June 24, 2019

Books to Shape Your Heart and Soul

Gary Thomas — 

A pastor wrote to me asking for help with a church member who is well read and very cerebral, but who needs a little help shaping his heart and soul. He asked me for some books he could recommend, so I put together the following list in no particular order.

It’s a mix of classics and contemporary books, with the filter of helping an earnest believer evaluate the state of their heart and soul—going beyond doctrine to practice and transformation.

This isn’t my normal kind of blog, but the truth is, the more we shape our hearts to reflect the love and presence of Jesus Christ, the more every one of our relationships will benefit. So here’s the list. Feel free to add some suggestions of your own in the comments.

As always with such lists, there will be points of doctrine reflected in a few books with which I disagree; remember, this isn’t a list to help someone understand basic doctrine. It’s focused on spiritual transformation and draws from some traditions with whom I have some doctrinal disagreements. I know I’ve left several good ones out, but these are the ones that came to mind:

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

A.W. Tozer,  The Pursuit of God

Gary Thomas, Holy Available

Peter Kreeft,  Back to Virtue

Andrew Murray, Humility

Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Gordon Smith, On the Way: A Guide to Christian Spirituality 

R. Somerset Ward, To Jerusalem: Devotional Studies in Mystical Religion 

Gerrit Scott Dawson, Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation 

Lorenzo Scupoli, Spiritual Combat

N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters 

St. Theophan the Recluse, The Path of Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual Transformation 

Bob Sorge, Secrets of the Secret Place 

John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection 

Gordon Smith, Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity 

Sherry Harney, Praying with Eyes Wide Open. 

Thomas Cogswell Upham, Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life 

Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines 

Louis of Granada, The Sinner’s Guide 

John Ortberg, Soul Keeping 

Les Parrott, Love Like That

 Kevin Harney, Seismic Shifts: The Little Changes That Make a Big Difference in Your Life

Kay Warren, Dangerous Surrender


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14 responses to Books to Shape Your Heart and Soul

  1. Charmane Mahaluxmi Waldner June 28, 2019 at 7:40 am

    Easy communication guides would be beneficial to marriages too

  2. I like the picture that you chose as a banner. It describes your writing in an of itself. Full of books and knowledge yet there is a tinge of the unknown as it blurs out and you look down the corridor to the future of your life. There seems to be an overwhelming and almost discouraging amount of things there on those shelves that I need to learn. But then I see a lot of hope also because the corridor is filled with light and as it goes of into the future the lights seem to merge and bulbs blend into one another. The transformation is somewhere in that mix with the Author of Light!

  3. Marshall Irey June 25, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    You are funny Mr. Thomas

  4. What about books for getting better about communication

    • Perhaps you could check out the following:

      The Lasting Promise by Scott Stanley and others

      Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

  5. ARMEN BAHADARIAN June 24, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Can you recommend any book by John Macarthur ,the dedicated verse by verse teacher of the Bible and pastor for 50 years of Grace Community Church ?

    • Armen, perhaps there’s one of his you’d want to recommend? I don’t usually think of Macarthur as a devotional writer, but perhaps there’s one of his in this vein I’m not familiar with

  6. Melinda Stephani June 24, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    How about C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity? Thanks for the list!

    • Melinda, That’s a good one, but I think it’s more on the cerebral level. For the heart, I might recommend The Screwtape Letters, Reflections on the Psalms, or Letters to Malcolm

  7. Cherisse Forde June 24, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    R. Kent Hughes “Disciplines of a Godly Man”
    Gordon MacDonald “Ordering My Private World”
    J. I. Packer “Knowing God”
    Ken Sande “The Peacemaker”

    • I think I’ve read all of these (except perhaps for Hughes) and would agree with every one of them

  8. Great list. Quite a few I haven’t read, so my summer reading list just grew into “the rest of my life” list…