5 types of books new Christians should read

Something I noticed early on as a Christian was all the books about how to live faithfully. And by a lot, I mean a lot. In all caps. Underlined. With multiple exclamation points. (Ahem.) Shelves at the local big box bookstore were full of them. The Christian bookstores were jam packed with offerings.1

Figuring out where to start was kind of overwhelming, to be honest. What were the books I should read first? Which ones were the ones I should avoid entirely?

Helping you find your first good reads

I didn’t get as much help with this as I would have liked back in those days. And as I look back on my reading, there are some books that I wish I’d never bothered picking up. There are also others that I wish I’d read much sooner than I did.

Maybe you’re reading this as a new Christian and feel the same way. Maybe you’re more established in your faith and are walking alongside someone who is exploring Christianity or recently converted. Either way, I want to help. And that’s where these recommendations come in.

But first, a caveat. No book, no matter how good, can take the place of the Bible in a Christian’s life. This is the book that should always come first for us. Other books add value, but they cannot replace what God does in us through the Scriptures.

What types of books should new Christians read?

There are five types of books I would recommend a new believer read early on:

  • Books about the core beliefs of the faith
  • Books on spiritual disciplines
  • Books exploring specific issues or areas of life
  • Classic works of the past
  • Books that encourage you to love Jesus

Books about the core beliefs of the faith

The most theologically nerdy of us may be tempted to hand new believers Frame’s Systematic Theology or Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. As much as I love those, don’t. That’s not what a new Christian needs. Instead, they need a book that accessibly unpacks the core of the core beliefs of our faith.2 That excel at making sound doctrine accessible without sacrificing depth. Among the best two I know are:

Books focused on habits to grow your faith

When we’re getting started in our walk with Jesus, we need books that are going to help us with the practical “walking” part of it. How do we pray, read the Bible, and practice other spiritual disciplines? Here are a few I would encourage reading:

I would also be remiss if I didn’t point you to my book I’m a Christian—Now What? A Guide to Your New Life with Christ when talking about the majority of these subjects. It’s filled with helpful guidance for new Christians across a number of the key questions they’re going to be asking throughout their early days, weeks, and months as Christians.

Books exploring specific issues or areas of life

There is no shortage of books addressing practical areas of life.What decision making looks like as a believer. How to read well and wisely. How we can best show compassion to those in need. Again, there are no shortage of good and accessible books out there. But here are a few that I would recommend:

  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, a tiny book on the big topic of God’s will
  • On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior, who is one of the wisest readers I know3
  • Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin, addressing big stumbling block type questions about the faith
  • Awaiting a Savior by Aaron Armstrong, focusing on the relationship between the gospel and addressing poverty4

Classics of the past

Something new believers should try to do early on is get in the habit of reading great books that were written in the decades before they were born. Read classic works that are classics for a reason (although maybe start with ones from the 20th century and ease your way backwards). A couple worth starting with are:

Books that encourage you to love Jesus

Not every book needs to be about teaching you how to do something in the Christian life. Sometimes you just need some great encouragement. A book to help you see the beauty of the gospel more fully. A couple I recommend are:

Only a starting point for books new Christians should read

These are only some of the books new Christians should read, of course. There are more, and there are only more that will be published in the years ahead. Even so, I hope these recommendations will give new believers a fantastic foundation as they begin their life as Christians.

This post was originally published in May of 2014 and updated for content and style in January 2023. Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

  1. Until they all closed, at any rate.[]
  2. And in full disclosure, I’m working on a book like this, so prayer is always appreciated.[]
  3. Who also dislikes Moby Dick about as much as I do, which makes her one of my favorite people.[]
  4. Yes, I’m putting another book I wrote on this list too. I’m allowed.[]
  5. This is one of the densest books on this list that might take a long time to read, but oh my goodness, is it ever amazing.[]

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

Reader interactions

37 Replies to “5 types of books new Christians should read”

  1. […] 5 books every new Christian should read (May 2014) […]

  2. Oh, there are so many, but I think “The Holiness of God” by Sproul and “Knowing God” by Packer are good – I didn’t find “Knowing God” to be that difficult, Aaron, but maybe that’s because I have been a Christian for a long time. “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Bridges or his more recent “Respectable Sins” would be helpful to a person who is just becoming aware of the presence and seriousness of sin in his life and the importance of mortifying it. And I would recommend to any new believer to get a One Year Chronological Bible to read through to get an understanding of the order in which the people & events occurred historically.

  3. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Don Whitney. Practical, encouraging, without the checklist mentality that leads to legalism. I’ve studied through it 3 times in groups and at least twice on my own. Highest recommendation.

  4. “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Bridges and “The Hole in Our Holiness” by DeYoung.

  5. […] a lot about the relationship between books and the Christian faith. A little while ago, I shared five books I believe new Christians should read as well as five four and a half that I shouldn’t have read as a new Christian. Clearly, I […]

  6. The Chronicles of Narnia Series by CS Lewis should be first on every Christian reading list followed by The Lord of the Rings series by JRR Tolkien. The Christian life is a story, not a thesis, and these books do more to reveal the realities of a life with Christ than any theological book could (not to say theology books aren’t good, NT Wright never fails to impress).

  7. […] 5 Books Every New Christian Should Read “While the most important book any Christian should be reading is the Bible, it’s beneficial for us to read books in addition to it. We grow in our faith not only through the Holy Spirit’s work in revealing the Scriptures to us, but God also uses the encouragement and gifts of other believers to do so.” […]

  8. […] and a half books I shouldn’t have read as a new Christian – Last week, I shared five books I would encourage every new Christian read. In that post, I mentioned that in my first years as a believer, I read a lot of books I simply […]

  9. Nitoy Gonzales May 20, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Read #1,#3 and #5…great recommendations…

  10. […] week, I shared five books I would encourage every new Christian read. In that post, I mentioned that in my first years as a believer, I read a lot of books I simply […]

  11. […] 5 books every new Christian should read – While the most important book any Christian should be reading is the Bible, it’s beneficial for us to read books in addition to it. We grow in our faith not only through the Holy Spirit’s work in revealing the Scriptures to us, but God also uses the encouragement and gifts of other believers to do so. […]

  12. […] 5 books every new Christian should read […]

  13. I am currently involved in a study/program at our church to determine how to emphasize (and hopefully influence) the importance of reading our Bibles. One consideration is: can, and does, everyone read, as in ability and desire…? Your recommendations are good ones, for those of us who have the skills, desire, passion, but who are we leaving behind? and how can we initiate steps for those “less fortunate” in this area?

    1. That’s something I’ve thought while reading the commented recommendations. For instance: I quite enjoy Piper, but his works are very weighty, nuanced, and intellectually rigorous. Hence, I think books such as “Finally Alive” tend inaccessible for most brand-new Christians. (Unless that book in particular isn’t standard Piper fare.) As Aaron’s blog theme naturally attracts more learned folks, many of us take for granted intellectual ability and desire beyond the church-goers’ median; I wonder if this manifests itself in our recommended reading. I would probably be aloof myself, if I weren’t a high school teacher.

      1. That was actually one of my concerns when putting together my list. I’d considered putting Knowing God on it, but it is a pretty intimidating read for the average church-goer.

        Hopefully the list I have put together reflects my desire to be conscious of the different reading levels, though, and not skew too much into the intermediate category.

      2. I don’t think “Finally Alive” is any more “down to earth” than any of his other books, but one Piper book does stand above the rest as a “New Christian” book… “God is the Gospel.” The book is one of his best and would give a lot of attention to the fact that we aren’t saved to get heaven, to get gifts, to get answerable prayers, we are saved to get God. I would recommend it to anyone (if not for new Christians, especially for those who find themselves dealing with evangelism regularly… it fixed all that I found wrong with “evangelism” after I went through an Evangelism Explosion class… *another blog post altogether)

        1. As far as a Piper book is concerned, I totally agree: if I were going to give one to a new Christian, God is the Gospel is the one. Good recommendation.

    2. These are great questions Leon, ones I was trying to be conscious of in even recommending these books. Two of the things I find helpful with people who aren’t strong readers (ability) is reading along with them. I’m doing this with a guy right now, working through Multiply by Francis Chan together.

      The other issue, desire, is a trickier one. On the one hand, if someone doesn’t enjoy reading all that much, no one should be looking down on him or her. Not everyone is into it. However, it is something to be challenged respectfully since, after all, God’s self-disclosure comes to us in book form.

  14. The first two books I read when converted were The Pursuit of Holiness (Jerry Bridges) and Repentance and 20th Century Man (C. John Miller), though the latter book has been re-released under the title “Repentance.”

  15. My wife is using “Now that I’m a Christian” By Michael Patton with a new believer and we are very encouraged by this book. It is clear, helpful, and practical to guide a brand new Christian who has little knowledge of the Bible and life in the church.

    1. Awesome. That’s been one I’ve been meaning to check out.

  16. Andrew Bernhardt May 15, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Along with books for establishing a strong doctrinal foundation, I would add some practical living books like:
    Five Musts Of The Christian Life – F.B. Meyer

    Calvary Road – Roy Hession
    We Would See Jesus – Roy Hession
    The Normal Christian Life – Watchman Nee (I don’t necessary vouch for his other books)
    The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment – Jeremiah Burroughs

    1. The Burroughs book is excellent. So convicting. Not sure I’d recommend it to a new believer, though.

    2. I agree with Sarah – love this one by Burroughs, but maybe for a Christian who has progressed a bit in his walk.

  17. […] 5 books every new Christian should read – While the most important book any Christian should be reading is the Bible, it’s beneficial for us to read books in addition to it. We grow in our faith not only through the Holy Spirit’s work in revealing the Scriptures to us, but God also uses the encouragement and gifts of other believers to do so. […]

  18. I would say read Finally alive by John Piper, to find out what has just happened to you.

  19. ScriptureZealot May 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    There is an older book called The Fight by James White that’s excellent for getting started in the spiritual disciplines. The title sounds a little strange nowadays.

    1. Thanks for the head’s up on this one 🙂

      1. ScriptureZealot May 15, 2014 at 12:19 am

        You’re welcome. It’s overlooked. I think many of us forget what it’s like to be a ‘beginner’ and I’ve seen a lot of intermediate books recommended. I read this soon after becoming a Christian, and it’s great.

  20. Knowable Word by Peter Krol, An Infinite Journey by Andrew Davis and Taking God At His Word by DeYoung would be valuable additions along with virtually anything by J I Packer (Concise Theology, Knowing God, Keeping in Step With The Spirit …).

  21. These are three I would recommend:

    John Piper’s Finally Alive is the best book on regeneration so that needs to be on top of the list.
    Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs
    A Praying Life by Paul Miller

  22. Timothy Harris May 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I think “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur, or “Foundations of the Christian Faith” by James Montgomery Boice would be good additions to the list.

    Also, John Stott’s “Basic Christianity” was helpful for me when I first began looking into the merits and veracity of the faith.

    1. Boice’s book I could definitely see; same with Basic Christianity. MacArthur’s is a surprise one, but only because of its origins as a “response” book.

      1. Timothy Harris May 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

        I name it because of the ease of slipping into easy-believism. It would probably be a good idea to add a title dealing with legalism into the mix as well.

        One I didn’t name (because it is not well known) is Michael P.V. Barrett’s “Complete in Him: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Gospel”. It is an excellent resource on gospel truth and soteriology.

        Barrett is Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament at PRTS.

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