David’s Picks

There are so many books we can read, and in this space I will share a few recommendations based either on the authors I’m currently enjoying, or which have proven in to be incredibly helpful to me over the course of a life spent trying to read and understand.

Book titles are linked to Amazon.com

Literary Life

Reading about reading? Yes!

Writing

Poetry

A life spent dwelling with the demands of artists painting with words makes he eyes one’s heart and the galleries of the imagination pulsate with truth and long for the beautiful. These works focus as well as tease, entertain as well as educate, and give voice to the interior space most of us mere mortals have a difficult time expressing in adequate terms.

Novels, Short Stories, and Plays

My rule of thumb for pieces making this list is very simple: game­changer. In other words, their cultural contribution is either so vast and widespread as to exist in an unseen manner ­ the salt seasoning the flavor of thought, the monetary policy controlling the currency of our discourse; or the work was so personally enjoyable and transforming that its impossible to imagine myself apart from it.

Culinary Life

There are more famous books on cooking than this list contains. These are listed here because they possess the two essential qualities that any cookbook worth owning must have in spades: first, the recipes have to work; second, the book has to compel you into the kitchen to grab tools, ingredients, and fan the flames of love! Real cooking is all about beauty and love, so if a book leads my heart and hands that direction, its going to be smeared with olive oil, dog-eared, and revered. I’ve also included some essential ‘how to’ books because frankly a few techniques and safety issues have to be in place to make cooking the enjoyable, fearless feast of affection and witness to the Almighty that it’s meant to be. There are also a few books below marked with an * that are all about a cooking life and a philosophy of food; they too are not to be missed. Bon appetit!

“It will be precisely because we loved Jerusalem enough to bear it in our bones that its textures will ascend when we rise; it will be because our eyes have relished the earth that the color of its countries will compel our hearts forever. The bread and the pastry, the cheeses, wines, and the songs go into the Supper of the Lamb because we do: It is our love that brings the City home.”– Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection

“Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence… To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that ‘something more’ is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.” ― Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

  • Ruhlman’s Twenty, by Michael Ruhlman
  • The Way to Cook, by Julia Child
  • The Silver Palate Cookbook
  • The New Family Cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen
  • The French Laundry, Thomas Keller
  • Genius Recipes, Food 52, Kristen Miglore
  • A Kitchen in France, Mimi Thorissen
  • Cuisine Founations, Le Cordon Bleu
  • On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee
  • Saveur: The New Classics
  • Martha Stewart’s Dinners at Home
  • Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten
  • Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook
  • A Year in Provence*, by Peter Mayle
  • Dining in the Kingdom of God *, by Eugene LaVerdiere
  • The Spirit of Food*, Leslie Leyland, Editor
  • Consider the Fork*, by Bee Wilson
  • Salt, a World History*, by Mark Kurlansky
  • My Life in France*, by Julia Child
  • The Soul of a Chef*, by Michael Ruhlman
  • The Table Comes First*, Adam Gopnik
  • The Supper of the Lamb*, by Robert Farrar Capon
  • Pasta Sfoglia, by Ron Suhanosky

Here are the magazines you really do have to get every month and enjoy immensely: Food and Wine; Saveur; Bon Appetit; Donna Hay

Here are the Blogs/Websites you really need:

  • Chow
  • Slow Down and Savor
  • Accidental Hedonist
  • Not Without Salt
  • Chasing Delicious
  • Michael Ruhlman
  • 101 Cookbooks.

Pastoral and Theological Life

Isn’t everything theological? Of course! Still, this can be a somewhat specialized category, so I am offering here a few important titles that have, like the cookbooks above, inspired me to love and good deeds. A word of caution first. Someone is always asking about a book NOT on the list! I’ve read and own thousands of books. I could put hundreds on this list, but I’m only including some not because I don’t value the others but because these have simply proven to be the most helpful to me, probably in the past ten years especially. There are massively influential books on my shelf that go back 40 years (some a very BAD influence!), but this is really a list about more recent times. They’re also from across the theological spectrum. Don’t hate me for loving the entire Body of Christ.

  • Credo, by Jaroslav Pelikan
  • The Orthodox Way, by Met Kallistos (Ware)
  • Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Bavinck
  • On the Incarnation, by St Athanasius
  • The Trinity, by St Augustine
  • Hymns of Paradise, St Ephrem
  • On the Sacraments, St Cyril of Jerusalem
  • Death on a Friday Afternoon, Richard John Neuhaus
  • Ascension Theology, Douglas Farrow
  • The Jesus We Missed, Patrick Henry Reardon
  • Jesus and The Victory of God, NT Wright
  • Not the Way its Supposed to Be, Platinga
  • Grace in Practice, Zahl
  • The Mission of God, Christopher Wright
  • Foolishness to the Greeks, Lesslie Newbigin
  • Making Room, Christine Pohl
  • Center Church, Timothy Keller
  • Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament, Ronald Wallace
  • Letters to a Servant Leader, by Jack Miller
  • Letters of John Owen
  • Letters of Samuel Rutherford
  • The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges
  • The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson
  • The Oxford History of Christian Worship
  • The Oxford History of the Christian Church
  • The Story of Christianity, by Justo Gonzales
  • The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, by David Dorsey
  • The New Testament and the People of God, by NT Wright
  • The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen
  • Luther’s Theology of the Cross, by Alister McGrath
  • The Cross of Christ, by John Stott
  • Creation Regained, Wolters
  • The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
  • The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer
  • The Gospel of Life, John Paul II
  • Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Michael Pomazansky
  • Worship ­ Its Theology and Practice, JJ von­Allmen
  • Between Two Worlds ­ John Stott
  • From Heaven He Came and Sought Her ­ David Gibson, Jonathan Gibson
  • The Gospel of Matthew ­ Leiva Merikakis
  • The Gospel of John ­ Craig Keener

Prayer

  • Listen to Your Life ­ Frederick Buechner
  • A Prayer Journal ­ Flannery O’Connor
  • Valley of Vision
  • Book of Common Prayer

The Life of Beauty and Truth

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about these things – Philippians 4:8

  • Art, a New History, by Paul Johnson
  • A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor
  • Intellectual Appetite, by Paul Griffiths
  • Til We Have Built Jerusalem, by Philip Bess
  • Kant and the Platypus, by Umberto Eco
  • The Interpretation of Cultures, by Clifford Geertz
  • Every Good Endeavor, by Timothy Keller
  • The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker
  • To Change the World, James Davison Hunter
  • History of Beauty, by Umberto Eco
  • The Hungry Soul, Leon Kass
  • The Beauty of the Infinite, by David Bentley Hart
  • Culture Matters, T.M. Moore
  • Imagining the Kingdom, by James KA Smith
  • The Calvinistic Conception of Culture, by Henry Van Til
  • The Stone Lectures, by Abraham Kuyper
  • Foolishness to the Greeks, by Lesslie Newbigin
  • The Geometry of Love, by Margaret Visser
  • Planted, by Leah Kostamo
  • Food and Faith, by Norman Wirzba
  • He Shines in All thats Fair, by Richard Mouw
  • Creation Regained, Albert Wolters
  • Space, Time, and Resurrection, by Thomas Torrance
  • The Magnificent Defeat, by Frederick Buechner
  • The Alphabet of Grace, by Frederick Buechner
  • The Abolition of Man, by CS Lewis
  • The Weight of Glory, by CS Lewis
  • The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien

World History

Who doesn’t love a story? The most amazing stories aren’t the ones we make up so much as the ones we are and which make up us. Biography is the front door of history, and so I’m simply listing here some favorite volumes, along with a couple surveys.

  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, by William Manchester
  • Churchill, by Martin Gilbert
  • Churchill, by Roy Taylor
  • Witness to Hope: John Paul II, by George Weigel
  • Augustine of Hippo, by Peter Brown
  • Luther, by Heiko Obermann
  • Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley
  • The Lessons of History, by Wil Durant
  • Dynamics of World History, by Christopher Dawson
  • The Reformation, by Diarmaid MacCulloch
  • Calvinism, a History, by DG Hart
  • A World Lit Only by Fire, by William Manchester
  • Angel in the Whirlwind, by Bobrick Benson
  • History of the Modern World, by Paul Johnson
  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson