-up. 🙂

    • Jesus for President was so good.

  • I love book lists, so many good ones here and some I definitely need to read. Here is my list looking forward to see the rest of your lists!

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  • Elizabeth

    This is a great idea – I’m looking forward to the whole week.
    Some of these have been on my “to read” list for a while…you’ve helped me develop my summer reading list!

    My favourite:  Frederick Buechner – especially his nonfiction (he has such a way with words).  He has 3 short memoirs – I highly recommend them.
    I also love Searching for the Invisible God (Yancey) and Anne Lamott’s nonfiction.  And of course Lewis (I find myself thanking God for Lewis’ intellect and devotion).  Robert Farrar Capon writes of Jesus and theology in a way that is startlingly fresh and even funny.  

    • Yes, Buechner. He is fantastic. Can’t decide if I love A Room Called Remember or Telling Secrets more. He’s also got two little books, The Hungering Dark and The Magnificent Defeat, and the way he retells the story of God in them was transformational to me.

      • Elizabeth

        I love seeing another Buechner fan!  I can read and re-read and re-read Buechner and there aren’t that many authors that I can say that about.

        I’ve read a whole bunch of Buechner but I haven’t read A Room Called Remember so I will have to add that to my list.  Thank you!

      • On it…

    • That’s it…Buechner is going to the top of the list!

  • lindsholifield

    I remember reading He Loves Me! at a Starbucks during my senior year in high school and how good it was for me. (I read it right after The Shack.) I’m part of the way through Walking on Water right now. 

    Most of my top ones are one your list. Ones that formed my faith early on:
    – Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell — When I was first coming out of a more fundamentalist viewpoint and starting to question things, this was really helpful in starting to find my way. 
    – Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne– good, but really challenging. It’s about patriotism & faith.
    – Redeeming Love (I know, I know) – I don’t know how much I would recommend it now, but with where I was on my journey a few years ago, this helped me, someone who struggled with accepting God’s love, to get a picture of God never giving up on me.
    Captivating — even though I would NEVER recommend this now as a feminist, it was a step forward for me at the time. I guess it’s kind of like easing your way into cold water instead of jumping right in and dying of shock. The whole concept of God loving me that much was new, and I would read and reread passages that would make me cry because I couldn’t believe that could be true for me.

    I’m looking on my bookshelf and ones that I’ve read recently that werel good faith reads:
    – Breaking up with God by Sarah Sentilles 
    – Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John by John Vanier — SO GOOD. 
    – The Wounded Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin by Andrew Sung Park

    • Lindsay (re: Captivating): I remember feeling that way about The Sacred Romance when it first came out. Right book, right time.

    • Elizabby

      I loved “Redeeming Love”, and I don’t usually like this kind of book. I still cry every time I read it – it reminds me so strongly of my own journey to discover the love of God.

    • I loved Redeeming Love and also the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. Both impacted my faith in powerful ways. It’d be interesting to go back and read them again, since I know I’ve changed my perspectives on at least a few things, but I’m sure they’re both still worth a spot on my list. 

      • I’ve gotten rid of almost all my Christian fiction from years past but those are the ones I still hang onto. I can’t get rid of them.

    • Jesus for President was so good. I think that’s part of identify the books that moved us a bit further along, on our journey. It doesn’t mean we “love’ them now but we can’t deny the power they’ve had in our lives. Breaking Up With God has caught my eye recently, too.

  • This is the correct thread I meant to post in —

    Jumping in on this too, a marvelous idea, was just thinking about summertime reading…

  • Kelley Johnson

    Oh, books!  My top ones would be The Divine Conspiracy (as already mentioned), Circle of Quiet by Saint Madeline demonstrated how one can live as person of faith and artist and mother and avid journal writer, The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson unpacked a true pastoral approach to life that resonated with me, The Story We Find Ourselves In by Brian McLaren gave me a full story to live into and reframed my understanding of the large sweep of the text, Jesus by Marcus Borg challenged the way I understood atonement in ways that opened up fresh engagement for me and Leonardo Boff’s Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor taught me a new / deeper / sacramental way to approach creation.

    Deep breath…
    Also:  Telling the Truth by Fredrich Buechner (as a communicator, this was key), Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr, God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard and Walter Brueggemann’s work (but foremost in terms of faith changed would be Living Toward a Vision: Reflections on Shalom and The Prophetic Imagination.)

    Love you, Sarah.  And we have significant overlap.  Altar in the World is one of my top books, not in terms of faith change but for me in terms of raw beauty and invitation into spiritual practices that resonate with me.  Also Generous Orthodoxy is a favorite for describing the kind of rule I want to live by.  

    •  I loved Telling the Truth.

    • Watch for Circle of Quiet coming later this week. And Oh, man, that pastor one by Peterson. so good. marcus Borg, and of course, your WB love. I’m reading Everything Belongs right now! I want you to be my neighbour. xo

    • Lindsay

      I absolutely loved Eugene Peterson’s Pastor…it was a close one for my top 10. 

  • Yes, recently Kathleen Norris has been an important voice of truth in my life. I had started rewriting evangelical terms and cliches before I knew anything about her, and finding Amazing Grace was like finding a kindred spirit. She continues to be a voice of reason and grace for me. Reading Acedia & Me now.

    • I’ve devoured her entire library. Acedia and Me was so good. Her Cloister Walk also incredible.

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  • Oh how I love this idea and these books! I adored Half the Church. It spoke to me in ways that other writers just couldn’t. Of course, Walking on Water is simply balm. I can’t wait to read the other lists of books…

    And here is my list( I even have a Canadian on the list):

  • Elizabby

    Hey, what happened to the Henri Nouwen book? It’s in the picture but you didn’t mention it even as a runner up…?

    Running off to buy the Quotidian Mysteries book – sounds like something I could use right now. I look forward to your parenting books! That’s where I am at the moment, but I love me some Anne of Green Gables! It was sent to me by my aunt who lives in Canada and I read it to pieces and still have it!

    • Oops! I had a paragraph there on him in the honourable mentions. i don’t know what happened to it…

  • “An Altar in the World” and “The Divine Conspiracy” are biggies for me (and of course Blue Like Jazz too). Many of those you listed have impacted me as well. I love “Abba’s Child” as well and “Amazing Grace” by Kathleen Norris moves me deeply towards God.

    • Amazing Grace and Abba’s child were SO GOOD.

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  • Lindsay

    I’m so excited about this! I love talking books and getting new recommendations, can’t wait to check out some of the blog links here in the comments. Here’s my list:

  • That stack of books looks surprisingly similar to the list of favorites on my own bookshelf. I wholeheartedly agree with The Irresistible Revolution–it totally wrecked me. I still pick it up from time to time and leaf through it’s well worn, obnoxiously over highlighted pages. It still inspires, motivates, and convicts.

    I would add “Story” by Steven James to my personal list. The author is a professional storyteller who revisits Bible stories and retells them in gripping fashion. It’s a mixture of prose and poetry and is a book that was simultaneously painful and beautiful. I highly recommend. 

    A few others:

    Jesus for President (also Shane Claiborne)
    Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)
    Come Away My Beloved (Frances Roberts)
    Passion and Purity (Elisabeth Elliot) -I read this one in my teens, but it really is about so much more than simply “saving yourself for marriage.” This book went so much deeper than most in it’s genre and still impacts my life and marriage today. 

    I’m putting Half the Church on my vacation list. I’ve been seeking out books that explore women in the Church. Thanks for sharing! 

  • I’ve read some of these, not all.  But for me, the standard is still Mere Christianity by Lewis.   It was that book I pulled off a shelf when I wondered if the Christian faith was something that a thinking person could embrace.  I still haven’t gotten over it.

    • I know – so, so good. Absolutely a standard.

  • Mary1912

    Yes…The Divine Conspiracy changed my life totally. Opened wide my view of who Jesus is and what it really means to be a Christian. Kinda nice that I have a first edition, personally signed copy too. 🙂

    I am going to dive into Brennan Manning here soon. So much gonig on in my life but I’m inching closer to being able to receive what’s in The Ragamuffin Gospel.

    • I’d send it to you if I hadn’t already loaned it out, Mary. xo

  • Such a difficult question, especially since, in some ways, it’s easiest to answer with books that resonated with me  but perhaps didn’t exactly change my faith, by which I mean I loved them and return to them because they echo my faith, they remind me of who I am in Christ, but perhaps they didn’t change my faith because my faith was already leaning that direction. Or it’s easy to remember the books that have most recently changed me and easy to forget those books that shaped me as a child or a teenager or a college and grad student, etc. I’ll have to ponder this question and peruse my shelves. I’d like to answer on my blog.

  • Sherri Edman

    I’d have to sit & think a while to name the top ten, but number one is unquestionably Miroslav Volf’s _Exclusion and Embrace_. I read it for the first time in my early twenties and it blew my mind. I reread it frequently and it blows my mind every time.

    Others that come to mind:

    Walker Percy’s _Lost in the Cosmos_
    N.T. Wright’s _The Last Word_

    •  So I bought Lost in the Cosmos a couple of months ago because a few people raved and raved about it, and I’m in the middle of listening to an audio lecture he gave on it……and it’s still sitting on my shelf, unread.  I’m finding that happens.  There’s a book I know I want to own, so I buy it, and then I never read it because I own it and I can read it any time I want, and in the meantime I have all these library books to get read and returned. I’ll have to sit and finally read it.

    • That Volf one is on my husband’s list. He was rocked by it, as well.

  • Love your list!!  I’ve read some of these books and have met some of these authors.  Such great hearts and minds. 

    I keep hearing how amazing Madeline is as a creative mentor. I need to get her book. I can use all the mentoring I can get and really, a book is like a mentor. And so are blog posts!  🙂

  • Charity Jill

    I will have to check out that Kathleen Norris piece. “Cloister Walk” is great too, but her “Acedia and Me” set me on a path of healing in my life, helping me name and begin to understand the depression I had struggled with for years. Absolutely changed my life in a fundamental way.

    • Yes, me, too. I had thought I was struggling with depression but once I understood what it really was (for me), I was on the path of healing. so good.

  • Sophia Grace

    So…I figure better late than never!  Here is a link to my books that have changed my faith: 

    • Not late at all, sophia! I’m just now getting through comments so you’re right on time to me. 😉

  • Sophie’s Heart by Lori Wick – Yes, it’s fiction. But it was a picture of someone passionately in love with Christ. At 17, I’m not sure I had ever seen that.
    Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
    The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
    No Other Gods study by Kelly Minter
    and lately, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis

    • I keep hearing about Kelly Minter – will have to check her out!

  • Sithlordswife

    Any of the “Fidelma” books by Peter Tremayne. Tremayne is a mystery writer and his setting is in Ireland before the merging of the Celtic and the Roman Catholic church.

    Love Without End by Glenda Green

    The Hidden Power of the Bible by Ernest Holmes

  • Oh I love this.  This is going to be my most favorite week of blogging ever, I think….this might tie Week of Mutuality.  It depends on how many new books I add to my list, haha.   I just finished my list of 10 faith books….and, ahem.  Ended up actually at 28.  Just pretend I can’t count and it’s all good.   Walking on Water is one of my most favorite books ever.  I’m doing a list later this week on books on art/writing and that is going there….but it was on my list for faith books originally.  She is magnificent.

    • Wow – tying the Week of Mutuality! I’m so proud! 🙂 I can’t wait to read yours…

  • In no particular order…

    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson
    Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
    From Stone to Living Word by Debbie Blue
    A Sensual Orthodoxy by Debbie Blue (seriously could not recommend this more enthusiastically for you)
    Things Seen and Unseen by Nora Gallagher
    The Soul Is Here for its Own Joy edited by Robert Bly
    This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver
    Chalice Hymnal (the songs I sing with my community of faith have shaped me so much – such poetry!)
    Big Momma Makes the World by Phyllis Root

    •  Katherine, I’m going to have to add a few of these to my To Read list!

      • kim

        Me, too, Leigh. I am intrigued. And you and MK (and any other sucker wiling will to let me) will have to let me journal at you when I finally let myself read Traveling Mercies. I know it will push me over the proverbial…

        • Oh, yes, indeed. Anne Lamott does that to a girl.

    • Anything you recommend, I will get Katherine. I love and trust your words and recommendations. (Gilead was SO GOOD.)

  • oooh, such lovely suggestions. time to add mine to the pot:

    jesus for president–shane claiborne
    the prophetic imagination–walter brueggemann
    traveling mercies–anne lamott
    the gospel in a pluralist society–leslie newbigin (super boring title, some of the most fascinating missiological theory you will ever read)
    the hiding place–corrie ten boom
    chasing the dragon–jackie pullinger
    radical–david platt
    7–jen hatmaker
    the return of the prodigal son–henri nouwenmere christianity–c.s. lewisit was interesting to try to figure this out. when i was younger i breathed in missionary biographies, when i was a little older i loved the classic formative stuff, and recently i adore anything subversive about jesus and his upside down kingdom. what i think is the most interesting is that i can’t point to a single book i was required to read in my 4 years of bible college. what does that mean??????

    • I admit I was hoping you’d post, DL. I wanted to see your list, in particular! I’ll be checking these all out….

  • Shetuck

    John Shelby Spong’s “Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism.” Changed my life without a doubt. Still call myself a christian because of his writings.

  • “devout curiosity,” “gave me back my joy,” “empowering without being divisive,” “made me feel a little less crazy,” “deeply loved ever since reading it…”

    Aren’t books amazing? Thank you for sharing these.

  • Amy Peterson

    Hi sarah!  Love this idea.  The Divine Conspiracy makes my list of faith-forming books, too.

    Today I started with ten books that shaped me in childhood…

    • Very cool way to start. I should try that one, too.

  • Hey, Sarah…

    I love this.

    Here’s my list of 10 books that formed me spiritually:

    I love how you describe Ragamuffin Gospel. It was the same for me, too.

  • I love this list! I am an all-time Madeleine L’engle fan and will always be grateful to my mother for introducing her to me in my pre-teen years. I’d add “Soul Survivor” by Philip Yancey, mainly because it introduced me to a much broader range of authors and thinkers than I’d been aware of before. A lot of his books were influential to me in years that I was searching. Also Adrian Plass, the Sacred Diaries, for the Laugh Out Loud, Don’t-take-yourself-so-seriously element to church that I had been lacking! I still love re-reading these. It took me a long time to read “The Shack” but I was so glad that I did.
    Looking forward to the other lists! 🙂

    • These also sound so good.

    • Handsfull

      I’m another fan of Adrian Plass 🙂

  • B.

    I absolutely love this too!

    Some of the books that most significantly impacted my faith include: ‘The History of Christian Thought’ by Jonathan Hill, ‘The Openness of God,’ by Clark Pinnock at others, ‘The Myth of Certainty’ by Daniel Taylor, and ‘Becoming Human’ by Jean Vanier. (I also loved the lovely little ‘Conversations with Poppi about God’ by Robert Jenson and is his grand daughter Solveig Lucia Gold.)

    • My husband like Pinnock a lot, I’ll have to check him out. 

  • thank you for sharing your book list Sarah:)  I’ve read two of these, and started two of them.  

    Books that I have loved surrounding my faith:

    *Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
    *A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester
    *Keeping House by Margaret Kim Peterson
    *The Spirit of Food (collection of essays)
    *Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen
    *Blue Like Jazz
    *Chronicles of Narnia (a good story changes my child mind & heart)

    • I was really looking forward to reading yours, Kamille! Glad you posted.

      • thanks Sarah–that means a lot:)  

        P.S. I’m going to steal this idea in the realm of cookbooks:)

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  • Brenda

    Love the opportunity you’re giving for everyone to sneak a peek at each other’s libraries…Here is my link, a day late. But better late than never. I’m so enjoying looking at everyone’s posts. Thanks, Sarah!

    • Not late at all! I’m just now getting to read them so you’re right on time for me. 🙂

  • “Blue Like Jazz” brought me back to faith, and I was slipping fast. It’s just as you said – it was the first time I read a book about faith that didn’t make me feel crazy and clueless. I still feel clueless a lot of the time, but not so crazy.

    • Ha – love your last sentence there, Deidra. So true here, too!

  • It’s so hard to narrow it down to 10 but here’s my best effort:
    -A New Kind of Christian- McLaren
    -What’s So Amazing About Grace?- Yancey
    -Sacred Thirst- Barnes
    -Traveling Mercies- Lamott
    -Celebration of Discipline- Foster
    -The Beautiful Ache- McLeroy
    -Radical- Platt
    -Crazy Love- Chan
    -When the Heart Waits- Kidd
    -An Altar in the World- Taylor

    P.S. I wrote an extensive list of favorite Christian nonfiction titles last year:

    • These are so good. (I also liked Radical a lot too.)

    • Lisa at Digging for Myrrh

      Radical is fabulous. So is Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew. : )

  • Love this idea! We have a couple of similarities in our lists. I’ve read most of this list, but I’m adding the rest to my Amazon wishlist as we speak. 🙂  Here’s my own 10:

  • Y’all missed, in the midst of all these FABULOUS books, one book that changed my spirit forever: “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd.

  • I’ve only read two of those books, so I’m excited to add many of them to my “to-read” section. Some of my favourites have been “Soul Survivor” (Yancey) and Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems.

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  • Clairezip  This is fun getting to think through books that have shaped me, and getting to share part of ‘who I am’ right now through a book list 🙂

  • If you were to slip over to my coast and sneak a peek at my bookshelf, you would see every book ever written by Frederick Buechner – with the exception of his out-of-print work. And if you were to look even closer, you would see that my most treasured and well-worn piece of his written art is Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairytale. It will always remain at the top of my personal bibliography list, with The Hungering Dark and The Magnificent Defeat close on it’s heels. 

    Ima gonna pick me up a few from both your lists so far. You also reminded me that I’ve been wanting to read that Kathleen Norris one for awhile!

    This is great, my fair Canadian-Lady.


  • I loved reading this list.  There were a few that I’ve read, but many I have not.  Your inclusion of He Loves Me!: LEarning to Live in the Father’s Affection made me wonder if you’ve read Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning.  I know that everyone loves The Ragamuffin Gospel, but Abba’s Child is the book that really got me through some tough times.

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  • I’m super late to this party, but I blogged my list here:

    Totally totally love snooping your shelf and everyone else’s! 

  • I haven’t read too many of these. Love THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, but Manning’s book, ABBA’S CHILD was one that really impacted me. Also, MESSY SPIRITUALITY by Mike Yaconelli, and A LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION by Eugene Peterson. I loved a great deal of AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD, too.

  • As I read your list I realized I left out a few on my list

  • Teddi Sharpton

    Inspired!  I’ve just added to my wish list.  🙂  I loved The Shack and The Divine Conspiracy too….love anything by Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen.  Recently read The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias.  Ahhhhh written almost poetically and  it opened my heart to the pain of others.

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  • Lisa at Digging for Myrrh

    Sarah, here are mine. Thank you for a fun peek into your library–and letting us share! : )

  • Stephanie

    You know I love talking books! 😉

    1. I just added “A Generous Orthodoxy” to my reading list based on your recommendation (though I was surprised to see that it only has a 3-star rating on Amazon).

    2. I recently finished “Half the Sky,” which was excellent…and now you have me intrigued about “Half the Church.” 

    3. “The Shack” would be on my list too. 

  • And here’s my list , Sarah, which, remarkably, does not overlap with yours at all

  • Edo

    I won’t dare recommend it without a reread, but Jacques Ellul’s “The Subversion of Christianity,” because it was my life-ruining book. And one that I desperately needed at the time.

    I was DEVASTATED by that read. Absolutely devastated; and yet that last chapter, “Eppur si muove” – that’s why I’m here commenting today. I reread it enough to remember the chapter title after I’d forgotten what book it was. That last chapter was the first time I realized that this is me, this subversion and devastation is mine, I’m not getting away from this Christianity thing, I really am in it for the long haul…

    (Sometime lurker, first-time commenter here. Still unsure about the rest of my list.)

  • Katiepenn

    I love what you said about The Irresistible Revolution. Absolutely not a book to be read lightly, because it will confront you in ways you would not expect. Just stumbled across your blog and already feel like I found a kindred spirit. Thanks!

  • Melani

    I finally have my list done.   🙂  I’m just a little slow on the draw sometimes.

  • Cturay

    Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller.  All of his books are great but this one stands out as a must-read…over and over…!

  • I felt much the same way about Donald Miller’s book, Searching For God Knows What. It was like he had sat in the corner of my bedroom, late at night, hearing every spiritual discussion my husband and I had ever had and then written about it. I was so amazed and excited to find out that there were other people out there who felt like we did.

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  • Holly

    Those are some of the worst books a ‘professing Christian’ could ever read. One the other hand some amazing books you might actually want to pick up and read are. The Gospel by Eric Ludy, Don’t waste your life by John Piper, The explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler, or Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

  • Erin

    So, obviously WAY behind on this post, but I needed a study break, and this looked interesting. I love that you say Irresistible Revolution “ruined [your] life” because I had the exact same experience. I was 19, a fairly traditional Pentecostal, and basically picked it up because the cover was interesting. It took me three or four tries to get all the way through it because it was so radically different from anything else I’d ever read but so challenging and obviously worth consideration. I felt like I had to learn what my faith meant all over again after reading that book. It’s kind of like the scene in Mean Girls where the girl says, “One time, Regina George punched me in the face. IT WAS AWESOME.” Reading Irresistible Revolution was like having my insides torn out and rearranged, but in the best way possible.

  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is definitely on my “books that changed my faith” list..

  • Danica

    One of the BIGGEST faith-inspiring book I’ve read in a long time Is “Tattoos on the Heart” by Gregory Boyle. Absolutely incredible. And it completely changed the way I view and love those around me.

  • Carly

    Ohhhhh….I like. I just randomly stumbled on your blog via Pinterest and one of your lists for kids and found this. I LOVE so many of these books, and now have several more that I’m sure would be right up my alley to try (from the post AND the comments). Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Taylor Elyse

    Oh my lanta! The Irresistible Revolution was absolutely amazing. It made me think so much.

  • Diana

    “Desiring God” by John Piper. He’s a straight-shooter. Some of it is hard to hear at first, but resonates with what I know is reality.

  • Pablo

    I’ve got 10 books too: The God Delusion By Richard Dawkins,
    god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens, Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand
    Russell, the Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, Letting go of God by Julia
    Sweeney, The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, Godless by Dan Baker, Letters from
    the earth by Mark Twain and , Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, and
    my personal favorite read any quote/phrase from Robert G Ingersoll

  • Devanne

    radical by david platt. MUST read

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