Need help with reading list.

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Puritan Board Sophomore
I have seen Matt's reading list (books to buy before paying rent). Honestly, I would probably be homeless, and couldn't work if I were to pursue reading that list. :)

Anyway, I would like to compile a reading list to educate myself in several disciplines. (not in any specific order)

Western Civilization
Church History
Near Eastern Ancient civilization
World History
Systematic theology
Devotional reading.

I have a college degree in engineering, and have done a fair amount of reading on my own, but I can hardly be considered educated compared to many here at PB. I have taken classes or read books in almost all or these subjects, but other than theology, I have not fully explored them. Even with theology, I have only fully read a handful of books (I have skimmed and referenced hundreds of books).

I would like everybody to give me 3-5 suggestions from each category.

How many books are appropriate to read in a year if I can devote say 4 hours/week to reading books? I have never had an organized reading list, but with my limited time, I desperately need one.

[Edited on 4-30-2004 by raderag]


Puritan Board Senior
Let me name a few of works that will probably not be named by others on this board.

Philosophy: The Christian God by Richard Swinburne

Systematics: Reformed Dogmatics by G. H. Kersten

Near East : Ancient Orient and the Old Testament by Kenneth Kitchen

Church History: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine by Eusebius

World History Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke [it is a foundational document to understand the christian reaction agaist the enlightenment]


Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:39e42960b2][i:39e42960b2]Originally posted by yeutter[/i:39e42960b2]
Let me name a few of works that will probably not be named by others on this board.[/quote:39e42960b2]

Thank you. I haven't read any of those.


Puritan Board Junior
[b:92cb9a26e3]Western Civilization :[/b:92cb9a26e3] The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire : Volumes 1, 2, 3 by EDWARD GIBBON (Get the J.B. Bury edition if you can afford it)

[b:92cb9a26e3]Church History :[/b:92cb9a26e3] "The History Of Christian Doctrines" by Berkhof.

[b:92cb9a26e3]Philosophy :[/b:92cb9a26e3]
"History of Philosophy" (9 volumes) by Frederick Copleston

[b:92cb9a26e3]Near Eastern Ancient Civilization :[/b:92cb9a26e3] ANET Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament. With Supplement -- by James Bennett Pritchard (Editor);
& "Ancient Israelite Literature In Its Cultural Context", by John Walton. (P.S. The book Yeutter mentioned by Kitchen is also good.)

[b:92cb9a26e3]World History : [/b:92cb9a26e3] This one is hard to say. For a brief overview I would go with Durant's "The Story Of Civilization" set.

[b:92cb9a26e3]Systematic Theology :[/b:92cb9a26e3] "Reformed Dogmatics" by Herman Hoeksema, or "Outlines Of Theology" by A.A. Hodge

[b:92cb9a26e3]Devotional reading :[/b:92cb9a26e3] Augustine, Matthew Henry, John Owen, Matthew Meade, Thomas Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

[Edited on 5-2-2004 by Wintermute]


Puritan Board Graduate
[b:830c8e7e32]Western Civilization [/b:830c8e7e32]
[1] Jackson Spielvogel, Western Civilization (rather long and may be more than you want)
[2] Warren Hollister, Medieval Europe: A Short Sourcebook. It is readable and used in many college course.
[2] The Odyssey (my favorite fiction book)
[3] The Iliad

[b:830c8e7e32]Church History [/b:830c8e7e32]
Not all of these may interest you, but are by topic.

[1] For a high-level overview of church history, try Justo Gonzalez' Church History: An Essential Guide, which is very manageable reading. It is less than 100 pages, as I recall. For a longer overview, try his The Story of Christianity. It is used in some Reformed seminaries. It is in two volumes and is good.

[2] Eusebius, The History of the Church
Unlike many patristics, this is easy reading, and essential primary source material for understaning the early church.

[3] Hughes Oliphant Old, The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship. If you want to understand the historical roots of Reformed worship and their attempts to defend biblical worship based on historic church practice.

[4] Ramsay MacMullen's Christianizing the Roman Empire (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984). Excellent short book surveying the records about what caused early Christians to convert.

[5] Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press 1989). Great history of how the American Christianity has been made democratic. Early Calvinists and others resisted this trend. Must reading for understanding why churches in America are as they are today.

[b:830c8e7e32]Philosophy [/b:830c8e7e32]
Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey. A high-level overview of major philosophical systems written in understandable English.

James Sire, The Universe Next Door. Superb general introduction to various worldviews (including religious worldviews)

James Sire, Chris Chrisman Goes to College. Excellent overview of worldviews, told in a story format, which makes it very readable.

[b:830c8e7e32]Systematic theology [/b:830c8e7e32]
[1] While not systematic theology per se, the Westminster documents are invaluable to understanding theology. In that regard, I recommend reading the Larger Catechism in conjunction with:
J.G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary

Also, you can read the shorter catechism in conjunction with many great commentaries free online at:
Shorter Catechism Project

[2] Calvin's Institutes are invaluable. I consult them, along with Calvin's commentaries, regularly. They are available free online, too, which is how I normally use them. Not really a systematic theology, although it will address the issues a systematic theology would.

[3] Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology are great too. Also not really a systematic theology, but provides broad overview of theological issues.

[b:830c8e7e32]Devotional reading[/b:830c8e7e32]
[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Praying the Psalms

[2] Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray
Available free online at

[3] The Book of Common Prayer (Anglican).

I like the 1928 version. It can be used to help structure prayer life, with a cycle for praying the psalms monthly, collects for various occassions, and the like.

[4] Richard Baxter, The Christian Directory
A classic Puritan work. Has very helpful, practical advice on nearly all aspects of the Christian life. It include parts on Christian devotions, such as prayer and fasting. Very practical.

You did not ask for books in these categories, but I thought I would recommend them anyway. :yes:

[1] Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura. Outstanding book that will help shape a proper understanding of the roles of scripture and church.
[2] Keith Mathison, Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Modern evangelical sacramentology is sadly low, evening reformed churches. Reformed churches have been heavily influenced by Baptist thinking. For that matter, just reading and re-reading the sections of the confessional standards addressing the sacraments in incredibly helpful.
[3] John Frame, Evangelical Reunion. Quick read and available free online:
Provides helpful thoughts on understanding the relations among different denominations.

[Edited on 5-5-2004 by Scott]

[Edited on 5-5-2004 by Scott]


Puritan Board Graduate
How many books are appropriate to read in a year if I can devote say 4 hours/week to reading books? I have never had an organized reading list, but with my limited time, I desperately need one.

I don't know. Slow and steady is the key if you have limited time, which is like everyone I know. Here are some ideas:

[1] Use car time. I listen to audio books all the time. I also listen to them when I work out (which is easy on some things, like a stationary bike). You can check out unabridged audio books from your public library for free. Austin libraries will have agreat selection. Further, you can get books you want free from your library through inter-library loan, which I use all the time.

For example, I just "read" The Odyssey, The Iliad, Sidhartha, and am presently "reading" Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization again. I have "read" many, many books this, including books I would not have otherwise read (such as about 9 of the Left Behind series).

[2] More audio. You can also get the shorter and larger catechisms in audio format from Still Waters Revival Books ( Or, you can record the tapes yourself. Listening to these are great doctrinal instruction during what is otherwise down time.

[3] Use interlibrary loans from your public library to get books. It will be too expensive otherwise and you will end up with a house cluttered with books that you will never go back to. Interlibrary loans are the greatest thing in the world. I fyou find a book worth going back to, buy it after you have read it.

[4] If you find a book is unhelpful, stop reading and go on to something else (C.S. Lewis' advice).

[5] Alternate short and long books. You will feel like you are getting more done than just reading a couple of long books. For example, Gonzalez' shorter church history or Luther's Simple Way to Pray could be read in between longer books.

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