Top 20 most influential books

Since Ben Myers of Faith and Theology has published his list of the top 20 books that have influenced him, I might as well join the party. My list is not limited to theological titles, mainly because what brought me into theology was the study of literature. These are the books that have shaped my thought in general the most, which thus includes my theological thought. I welcome your comments as well as your own lists.

(Some of the titles stand-in for other works by that same author, and I only listed an author once, no matter how many books deserve to be in the top 20.)

20. Alan Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection
19. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
18. Flannery O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge
17. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
16. The Study Catechism (PCUSA)
15. Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer
14. Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian
13. William Shakespeare, King Lear
12. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale
11. William Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination
10. John Webster, Confessing God
9. Augustine, Confessions
8. T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ
7. Dante, The Divine Comedy
6. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
5. R. S. Thomas, Laboratories of the Spirit
4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
3. Eberhard Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World
2. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1
1. T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets


Anonymous said…
Calvin and Webster rank that far down?
byron smith said…
I'd love to hear some more posts on Eliot, since he made to #1 (and the title of your blog). I'm not sure about theology (he would be there somewhere, but not near the top), but in terms of my interest in poetry, he would be #1.
byron smith said…
And what do your PCUSA siblings think of #15 beating #17? :-)
Ben Myers said…
Nice list, David -- and I like the inclusion of Eliot's sublime Four Quartets. Since you like this work, what do you think of George Herbert (whose ghost haunts Eliot's "Little Gidding")? For me, Herbert is an endless source of devotional and theological enrichment.
Chris Tilling said…
Surprised the brilliant Beauty of the Infinite by Hart didn't make your list


I've recently been enjoying Webster's Confessing God enormously.
WTM, Calvin has only recently been an influence, and most of his influence has already been mediated through Barth. Webster probably could stand to be higher on the list, but in the bottom 10 it's all a little arbitrary.

Byron, I will sincerely try to write more about Eliot. Recently he has been less of an influence, but I simply would not be studying theology if my life hadn't been so radically shaped by his poetry and writings.

Ben, I love George Herbert, and while I have read a fair amount of his poetry, he was never the influence that Eliot and Thomas were (and I could include Denise Levertov and Scott Cairns as well). Herbert's poem, "Love (III)," however, is enough to place him in the top 20, and perhaps that will indeed be the case the more I feed on his poetry. Sneak peak: "Love (III)" is how I plan on closing my series on universalism. All in good time.
Now that I think about it, Webster is too far down, Dostoevsky and O'Connor too high. Shakespeare is great, but not in the top 10. I'll make some changes now.
Anonymous said…
The answer to the C.S. Lewis question can be derived from David's most recent post about evangelicalism.

Lewis was definitely formative for me in ways for which I am truly grateful. However, my thought patterns today are no longer shaped by him in any significant material way. I still enjoy reading Lewis (and I had a long debate about whether or not to include Till We Have Faces), but most of his nonfiction work feels like looking into the past rather than the present.

That said, Mere Christianity never influenced me in any real way. If I had to pick a book besides Till We Have Faces (which would be high on a list of my favorite novels), it would be The Great Divorce.
Anonymous said…
I was interested to see that you have included a book by Alan Lewis. He was the external examiner for my Ph.D. thesis.