The 50 books every Salvationist should read

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By Kevin Jackson, Major

Top50Books_Win50.  OrsbornAgain (Frontier Press, 2013) by Rob Birks. Somebody has to be no. 50. It’s not Bonhoeffer, but its postmodern approach introduces a new generation to some of the greatest poetry/theology in our history. Good stuff.

49.  Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World (Baker Academic, 1999) by Robert Webber.  One of the first books to consider doing Christian ministry in the postmodern age.

48.  Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty (Beacon Press, 2009) by Mark Winnie.  Food is quickly becoming a severe issue in the U.S. again. We serve people who live in food deserts and should seek better ways to provide healthy, clean food to the people who need it most.

4747.  Somebody’s Brother: A History of the Salvation Army Men’s Social Service Department, 1891-1985 (Edwin Mellen Pr, 1986) by Ed McKinley. A great overview of The Salvation Army’s work in the field of addictions. It’s a little dry, but it’s hard to find a better story.

46. The Book of Leviticus. Don’t laugh! If you want to understand holiness as it’s lived out in community, here’s your book.

45.  Rich Christians in a Hungry World: Moving From Affluence to Generosity (Thomas Nelson, 2005) by Ronald Sider. Groundbreaking work on poverty in the world. Not liberal. Not conservative. Just the facts accompanied by solutions that can be accomplished by people of faith. Sounds like us.

44.  Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Zondervan, 2012) by Timothy Keller.  A great resource for doing urban centered ministry in the 21st century.

43.  Catherine Booth: A Biography of the Cofounder of The Salvation Army (Baker Pub Group, 1996) by Roger Green. Only the greatest woman in our history and not a bad biography.

42.  A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (Counterpoint, 1996) by Wendell Berry. Amazing poetry about private reflections. Written each Sunday as Berry strolled through the local landscape. An argument that we have to experience God’s creation to really experience him fully with beauty, humanity, death, and hope for the future.

41. The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila (Digireads, 2009) by herself. Spiritual wisdom and prayerful advice to people of faith. A great book for personal reflection among the hectic world we minister in.

4040.  The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (Multnomah Books, 2005) by Brennan Manning. A great reminder about God’s grace, as we seek to serve him through our demanding efforts.   

39.  Indescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe (David C. Cook, 2011) by Louie Giglio. In The Salvation Army, we focus on hard work to make the world a better place. Sometimes it’s good to escape to the stars, and there is no better book to consider the heavens.

38.  Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (HarperOne, 2009) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A classic guide to the Christian faith lived out in community.

37.  The Book of Genesis.  The book of the Bible that started it all. You can’t go wrong with that.

36.  Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) (HarperOne, 2012) by Robert D. Lupton. We want to help those we serve. Our goal isn’t to make our clients dependent on our charity. This is a great reminder that instead we want to be a resource to those in the margins, and the story of humankind’s redemption.

35. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1872) by John Wesley. This little book summarizes Wesley’s teaching on holiness. Anyone interested in the origins of our holiness movement would profit from this gem, which can be read online.

34.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1987) by Judith Viorst. A children’s book that reminds us all that life can be stressful.

 33.  The Green Bible (HarperOne, 2010). With over 1,000 references highlighted about God’s good creation, The Green Bible is a unique and powerful resource. If you are environmentally minded or just desire to be the steward we are all called to be, this should be on your reading list.

32.  Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living (Baker Academic, 1998) by Stanley Grenz. Simply the best readable introduction to an understanding of the theology of the Church.

31. A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens. Redemption, Christmas, Scrooge…God bless us everyone!

30.  The Death of the Messiah, From Gethsemane to the Grave, Volume 1: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (Yale University Press, 1998) by Raymond E. Brown. Over 1,500 pages on the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Be prepared for a serious treatment of the Passion of the Christ.

29.  The Company of Strangers: Christians and the Renewal of America’s Public Life (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1983) by Parker Palmer. We are about transforming society, and this book shows some of the cultural challenges we face.

2828. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (Beacon Press, 1968) by Martin Luther King, Jr. A message of hope in King’s final book before his death. The themes of this book should resonate with all Salvationists.

27.  Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1999) by Walter Wink, ed. A tough issue facing us today. While there are no easy answers, this collection of essays on the topic provide a wide variety of views.

26.  A View From the Corner (Frontier Press, 2008) by Bob Docter. Pure wisdom for every Salvationist in this masterpiece of thoughtful essays.

25.  The Splendour of Holiness (Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1983) by Fredrick Coutts. Readable thoughts on living a holy life from our most intellectual leader in The Salvation Army. Coutts was a quiet thinker, but his words always inspire. He is also the leader who introduced a second view of holiness to the Army world.

24.  Dark Night of the Soul (1578 or 1579) by St John of the Cross. We all go through difficult times. John of the Cross helps us get through those times and offers real hope that we will.

23.  The Gospel of Luke. If you want to read about the liberating power of good news as it was written for the poor, marginalized, outcasts, women, children, and downtrodden, Luke is your Gospel. A gospel for every good Salvationist to base his or her ministry on.

22.  It All Turns on Affection: The Jefferson Lecture and Other Essays (Counterpoint, 2012) by Wendell Berry. A small but powerful book about the problems of our world today, and hope for the future. As Salvationists we grapple with such issues and can find thoughtful guidance in these essays.

21.  Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2002) by Henri Nouwen. A book written to his non-Christian friends about how much God loves them.

20.  One Faith, One Church; The Salvation Army’s Response to Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (The Campfield Press, 1990) by Phil Needham. Our movement’s position and practices are detailed and explained in an understandable manner. Many have written about it, but few as concisely and clearly.

19.  The Clash of Cymbals: The Secret History of the Revolt in The Salvation Army (Brentano’s, ltd., 1929) by F.A. Mackenzie. It’s hard to find, but if you can get it, read it. This is the story of how The Salvation Army changed to become more democratic and set itself up to be the modern model of a faith-based charity. As much as we don’t want to admit it, Americans were behind it all.

18.  Hallelujah Lads and Lasses: Remaking The Salvation Army in America, 1880-1930 (The University of North Carolina Press, 2000) by Lillian Taiz. It’s always good to know where you came from, and this is a ell written history of the early Salvation Army in America.

17.  The Great Divorce (The Guardian, 1945) by C.S. Lewis. Good and evil, grace and judgment—all in a weird tale from Lewis. Can’t beat that.

1616.  A Place at the Table: The Crisis of 49 Million Hungry Americans and How to Solve It (PublicAffairs, 2013) by Peter Pringle, ed. Food insecurity maybe the greatest social issue we face in the near future. This is a great resource to see what we can do about it.

15.  A Theology For the Social Gospel (The MacMillan Company, 1917) by Walter Rauschenbush. A reminder of our social obligations and having a Christian faith with a heart for the poor. Understanding social justice viewed through the lens of Christian teachings.

14.  The Grapes of Wrath (The Viking Press, 1939) by John Steinbeck. Set against the Great Depression, master storyteller Steinbeck tells the classic tale of poverty, suffering, disease, hunger, and the human condition. A challenging book that serves as a reminder to all Salvationists.

13.  Pulling Down the Devil’s Kingdom: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain (University of California Press, 2001) by Pamela J. Walker. It’s good to know that The Salvation Army started in England. Here’s the best version of that story.

1212.  Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of The Salvation Army (Harvard University Press, 2000) by Diane Winston. A serious social scientist takes a fun look at our movement. Scholarly, yet readable.

11. by Stephen Court. OK. Not a book, but rather a website, this is certainly a place to access many things to read about Salvation Army ministry in the 21st century. We are going to count it here, and recommend you read it.

10.  O Lord! (Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1981) by John Gowans. Salvation Army poetry from a Salvation Army poet that is both challenging and inspiring. Gowans was a true wordsmith.

9. Writings of Catherine Booth. We are cheating a little in recommending a collection of writings, and not a specific book. But we just couldn’t leave her off this list. No one understood The Salvation Army on a spiritual level like Catherine. More practical, powerful, and inspired words are difficult to find. Simply put, she was a truth-teller. (Here’s one collection of her work.)

8. CEB Common English Wesley Study Bible (Common English Bible, 2013). Every Salvationist should have a good study Bible. Might as well have one with readable prose and Wesleyan study notes. This Bible has both.

7.  Keeping Faith in Faith-Based Organizations: A Practical Theology of Salvation Army Health Ministry (Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012) by Dean Pallant. Timely work on health care and the poor.  Challenging arguments around the role of The Salvation Army and this issue.

6. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Harcourt Brace, 1955) by C S Lewis. Best book we know of regarding prevenient grace. A beautifully written classic of the story how Lewis came to faith.

5. Purity of Heart (Diggory Press, 1902) by William Booth. Booth’s best written and most powerful book. Short, sweet and as always, a to the point book on holiness.

4. Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine (The Salvation Army, 1998).  The book that replaced the book that tells a Salvationist who and whose they are. A great overview of what we believe, and how we enact our faith. Read it online.


3.  In Darkest England and the Way Out (Diggory Press, 1890) by William Booth. The book that laid the groundwork for the modern day Salvation Army. It is the perfect mix of practical ministry and personal salvation.  The language and illustrations are Victorian, but it’s required reading for the truly thoughtful Salvationist.

2. Heart Talks On Holiness (Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1897) by Samuel Logan Brengle. There are too many Brengle books on holiness to choose from, but we think this is his best. It is readable theology for anyone by the great Salvationist thinker on the topic. He will enlighten, challenge, and illuminate the life of holiness for you. Read it online.

1. The Songbook of The Salvation Army (1986). Think what you want about this choice, but there is no more valuable collection for the Salvationist. It has classic words of inspiration, enlightenment, illumination and challenge. Read it online.

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Comments 1

  1. I have recently become friends with a young woman who grew up in a Salvation Army family. In addition to telling me about The Army, she referred me to this list of 50 books and to a book her mother (Jolene Kay Hodder) wrote and that was published recently, Walking In White. It seems to me that it should be on a list like this.

    Here is what I took away from reading the book:

    –insight into the hearts and minds of a wife and husband team committed to serving God through their work in The Salvation Army

    –the sad knowledge of how many (many, many) people in Kenya live in desperate circumstances and how they cope, especially how they live with hope and joy in spite of frequently, or always, not having enough to eat, little or no health care, water that must always be boiled before drinking or cooking, corrupt government, and more.

    –inspiration from how the Hodders were able to help and retain hope and joy while seeing almost every day the horrendous misery around them.

    –a determination to find joy and thankfulness no matter how bad off I am as a result of hearing about how many Kenyan’s do it.

    –hope for the future from learning about one young person’s values, activities and experiences during the time she lived in Kenya with her parents. In addition to the stories about the parents, there are many amazing stories of Jess’s faith, generosity, service, adventurous spirit and various mundane things like cooking.

    –insight into what it is like to live with electricity and water that frequently go off without warning, sometimes for hour, sometimes for days. At one time their telephone was not working for several months. They still had to pay for it month by month, working or not, or their account would be cancelled and there would be a large penalty to reinstate the account. Also, to live with the need for guards armed with machine guns, with the constant threat of violence, with almost impassible roads to many places they needed to go to, etc.

    It provides all of that and is heart wrenching and inspiring.

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