Recommended Reading


Our favorite insights and reflections on reading:

“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) quipped, “You know – everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

“When we read too fast or too slowly we understand nothing” (Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 41).

“Read the best books available on the topics that are most relevant to your call in life” (James Sire).

“There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book, and the tired man who wants a book to read” (G.K. Chesterton)

“The one book to which we need not fear to yield up our very lives is the Bible. And it is one of the great contributions of the Christian tradition to emphasize this book and to encourage its being read both intensively and extensively. If any reading ever should direct thinking, it is the reading of the Bible” (James Sire).

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones” (C.S. Lewis).

Near the end of his baccalaureate address, Reflection on Revolution, on May 25, 2000, Yale University President, Richard C. Levin spoke about the importance of reading and reflection:

I ask you to consider just one more task. In the heady rush to seize the opportunities that this revolutionary time provides, and as you wrestle with the ethical dilemmas it presents, I would urge you to give sufficient time to reading and reflection. Your lives will be incalculably richer if you continue to challenge yourselves by reading and re-reading the greatest works of literature, history, and philosophy. The humanities can be a constant source of enlargement for your lives.

I was inspired to this last observation very recently by reading the latest work of Yale’s great scholar, critic, and teacher Harold Bloom. This slender volume, entitled How to Read and Why, is about the pleasures one derives from careful reading, and it makes its case by means of a series of examples drawn from short stories, poems, plays, and novels. Professor Bloom focuses on works of the imagination, on literature, but I would argue that that serious engagement with great works of history, biography, and autobiography achieves the same result. Each of these forms permits the reader to encounter otherness – the independent consciousness of the poet, the fully developed characters of the great novelist or biographer, the richly drawn world of another time and place in which history unfolds. To give just one example, if we wished to understand the struggle between personal ideals and the necessity of practical action, we would be well advised to study both Tolstoy’s portrayal of Pierre Bezuhov and the life and writings of Abraham Lincoln. By seriously engaging with the text, literary or historical, we both encounter difference, which through reflection enlarges our own sphere of experience, and we find a common humanity. These are my own words, but I believe they capture what Professor Bloom means when he draws upon Dr. Johnson, Francis Bacon, and Emerson to urge: “Find what comes truly near to you, that can be used for weighing and for considering. Read deeply…to share in that one nature that writes and reads.”

Reading, according to Bloom, will not make one behave better, neither will it change the world. One need not read with either objective in mind, because deep reading will enlarge your humanity and this alone is worthwhile. But I would add this: Reading, reflection, and action based upon reflection can make you a better person, and you can change the world.

“Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displaying in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator” (John Calvin).

As we read, we look for the truths that are presented as well as for the errors that we detect. We employ the filter of God’s Word and accept the ideas that cause us to think God’s thoughts after him (analogical thinking). We may say to ourselves, “I agree with this author,” or “This mindset is totally different from mine.” The important thing is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the increase of our wisdom for living coram Deo (before the face of God).





John Musselman’s Favorite Books

From time to time, friends will ask me to provide them with a list of my favorite books. I have managed (until now) to avoid the painful task of making these difficult selections, realizing that important works like William Manchester’s three-volume biography of Winston Churchill (with Paul Reid on the third volume) and Thomas à Kempis’ classic The Imitation of Christ would wind up on the editing room floor.

My list includes works that have challenged me intellectually and spiritually and have been trustworthy companions on my journey to the Celestial City. And so I offer this “Top-Ten” list with thanksgiving to the authors whose lives and writings have touched my life in profound ways and with the hope that these works will find their way into your library and, most importantly, into your heart.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Institute’s of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce

True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer

The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dr. Howard G. Hendricks’ Favorite Books

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler

The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce

Institute’s of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

First Steps to Understanding your Bible by James M. Gray

Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Applied Imagination by Alex Osborn

To Understand Each Other by Paul Tournier

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolken

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. This page contains a brief bio of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life from his birth in South Africa to his death at Oxford University in 1973. Included is an analysis of the genre of The Hobbit, recurring themes, characteristics of Fairy Stories, suggestions for engaging the culture and for sharing its true meaning, as well as a portrait of Gollum. View notes and additional content.