We have a tremendous staff at URC. They like reading almost as much as I do. So I asked them to suggest some books people might want to consider for Christmas reading or Christmas gifts. I told them to pick whatever they like–Christian, non-Christian, fiction, young adult, whatever. Here are the responses I received.

Nick Setterington, Director of International Ministries

Christmas is a great time to break from my usual reading diet (which tends to be theology), so I’m aiming outside this genre to books I’ve found fun, fast-moving, or riveting while at the same time being historical, mind-stirring, or biographical. Along those lines, here are a few books worth considering, each of which could be read in a day or two.

Blain Harden, Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West (Penguin)

The author writes, “North Korea’s labor camps have now existed twice as long as the Soviet Gulag and about twelve times longer than the Nazi concentration camps” (p4). What would it be like to grow up in a labor camp with no knowledge of the outside world? This account should make us weep while giving us a greater urgency to pray for the North Korean people.

Adam Makos, A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II (Berkley)

I am amazed what our grandparent’s generation experienced during the horrors of WWII. Reading about chivalry, courage and honor—not merely from Allied pilots but from German fighters as well—makes you pause to consider the presence of virtue in the midst of unspeakable evil.

James Doolittle, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again: An Autobiography (Bantam)

The life of General James Doolittle is remarkable because he actually lived to write about it. From his early days as a stunt pilot with experimental aviation technology to his invading flight over Tokyo during WWII to the jet and space era after the war, this autobiography gives you a personal account of one of the greatest, most technologically evolved generations in American history.

N. D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World (Thomas Nelson)

I don’t have a poetic or artistic mind, so it’s fascinating to climb inside one’s head to see what goes on in there. This book will do just that. It helped me to think about my daily routine with new wonder and to see the world with different eyes.


Rachel Schultz, Volunteer Coordinator

Katie Quinn Davies, What Katie Ate (Studio)

This recommendation comes from one who finds flesh and blood (um, spine and pages?) cookbooks needless in a world of blogs and Pinterest. And yet, I am compelled to suggest it to you. Katie Quinn Davie’s photography and food styling is second to none, making this book equally function and art. It will be at home in a kitchen cupboard or displayed on your coffee table.

Rose Marie Miller, From Fear to Freedom (Shaw)

Rose’s writing has brought tremendous growth and healing to my soul. From Fear to Freedom centers around our need to understand God’s love for us is based only on Christ. Although much of the book is about her life, I appreciate Rose’s care to make the focus God-exalting rather herself or her experiences-exalting. This is easily in my top five of all time favorites.


Jenny Olson, Administrative Assistant to Kevin DeYoung

Veronica Roth, Divergent (Katherine Tegen)

Let me explain–I have an adult daughter that is very involved with the Young Adult fiction publishing world and I get most of my book recommendations from her. Divergent is from the now-ever-popular dystopia genre but I found it to be quite gripping and enjoyable. It is the first in a trilogy (don’t all YA books come in a series!). I can’t recommend the second and third books (as a matter of fact, the third book I did not like at all). My daughter tells me the first books are always superior.

Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Dutton)

One of my favorite authors, Tim Keller, puts suffering in perspective. This is a good, readable book that I will be recommending to others.


Andrew Chesebro, Campus Ministry

John Piper, Desiring God (Multnomah)

I remember reading this book after my freshman year in college and having my world turned upside down. A God who loves himself more than me is the only possible God who can secure my eternal joy.

Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Crossway)

College was the first time I was ever challenged to share my faith, and quickly realized I didn’t know how! This short book is clear, insightful, and immensely practical.


Jon Saunders, Campus Ministry Director

John Piper, Desiring God , The Pleasures of God and Future Grace (Multnomah)

These 3 foundational books were immensely helpful to me when I was in college. They are modern day classics that I believe will stand the test of time.

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness (Create Space)

A classic that has already stood the test of time. This is a go to book that I use with college students on a regular basis. It is the perfect combination of theological precision and heart stirring devotion. I wish more people were aware of this hidden treasure.

Seth Davis, When March Went Mad (St. Martin’s Griffin)

This is the story of the most influential basketball game in history. It is the story of Michigan State vs Indiana State, which began the rivalry/friendship of Magic vs Bird. This is my one shot to hype Michigan State so I had to include this book.


Jason Helopoulos, Assistant Pastor   

Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World (Nabu)

This work is not the lightest reading, but it is well worth your time. This book literally changed my life (John Piper relays the same). It sets before the reader a true working theology for all of life and puts all things in a right perspective.

Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (P&R)

I have used this book to train multiple congregations and small groups in how to minister to one another. It is easy to say, “minister to one another.” Many understand the charge, but struggle with the “how.” Tripp’s rubric of “love, know, speak, do” is encouraging, practical, simple, and exceedingly helpful.


David Hinkley, Children’s Ministry Director

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (Dover Thrift)

An incredibly painful and relevant apologetic about the universality of moral absolutes.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Create Space)

This book connected the dots for me between justification and my desire to live for Christ better than anything else.