Three Criterion for Finding Great Books

Over the past year I took a new approach to reading. I set up criterion for finding great books to read, and I discovered a plethora of great literature, philosophy, and guidance for life.

1. Seek books with quotations in them.
By using sticky note markers as I read and typing each notable quote into a document, I collected over 2,200 original phrases and observations from authors during the past year. I read titles that were deeper and more challenging than I ever had before. When I asked friends for books with memorable lines and lessons, I found that these volumes were the best:

  • My Personal Best by John Wooden
  • The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

2. Seek writings of admirable people.
Among the great names in history, I have respect for those with honorable life stories. William Wilberforce is known for abolishing the slave trade in Britain, and Helen Keller is respected for her achievement in overcoming the handicap of being blind and deaf. Though I read of these people, I hadn’t read their actual writings. Here is a list of not-so-famous books with authors who should be household names:

  • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • A Practical View of Christianity by William Wilberforce
  • The Song of the Stone Wall by Helen Keller
  • Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand

3. Seek the books that influenced those you respect.

Heroes have their own heroes they look up to. For instance, Elisabeth Elliot looked up to Amy Carmichael. The list below displays not only the book titles and authors, but also the person whom I respect who recommended it.

  • Waking the Dead by John Eldredge (Quoted by my dad)
  • Let Justice Roll Down by John M. Perkins (Mentioned by Jon Foreman at his concert)
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (Recommended by Lacey Scott)
  • Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living by Anna Redsand (Discussed in Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)
  • Four Souls by Jedd Medefind (Recommended by Zach Hunter in his book Lose Your Cool)
  • Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski (Recommended by Lauren Reavely)

Notable Mentions:

  • Lose Your Cool by Zach Hunter
  • Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darryl Scott
  • Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton
  • When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy
  • Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo
  • The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What were the best books that you read in 2010? (I’ll likely add them to my list for 2011!)

  • http://creatingtreasures.blogspot.com tereza

    I have read:

    Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darryl Scott (beautiful book. It showed me how intimate God is with each of us, and how in all things He is working it all out for our good, even if we don’t see it right then.)
    The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer (profound)

    NOT read Hellen Keller’s book, but I read a lot of books on her. Thanks for the suggestion on actually reading the book she wrote. I will look that up.
    NOT read any books from Eric and Leslie Ludy but I feel like I have. I read a lot of things on them, and excerpts from their books so it feels like I have read them. do you understand?

    I am reading Star Parker’s Uncle Sam’s Plantation right now.

    One book that has changed my life is “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince. I have finally understood what Jesus really did for us on the cross. :)

    I also read this past month “Why I stayed.” by Gayle Haggard. Again an amazing book. It touched my life confirming how personal God is and that even in our darkest hours He does not abandon us. Great life lessons in the book.

    Another recent read was “Heaven is for Real” an account from a little boy.

    Cynthia, keep writing and thanks for inspiring us with your articles. :)

  • JAC

    Nice article! Glad to see you promoting reading. (One tiny correction: The plural of “criterion” is “criteria.”)

    I have read Blue like Jazz, and Donald Miller is a talented writer but too liberal for me. Your methods for picking good books sound solid, though.