On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. I corresponded with Jen Wilkin, Bible teacher and author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway, 2014), about what books she regularly re-reads, what books haver profoundly shaped her, and her favorite works of fiction.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
Both of these books remind me to keep God as the center of the text when I teach. When I start to feel the pull toward man-centered application of Scripture, these two men shift my gaze heavenward again.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
- Confessions by Augustine. “You are my God, my Life, my Holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you! For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you.” (Jen Wilkin paraphrase: Don’t let fear of your inability to speak the truth flawlessly prevent you from speaking the truth you can.)
What books have most helped you teach others about Jesus?
- R. C. Sproul (as a category). His writing and teaching have modeled for me how to use simple words for hard concepts, as well as the importance of doing so. As a lover of language, I never want to let prideful word choice shut up the kingdom of heaven from its servants. Sproul showed me how to combine depth of teaching with accessibility of language.
- Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. I know Grudem is what the cool kids use, but my husband gave me Berkhof for my 30th birthday, and I love it.
- What’s in the Bible? by R. C. Sproul and Robert Wolgemuth. We used this book for family discipleship to help our kids get the “big picture” of the Bible.
- Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem. Another book we used with our kids to teach doctrine.
- Commentaries by James Boice, John Stott, A. W. Pink
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I don’t always agree with him (which I’m certain would not have upset him at all!), but his take on the Sermon on the Mount was eye-opening.
What non-fiction books have most influenced you and why?
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. My eyes were opened to what a prisoner of my own experience I was with regard to race issues, and how limited my understanding of the history of civil rights was.
- Are Women Human? by Dorothy Sayers. She helped me reclaim the notion of personhood, one that sometimes gets lost in the fog of complementarian musings on gender.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I learned some profound insights about stewardship from this non-Christian author. Nowadays, Christians are writing well on creation care, but this book was my wake-up call to think differently (or at all) about consumption patterns.
What are your favorite fiction books?
- The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. I think I’ve read this series five times. I hope to read it fifteen more. Incomparable historical fiction.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I don’t believe in harboring regret, but I wish in hindsight that I’d named a child Atticus.
- All Jane Austen. Too trite? Deal with it. The woman wrote dialogue like nobody’s business. Considering how new the form of the novel was, she was a literary genius.
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Dickens makes me a better writer.
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel. We had family book club with this one once the kids were all teenagers. Good writing, great food for discussion.