A few weeks ago I was speaking at a church in Kansas on the importance of theological study for every Christian (not just pastors, professors, or other church leaders). During the Q&A time after the talk, one lady asked a great question, which was this: What books should we be reading? As an avid reader and ongoing student of the word of God and its application, of course I could have spent hours simply recommending books I've read or authors we should all read. I decided to narrow my focus a bit to suggest mainly a few kinds of books (as well as a few specific titles) that I thought every Christian family ought to have in their home library. Even if you're single, however, or are married without children, I think this would make a good foundation for a useable and profitable home resource center.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously, but still I think a good start. Under the general categories, I make a few recommendations of titles, but you should obviously consult your pastors or trusted Christian friends for further recommendations. Here's what I think every Christian home library should include:
1. A good study Bible.
Every person in your family should have their own Bible, of course, even several Bibles. But it's great to have at least one good study Bible for family reference use or even devotional times. Here are a few I'd recommend:
The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible
The NIV Zondervan Study Bible
The ESV Study Bible
The HCSB Study Bible
The ESV Reformation Study Bible (also available in NKJV)
2. A systematic theology.
Systematic theologies provide an overview, subject-by-subject, of the Bible's teaching on God, man, and the ways of salvation and history. Here are a few I'd recommend:
Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - This is a classic work and should be in most Christian libraries for its standalone value.
Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones
3. A good one-volume Bible commentary.
There are many good commentary sets that serious students of God's word should avail themselves of, but many times individual volumes can be hit or miss, depending on the author. These commentaries are not as comprehensive in their coverage but provide whole-Bible insight in one volume. Here are some go-to standards:
Matthew Henry's Commentary on The Whole Bible - This is kind of the Coke Classic of one-volume commentaries.
The New Bible Commentary (IVP)
The Baker Commentary on the Bible
4. A good children's or family Bible storybook.
The best of these volumes are Christ-centered and as devotionally helpful for adults as for children. Here are some that fit the bill:
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook (B&H)
5. A good one-volume book on church history.
These recommendations provide decent overviews of the historical milestones in Christ's Church:
Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez
The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson - Note: I don't recommend much else from Olson.
Now here are some classic Christian works I think every Christian home ought to own:
6. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
7. The Confessions of Saint Augustine
8. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
9. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
10. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
And here are some honorable mentions if you really want to fill your bookcase with a basic library of past and modern Christian classics:
Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, The Life of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards, The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon, Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink, The Divine Comedy by Dante, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Desiring God by John Piper, The Reason for God by Tim Keller, The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, How to Be Born Again by Billy Graham, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer, Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Gospel of John (Pillar Commentary) by D.A. Carson, The City of God by Saint Augustine, Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas, Romans and Galatians (commentaries) by Martin Luther, The Glory of Christ by John Owen, Born Again by Charles Colson, The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur, The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs.