OK, OK. I get it. Claiming that every Christian should read these 5 books is a bold claim.

But, honestly, I think that these reading recommendations stand up to the scrutiny.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with just the top 5 books that a busy Christian should read if she wants to learn the essentials about:

  • Productivity and Time Management
  • Bible Study
  • Theology

And, I think I’ve arrived at a pretty good shortlist if I do say so myself. If you read and understand these 5 books, you’ll be well on your way.

Please note that all links to books below are Amazon Affiliate links. That means that, if you buy the product after clicking on the link, I’ll receive a little bit of money in exchange. It helps me keep the lights on. You’re more than welcome, of course, to go to Amazon.com and search for the books, in which case I will not get a commission.

Bottom line: Even if I don’t get paid, I believe that these books are helpful and I think you should read them!

5 Books Every Christian Should Read

1. A Study Bible

That’s right, a study Bible is my single top recommendation for a Christian’s personal library. That’s because a good study Bible will combine the resources of an entire library into a single volume to help you better understand Scripture as you read it. There are, of course, a TON of study Bibles out there. My personal favorite is The ESV Study Bible.

If the ESV Study Bible doesn’t look like what you need, consider The CEB Study Bible.

2. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Fourth Edition)

Although most study Bibles will contain short guides on how to read and study the Bible, Fee and Stuart’s book (now in its fourth edition) is somewhat of an industry standard in teaching people how to interpret Scripture. They will take you through:

  • The Need to Interpret the Bible
  • The Basics of Bible Translation(s) and How to Pick One
  • How to Study Various Bible Genres:
    • Epistles
    • Old Testament Narratives
    • Acts
    • Gospels
    • Parables
    • Law(s)
    • Prophets
    • Psalms
    • Wisdom Literature
    • Revelation

Plus, Fee and Stuart include an appendix about how to evaluate and use Bible commentaries! This book will set you up for a lifetime of Bible study. Take up and read!

3. Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language (Fourth Edition)

As Shelley notes in the prologue to this volume, “Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. The time between the apostles and their own day is one giant blank. That is hardly what God had in mind” (xi). Shelley wrote this book to address this problem.

Now, in seminary, I had to take a “History & Doctrine” sequence of 4 courses that covered the Patristic era through 20th-century Church history and theology. It was amazing, but who’s got that kind of time, right?! So, I asked around, including some of my former college and seminary theology profs, searching for the best, accessible, single-volume overview of the history of the Christian Church.

This book received the most votes by far. And I can see why.

Shelley’s book (also now in its fourth edition, which is a good sign!) manages to cover from the time of Jesus to the present day in approximately 500 pages. Yes, it’s a long book, but there’s a lot to cover! If you read this book, you’ll go through:

  • The Age of Jesus and the Apostles (6BC - AD 70)
  • The Age of Catholic Christianity (70-312)
  • The Age of the Christian Roman Empire (312-590)
  • The Christian Middle Ages (590-1517)
  • The Age of the Reformation (1517-1648)
  • The Age of Reason and Revival (1648-1789)
  • The Age of Progress (1789-1914)
  • The Age of Ideologies (1914-1989)
  • The Age of Global Expansion and Relocation (1900 -- )

Again, I know of no better place to start to learn about the history of the Church if you’re crunched for time. Again: take up and read!

4. Thomas Oden, Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology

OK, so we’ve covered (1) The Bible, (2) how to read it, and (3) Church history. Now it’s time for the best, accessible, single-volume introduction to Christian theology.

This was harder to narrow down. After all, there are plenty of introductions to theology and systematic (think “a comprehensive system”) theologies out there. What makes one better than any of the others?

Well, as far as I know, Oden’s book is different than any other systematic theology out there because he gives you a “consensus view of the Christian faith.” That is, instead of giving you his particular take on Christian theology, he’s attempting to give you the Christian theology upon which there was widespread agreement throughout the first 15 or so centuries of Church history.

The inside cover of the book claims that it “provides the best synthesis of the whole history of Christian thought.” Even though that’s a bold claim, I’m inclined to believe it, based upon the systematic theologies I’ve encountered in my academic research.

I strongly recommend you buy and read Oden, obviously. However, if, for some reason, Oden seems too long or expensive, check out Alister McGrath’s Theology: The Basics or Daniel Migliore’s Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Third Edition).

5. Matthew Perman, What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done

OK, last book of my top 5! And it’s a good one. In fact, this is the single best book on productivity and time management for Christians that I know of. It got me started on my kick of reading productivity books for the past few years, and I trust that it will help you create more margin in your life to pursue purpose and meaning.

Perman begins the book with an argument for why we need a uniquely Christian view of productivity. From there, he covers:

  • Making God Supreme in Our Productivity
  • Gospel-Driven Productivity: A New Way to Look at Getting Things Done
  • D.A.R.E.
    • Define: Know What's Most Important
    • Architect: Create a Flexible Structure
    • Reduce: Free Up Your Time for What's Most Important
    • Execute: Do What's Most Important
  • Living This Out

This is a profoundly useful and useable book! As a productivity guru, Perman naturally ends each chapter with what he calls “The Box” - a summary section containing the core point and core passage of the chapter, further resources, and suggestions for immediate application.

There’s also a 500 word summary of the book at the end, followed by a helpful topical index and suggestions for further reading - including some of the “classic” works in productivity and time management which, if you’re like me, you’ll want to track down!

If you want to become more productive and manage your time better for the glory of Jesus Christ, buy and read Perman’s book.