Five Books for the Hungry Heart

Several weeks ago, I walked into a Christian bookstore with a friend. We spent time browsing the aisles before hitting the road. While in the car, we talked about the book selections. We both agreed, for every good book on Christianity, there may be three bad ones!

Books impact us. As the old saying goes, “If you want to know what you’ll believe in a year, look at what you’re reading now.” Books shape the way we think and inform what we believe. That’s a powerful—and scary—reality.

Which is why one of the most common questions people ask me is “what should I read?” Not only do I love getting that question. It’s a question I love asking others. Those who know me know that I like to give out books from my shelf. I had great men and women do the same for me, and sharing good books with other believers is one of the best ways to fulfill Hebrews 10:23-24:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works."

Below are five books for the hungry Christian. They feature a variety of authors from different times, countries, and levels of fame. These books refuse to be shallow. But none require a degree to understand. When I say these books are for the “hungry Christian” I mean they are for believers who have a desire to know God better, and to grow in their walk with Him. It’s a beautiful hunger.

1. The Green Letters

The Green Letters is the best book I could ever offer for the Christian who desires to grow but feels frustrated by the guilt of failure. I read this book in high school and it still impacts me today. It deals with common questions on God’s timing, what faith looks like in a normal life, and what it means to “abide” with Christ.

Written in brief chapters in a letter-like style, each section handles a distinct topic but with one common theme: God’s grace not only saves the sinner, it conforms the sinner. While the chapters are short and to the point, the author uses thick prose, which may require re-reading. This is not a book to skim.

Paperback: 91 pages

Zondervan Publishing

ISBN-13: 978-0310330011

2. Desiring God

Written by now-famous theologian John Piper, Desiring God focuses on the belief that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” This book urges believers to recognize that there is real joy in a relationship with God. Piper steers clear of the “prosperity gospel” and in fact attacks it, and points to Scripture to show how God intends for a relationship of love, joy, and peace between Him and His followers based on the blood of Jesus.

Piper’s books work great as a devotional. He loves to work on a core truth and show how it applies in different areas (e.g. How do I desire God in my marriage, my job?). This book does a great job of pushing believers away from a service-oriented attitude towards God and towards a love-oriented attitude. This book enjoys universal acclaim as the best of this generation.

Paperback: 368

Multnomah Publishing ISBN-13: 978-1601423108

3. Knowing God

As a teenager I once approached the pastor of a 800-person church. I asked him,

“I want to grow. What should I read?”

His first response? Knowing God. Similar to Desiring God, this book receives universal acclaim from Christians around the world. So much so that bookstores often put it in the “Classic” section even though the author is still alive! Knowing God deals with just that. Who is God? What is He like? And how should we relate to Him? Any serious student of Scripture does not go long without reading this work.

If you hunger for theology, and want to answer questions about God rarely discussed in sermons, this is a great work for you. It will force you to recharge your understanding of God from an abstract idea to a real, personal, and even fear-inducing, God of the universe.

Paperback: 288

InterVarsity Press

ISBN-13: 978-0830816507

4. Crazy Love

Crazy Love took the Christian world by storm over ten years ago. Written by Francis Chan, a then pastor from California, Crazy Love re-examines the incredible level of mercy and love that Jesus showed through His death and resurrection. It forces the reader to think honestly about love, and the weight of the Gospel on one’s life.

Crazy Love is famous for its raw emotion, plain language, and brutal honesty. It describes the Gospel, yet in a way free of “Christian-ese” and the normal phrases we take for granted. Crazy Love is a great way to recharge your attitudes towards God and the Gospel. A great read for Easter.

Paperback: 224

David C Cook Publishing

ISBN-13: 978-1434705945

5. The Cost of Discipleship

Of all the books on this list, The Cost of the Discipleship is the oldest, and boasts perhaps the most impressive author. The Cost of Discipleship represents the magnum opus of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The book centers on Jesus’ teaching in Luke 9:23-24. Bonhoeffer urges Christian to examine how God’s grace should have a physical impact on one’s attitude and actions. He distinguishes between “cheap grace” and “biblical grace” that challenges the believer to consider their level of devotion to God.

The book receives added weight because of its author, who understood the cost of following Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave up a life of academic stardom to defy Nazi Germany and devise an assassination attempt against Hitler. The Third Reich arrested Bonhoeffer and hung him in 1944. A true disciple. For more information on him, check out this blog post from last fall.

Paperback: 320

Touchstone Publishing

ISBN-13: 978-0684815008


I would be lying if I did not admit that these books represent a great deal to me. Every book on this list represents a chapter in my spiritual life. In each chapter, God used a spiritual man to push me into a closer walk with Him.

Now and then, I will take one of these books off my shelf, read a line or two, and feel refreshed with God’s goodness. The memories, conversations, and prayers from those times spring from the pages and restores my soul.

If you would like to borrow any of these books from me, let me know. If you like it, keep it, or give it to someone else. Like the Gospel, these books were written for all, but will matter little to those who do not hunger for it. None but the hungry heart.

Resting in Him,

Pastor Stephen


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