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:
- Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul
- Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
- 8 Habits for Growth by Darryl Dash
- Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey
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.
- Until they all closed, at any rate.
- And in full disclosure, I’m working on a book like this, so prayer is always appreciated.
- Who also dislikes Moby Dick about as much as I do, which makes her one of my favorite people.
- Yes, I’m putting another book I wrote on this list too. I’m allowed.
- 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.