This article is part of the ongoing “On My Shelf” series where various thinkers, authors, pastors, and theologians share the books they’re reading.
On My Shelf is a series that helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.
I corresponded with Trevin Wax—managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources—about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, his favorite fiction, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I have the Psalter on the nightstand next to my bed, as I try to read through the Psalms at least once every couple months, usually by reading 4 to 5 psalms a night. Right now, I’m using Tim and Kathy Keller’s new devotional The Songs of Jesus [interview] as a guide. That’s all I have on my nightstand, though. I don’t do much reading before falling asleep, so I try to focus those few minutes on God’s Word.
One of my most recent favorite books is Thomas Watson’s Doctrine of Repentance—a Puritan classic. Watson is a master of the one-liner; I found myself pausing and pondering sentence after sentence in this sparkling work of pastoral theology.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
I don’t re-read many books. Sometimes, I go back and review whatever I’ve underlined and starred in a book, so as to refamiliarize myself with the gist of the book and the author’s message. There are a few books I’ve read more than once: Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, and Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. But most of the time, the books I revisit are ones that make my “10 Favorite Reads” lists each year, but my revisiting is just dipping back into the book, not reading it all again.
What books have most helped you teach others about Jesus?
Books that point me to Jesus and stir up in me a passion to point others to Jesus are few and far between. One way to judge a good book is to ask, “Does this make me love Jesus more?” As far as helping me teach others about Jesus, I love The Contemporary Christian by John Stott and his concept of “double listening” (to the Word and the world). Bartholomew and Goheen’s Living at the Crossroads is an excellent primer in understanding North American culture and how the biblical worldview intersects with our culture. Tim Keller’s Preaching also does this, but focuses primarily on preaching. N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God had a profound impact on me, virtually erasing any doubts I ever entertained about Jesus’s bodily resurrection while simultaneously helping me see Jesus as a living, breathing, historical figure, a Messiah who made sense in a first-century world.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
The Warmth of Other Suns is one of the most haunting and beautiful books I’ve ever read—a history of three families seeking a better life up North or in the West during the Jim Crow era in the South. This was a book that stirred up enormous empathy for the ongoing concerns and stories of my black brothers and sisters in Christ. As far as autobiographies go, Augustine’s Confessions can’t be beat. There are some dense portions of the book, but it’s a classic for a reason. I love how he narrates his story to God in a prayer, so that it can’t possibly be just about himself and his accomplishments. All of his life is directed upward. Calvin Miller’s Life Is Mostly Edges is one of my favorite pastoral memoirs—moving, challenging, and inspirational. And if you want to learn from Chesterton, I recommend The Complete Thinker rather than just a typical biography.
What are your favorite fiction books?
Les Misérables is probably my all-time favorite novel (get the Julie Rose translation!), and The Brothers Karamazov is also breathtaking in its scope and philosophical vision (get the Pevears/Volohonsky translation!). That’s what I pick for classics. Of course, there’s nothing better than traveling to Narnia, Middle-earth, or Hogwarts—arguably the best fantasy story-worlds of the past century.