There’s no shortage of great new books to fill your fall reading list, but every once in a while, it’s good to throw in a few classics.
Here’s a look at nine of our favorites that—even if you’ve read them before—are worth revisiting again soon.
Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
If you haven’t picked up a copy of John Bunyan’s classic since you were a kid, the epic allegory is definitely worth another read. Even though it was written in the 1600s, the story of Christian’s journey to the Celestial City (and his family’s subsequent quest), is more than just an entertaining adventure. Each element of the tale—down to the characters’ names—is meant to serve as a powerful metaphor in the lives of followers of Christ. But beyond its spiritual significance for Christian readers, Pilgrim’s Progress is still recognized as one of history’s great works of fiction.
Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton
As much as G.K. Chesterton was an intellectual giant, he was also one of Christianity’s most distinctive writers. In Orthodoxy, Chesterton outlines his own reasons for following Christ with wit, symbolism and poetic writing, packing sentences with so much layered meaning, you’ll want to read them several times. Even his description of the shape of the physical cross serves as an occasion to flex his intellect: “The cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape … The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.”
Let Justice Roll Down – John M. Perkins
Born in 1930, Dr. John M. Perkins has lived enough life for a few great books, but this one might be his greatest. One of the most powerful living voices for racial reconciliation in America, Dr. Perkins recounts his own story—which includes unspeakable atrocities at the hands of authorities—and how he chose love instead of hate.
The Mind of the Maker – Dorothy Sayers
Sayers wore many hats—a cunning mystery novelist, a piercing cultural critic and a whimsical playwright. However, she is probably best remembered for her thoughts on theology. Few people in her age had a clearer, more delightful take on Christianity. In The Mind of the Maker, she weaves art and faith together into a compelling, playful and even awe-inspiring whole. “To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick.”
Fear and Trembling – Soren Kierkegaard
Though it was initially written under a pseudonym, Fear and Trembling has become one of Soren Kierkegaard’s most well-known works. The philosophical book is a deep exploration of difficult elements of the Christian life—like anxiety, sovereignty, ethical responsibility and trusting in God—through an unpacking of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Like any work from Kierkegaard, it’s a dense read, but one that is so profoundly thought-out that the intellectual pay-off is worth it.
Confessions of St. Augustine – Augustine of Hippo
St. Augustine’s famous autobiography is largely seen as valuable historical documentation of the life of the Church Father, but also provides an interesting look at the evolution of thought that led a first century citizen of the Roman empire to Christianity. Throughout the book, Augustine of Hippo discusses his dabblings in other religions and ideas that were popular at the time, personal loss and immorality. The book is also known for its thoughts about creation, which in many ways mirror contemporary debates about how to interpret Genesis’ account and what the seven-day timeframe outlined in the Bible actually means.
Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis
Perhaps C.S. Lewis’ most underrated book, Till We Have Faces stands out from some of his other more popular works of fiction for its indirect approach to theological ideas. Unlike the Narnia series, which used clear metaphors for God, sacrifice and righteousness, Till We Have Faces wrestles with its questions about the relationship between God and humanity through the retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. The novel is a look at human motivations, piety, the consequences of sinfulness and the intentional mysteriousness of God: “Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”
Holy the Firm – Annie Dillard
In 1975, Dillard had moved to Puget Sound just as a horrifying tragedy befell her new community. The events sent her on a wild wrestling match with the biggest questions in theology: suffering, death, resurrection and prayer. As with most of Dillard’s work, she looks out to look in, fueling her search for truth with her observations of creation. The prose is as beautiful as you could possibly hope for, and while Dillard does not find the answers to all the questions she’s asking, the questions are beautiful and haunting in their own right. “We wake, if ever we wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it’s time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it’s time to break our necks for home.”
The God Who Is There – Francis Schaeffer
Schaeffer’s mind was a filter that caught just about everything and spun it through a truly dizzying array of analysis. His ability to take in history, art, nature and science and funnel it into a coherent theological framework is a marvel. “The problem which confronts us as we approach modern man today is not how we are to change Christian teaching in order to make it more palatable, for that would mean throwing away any chance of giving the real answer to man in despair; rather it is only a problem of how we many communicate the Gospel so that it is understood.”