“Make America read again” might be my catchphrase for this year.

Along those lines, I recently saw a video in which N.T. Wright was asked to share three books that changed his life.

Here it is:

And that got me thinking about what those three books would be for me.

The Bible is too obvious. So I’ve chosen texts from three completely different genres. They’re not necessarily my favorite books, but they did change me in some way.

(Incidentally, I’ve also added new page to the blog (here) to chronicle things I’m currently reading.)

Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Jesus and the Victory of God (N.T. Wright)

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I read Wright’s 741 page monstrosity on Jesus was I was just starting grad school.

It made me want to be a scholar.

I had never encountered a deeply academic work that was so enjoyable to read. No scholar in recent memory has been able to meld the academic, the accessible, and the aesthetic like Wright.

Likewise, one rarely encounters a work that is so orthodox and so innovative at the same time. It showed me that constructive and creative work need not be heterodox.

Wright set forth ideas on Judaism, parables, ancient politics, and Christ’s prophetic identity that I had never heard before. And while I’ve come to disagree with him on certain things, the book provided a preeminent example of what good scholarship should be: deep, readable, faithful, provocative—and never boring.

  1. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)

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I was always terrible at math and science.

In fact, I once joked (sarcastically) that I earned a PhD on the Trinity because it was the one discipline in which you could say “3=1” and get away with it.

And while I’m still bad at math, I’ve grown more interested in science.

One reason is that evangelical Christians have sometimes had such an adversarial relationship with the discipline. And this is sad. We need good science. We don’t need pseudo-science. And we badly need to stop treating scientists as if they are enemies.

All facts are friendly if you’re interested in truth.

Along these lines, Diamond offers fascinating scientific explanations for why western European nations ended up with guns, germs, and steel while other cultures (for instance in Africa and the Americas) did not.

Why did western Europeans conquer the Incas and not vice versa?

Why didn’t African nations colonize Great Britain?

His thesis is a rejection of older racist theories, and a detailed look at how our environments shape us.

  1. Till We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis).

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I’ve reread no novel as I have this one.

It might be my favorite work of fiction. And oddly, it is one of Lewis’ least known books. “I’ve never read that one,” people always tell me.

The story is a reworking of the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche, but (as usual) Lewis paints new meaning into a tale that examines beauty, jealously, self-deception, and blood sacrifice.

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

As evidence of how great my wife is, she even bought me a first edition a few years back, complete with a sweet pic on the back cover of Lewis smoking his pipe.

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Now the big question: What three books have deeply influenced you?

4 thoughts on “Name three books that changed your life

  1. I have been influenced by so many books over the years. But three that have impacted me in ways I am still working out are 1) C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”, 2) Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”, and Eugene Peterson’s “Working the Angles”. I am currently reading N.T. Wright’s “For All God’s Worth”, Ed Friedman’s “A Failure of Nerve”, and Cal Newport’s “Deep Work”, all of which are challenging me significantly in different ways.

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  2. So many great titles have influenced me over the course of my life. To limit the angst of choosing three from the over 4000 books I have read, I am providing a few titles that have made an impression on me the past two years.

    1. Gratitude – Oliver Sacks
    2. Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What it Makes it Good – N.T. Wright
    3. Last Letters from Stalingrad – Franz Schneider

    Bonus title:
    4. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil – George Saunders

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  3. Dr. M: My list would look quite a bit different from yours and those who have commented. It is an interesting question… one that requires quite a lot of introspection and consideration. I have settled on these: 1. The Road to Serfdom – F.A. Hayek; 2. God and Man at Yale – William F. Buckley; and 3. Jesus Rediscovered – Malcolm Muggeridge. I can feel your more scholarly followers cringing as they read this list, but what would one expect of a man who has spent an inordinate amount of time on the golf course?

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