The 25-ish Ten

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, June 3, 2013

The 25-ish Ten

Relevant magazine recently sent out an email blast touting an article with an intriguing title: “10 Books Everyone Should Read by 25-ish.”

I took the bait and clicked.

First, I was impressed that a magazine targeting Millennials would be trying to promote reading.

Second, I was impressed that they were trying to highlight good books over poor ones.

But that’s where my “impressed” ended.


The list.

It was disappointing at best, distressing at worst.  Here it is:

1.       The Bible

2.       Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning

3.       Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

4.       Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

5.       Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

6.       Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

7.       Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

8.       Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

9.       Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

10.     A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Okay, the book logged in at #1 is a given, and no arguments from me on Mere Christianity, but after that?

The other eight are almost entirely recent titles, and mostly on the topic of “find myself,” “be myself,” “be true to myself” and “focus on myself.”  Granted, that may have been the intent considering the preoccupation with such things among those in their twenties.

And don’t get me wrong.  They were all good books.  I have actually read all of them.  They are worth recommending.


The top 10 you would want anyone to read before they were 25-ish?


What of the classics?  What of theology?  What of history?  What of depth, length, beauty and richness of language, historical significance and cultural importance?

Of course the Bible clocks in at #1.  And again, no issues with Lewis’ Mere Christianity making the top ten.

But the other eight?

I think we can do better.

Let’s just assume the Bible would be on anyone’s reading list for someone recommending reading for the 25-ish.  So on any list of “ten” it would be number one and force the list to go to eleven.

With that in mind, here would be my ten:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Confessions by St. Augustine

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Pensees by Blaise Pascal

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.

To my thinking, that would be a great list of ten to read by 25-ish.

Any other titles come to mind you would want someone in their twenties to be sure to have read?

Click here and post away.

James Emery White


“10 Books Everyone Should Read by 25-ish,” Nicole Unice, Relevant Magazine, May 16, 2013, read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

The 25-ish Ten