Books We Probably Should Have Read By Now

The other day I was lurking on the internet and found a post called “12 books we’re all meant to have read but probably haven’t.” I enjoyed reading the list and noting the books on it that I HAVE read, but, sadly, I’ve read fewer than half of the listed books. I’ve heard of them all, and mean to read most of them. Someday. Inspired by this general list, I asked some friends who’ve done seminary studies for thoughts on 10 Books Seminary Students and Graduates are Meant to Have Read — But Probably Haven’t. Here’s our list. Feel free to add titles in the comments.


1. The Bible. Lots of dipping in to the Bible happens, but how many have actually read the whole thing?

Lewis Mere Christianity

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the most famous apologetics books. We’ve all heard of it, and may even have it on our shelves, but have we read it?


3. The Confessions by Augustine of Hippo. Bits of this book are often assigned reading, and it is often referred to, but read it? All of it? True confessions time!


4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is the source of the phrase “cheap grace” but how many have put the phrase in context?


5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is the Big Russian Novel most often referenced in seminary. Read it? Or is it on your to be read pile still?

city of god

6. City of God by Augustine of Hippo. Everyone expects seminarians to know the main point of City of God, but how many people have actually read this huge book?


7. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Like Augustine’s City, the main thread of Bunyan’s classic allegory is often referenced, but seldom read. There are lots of children’s adaptations, so perhaps it is easier to fake not reading this book.


8. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. A devotional classic that lots of people talk about, but I don’t know very many people who’ve actually read it.


9. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. This is a more recent book, but it has never gone to paperback as the hardcover book sells so well. This is a book often referenced in spirituality classes. The title sounds good, but do we really celebrate discipline?


10. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Often referenced in pastoral ministry classes, this book has an idea that people talk about a lot, but has that idea been read in context?

4 thoughts on “Books We Probably Should Have Read By Now

      • I think if we’re being honest that the Bible should be at the top of all of our lists! Too many of us don’t have a sense of it as a whole. It is amazing how easy it is to get stuck in a favourite passage for years and forget about the depth offered by all the rest of it! Even those of us who can boast of having read it all the way through on multiple occasions could probably stand to spend more time in its pages.

        As for my list, I would keep all of the books you’ve listed above and include Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey’s book on Prayer, and Simply Christian by N.T. Wright.

        I wish I were more knowledgable about the desert fathers and all those brilliant mystics and saints because I am sure they SHOULD be on this list. I just can’t include things I haven’t spent enough/any time with yet!

        I’m not being hard on myself in that comment. I truly believe that an engaged Christian’s reading list should be an evolving labour of love. It might sound trite or limiting to say that a life of faith should also be a life of study but I think that keeping up with other’s perspectives, insights, and experiences keep us firm in the knowledge of the ‘great cloud of witnesses,’ and remind us that the weight of the Gospel doesn’t fall on our shoulders alone. It isn’t hopeless or heavy. The yoke is easy and the burden is light! We are standing on the shoulders of giants… I like to end things on badly mixed allusions…

  1. 1. I haven’t read the Bible all the way start to finish, but I have read it all over about 4 chunks (the New Testament start to finish, the Prophets start to finish, the Law start to finish, the Writings start to finish).
    2. Read it all. Good read.
    3. Made it about 3/4 of the way through but was too depressed to finish.
    4. Mostly read it, although I did start skimming near the end to get through it in time for an assignment.

    Other than that, bits and pieces of City of God but not much.

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