While a student at Princeton, the then-future president James Madison was described as a bookish man. I’d like one day to be remembered as bookish. This description hasn’t always fit me, but the Lord used seminary to develop in me a love for books. Since entering the pastorate, the Lord has refined that love. A few books have become particularly helpful to me—books that I often find myself leaning on—and my prayer is that they’d be helpful to you. These are just some of the books that have shaped this pastor-in-progress.

Christ Crucified, Stephen Charnock

I’ve listed the books here in no particular order, except for this one. If you’re going to read only one book by a Puritan—or even only one book on this list—make it this one. Drawing on his wealth of knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments, Charnock reflects on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He boldly proclaims Christ, lifting the gaze of his readers to the cross with every page and paragraph.

Here’s just a taste:

He knew the burden of sin, he knew the terrors of hell. Yet he did not shrink from the imputation of the one or the sufferings of the other. It was not a willingness founded upon ignorance, but upon a clear-sighted affection.

Commentaries for Biblical Expositors, Jim Rosscup

 Commentaries can be very helpful in studying Scripture. The Bible speaks well of those who surround themselves with counselors (Prov. 11:14), and all the commentators of church history offer themselves to you as your counselors. Yet with so many available, it’s difficult to discern the helpful from the misleading.

This is where Dr. Rosscup’s book comes in. He has done the work of reviewing hundreds of commentaries. In this book, he offers brief reviews of a number of them. Dr. Rosscup’s work will help you navigate which commentaries will be most helpful for your study.

And if buying a book about books is a little much, Dr. Rosscup’s work has been used as the basis of and expanded at the website, bestcommentaries.com.

Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness, Michael Riccardi

If I was rating books based on how often I read them, this one would probably be second only to the Bible. Since its publication, I have read this book at least twice a year—it truly is that good.

In this brief volume, Riccardi carefully examines the divinely ordained means of sanctification. He explains how believers can behold the glory of Christ and reap the benefit of transformed lives. This is a Christ-exalting and practical book. If you’re someone who is often counseling (whether formally or informally), get multiple copies to give away generously.

If you Bite & Devour One Another, Alexander Strauch

This book might be the most immediately and practically helpful of any on this list. The painful reality is that the church is filled with believers who still struggle with sin. This wide-spread sinfulness often leads to conflict, leaving the church wondering how biblically to navigate conflict. Strauch offers clear, biblical principles for handling and resolving conflict. This book will be a blessing to every reader who struggles with conflict. Pastors, it will be of particular help for you as you endeavor to mediate and resolve conflicts within the church.

Soul Winner, Charles Spurgeon

I was first exposed to Charles Spurgeon through this incredible work, and it remains my favorite of his writings (granted, I have not read them all). In this book, Spurgeon offers a nearly exhaustive treatise on evangelism. He addresses the content, common inhibitions, and necessity of evangelism. This book will ignite the evangelist within every reader. I highly recommend this book, especially to those who are struggling with motivation in evangelism or are considering starting an outreach ministry.

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, John Piper

When my son recently expressed interest in the things of the Lord, this was the book I gave him. I know of no higher endorsement I could give. This book has fostered many beneficial conversations with my son (would you take a moment to pray for the salvation of my children: Elijah, Calvin, Knox, and Shiloh? Thanks!).

This book will inform, educate, and inspire the believer. It carefully and thoroughly lays out the powerful implications of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The reader will find himself praising the Lord page after page, as Piper articulates the reasons for Christ’s sacrifice in his unique, Piper-esque writing style. Each section is brief, yet crammed with praise-worthy truth, which makes the book excellent for devotional material. Try reading one section at the beginning of each day, and you will find yourself praising the Lord all day long.

The Works of Stephen Charnock

I know this isn’t a single book and may not fit well on this list. But I include it to encourage a certain approach to reading. Pick a writer, preferably one whose corpus is complete, and try to read everything he or she has written. Because Christ Crucified made such an impact on me, I picked Charnock. I’m still not through the whole set, but it has been a challenge and encouragement to me. His theology is rich, and his writing exquisite. By reading his writings over time, it’s like being discipled by Charnock. In a world where life comes in quick bursts, sitting under someone’s teaching—book after book after book—is a refreshing change of pace.

I pray this list is helpful and encouraging to you.