Top Five Books for Lent

Following Stephen’s suit… here’s some books I’d like to read for the 40 days of Lent, which (as an Anglican Christian) I’m trying to get better at observing. I only managed to come up with five, but I’ll be lucky if I can read all of these anyways…

Humility: The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness by Gavin Ortlund – I meant to save this for Lent, but out of a feeling of urgent need, I went ahead and read Humility these past few days. It is a wonderfully succinct, convicting, and relevant guide to understanding and practicing humility as a Christian. It covers this topic from multiple angles—Christ’s life and sacrifice, our attitude towards God, our approach towards others (including avoiding envy), and what healthy submission to authority looks like. Ortlund’s emphasis on joy suggests a way you can pursue a humble life that is not downtrodden nor self-deprecating but lighter of heart and spirit. As always, he writes in a clear style that’s pastorally instructive but not “preachy,” making it easily approachable (and a good example of humility in practice).

If I had one quibble, it’s that Ortlund commits what I consider to be a common flaw of modern Christian authors—quoting CS Lewis and Tolkien exorbitantly often. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate those two authors! But…as good as they both are, it’s starting to get predictable, which weakens its impact. Just my 2 cents.

Overall, a book of more substance than its page count would imply, and warmly recommended.

Confessions by St. Augustine – This one speaks for itself… a classic I have not yet read.

Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation: Ancient Wisdom for Current Controversy by Gavin Ortlund – I actually started this book months ago and stopped because it was inspiring me to read Confessions (even though Confessions isn’t necessarily a prerequisite). Interested to see what I can learn here.

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis – I had a very rocky start to this book a few weeks ago… chapter 1 left me feeling that Lewis’s theological arguments were not well supported, which was discouraging. Still, I feel obliged to read it through, since it is so well loved and influential. Also, Goodreads tells me many people reading my blog love the book, so I will attempt to tread gingerly with my critique. 😉

Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction – In recent years, I’ve been drawn to learn about major philosophical worldviews, especially how they overlap with and differ from Christianity. It seems important for evangelism, to understand how other people think and what they believe—understanding builds up empathy, true compassion, and the ability to communicate effectively. My knowledge so far is idiosyncratic (Kierkegaard with a side of Stoics), and my previous attempt to read an introductory book was unsuccessful. This VSI comes recommended by a friend who is well versed in these topics.

14 responses to “Top Five Books for Lent”

  1. The VSI series is GREAT. I’ve read a lot of Philosophy (partially to get back up to speed when I did my MA) and a lot of their other stuff too. Indeed my next book review is a VSI!

    I was given a copy of ‘Mere Christianity’ *ages* ago to try out and I ended up DNFing it after less than 100 pages. Like you I found his early arguments to be very weak. Needless to say I was less than impressed after hearing so much praise about it & him.


    1. Nice to hear! I’ve heard only good things about VSI, so I’m excited to finally get into it.

      Side note, but I just picked up a copy of This Is an Uprising at my library… fingers crossed I can make time for it. 😀


  2. Confessions is on my CC-III list. (Yes, despite only having read half of my current list so far, I’m already populating a third list.) I’ve read it before, but disliked it on the grounds that Augustine was so self-loathing, and over very petty things. It’ll be interesting to back and revisit it…my reaction to reading Mere Christianity in 2013/2014 was VERY different from reading it as an anti-religious person in 2008, to the point that I wondered “Is this the same book?”. It’s interesting how the state of our mind can shape our experiences. Bit of a ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will come’ kind of thing.


    1. That’s interesting about Augustine… I’m curious now if he suffered from scrupulosity or something along those lines. I appreciated that Ortlund’s book on Humility cautions against self-loathing, which is all too easy to fall into.

      When it comes to Lewis, I wonder too if his thought process just appeals more to certain people than others. Though it’s been disappointing to this hopeful reader so far, I can appreciate the fact others have found it speaks to them. 🙂


      1. Very possible! He was a Manichean to begin with, and they have a deep-seated hatred for the material. Perhaps he never got over that. It’s certainly not a Catholic thing. One of the reasons the western tradition (read: pre-Vat II Catholicism) has resonated with me over the years is that it lives in God’s statement that the Creation was “good”, and emphasizes that God uses material things (like the Eucharistic host & wine) for spiritual perfection.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it is typical of many Christian conversions, in which they are so deeply convicted of their sin and depravity that it comes across as self-loathing. Frankly, I was shocked by what Augustine wrote about his past life. (LOL! I was no saint, myself.) I guess I need to read it again, but I think his reaction seemed appropriate to me. I think he was in awe of God’s saving grace over him.

        Anyway, I’m impressed that you will conquer this during Lent. Actually, I was just writing up a post about the autobiographies I read for TWEM, and I remember how complex Confessions was. I had your edition that you listed here. The translation was good but I found Augustine’s thought process (through is writing) deeply elaborate.

        Same w/ C.S. Lewis: they have brains on fire!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s good to hear about the translation! I have had great experiences with Oxford World Classics in the past, so it’s my go-to if I am not sure what to get. 🙂


  3. St. Augustine’s Confession was a real struggle to read (at least for me years ago), but in the end, it’s worth it! My review: – if you need encouragement.. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, I just read your review! It was really interesting, especially getting into the passages about Creation. 40 days is perhaps too short to hope to finish it, but hopefully I’ll make some good progress. 🙂


  4. I’m reading The Little Book of Lent: Daily Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Spiritual Teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just looked it up, it sounds really neat!


  5. I’m interested to read your critique/thoughts on Mere Christianity and also, if you do, on scrupulosity. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Aside: I recommend Ordinary by Michael Horton. I think you might be interested in it, maybe add to your reading list.

    Liked by 1 person

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About Me

Hi, I’m Marian—sharing a fondness for classics and other books here and on my YouTube channel. I’m a Christian, designer, and avid tea drinker, and my home is the beautiful Pacific Northwest, US.


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