I love books. I buy books when they are on sale and don’t read them for months. I can’t pass up a Bible sale on CBD. That being said, the thought of only reading one hundred books for the rest of my life is very interesting. I probably spent a good twenty minutes that night thinking about what my one hundred books would be. I thought it would be fun to see how much of a list I could make, so I spent several hours yesterday choosing my 100 books.
“Would it be beneficial to have a personal cannon from which you never strayed?” This question really made me think. There are so many books out there and several on every subject. As much as people talk about how good it is to be well rounded, too much information can also cause unnecessary confusion and steal your time with unnecessary mental debate. With that in mind I see how only having one hundred books is guaranteed to help you keep focused. You also have one hundred slots, so ten of those could be used for alternative views. It also helps you narrow your focus. Instead of having fifteen books each for forty subjects, you would have a few books that give an overview and then narrow your library to say five to seven topics. I’ve always dreamed of having a huge library but this is making me think.
“What if you dedicated your life to reading, knowing, and studying just 100 books?” When I read a book, I do so with a highlighter and pen ready for use. I also use tabs to mark pages for later reference. Occasionally I’ll take notes on a book. Most of the time though, I don’t know the book when I’m finished. I can recall some things but probably not the majority of the book. To think of the possibility of spending decades in just 100 books makes me think I would know the material inside and out. As much as we like to talk about multiple sources and well rounded knowledge, I assume we probably don’t know as much as we think we do when we’re focused on reading and knowing things from so many sources. I think it would be beneficial to know a few sources deeply and then have a few other sources for broader understanding.
With all that being said most of the books I would choose will come from five Authors; Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards and R. C. Sproul.
CHARLES SPURGEON: I pick Spurgeon because of his vast impact throughout history and even in his own time. He was a fervent and faithful preacher, a pastor who cared for his people, his marriage was important to him, and he had many benevolent ministries he oversaw. He also held to his convictions when his denomination began going in a more liberal direction. Spurgeon was an all around Bible man, he wouldn’t compromise truth for anything and that is an example I can follow.
JOHN MACARTHUR: While I’m sure Dr. MacArthur would disagree with this comparison, in my mind, he is the Spurgeon of our day. Most recently the stands he has taken have caused long time friends to be on opposite sides with him, yet he stands firm. His faithfulness to preach verse by verse through the entire New Testament and write individual commentaries on each New Testament book as well as the MacArthur Study Bible, will be a legacy that lasts generations. That plus the many other books he has authored, his over fifty years of faithfulness at one church, his marriage, missions efforts and the Master’s College and Seminary make him a man whose faith I want to follow.
MARTIN LUTHER: Reformation didn’t begin with Luther but he did ignite the firestorm that became the Protestant movement. Luther was a tormented man until he turned to the Scriptures and discovered grace, the rest, as they say is history. History that I always want to be reminded of. I want to know what he saw, how he thought, and how he processed all that he was seeing. I want to follow his courage and learn from his mistakes. I never want to see church life from my context alone. There is a long line of church history behind me and knowing it will keep me from falling for old heresies in new packages.
JONATHAN EDWARDS: I am an American so it’s probably a good idea to have a voice from the First Great Awakening among my one hundred books. Edwards was a brilliant theologian, pastor, and preacher. He was the first theologian I was introduced to in a meaningful way, as he was my pastors favorite.
R. C. SPROUL: Another faithful voice of the modern era, Sproul has probably been the most influential person in bringing the doctrines of grace to my generation. His question and answer sessions as well as his classroom style teaching is what he is most known for in my life. His Reformation Study Bible and book, What is Reformed Theology started me on the path of learning theology.
After thinking about the question last night and the majority of today, I decided to challenge my thoughtfulness and fill all one hundred spots today. Now this list could change but it really did force me to focus on what I felt was important for me to have to be able to stand strong in faith, preach well, and encourage people in their own relationship with God. The books aren’t in any particular order but I did do a little categorizing before just listing the rest of the books.
BIBLES: Individual Bibles will count as books, since I have several and the entire question is designed to make you think through your choices.
1. The NKJV MacArthur Study Bible
2. The NKJV Reformation Study Bible
3. NKJV Schuyler Quentel Black Goatskin (I don’t have this but if I’m limiting myself to 100 books for the rest of my life, I want a nice Bible).
4. NKJV Life Application Study Bible
5. Legacy Standard Bible NT with Psalms and Proverbs
6. The Legacy Standard Bible (due to be released in 2021)
COMMENTARIES & HELPS: Because I am limited to 100 books I have to be specific and limiting with my commentaries and study helps. Which means I am going to cheat in this section and count sets as one book.
7. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series
8. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 6 Volumes
9. The Treasury of David, 3 Volumes: Charles Spurgeon
10. New Bible Commentary
11. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary
12. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
13. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon
14. New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties
15. Old Testament Survey
16. New Testament Survey
17. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
18. Treasury of Scripture Knowledge: R. A. Torrey
19. Spurgeon on Prayer
20. Pilgrims Progress: John Bunyan (Spurgeon’s favorite book).
21. Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare
22. Charles Spurgeon Autobiography, 2 Volumes
23. Yours till Heaven: Ray Rhodes (The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon)
24. C. H. Spurgeon on Spiritual Leadership
25. Spurgeon’s Sermons (Green Set from Hendrickson)
26. Spurgeon on God
27. The Forgotten Spurgeon: Iain H. Murray
28. Morning and Evening Devotional
29. The Down-Grade Controversy
30. The Saint and his Savior
31. The Golden Alphabet: An Exposition on Psalm 119
32. Spurgeon on Christ
33. Around the Wicket Gate
34. Lectures to my Students
35. Biblical Doctrine: MacArthur and Mayhue
36. MacArthur Pastor’s Library
38. One Faithful Life (book on the Apostle Paul)
39. The Gospel According to Jesus
40. The Gospel According to the Apostles
41. The Gospel According to Paul
42. The Gospel According to God
43. Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
44. One Perfect Life (book on the life of Jesus).
45. The Deity of Christ
46. John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock: Iain Murray
47. The Battle for the Beginning
48. Stand Firm: Living in a Post-Christian Culture
49. The Vanishing Conscience
50. The Legacy of Luther: R. C. Sproul
51. The 95 Theses and Other Writings
52. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings
53. The Table Talk of Martin Luther
54. The Bondage of the Will
JONATHAN EDWARDS (I didn’t choose the two volume set from Banner of Truth because I don’t like the size of the volumes or the font).
55. Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (Hendrickson)
56. Religious Affections
57. A History of the Work of Redemption
58. Jonathan Edwards on Revival
R. C. SPROUL
59. What is Reformed Theology
60. Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
61. The Holiness of God
62. Chosen by God
63. The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
64. Knowing Scripture
65. R. C. Sproul: A Life: Stephen J. Nichols
66. Institutes of the Christian Religion: John Calvin
67. Church History in Plain Language: Bruce L. Shelley
68. Foxes Book of Martyrs
69. 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
70. Westminster Confession of Faith
71. Heidelberg Catechism
72. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
73. The Works of John Wesley (set).
74. The Cost of Discipleship: Detrich Bonhoffer
75. By What Standard: Jared Longshore
76. The Crucified Life: A. W. Tozer
77. The 10 Commandments: Thomas Watson
78. A Body of Divinity: Thomad Watson
79. The Art of Man-Fishing: How to Win the Lost: Thomas Boston
80. The Mortification of Sin: John Owen
81. The Forgotten Trinity: James White
82. Pastoral Ministry: Richard Baxter
83. The Godly Home: Richard Baxter
84. Abstracts of Principles: James P. Boyce
85. The Kingdom of the Cult: Walter Martin
86. The Portable Seminary: David Horton
87. The Attributes of God: A. W. Pink
88. The Gospel of John: A. W. Pink
89. The Sovereignty of God: A. W. Pink
90. Gleanings in Genesis: A. W. Pink
91. Wesley and the Men who Followed Him: Iain H. Murray
92. Historical Theology: Gregg Allison
93. Christianity and Liberalism: J. Gresham Machen
94. Redemption Accomplished and Applied: John Murray
95. The Potter’s Freedom: James White
96. The God who Justifies: James White
97. The Crook in the Lot: Thomas Boston
98. Foundations of the Christian Faith: James M. Boyce
99. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 Volumes): J. C. Ryle
100. Heretics for Armchair Theologians: Gonzalez
I don’t have every book on this list. I have an extensive wish list on christianbook.com and picked several books from that list. I made myself pick 100 books in a day to challenge my own thinking and to see where the list would end up. You’ll notice you won’t see any of today’s best sellers or the more encouraging type stuff that is so common in Christian publishing today. If I’m going to limit myself to 100 books they need to be quality books with lots of substance. I’ve read many good books that I’ve known I would never read again. While those were encouraging and helpful they made no lasting impact.
This list of 100 books includes Bibles and helps because it helps clarify what is really important to my studying. Books were picked based off of what I have read and books I want to read that have strong recommendations behind them. I’m sure this list could be tweaked a year from now but as it stands today, these are my 100 books. I don’t plan on limiting myself to 100 books (just yet) but this exercise will have influence on what I buy or pass up going forward.