This post can pretty much be summed up in one word: Everything.
There are two main reasons why I think that the books Christians read should be varied. The first is that God created all people in the Image of God, so all sorts of writing reflects His creativity and intentionality in creation. We can see His approbation for different types of books in the variety of genres and styles present in Scripture. Scripture contains legal codes, history accounts, poetry, parables, songs, and sermons. Why not read those things in other books as well?
The second reason is that, as Augustine so aptly put, “All truth is God’s truth.” God is the source and arbiter of all truth. So, even books written by non-Christians can reflect some truth about the world. In that sense, all types of books are worth reading.
Even so, we do have to be careful. While people are made in the Image of God, we are also fallen and sinful. Because of that, our depraved nature will affect the things we write. Depending on your background and experience, certain types of books may not be helpful for you. Books which applaud human baseness or are written to elicit sexual arousal are not helpful and do not help the Christian reader seek to love and glorify God through what he reads. So, as you read, practice discernment.
The following is a list of the types of books that Christians might enjoy, along with a few personal suggestions from each category.
While only the Bible is inspired by God, other Christians throughout the years have written helpful and insightful things. Reading the words of people who have walked with God can serve to encourage you and heighten your desire for Christ. I’d recommend reading books from different eras and theological camps to get a broader idea of how Christianity has been perceived.
Just because you’ve grown up doesn’t mean that you’re too old for children’s books. I love reading children’s and young adult books even now because they often address deep questions within the comfort of a relatable story. I particularly enjoy books that have one the Newberry Award because they are usually deep and well-written.
Contrary to popular opinion, classic literature is not a genre composed solely of books that English teachers select in order to give you the most torture during high school literature classes. In the truest sense, books that become ‘classics’ are classics in the same sense that the 1965 Ford Mustang is a classic car and The Eagles are considered classic rock. They’re respected enough that they last the test of time.
But there are plenty of old books that are also plenty boring. The beauty of classic literature is found more in its timelessness. I once heard it described as, “A classic is a book that you can take down from your grandmother’s shelf and read it with just as much enjoyment as she did when she was your age.” Maybe you don’t think your grandmother has the best taste in books, but the principle still stands. Classics are often very powerful in both story and scope. I’ve included a bit more of these because they’re so important.
These are mostly Western Lit, but there’s a lot of good World Literature out there as well.
There are also a lot of good contemporary books. These books include things that are vaguely recent like The Lord of the Rings as well as books that were published last week.
(Silly non-fiction, breaking up my alliterative section headings.)
I’ve come to love non-fiction in the past few years. There are some writers who are making an especial effort to apply storycrafting to their subjects so that their books are not only informative but well-written.
Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. Part of that is because it’s so often butchered in high school English. But if you’re patient and are willing to relax a little, poetry can be quite enjoyable.
Those recommended books are culled from my experience as a Reader. If you want to check out other things that I have read, click here. If you want a more personalized recommendation, feel free to ask. But there’s all sorts of other lists out there.