There is a shelf in our living room where I have placed the books that had the most influence on my spiritual growth. I call them my “Punctuation Marks” because in a metaphoric way some books were a comma, some an exclamation point, and some a period or full stop.
The beauty of having them all in one place is the visual reminder of those moments when God reached out through the pages of creative people who listened to the call to write and thereby touched me. It is a large part of why I have been involved in the book business for more than forty years.
Here are the books in no particular order:
Knowing God – J.I. Packer
Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
Green Letters – Miles Stanford
Lectures to My Students – Charles Spurgeon
Knowledge of the Holy – A. W. Tozer
Foundations for Reconstruction – Elton Trueblood
Much More – Jack R. Taylor
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
Taste of New Wine – Keith Miller
Barabbas: A Novel – Pär Lagerkvist (Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1951)
No Longer Strangers – Bruce Larson
How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong? – Lewis Smedes
Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I and Thou – Martin Buber
The Timeless Moment: Creativity and the Christian Faith – D. Bruce Lockerbie
Loving God – Charles Colson
The Denial of Death – Ernest Becker
Making All Things New – Henri Nouwen
Waiting on God – Andrew Murray
The Struggle of Prayer – Donald Bloesch
Making Sense of Suffering – Peter Kreeft
I hope you scour the list and find a title or two unfamiliar or currently unread. That is why I like to read similar lists: to peer into the mind of a fellow traveler and learn something new.
What books are on your “Punctuation Marks” shelf?
In past years I was influenced
by books, brought God to mind.
But now, even with best intent,
I’ve left all that behind.
I won’t boast what I’ve been through
(although it’s seemed a lot),
but in this journey up the blue,
one thing I haven’t got
is that old capacity
for sitting at another’s feet
to hang on their sagacity,
no, now I have to be complete
with no wise and learned guide,
and only God walks by my side.
There were punctuation mark books aplenty (and I sought them out), but as time’s gone on, the help they gave faded, and was sometimes repudiated, by the press of events. Some I can scare bear to open now, from a sorrow over what’s been lost.
The obverse of the coin of cancer’s realm is that I’ve found a truly personal relationship with the Almighty; I know what it is to walk (well, limp and stagger) with Him in the cool of evening.
Perhaps that sounds like new heights of effrontery and hubris born of isolation. It’s not for me to say.
But I am beyond the bookish place my heart once eagerly explored, and the surprise is that I am really OK.
Steve, if I may stray into other art forms for influence, there are a couple of punctuations which, if not evergreen, are yet gamely viable.
In film, “Jackass: The Movie” (surely no surprise there).
In music, ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. There are only two kinds of Real Men; those who love ABBA, and those unwilling to admit they do.
You take life and hope as you find it, and I am grateful for these.
What a great list of authors and their profound writing! I’m drawn to quite a few titles, but there are certainly some unfamiliar books on this list worth exploring. Thank you for sharing!
Anything and everything by Phillip Yancey.
“What’s So Amazing About Grace?”
“The Jesus I Never Knew.”
“Disappointment with God.”
“Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?”
etc. . .
“The Red-Letter Prayer Life” by Bob Hostetler is one of the best books on prayer I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few. “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis is another book I go back to again and again. Any book by Elisabeth Elliott is worthwhile. One of my favorites is “Keep a Quiet Heart.” Other classics are “Edges of His Ways” by Amy Carmichael and “Affliction” by Edith Schaeffer.
Practicing the Presence by Brother Lawrence
Lord Heal My Hurts by Kay Author
The Crucified Liife. AWTozer
Experiencing God. Henry Blackaby
New to my list
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiiah Burroughs
I’m currently in the middle of an exclamation point: “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson.
Oh my! Strings of exclamation points in every chapter.
And Elizabeth Sherrill’s “All the Way to Heaven”
When you finish “Adorning the Dark” be sure to read Andrew’s book “God of the Garden.”
Wow, so much food for thought.
Jeanetta Chrystie, ThD, PhD
My “punctuation marks” list would be very long.
At the top of my list is a book that changed the wandering directions of my life many years ago.
It is “The Reflective Life” by Ken Gire.
I give it 5 stars with exclamation marks behind each star!
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia, esocially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Everything by Elisabeth Elliot, but especially Through Gates of Splendor, Let Me Be a Woman, Keep a Quiet Heart, On Asking God Why
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes
Winning the Inner War: How To Say No to a Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton
By Searching, In the Arena, and Second Mile People by Isobel Kuhn
Climbing by Rosalind Goforth
Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose
In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
Peace Child by Don Richardson
Not My Will by Francena Arnold, possibly the first Christian novel I read
*Especially, not esocially. Argh.
This list is pure gold. The books are not ones I’ve stumbled upon browsing the shelves of my local bookstore. Your list is already printed and posted on my office bulletin board. I’m starting with Knowledge of God (Audible – for the plane this week) and Life Together (print). Thank you, Steve.
My List of favorites:
Anything from C.S. Lewis or from:
The Late Great Planet Earth, etc from Hal Lindsey
Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms by JR Church
Some of these are a little controversial but I like that. Also, like Biblical Prophecy which I guess is rare nowadays. But it is the blessed Hope that Jesus is coming back, so that’s what always keeps me motivated. As well as looking forward to being with Him in heaven someday soon.
Of all my books, the ones I keep close are those that contributed to pivotal events in my memoir. (For some purchases, I kept the dated receipt even though I didn’t realize, at the moment, the significance of the timing.) I might not mention each book in my story, but I’ve felt their impact.
In the corner of my L-shaped office desk stand these:
1) The Holy Bible
2) The Promise of God’s Power for the Graduate—P. Barnhart
3) The Purpose Driven Life—Rick Warren
4) The Gift of Forgiveness—Dr. Charles Stanley
5) Fearless—Max Lucado
6) Hope Minute—Rob and Susan Cottrell
7) 90 Minutes in Heaven—Don Piper with Cecil Murphey
8) How to Handle Adversity—Charles Stanley
9) How to Let God Solve Your Problems—Charles Stanley
10) The Hiding Place—Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
And on a table with heavier tomes:
11) The AMA Family Medical Guide (1982)
(I could make a similar list of significant songs.)
Appreciate this fabulous list! One book I give out to believers and non-believers: Now, That’s a Good Question! by R.C. Sproul. It’s an oldie but goodie.
Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle (and many of her nonfiction works. She sharpens my thinking.)
Punching Holes in the Dark by Robert Benson
Have We No Rights by Mabel Williamson, the concept of rights is debated, but the last chapter of this book always helps me regain perspective.
These are a few I reread annually in full or in part.
Thank you for all the lists here. Such a wealth of spiritual knowledge.
I would add “The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Considering our “sensitivity” climate these days I thought I’d address a potential point of “controversy.” An apparent lack of women writers in the above list.
First, note that the list above is not exhaustive. Only those that are my “punctuation marks.” Before reading Richard Foster many of the mystics (Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich) were unfamiliar to me.
If I were to expand this to a top 500 list I would still leave many great books unmentioned!
It was later that I discovered many of those writers. For example, I have a complete shelf of Evelyn Underhill’s works in hardcover. Include the complete works of Helen Roseveare. And discover Basilea Schlink, for she is a blessing to read.
Other influential female writers in the deeper life for me include (and this is by no means an exhaustive list!):
Macrina Wiederkehr (A Tree Full of Angels)
Marjorie J. Thompson
Hope this added some new names to your “recommended” list.
Marcia Lee Laycock
A great list, Steve. I have a long list too but will just mention a these–
Evidence that Demands a Verdict – by Josh McDowell – my heart was beginning to soften when a pastor gave me this one and it convinced my mind Jesus was who he said he was.
What’s so Amazing about Grace by Phillip Yancey – this one made me pursue the knowledge of God in a new way.
How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaefer – helped a lot at a certain time in my life
The Art of Life by Edith Schaefer – ditto to above
My Utmost for His Highest – I’ve read the original version several times. Such profound wisdom!
Peace Like a River by Lief Enger – this one opened my mind to accept the reality of mystery
Sister Georjean ALLENBACH
Thank you for sharing this powerful list!!!
I would add only
MY ALL FOR HIM Basilea Schlink
REPENTANCE THE JOY-FILLED LIFE Basilea Schlink
LOVE the description of punctuation marks to describe your book shelf.
I’m away on vacation so I can’t actually see my shelf of favorites but I’ll go with my memory here: (not including any that were on Steve’s list)
Simply Tuesday by Freeman
Dangerous Duty of Delight by Piper
Through Gates of Splendor by Elliott
Champagne for the Soul by Mason
What’s so Amazing About Grace by Yancey
Teaching to Change Lives by Hendricks
Left to Tell by Ilibagiza
Mudhouse Sabbath by Winner
It’s so interesting and encouraging that God uses all types of books and authors to wake us up and change our thinking.
My “To Read” list grew a lot today!
Thank you for sharing these, Steve. I love Jack Taylor and Charles Colson, some others of theirs. (And I met Colson when he preached a Sunrise Service at Sea World, Orlando.)
A different book about Charles Spurgeon that mentions people getting healed by his prayers.
The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey–it inspired me to read the Bible all the way through to see just how all these prophecies fit. Wow. To both Books!
Let Go and Let God by Cliffe–the first Christian book I ever read. Loved the chapter called “Get Your Foot Off the Hose.”
Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes?
The Hiding Place
Lost Shepherd and other books by Agnes Sanford
Jack Hayford’s books, and a Bible edited by him. (He wrote the song, “Majesty,” and many others.)
Appointment in Jerusalem by Lydia Prince
Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting by Derek Prince
*What Cessationism Has Done to the Church*
*The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris*
The Last Word, Daughter of Destiny, and several others by the late, great Jamie Buckingham, can’t remember the titles. His son is making his books available through a website.
The Holy Spirit and You by Dennis Bennett
*Nine O’Clock in the Morning by Dennis Bennett*
Jim Cymbala and Carol of the Brooklyn Tabernacle–all of theirs (and her music, too.)
Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere
A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles by J. P. Moreland
I enjoyed remembering these! I’m going to buy Let Go again.
Something More by Catherine Marshall (wife of A Man Called Peter)
The Helper by Catherine Marshall
I love others’ book lists. Thank you.
Here’s a few of my punctuation mark books (some are fiction that left a significant impact):
Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith
You Set My Spirit Free – John of the Cross (arranged and paraphrased by David Hazard)
One Thousand Gifts – Ann Voskamp
Experiencing God – Henry Blackaby
The Knowledge of the Holy – A. W. Tozer
Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God – Gary Thomas
Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? –
A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live – Emily Freeman
Jesus Calling – Sarah Young
My Utmost For His Highest – Oswald Chambers
Living Above the Level of Mediocrity – Charles R Swindoll (because it was a book I purchased as a
spiritual seeker before knowing Jesus)
The Forgotten Trinity – James R. White
Larry Crabb – many of his books
Mark of the Lion trilogy – Francine Rivers
Hinds Feet on High Places – Hannah Hurnard
God Works the Night Shift – Ron Mehl
Conformed to His Image – Kenneth Boa
Safely Home – Randy Alcorn
With Christ in the School of Prayer – Andrew Murray
Longing for Love – Ruth Senter
Kay Arthur – many of her books & studies
75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know – Terry Glaspey (still in process of reading it, but it’s
definitely a punctuation book for me to read how God poured His creative Spirit into others.)
Knowing God – J. I. Packer
Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments – Randy Alcorn
Moments with Majesty – Jack Hayford
A Place to Stand – Elton Trueblood
Reaching Out – Henri Nouwen
Practicing the Presence of God – Brother Lawrence
The Divine Yes – E. Stanley Jones
Habitation of Dragons – Keith Miller
Help, Thanks, Wow – Anne Lamott
Prayer in the Night – Tish Harrison Warren
The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis