The following is a list of recommended books for Christian college students. I have compiled this list based on what I perceive to be the most important issues facing students today. I have also included several important devotional and theological works in order to ground students in a glorious vision of God and a deepening walk of practical faith and obedience.
One might object to the length of this list, complaining that it is far too long for any college student to complete during their tenure. While I don’t think a student must complete this list before they leave college, I do think is entirely possible to do so. Consider this. The total number of pages in this list comes to 7284. If a student takes four years to complete their undergraduate degree while choosing to pursue some supplemental reading during both the school year and the summer, he or she can complete this list by reading only 5 pages a day.
Not only will students glean spiritual and intellectual riches from daily reading in these books, they will experience stability in their faith as they traverse a terrain that is often hostile to Christian faith.
1. The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God | John Piper. This is a weighty book, but it richly repays careful, slow, prayerful reading. John Piper takes us to Scripture with the conviction that clearly seeing the character of God will transform us to be more like God (2 Corinthians 3:18). In order to truly know God, we must know what he delights in. Through Piper’s careful, patient exegesis of and thoughtful reflection on countless biblical texts, we are given a feast for the soul. 395 pages.
2. Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014). In this short yet incredibly insightful book, DeYoung lets the Bible speak for itself about its own inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority. This is a great book to start with in studying the doctrine of Scripture. 137 pages.
3. The Vanishing Conscience: Drawing the Line in a No-Fault, Guilt-Free World | John MacArthur. The word “sin” has nearly disappeared from our American vocabulary. We now classify our wicked deeds as a psychological disorder or mere mistakes. While painting the contemporary landscape with skill and keen insight, John MacArthur also takes us to Scripture to find the remedy for our vanishing consciences. 279 pages.
4. Revolutions and Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought | Edited by W. Andrew Hoffecker. In this substantial yet very helpful volume, each contributor takes the reader through specific time periods of western intellectual history (starting with Heraclitus, b. 525 and ending with the 20th century philosophers) so that we might understand, from a Christian perspective, our contemporary academic, social, and spiritual climate, and how one’s worldview will not only affect his life, but his view of God and the Bible as well. 418 pages.
5. Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning | Edited by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas Schreiner. This book is a collection of short and accessible (3-5 page) chapters that discuss an array of issues related to the Bible. Topics like canonicity, inerrancy, inspiration, archeology, textual criticism, and hermeneutics are all covered in this brief yet insightful volume. 203 pages.
6. From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading and Applying the Bible | Sinclair Ferguson. This accessible little book is aimed at ordinary Christians who may not have a lot of experience in the doctrine of Scripture or in studying the Bible for themselves. Ferguson takes the reader through basic doctrines like inspiration and inerrancy, while also helping his readers understand how to interpret the Bible. 209 pages.
7. The Holiness of God | R. C. Sproul. The holiness of God is, tragically, an attribute not cherished as it should be by many professing evangelical Christians. Yet, as Sproul argues and illustrates in what is considered a “modern classic,” a right understanding is the holiness of God must be central to a Christian’s life. 265 pages.
8. Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World | Michael Horton. Millennials are restless. And, even though they have been captured by the gospel, Millennial Christians are pretty restless, too. They, like their unbelieving counterparts are unlikely to remain at their jobs for longer than 18 months or settle down into marriage before their late twenties. When it comes to church, the idea of long-term commitment to a local congregation sounds boring, unfulfilling, and…well…ordinary. Michael Horton helps us see that faithfulness to Christ is often found in our mundane, day-to-day routines and that the constant longing for spiritual breakthroughs and “radical” ministry may do us more harm than good. 221 pages.
9. Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace | Heath Lambert. Are you struggling with lust and regularly viewing pornography? Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, writes with humility, compassion, and practical, straightforward counsel, and helps us bring the gospel to bear on our fight for sexual purity. 176 pages.
10. Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys who are Sick of Porn | Tim Challies. In this short little book that can be read in under two hours, Tim Challies, with wisdom, compassion, and straightforward biblical counsel, helps guys cleanse their mind of porn and renew a biblical understanding of marriage and sexual intimacy. 108 pages.
11. Love into Light: The Gospel, The Homosexual, and the Church | Peter Hubbard. With compassion, tenderness, and courage, Peter Hubbard, teaching pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, South Carolina, aims to help Christians who are struggling with same-sex attraction. 174 pages.
12. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, Revised and Expanded | John Jefferson Davis. In this helpful volume John Davis helps Christians think carefully and biblically about the major ethical issues of the day. Included in this volume are discussions about reproductive technologies, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, capital punishment, civil disobedience, war and peace, environmental ethics, and genetics. 357 pages.
13. When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy | John Piper. Many Christians struggle with seasons of spiritual dryness, lack of joy, and spiritual depression. In this highly theological yet sensitive and nitty-gritty practical book, Piper examines the reasons for why we struggle with joylessness and spiritual depression, and offers many biblical solutions to our troubles. 268 pages.
14. A Gospel Primer: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love | Milton Vincent. In this short, simple little book, Vincent takes us through the basic tenets of the gospel, reminding us to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday so that we might walk by faith in God’s grace and not by relying on our own performance. 97 pages.
15. What is a Healthy Church? | Mark Dever. While you are in college it is vital that you find and commit yourself to a local church. But not just any local church, but a healthy local church. Mark Dever, writing from years of pastoral experience, helps his readers understand the essential characteristics of a healthy church. 127 pages.
16. What is a Healthy Church Member? | Thabiti M. Anyabwile. Having found a healthy local church, a Christian college student should desire to become a productive, growing church member who doesn’t merely receive from the church’s ministry week in and week out, but who learns how to love and serve others for the glory of God. 127 pages.
17. Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem | Jay Richards. Is capitalism immoral? Is capitalism the cause of all our economic and social woes? Will promoting the economic models of communism or socialism bring about social equality, poverty relief, and monetary growth for individuals and countries? In this excellent book, Richards explodes several common myths about capitalism and demonstrates the many benefits of free-market economic system. He also cogently argues that biblical principles actually lay the foundation for free-market capitalism rather than undermining its moral and economic validity. 255 pages.
18. Poverty of the Nations: A Sustainable Solution | Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem. What is the most effective way to provide poverty relief to struggling nations? Is it through foreign aid, wealth redistribution, the creation of subsistence farmers, or fair trade? As Barry Asmus, a senior economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis and Wayne Gruden, research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, cogently argue, it is nothing less than free-market capitalism that will bring enduring relief to impoverished nations. While Asmus and Grudem clearly affirm that poverty cannot be fully eradicated in this life, they contend that great strides can be taken to help those who suffer from a lack of material goods. 398 pages.
19. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will | Kevin DeYoung. What’s God’s will for my life? This is a vital question, but according to DeYoung, many Christians have embraced an answer that is not entirely biblical and therefore not entirely helpful. Rather than searching for God’s secret will of direction for our lives, DeYoung encourages us to seek for wisdom in Scripture, through godly counsel, and prayer, and then just do something. This book is a must read for college students. (See my review here.) 143 pages.
20. How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil | D. A. Carson. In this compassionate and thoroughly biblical volume, Carson helps us understand the tough topics of suffering and evil, and how to respond to both in a way that is good for us and brings glory to God. 238 pages.
21. Business for the Glory of God | Wayne Grudem. Do we really serve God in our daily jobs, or are we serving God only when we go on a mission trip or teach Sunday School? Drawing from Scripture, Grudem cogently and persuasively argues that God not only created work, but he delights in our work, whether that work is in the church or in a bank. 95 pages.
22. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done | Matt Perman. Should Christians concern themselves with productivity, or is it a subject only for “secular” professionals? According to Matt Perman, if Christians desire to be rich in good works, they should be deeply concerned about productivity, because productivity, rightly understood, is really about doing good to others. In this insightful and accessible volume, Perman helps Christians think about their daily productivity as a way to serve others and further the gospel. 351 pages.
23. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs | J. I. Packer. This volume is a collection of brief, 1-2 page essays on several important theological categories, including revelation, salvation, the attributes of God, predestination, heaven, hell, the virgin birth, and many, many more. This book is an excellent and accessible introduction to Christian theology. 267 pages.
24. Holiness | J. C. Ryle. This classic book will renew your mind and help that the pursuit of holiness is essential for the Christain, not optional. Through several searching chapters, Ryle lays bear our hearts and our lives, our motivations and our actions, our emotions and our behavior, and helps us see everything we thing, say, and do in light of God’s holy Word. With pastoral care and wisdom, Ryle also provides us with appropriate encouragement so that we might see the personal holiness as a beautiful, wholesome, blood-earnest pursuit. This book is worthy of slow, patient, careful reading. 405 pages.
25. The Pilgrim’s Progress | John Bunyan. This book, written as an allegory of the Christian life, will provide you with immense comfort and encouragement as you make your own way to the celestial city. Bunyan’s volume is a well-loved classic and deserves many re-readings. 405 pages (Penguin Classics).
26. Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1-2:4 In the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms | Douglas Kelly. Is evolution a fact? Is creationism mere religious dogma, the stubborn remnants of a bygone pre-enlightenment era? Douglas Kelly, Professor Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary argues from a broad study of science, theology, and philosophy that the biblical account of creation is both accurate and defensible. 272 pages.
27. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism | Mark Dever. In this concise yet helpful volume, Mark Dever not only clarifies the gospel, he also offers biblical counsel on why we should evangelize, how we should evangelize, and what to do after we have evangelized. 123 pages.
28. What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood According to the Bible | John Piper. In this concise little volume, John Piper provides a beautiful vision of biblical manhood and womanhood, defining masculinity and femininity in a way where one perfectly complements the other. In an age of rampant gender confusion both inside and outside the church, this book is a must read. 91 pages.
29. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life | Donald Whitney. In this accessible and straightforward volume, Whitney helps Christians establish several important spiritual disciplines. Whitney discusses Bible intake, prayer, journaling, and many others. 354 pages.
30. How to Read a Book: A Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading | Mortmer Adler. Learning how to read well is one of the most important skills you will develop in your lifetime. In this modern classic, Adler helps us to determine the right approach to various kinds of reading and helps you ask the right questions of what you read. 426 pages.