On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I corresponded with Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine and author of numerous books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion (1994) and Compassionate Conservatism (2000). Olasky reveals what on his nightstand, the books that helped him turn from Marxism, the art of asking good questions, and more.


Whats on your nightstand right now?

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

  1. God saves sinners.
  2. God’s in charge, we are not.
  3. Be salt, not sugar or vinegar.
  4. Practice biblical objectivity.
  5. Apart from Jesus, we fear death and annihilation.

What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?

What books do you regularly re-read?

What have you found most satisfying in your role as editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine?

  • Having an integrated life: not having to check beliefs at the door when I go to work.
  • Having my work also be my hobby.
  • Mentoring young reporters.
  • Spotlighting effective poverty-fighting ministries and courageous Daniels.
  • Not being surrounded by antagonistic colleagues, as I was while a university professor.

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you?

What are your favorite fiction books?

What other magazines and periodicals do you read on a regular basis?

You’ve openly talked about your Marxist beliefs prior to your conversion. Apart from God’s Word and his saving work, what books helped shaped your political views from a Christian perspective?

You’ve interviewed many people over the years, and a quick glance at your Newsmakers Interview Series reveals your interest in an eclectic array of people serving in various callings and each from different backgrounds. Why such interest in people? What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned?

At an abstract level I’m interested in people generally because God made humans the apex of creation on the sixth day. I usually do the interviews in front of college students trying to discern what to do with their lives, so it’s always fascinating to see how people discover God-given callings, often in circuitous ways. (“Man proposes, but God disposes.”) Just about everyone has individual surprises, but one common thread is concern about their children: some follow parents’ spiritual paths, some don’t, and environmental influences don’t seem determinative.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned for asking good questions? 

Research the lives of interviewees so as to move off standard questions and ask some personal ones for which interviewees don’t have prepared soundbites. Politicians are generally the worst because successful ones are usually “on message” and will pivot any question into a standard answer. But other interviewees will respond in interesting ways when a new question confronts them.

What are your top five books on or about journalism?


Also in the On My Shelf series: David Wells, John FrameRod DreherJames K. A. SmithRandy AlcornTom SchreinerTrillia NewbellJen WilkinJoe CarterTimothy GeorgeTim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerMike CosperRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti AnyabwileElyse FitzpatrickCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria ButterfieldNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.