If you want to be changed, read a good book. Or so said A. W. Tozer: "The things you read will fashion you by slowly conditioning your mind." Of the millions of books published this century, only a few hundred have shaped people in extraordinary ways. Here are some of those—100 books that had a significant effect on Christians this century.

Christianity Today asked more than 100 of its contributors and church leaders to nominate the ten best religious books of the twentieth century. By best books, we meant those that not only were important when first published, but also have enduring significance for the Christian faith and church. We have included books which do not always prompt agreement, but which are important for evangelical Christians to read and contend with. A few "period" pieces also made the list of 90.

By far, C. S. Lewis was the most popular author and Mere Christianity the book nominated most often. Indeed, we could have included even more Lewis works, but finally we had to say: "Enough is enough; give some other authors a chance."

Readers are welcome to send us their own nominations of the top ten religious books of the twentieth century, with comments.


1. C. S. Lewis

Mere Christianity

The best case for the essentials of orthodox Christianity in print.

David S. Dockery

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Cost of Discipleship

Leaves you wondering why you ever thought complacency or compromise in the Christian life was an option.

Mark Buchanan

3. Karl Barth

Church Dogmatics

Opened a new era in theology in which the Bible, Christ, and saving grace were taken seriously once more.

J. I. Packer

4. J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings (trilogy)

A classic for children from 9 to 90. Bears constant re-reading.

J. I. Packer

5. John Howard Yoder

The Politics of Jesus

Some 30 years after this book was published, the church has found itself culturally in a more marginal position, and this book is making wider and wider sense.

Rodney Clapp

6. G.K. Chesterton


A rhetorically inventive exposition of the coherence of Christian truth.

David Neff

7. Thomas Merton

The Seven Storey Mountain

A painfully candid story of one Christian soul's walk with grace and struggle, it has become the mark against which all other spiritual autobiographies must be measured.

Phyllis Tickle

8. Richard Foster

Celebration of Discipline

After Foster finishes each spiritual discipline, you not only know what it is, why it's important, and how to do it—you want to do it.

Mark Buchanan

9. Oswald Chambers

My Utmost for His Highest

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A treasury of daily devotional readings that has fed the souls of millions of Christians in the twentieth century. Future generations of Christians must continue to draw from this treasury.

Richard J. Mouw

10. Reinhold Niebuhr

Moral Man and Immoral Society

Introduced a breathtakingly insightful, shrewd, and cunning realism about human sin, especially in its social expressions,
rooted in biblical theology and a penetrating appraisal of the dark era into which the Western world had entered.

David P. Gushee


in alphabetical order by author

Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart

Alcoholics Anonymous

(The Big Book of A.A.)

Roland Bainton

Here I Stand

Karl Barth

The Epistle to the Romans

Ernest Becker

The Denial of Death

Robert N. Bellah, ET AL.

Habits of the Heart

Georges Bernanos

The Diary of a Country Priest

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Letters and Papers from Prison

David Bosch

Transforming Mission

Walter Brueggemann

The Prophetic Imagination

Emil Brunner

Truth as Encounter

Albert Camus

The Plague

Edward John Carnell

The Case for Orthodox Theology

Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Dorothy Day

The Long Loneliness

Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Documents of Vatican II
W. E. B. Dubois

The Souls of Black Folk

T. S. Eliot

Four Quartets

Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man

Jacques Ellul

The Technological Society

Shusaku Endo


Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank

Victor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning

Sigmund Freud

Civilization and Its Discontents

The Fundamentals
Langdon Gilkey

Shantung Compound

Carol Gilligan

In a Different Voice

Graham Greene

The Power and the Glory

John Howard Griffin

Black Like Me

Gustavo Gutiérrez

A Theology of Liberation

Philip Paul Hallie

Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed

Stanley Hauerwas

A Community of Character

Václav Havel

Living in Truth

Richard Hays

The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Carl F. H. Henry

God, Revelation, and Authority (six volumes)

John R. Hersey


Abraham Heschel

The Prophets

Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

William James

The Varieties of Religious Experience

Franz Kafka

The Trial

Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Testament of Hope

Thomas S. Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac

C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia
(especially The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and The Screwtape Letters

J. Gresham Machen

Christianity and Liberalism

Alasdair C. MacIntyre

After Virtue

Malcolm X and Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

George M. Marsden

Fundamentalism and American Culture

FranÇois Mauriac

Viper's Tangle

Jürgen Moltmann

The Crucified God

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Richard John Neuhaus

The Naked Public Square

Lesslie Newbigin

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Reinhold Niebuhr

The Nature and Destiny of Man (two volumes)

H. Richard Niebuhr

Christ and Culture

Kathleen Norris

The Cloister Walk

Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Wounded Healer

Anders Nygren

Agape and Eros

Elizabeth O'Connor

Journey Inward, Journey Outward

Flannery O'Connor

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories

Rudolf Otto

The Idea of the Holy

J. I. Packer

Knowing God

Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved Country

Jaroslav Pelikan

Jesus Through the Centuries

Josef Pieper

The Four Cardinal Virtues

Michael Polanyi

Personal Knowledge

Chaim Potok

The Chosen

Walter Rauschenbusch

Christianity and the Social Crisis

Dorothy L. Sayers

The Mind of the Maker

Albert Schweitzer

The Quest of the Historical Jesus

Nevil Shute

On the Beach

Ronald J. Sider

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

John R. W. Stott

Basic Christianity

Paul Tournier

The Meaning of Persons

A. W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God

Barbara Tuchman

The Guns of August

Evelyn Underhill


Miroslav Volf

Exclusion and Embrace

Gerhard von Rad

Old Testament Theology

Andrew F. Walls

The Missionary Movement in Christian History

Max Weber

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Simone Weil

Waiting for God

Elie Wiesel


Charles Williams

Descent into Hell

Walter Wink

Engaging the Powers

Philip Yancey

The Jesus I Never Knew

Related Elsewhere

Most of these books are still in print and can be purchased at the Christianity Online bookstore and other book retailers.

Near the end of 1999, HarperCollins published a list of The 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century. John Wilson, Editor at Large of Christianity Today and Editor of Books & Culture, was on the nominating committee.

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