But before I do, I wanted to make a brief comment. I have found that the books which have most influenced me meet two criteria. First, they are clear, insightful, and handle their subject well. However, what really makes them stick out in my mind is not this fact alone. In a matter of fact, I know of better books in many of these subjects. This is why I think the second criteria is so important: God providentially brought these books into my life at a critical point to increase my understanding of Him and to become more like Him. So, with these two qualifications in mind, here's my list.
- Desiring God by John Piper. Absolutely paradigm-shifting! As Piper's revision of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism goes, "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever."
- Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. This book introduced me to the world of the redemptive historical hermeneutic. All of Scripture points us to Christ! (Note: now it is part of an inexpensive trilogy of Goldsworthy's works. I highly suggest buying this version.)
- The Potter's Freedom by James White. Helped me to see the doctrines of grace and Calvinism as biblical (and yes, I have read the Norman Geisler book White was replying to).
- X (See Update below) Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. I was not only pointed toward the Bible in understanding how to raise my children, but Tripp also showed me the centrality of the heart in understanding people. From here, I was led to embracing the biblical counseling model taught in another great book (and written by his brother) Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands.
- Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll. At first I wasn't interested in this book because I had heard it was from a guy in the emerging church movement. But at my friend's insistence, I picked it up and was greatly challenged. It is not so much that I agreed with everything Driscoll said as it caused me to start thinking through the relationship between Christianity and culture. Since reading this book, I have been thinking through matters of contextualization while remaining faithful to God and His Word.
There you have it--my top five (other than the Bible, of course). Read at your own risk!
Update: After thinking about it some more, I forgot to mention a tremendously influential book in my life. Lectures to My Students by C.H. Spurgeon has left a permanent impact in my mind and ministry. I guess forgetting such an obvious tome is what happens when you are trying to think on the fly and when you don't have your bookshelves around to jog your memory! Anyway, I still love Tripp's book; it has been influential in my thinking. At the same time, Spurgeon's work fits more appropriately in my top five.