People and movements can be defined by the books they read and remember.

The time it takes to read and digest a book requires us to engage someone else's ideas with more seriousness than almost any other activity. So it is with some trepidation that we present this list.

These are books that have shaped evangelicalism as we see it today—not an evangelicalism we wish and hope for. Books that have been published since World War II—not every book in the history of Christianity. Books that over the last 50 years have altered the way American evangelicals pray, gather, talk, and reach out—not books that merely entertained.We asked dozens of evangelical leaders for their suggestions, and they sent in their nominations. Then we vigorously debated as a staff as we ranked the 50 books. (We're still debating.)

Some argued that we should categorize the books—e.g., books that have shaped our prayer, books that have shaped our social action, books that have shaped our church life, and so forth. But that's the easy way out. It's mildly interesting to ponder whether C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity or Francis Schaeffer's Escape from Reason influenced evangelical apologetics more. It's much more difficult to decide whether Left Behind or All We're Meant to Be or Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger has shaped our movement more. Thus the interoffice debates.

In a letter with his nominations, Notre Dame historian Mark A. Noll wrote that the list "strikes me as an imposing task, because there are so many good and important books, but also because it is so hard to figure out who 'we' are." True. Our experiment is one stab at an answer to this confounding question.

We look forward ...

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October 2006

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