The best books about Jesus

24 authors have picked their favorite books about Jesus and why they recommend each book.

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The Jesus Dynasty

By James D. Tabor,

Book cover of The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity

A well-written, well researched book by a prominent American archeologist and New Testament scholar that examines what we can now reliably know about the Jesus of history. Tabor carefully sifts through the conflicting evidence in the gospels, written 40-70 years after the death of Jesus, and illuminates his discussion with contemporary archeological finds. A paradigm changer in our search for the historical Jesus, not the Christ of faith.


Who am I?

Barrie is an historian specializing in early Christianity. Today we now know that there were many different movements within the first few centuries, each claiming to be Christian. James’ Jewish group differed from Paul’s Christ religion and both differed from Gnostic Christianity which saw Jesus as a teacher of insight. None was dominant. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic writings add an intriguing overlay. The books selected are those that open up new ways of understanding the historical development of Christianity. Each in its own way has created a paradigm shift.


I wrote...

Searching for the Messiah: Unlocking the "Psalms of Solomon" and Humanity's Quest for a Savior

By Barrie Wilson,

Book cover of Searching for the Messiah: Unlocking the "Psalms of Solomon" and Humanity's Quest for a Savior

What is my book about?

An award-winning historian of religion examines the role a “messiah” plays in Western culture, from its pre-Christian roots to modern interpretations of a savior. Over the centuries, people have longed for a messiah, whether a religious figure such as Jesus, a political leader, or even in popular culture. The messianic quest emerges most acutely during difficult times when people experience a sense of powerlessness and desperation. But the concept of a messiah—a savior—has its root in the writings of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, evolving from an anointed leader to universal savior. Wilson turns to a little understood pre-Christian text, “The Psalms of Solomon,” which set the stage for messianic expectation just prior to the birth of Jesus.

The Master Plan of Evangelism

By Robert E. Coleman,

Book cover of The Master Plan of Evangelism

In the 1950s, Robert Coleman, then a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, was assigned to teach a class on evangelism. But he had a problem: he had no idea what to say. So he decided to pore over the four Gospels to discern Jesus’ strategy for winning people to his message. His lecture notes became The Master Plan of Evangelism.

The reach of The Master Plan since its publication in 1963 has been enormous. Billy Graham even wrote the foreword. But Jesus’ model of training a few was so alien to the operating systems of 20th-century churches and traveling evangelists that generations had no idea how to implement it. Not many books have been so widely read and so little applied. Yet if you only read one book on this subject, make this the one. And if you’ve already read it long ago, read it again.


Who am I?

Cory Hartman (DMin, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) collaboratively crafts practical tools, interactive processes, and breakthrough content for the Future Church Company, three interconnected organizations that exist to help the church embody the movement Jesus founded. I previously served as a pastor for thirteen years and founded Fulcrum Content, a gospel communication training organization.


I co-authored...

Future Church: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth

By Cory Hartman, Will Mancini,

Book cover of Future Church: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth

What is my book about?

Church growth models have often been long on promises and short on disciple-making. We continue to watch consistent church attendance shrink, and our desire to reach the lost is infected with a need for self-validation by growing our numbers at any cost. If we believe that God wants his church to grow, where do we go from here? What is the future of the church?

Becoming a Disciple Maker

By Bobby Harrington, Greg Wiens,

Book cover of Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level 5 Disciple Making

What are the stages of a disciple’s optimal development? The theoretical path starts with a person not following Jesus and ends with that person helping their own disciples make disciples of Jesus. Having a reliable model that traces the course of a disciple’s development benefits a disciple maker practically, because people have different capacities, needs, and challenges at different stages as they grow.

The most persuasive and useful model yet proposed might be found in this brief book by Harrington and Wiens, who adapt to individuals the Exponential organization’s five-level typology of churches.


Who am I?

Cory Hartman (DMin, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) collaboratively crafts practical tools, interactive processes, and breakthrough content for the Future Church Company, three interconnected organizations that exist to help the church embody the movement Jesus founded. I previously served as a pastor for thirteen years and founded Fulcrum Content, a gospel communication training organization.


I co-authored...

Future Church: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth

By Cory Hartman, Will Mancini,

Book cover of Future Church: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth

What is my book about?

Church growth models have often been long on promises and short on disciple-making. We continue to watch consistent church attendance shrink, and our desire to reach the lost is infected with a need for self-validation by growing our numbers at any cost. If we believe that God wants his church to grow, where do we go from here? What is the future of the church?

The Chosen

By Jerry B. Jenkins,

Book cover of The Chosen: I Have Called You by Name

The Chosen book is good, and Jerry Jenkins’ many titles including the blockbuster Left Behind series are worth reading, but this is a backdoor to the multi-season film series, The Chosen by Jerry’s son, Dallas Jenkins. Life doesn't turn out as we imagined, and when much that is precious has been marred, your tender heart longs to honor the holy and sacred. To know that God sees you, loves you and your child unconditionally, and never forsakes you. The Chosen is heart-mending, faith-building, and life-changing. Download the free app on your phone for the world's largest crowd-funded project, and enjoy The Chosen over and over. Family-friendly.


Who am I?

“Eminently quotable, PeggySue Wells is a tonic — warm like your favorite blanket, bracing like a stiff drink.”

History buff and tropical island votary, PeggySue parasails, skydives, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. The bestselling author of 30 books including the What To Do series, The Slave Across the Street, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, Chasing Sunrise, and The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make, PeggySue’s most challenging and rewarding adventure was solo parenting seven children. With one in four homes single mom-led, PeggySue teamed with Pam Farrel to offer practical help and tangible tips to moms navigating parenting solo.


I wrote...

The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make: A Biblical Guide for Navigating Family Life on Your Own

By Pam Farrel, PeggySue Wells,

Book cover of The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make: A Biblical Guide for Navigating Family Life on Your Own

What is my book about?

No matter how you became a single mom, you share the same challenges and fears all parents have. You may feel stretched to the limit. You may suspect your children need more than you're able to give. How are you going to do this on your own?

With humor, Scripture, and sage advice, Pam Farrel (child of a single mother) and PeggySue Wells (single parent of 7 children) show you how to be decisive, create a nurturing home, be proactive, date wisely, pray for your child, embrace your happily-ever-after, and more. You are capable of parenting your children with courage, confidence, and clarity. This loving, practical guide shows you how.

Quarantine

By Jim Crace,

Book cover of Quarantine

Written long before quarantines became so fashionable, Jesus in Jim Crace’s novel is an almost peripheral player, because set during Christ’s forty days in the wilderness six other people share in the inhospitable desert caves, miracles, and hallucinations. Each character has their own troubles and trials; their own battles with demons to resolve; which they hope isolation and fasting will accomplish. And for each, in ingenious ways, it does… I am a big fan of Crace’s style, rhythm, and invention, and this is one of his finest works.


Who am I?

I’m the author of five extremely different novels: Boy A (which was made into an award-winning film), Cham, Genus, The Tongues of Men or Angels, and Under Country. They share almost nothing in subject or setting. Ranging from first-century Judaea to a future London. From ski resort workers in France to young offender prisons in Britain. My latest work - Under Country - is about the 1984 Miners’ Strike and its still lingering scars in the North East pit villages. Yet, I suppose, if there were a unifying theme between them, it would be that each, in its own way, is influenced by and fascinated with Christianity.


I wrote...

The Tongues of Men or Angels

By Jonathan Trigell,

Book cover of The Tongues of Men or Angels

What is my book about?

The Tongues of Men or Angels was my first ever hardback and the hardest book I’ve ever written. The research alone almost killed me, quite literally a couple of times in the Middle East. But in some ways, it is the novel that I’m most proud of, because it is my own committed ‘truth’ about the birth of a religion. The Mail on Sunday put it better than I could:

“This daring novel tells the story of Jesus and his followers in the years leading up to and following the Crucifixion. Trigell's interpretation of the origins of Christianity, particularly the factional struggle between the disciple Cephas (Peter) and the convert Saul (Paul), will spark controversy, but there's no denying the raw power of the writing.”

A Cry for Justice

By Jeff Crippen, Anna Wood,

Book cover of A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church

When I was in the process of leaving my abusive husband, I sought help from my church. Sadly, my pastors had no idea what they were dealing with. Instead of helping me, they sided with my abuser. This book, written by a pastor, helps churches understand the evil that abusers perpetrate, and how they can and should help the abused partner.


Who am I?

I was in an emotionally abusive marriage for 20 years but didn’t realize what was happening to me. I tried to twist myself into a perfectly shaped pretzel to make my husband happy. It didn’t work. Reading some of these books gave me the courage to seek a restraining order and divorce my husband. Since then, I became a domestic violence advocate, author, blogger, and mental health counselor. 


I wrote...

A Journey Through Emotional Abuse: From Bondage to Freedom

By Caroline Abbott,

Book cover of A Journey Through Emotional Abuse: From Bondage to Freedom

What is my book about?

In my abusive marriage, it wasn’t until my husband became physically abusive that I started really looking at what was happening to me. I moved from wondering why he was angry all the time to realizing I was being abused. I wrote this book to help others through the hard road I had to travel: seeking help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, lawyers, police, and my church.

I describe my journey with the court system, social services, getting a restraining order and seeking full custody of my kids. I help readers think through the hard questions: Should I leave? How could I do it safely? What will my friends/family/church say? What is best for my kids? Having someone who has been through it themselves walk alongside you is invaluable.

The Lottery and Other Stories

By Shirley Jackson,

Book cover of The Lottery and Other Stories

The story, The Lottery, from Jackson’s collection, held particular horror for me because we see this happen in real life. Not the exact details, of course, but mob mentality and the going along with things taught us without ever questioning what it means. This story evokes human trauma about adults who say and do nothing. A genuinely terrifying aspect of human nature gone awry and the utter lack of respect for life. 


Who am I?

I’m fascinated by the mind-body-spirit’s impact on our human experience. Especially the aspect of mind, because deep within us resides the shadow-self described by Carl Jung. Most of us spend our lives hiding this part, but it’s there, waiting to pounce. These are the stories I tell, and with my background in Health and Wellness and in Creative Writing, I write paranormal, supernatural, and horror stories containing the simple truths about our human experience. All are designed to bring out the shadow lurking within and expose it to the light. As a counterpoint to these dark tales, I write evocative poetry, uplifting children’s stories, and some educational books with my writing partner, Derek R. King.  


I wrote...

The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy and Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium

By Julie Kusma,

Book cover of The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy and Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium

What is my book about?

Oakwood Sanatorium blurs the lines of psychosis and reality—science and spirituality when Dr. Shepard Blanchard finds himself investigating the strange events surrounding an unconscious man abandoned in the hospital’s lobby. 

This psychological thriller’s unique postmodern collage-style creates a foreboding atmosphere as the patients sharing the man’s assigned ward are evaluated. The psychological horror and suspense enhanced with the admission forms, patients’ stories, and doctor’s notes. From beginning to end, your sanity is on the edge of oblivion, and your senses are pricked and prodded with science fiction, alternate realities, and unexpected outcomes. The many twists and turns leave you unnerved and wondering what comes next. In the end, Blanchard questions his decisions, and ultimately, he finds himself secluded in his own dark reality.

Faith on the Edge

By Paul Tokunaga (editor),

Book cover of Faith on the Edge: Daring to Follow Jesus

This multi-author book is a terrific resource for older teens and college students to navigate “growing up” well and maturing in their own faith commitment and practices. Chapters offer good advice and the reasons behind the advice for faith challenges, dealing with failure, forgiving parents as a part of loving them, finding a new congregation for worship, work, and witness, as well as dealing with sexuality, morals, justice issues, vision for missions, and creation care and much more! This book is a practical as well as a biblically faithful guide for the transformation of a lifetime as children empty the nest into adulthood. I give this book as a graduation gift to every high-schooler I know!

Who am I?

I’ve had the joy of “making disciples” for a long time. From the time I became a Christian while in college, to raising my own sons as disciples, to 15 years of work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on secular campuses, to the last third of my life as a Professor of Bible and Theology at a Christian University, I have responded to Jesus’ Great Commission to “make disciples” with both the joys and sorrows that calling includes. I have experienced the richness of intergenerational congregations that my pastor-husband has led, and seen our sons grow and mature as Christians through “parenting in the pew” before it was a book!


I wrote...

Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children Into the Joy of Worship

By Robbie Castleman,

Book cover of Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children Into the Joy of Worship

What is my book about?

Robbie Castleman believes that Sunday morning isn't a success if she has only managed to keep the kids quiet. And she knows there's more to church for kids than trying out their new coloring books. Children are at church for the same reason as their parents: for the privilege of worshiping God.

Worship, Castleman writes, is "the most important thing you can ever train your child to do." So with infectious passion, nitty-gritty advice, and a touch of humor, she shows you how to help your children (from toddlers to teenagers) enter into worship.

The Upside-Down Kingdom

By Donald B. Kraybill,

Book cover of The Upside-Down Kingdom

If you’ve browsed my list this far, maybe you’re curious enough to peek into Mennonite theology, which truly is upside-down from the world we live in. Even though I’d been Mennonite all my life, this book, which I read decades ago, explained what radical Christian discipleship meant in a way I’d never fully understood. All those things that make the theology challenging—choosing pacifism, taking care of the least in society, living humbly instead of seeking power, turning the other cheek, forgiving when it’s easier to seek revenge—are also what make it transformative. If only living it were that easy.


Who am I?

I was born and raised in Kansas and will forever have a soft spot in my heart for golden wheat fields, sunflower-filled ditches, and sunsets that explode colors on the horizon. I always knew I’d write a book set in Kansas, and I’d explore my long Mennonite linage and its seemingly unrealistic theology. Pacifism is a beautiful concept until you’re faced with protecting the people you love. As I grew older, I became more curious about larger, practical questions. It’s one thing to be a conscientious objector to war. It’s another thing to confront the cosmically dark evil of your neighbor. From that, Never Enough Flamingos was born.


I wrote...

Never Enough Flamingos

By Janelle Diller,

Book cover of Never Enough Flamingos

What is my book about?

Ahhh, those quirky Mennonites. They choose peace and forgiveness, but then how do they confront evil in their midst, especially when that evil—the man who steals the souls of little girls—is also the savior for so many in the congregation who are financially desperate. What do they choose to do? Save the farm and sacrifice their daughter, or save the daughter and lose the farm?

Kirkus Reviews says this about Never Enough Flamingos, a 2017 Kansas Notable Book Selection: "It is a testament to Diller's authorial strength that, through the despair, she weaves in disarming humor... Peopled with some enduring characters and driven by both compassion and sarcasm, this is a vivid, surprising page-turner."

The Book of Longings

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Book cover of The Book of Longings

Brilliant, feisty, and intrepid Ana, raised in privilege and wealth in ancient Israel, is the heroine of this painstakingly researched historical fiction novel. Her mother discourages Ana’s intellectual curiousity, forbidding Ana’s writings about the secrets of repressed, abused women of her day. Her adopted brother Judas is part of the resistance against the Roman occupation, and her father plans on marrying Ana to a rich older man. Amidst this complexity, Ana defies him and marries far beneath her station. Her groom? Jesus of Nazareth. After the crucifixion, Ana goes to her Aunt Yaltha in Alexandria where she helps Yaltha locate her long-lost daughter. The Book of Longings chronicles Ana’s challenge to overcome the family secrets and cultural repression meant to silence and subdue her. Compelling, intriguing, and powerful! A must-read!


Who am I?

Family secrets aren’t always intentionally planned. The expectations of each generation often determine what’s spoken and what’s left unsaid. Uncannily, my fiction has revealed what’s been left unspoken in my family - not deep dark secrets, but the more ordinary ego and generationally-driven variety. In my writing there’s an unconscious precognition that occurs, pointing to mysteries in my own life. My work explores themes of family and longing, revealing the undercurrents of life that can be sensed but never grasped. In fact, after writing Bird with the Heart of a Mountain I discovered my own secret - that my Eastern European ancestry contained Romani blood!


I wrote...

Bird with the Heart of a Mountain

By Barbara Mariconda,

Book cover of Bird with the Heart of a Mountain

What is my book about?

Set during the Spanish Civil War, sixteen-year-old Drina yearns to dance flamenco. When she dances, she forgets what seems to be her legacy: I am nothing. I belong nowhere. Why does her mother forbid her to dance? She wonders about the dark family secrets her mother keeps that somehow hold them prisoner.

From her Gypsy campagna to the estate of a paternal grandmother she’s never known, Drina fights to discover who she is and where she belongs. She must carve out an identity all her own and discover what it means to be a “bird with the heart of a mountain.” Full of mystery, loss, and longing, this novel captures Drina’s quest to learn where she came from and to determine her own destiny.

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