Like a lot of writers, I love to read. I’ve read more books than I can remember, but a few stand out. I may have read better books than those listed here. But these showed up in my life at critical moments and answered questions I didn’t know I had. I have a few more lists like this one for different categories of books. I will write about those soon, but these books have shaped me the most profoundly.

Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper

I read Let the Nations be Glad one summer in high school in preparation for a mission trip with iGo Global. I procrastinated in reading it, and ended up reading the whole book in one day while I should have packed. Piper’s book revealed to me my far too limited view of God. Since I read it too quickly, I couldn’t process much else. However, that proved a blessing. On the trip, in the middle of prayer walking and sharing the Gospel, the thought kept pressing on my mind, “God is much more glorious than I have ever considered. This has to shape my life. I’m not worshipping or obeying Him as he deserves. I’m not even trying.” This book, in conjunction with seeing Him work on the mission trip, changed the trajectory of my life. Fourteen years later – through a lot of stops and starts – I can say by His grace, I’m still growing in honoring Him as He deserves.

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

Growing up in the South in church culture, I heard much about the separation of Church and State. The responsibility of taking care of the poor and the suffering fell to the Church, not the Government. Therefore, Christians should vote Republican, as Jesus would. Claiborne presents a picture for what it could look like for the Church to actually engage loving the poor and suffering: messy enough to make me uncomfortable. It also gave me a vision for a more holistic view of the role of the Church and the Government in caring for the poor, namely the Government should at least not oppress the poor, which it currently does. This book gave me permission to follow Jesus, not the Party Line.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

Growing up in church I learned a vibrant prayer life involves more than spouting your wish list to God. A praying person engages God; being with Him, fellowshipping, worshiping, and yes interceding. Foster filled out that picture for me, and taught me how to shape disciplines which would bring vibrancy to my prayer life. Putting into practice only a few of the lessons I learned from this book continues to shape the daily rhythms of my walk with God.

Unveiled at Last by Bob Sjogren

Yet another book I read way too fast in preparation for the iGo Global trip. I grew up in a church deeply committed to God’s Word (yay Baptists!), but up until that point, I still viewed Scriptures as a collection of stories about how we should behave. Sjogren revealed to me the Bible as a cohesive story about God. In the years since, this knowledge has changed the questions I ask about passages and therefore has changed how I view God and what it means to obey Him.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Lewis’s writings have transformed how I view my faith. I read the Screwtape Letters in high school, and I vividly remember sitting in my desk chair in my messy bedroom on a Sunday afternoon. I beheld the profound subtlety of the traps of sin and temptation, but also marveled at the strength and surety of God’s grace. The Screwtape Letters, as well as Lewis’s other works, encouraged me to employ my mind and imagination in following God.