My Top 20 Books…(books that have influenced me…for the better)


1) The 60 Second Christian – Gary R Collins

My friend Phil Steer bought me a copy from a Christian book shop in Bristol UK in 1986. His aspiration to simplicity in thought, communication and understanding of the Gospel has been a perpetual force in shaping my own faith. For the academic to be able to communicate at a child’s level is a wonderful gift and a personal challenge! I hope I can say Gary has been a powerful influence in my preaching from that day to this.


2) The Dark Night – St John of the Cross

I sat down and read for what I thought was an hour. Six hours had passed. I read for a further 30 minutes – or so I imagined. another 3 hours had passed. I was transfixed. From another world and four centuries away this writer was looking at me, forensically examining me and showing me my deepest secrets. Small wonder the Spanish count this book as a Classic of Spanish literature, and that the Roman Catholic Church, four centuries after persecuting him, regard the books author as a “Doctor of the Church”!

3) The Way of  a Pilgrim – Anon. tr. R.M. French

Teaching through story. A timeless method. A timeless tale. warm, simple profound. A book to come back to time after time. The mystery of its authorship adds another layer of fascination. It is practical and life-changing in providing ways of prayer that have carried believers through times of richness and desert times too. Incidentally a wonderful glimpse into the world of the genuine believer in C19th Russia.

4) Russian Mystics – Sergius Bolshakoff

Wow! This book opened up a whole new world to me and introduced me to one of my great spiritual “companions” from the Great Cloud of Witnesses – St Seraphim of Sarov – a Russian Orthodox Hermit – an amazing “staretz” (spiritual coach) who incarnated the “hesychast” tradition of prayer within himself and brought healing and conversion of life to many in 18th/19th century Russia.

5) Pythagoras’ Trousers, God, Physics & the Gender Wars – Margaret Wertheim

Christian thought has many times been at the cutting edge of significant paradigm shifts in the past. For a fascinating view of the historic interplay between science and faith let me highly recommend Margaret Wertheim’s scholarly and illuminating offering.

6) School for Prayer – Metropolitan Anthony!

After years of struggling to get going in prayer, the simplicity and profound reality of this book was a revelation. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh somehow seemed to embody the whole Russian Orthodox tradition within himself. His approach to Scripture, and the real-ness of his ways of prayer absolutely inspired me. He introduced me to the Eastern tradition and many of its great teachers. And I am forever grateful to him for his making available to me his personal archive of materials on Seraphim of Sarov. In many ways my own writing would have been impossible without his.


7) How to win friends and influence people – Dale Carnegie

Having read some recent offerings on the subject of leadership I have found myself unsatisfied.  I find the book on which even the most recent publications still seem to draw to be a fount of wisdom and common sense – “How to win friends and influence people”. The fact that its insights are still percolating through our culture 75 years on from publication speaks volumes.

8) Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership – Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth Haley-Barton (president of The Transforming Center) talks about how to stay alive and responsive to God’s calling. She does that by looking at the journey of Moses through the lens of leadership-development. And it as an eye-opening read. (If you were blessed by Parker J Palmer’s paradigm shifting book about calling, “Let your life speak”, you will love this offering.)


9) Contemplative Prayer-  Thomas Merton

So simple and straightforward that when I read it I thought, “This must be early Thomas Merton!” I was all the more inspired by it when I realized this was the last book he wrote. Accessible to any reader. An absolute gem. Don’t be fooled by its title. The book is about prayer!

10) The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church – Vladimir Lossky

Read my book “The New Monastic” and you will understand why this book was a lifeline to me!

11) Power Evangelism – John Wimber

This book encapsulates much of what I drank in from John Wimber, whose intersection with St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Chorleywood changed the course of the renewal among UK churches. His avoidance  of hype and VIP culture, the reverence and intimacy of the Vineyard songs of worship, the theological thoughtfulness, the respect and gentleness of his approach, and his enormous generosity were a great gift to the churches. He gave a sane, evangelical footing for taking hold of the paradigm of the Kingdom of God, and the present work of the Holy Spirit.

12) Spiritual Combat – Dom Lorenz0 Scupoli

There are reasons too numerous to mention why this little tome, by an otherwise unknown Theatine monk has been continually in print for more than four hundred years…

13) Let Your Life Speak – Parker J Palmer

I remember this rather expensive hardback being read, given, begged and borrowed from pastor to pastor when I worked in Canberra. Why? Let me simply say that this is a book everyone should read!

14) His Life is Mine – Archimandrite Sophrony

Set me on a lifelong journey, deeply impacted by Sophrony’s writing and the community he founded and led. The unfamiliar theological terms sent me running to the dictionary more than once, but what emerges in the book is more than worth the cross-cultural journey!! So glad that this amazing man put this little portion of what he had learned into print. Beautiful and can only move the reader to greater love and worship!

15) Eternity in their hearts – Don Richardson

Full of mind-blowing testimony from around the world, this book makes sense of the Gospel and how it relates to God seekers in unreached people groups past and present. An eye-opener, a faith-builder and a paradigm-shifter. A must read for any believer with a heart for people and mission.

16) The Waters of Silence – Thomas Merton

What does radical, holistic, slow church church planting have to do with classic, Cistercian monasticism? Read this and find out! Timeless. And, as my homepage illustrates, I have lived with the image of the Cistercian cloister at Fontenay (above) ever since!

17) Spirituality and Pastoral Care – Kenneth Leech

If ever you need setting free from the temptation to impersonate rather than emulate, this book will show you the power of being yourself in ministry – just as God intended you to be! For you have been created for works which God has prepared for you to walk in! This book is a courage-giver and includes some wonderful, layered tableaux of life-changing priests and servants of the Gospel.

18) The Rest of God – Mark Buchanan

In a world of prosaic and didactic expertism, Mark’s offering is poetry, winsome and  transformational. A warm and wonderful way to teach – and to learn!


19) The Practice of Evangelism – Bryan Green

Do we know less about evangelism than we did fifty years ago when Bryan green gave these lectures in Melbourne? A lot of deconstruction and re-imagining has been done in the time since – and we’re certainly in a different intellectual age. But certain things remain timeless. And for those things this book is an Australian gem!

20) The Song of the Bird – Anthony de Mello

Awareness and awakeness are human skills perpetually relevant to engaging with what we might call the spiritual life. I find this book still refreshing thirty years after reading it for the first time.