The Best Christian Books for Spiritual Formation

For people wired like me, there is possibly nothing more flattering than when another person asks for a suggestion on what to read. In the past decade, this has happened to me at least three times, which therefore calls for me to write up such a list and publish it to so that it's available to those three individuals plus all of the others in the English-speaking parts of the universe.

Therefore, below is my list of the best Christian books for spiritual formation. Just because a book is not on this list doesn't mean that it may not be fantastic–this is mostly based on my experience with these books at the time that I read them. The books are divided into categories, with ten titles highlighted as my Top 10. The books that are hyperlinked have a comment about my experience with them plus a summary.

[And for obvious reasons, I haven't put any titles published by SalvationLife Books on this list, but–ahem–they're very worth checking out too, and they all seek to lead you into the same kind of life as the titles listed below.]

I asked Dallas one day how to know what to read, because I’m the kind of person who’ll have stacks of magazines and books on my table–way too many. After another of his long pauses, he said, ‘Aim at depth, not breadth. If you get depth, you will have breadth thrown in. If you aim at breadth, you will get neither depth nor breadth.’
— Dallas Willard & John Ortberg

GENERAL SPIRITUAL FORMATION

  • *[Top 10] The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, Dallas Willard
  • *[Top 10] Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, Dallas Willard
  • Recapturing the Wesleys' Vision: An Introduction to the Faith of John and Charles Wesley, Paul Wesley Chilcote
  • Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions, Albert Haase
  • The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith, Janet O. Hagberg & Robert A. Guelich
  • Mere Spirituality: The Spiritual Life According to Henri Nouwen, Wil Hernandez
  • The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis
  • The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
  • Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation, Gary W. Moon
  • The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self, M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
  • Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation, M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
  • Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, John Ortberg
  • The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus' Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Dallas Willard
  • Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, Dallas Willard

ACCEPTING GRACE
(OUR BELIEFS)

  • *[Top 10] Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life, Jack Levison
  • *[Top 10] The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows, James Bryan Smith
  • The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, David G. Benner
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
  • Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
  • Who is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus, John Ortberg
  • Room of Marvels: A Story About Heaven that Heals the Heart, James Bryan Smith
  • Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, Dallas Willard
  • How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N.T. Wright
  • New Testament for Everyone, N.T. Wright
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright

PRACTICING GRACE
(OUR HABITS)

  • *[Top 10] Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence, Ruth Haley Barton
  • *[Top 10] Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation, Martin Laird
  • *[Top 10] The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, Scot McKnight
  • *[Top 10] The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, Ruth Haley Barton
  • Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life, David G. Benner
  • A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy, Robert Benson
  • In Constant Prayer, Robert Benson
  • The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
  • Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Richard J. Foster
  • A Pocket Guide to Prayer, Steve Harper
  • The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A.J. Jacobs
  • Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today, Scot McKnight
  • Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation, M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
  • Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, Eugene H. Peterson
  • The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit, Gordon T. Smith
  • The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ, James Bryan Smith
  • The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, Dallas Willard
  • Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, Lauren F. Winner
  • The Meal Jesus Gave Us: Understanding Holy Communion, N.T. Wright
  • The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential, N.T. Wright

GIVING GRACE
(OUR RELATIONSHIPS & MISSION)

  • *[Top 10] Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Ruth Haley Barton
  • *[Top 10] Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, Ruth Haley Barton
  • Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community, Ruth Haley Barton
  • Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The Echo Within: Finding Your True Calling, Robert Benson
  • Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation, Kent Carlson & Mike Lueken
  • The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, Gary A. Haugen
  • Newly Added: Henri Nouwen and Soul Care: A Ministry of Integration, Wil Hernandez
  • In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Newly Added: Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Direction, Gordon T. Smith
  • The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love, James Bryan Smith
  • Newly Added: Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman
  • Newly Added: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World, Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
  • Newly Added: How God is in Business, Dallas Willard
In reading for spiritual understanding and growth, it is better not to read many books. As Richard Foster pointedly remarks, ‘It is better to find a few spiritual staples and feed on them until they have molded you.’
— Dallas Willard