Three Books

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, February 20, 2014

Three Books

Someone asked me an interesting question recently that I’d never been asked before:

“What books do you keep closest to you when you write?”

It was actually an astute question.  Most writers have a significant library, but they have a smaller number of books that surround their keyboard that they find themselves pulling from over and over as they craft their words.

I have three that rest in a stack.  They are used too often to ever put on a shelf, and they’ve been by my side for many, many years:

…Roget’s Thesaurus, Webster’s Dictionary, and a Bible (NIV).

I cannot think of three more strategic books to have by my side.

A dictionary helps me understand words, a thesaurus helps me choose words, and a Bible guides every sentence in terms of truth and depth.

I have, as many writers do, an extensive library.  At my office are biographies and works on theology, books on leadership and ministry.  At home in my study are my Bible commentaries and dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew reference works, books on contemporary culture, reflections on Christian life, tomes on history, and more.

But if I was deserted on an island, I would take my thesaurus, dictionary, and Bible.

And as G.K. Chesterton once answered as to what one book he would bring with him if so deserted, he bypassed Shakespeare, Dickens and every other significant work one could imagine and opted for something a bit different:

Thomas’ Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.

James Emery White

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 recently 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, visit, where you view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Three Books