This is my recommended reading list. Here you will find a lot of great books that have changed my life in one way or another. There is no recommended order to read them. Simply read the descriptions and grab the ones that jump out to you. (Please note I’m still in the process of building this page sorry if there aren’t full details for every book or if certain sections are incomplete.)
Also note well – For books on theology or spirituality – I’m not prescribing what is “right.” I am merely sharing books I think can be very helpful for those who are asking specific questions. If you read a description and think “that’s exactly what I was wondering” then pick it up. If you are thinking, “dear lord, not more of this shit!” then obviously don’t. The booklist caters to a very wide range of people going on a very diverse set of paths of deconstruction.
This is a profound memoir. Granddaughter of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church Megan Phelps-Roper shares her story of growing up in America’s most hated family. This story is masterfully written as it humanizes those we’d prefer to hate and shows us that such people can be changed.
Rob Bell’s latest book is part memoir part teaching on the very nature of the world we find ourselves in. I absolutely loved every minute of reading this book and found it profoundly spoke to me as I followed Rob on his own spiritual journey finding it mirrored my own and many others who I’ve spoken with. Well worth a read.
A fantastic autobiography from the co-creator of the Liturgists podcast which is a very popular podcast among those deconstructing. Very funny, raw, insightful and probably way too out there for most. Be warned, you might not like where this slippery slope ends.
Pete Holmes is one of my favourite people on the planet. Coming from a conservative Christian background he shares his story in a beautifully honest way that will have you laughing non-stop whilst also thinking “wow that’s good!” frequently. This is a book you won’t want to put down!
Brought up in a extreme Mormon group this is a crazy story that shows us just how deep the rabbit hole can go of relgious abuse and trauma.
This is a fascinating story of Leah Remini’s journey into Scientology as a child and her escape out of it. What struck me so much throughout this memoir was the overlaps in behaviors and systems this clearly cultish group has with what we would consider quite normal Christianity.
Richard Rohr, everyone’s favourite Catholic right now. With a wisdom that is hard to convey he captures the journey that so many of us go on. What he calls “the second stage of life” it might not happen to all, and may not even be the second stage for some. But its the process of deconstructing our past ideas about who we are, who God is, our place in this world and finding out there is something much much more beautiful going on.
For anyone who is feeling a bit lost this is a book well worth picking up.
Rohr’s great book here starts to give language to those who are looking for permission to explore beyond the realms of conventional Christianity but want to remain tethered to Christ. This is a fantastic book for those just starting their deconstruction and wanting to explore some fresh options while holding onto much of what they understand of a God that is the Spirit of Christ.
For the last 8yrs I’ve helped people on their D/R journey. Some face it with excitement but most feel like they are dragged kicking and screaming into Hell. Most will lose friends and family. Some even walk away with a form of PTSD called Religious Trauma Syndrome. Walking people through this process is complex to say the least. In fact, often more harm than good is done. What Mark does here therefore is an extraordinary feat. With every turn of the page the reader will feel seen and understood and find grace to take their next steps, whatever that might mean for them. I can safely say I’ll be recommending this book dozens of times a week for a very long time.
Did God really need to kill Jesus to forgive us? Why is God so bound to the mechanism of sacrifice? Why is God so obsessed with bloodshed? Can’t He forgive freely like He calls us to?
This is the book for you if you’ve ever asked these kinds of questions
I’m frequently asked how does one read the Bible. I believe that until we approach the Bible the way that Jesus did we will never really be able to read it well.
This book gives foundational tools in building a hermeneutic (lens through which we read) for which to read the Bible.
Why is the Bible so violent? How does the non-violent, gracious Jesus perfectly represent God and yet the Bible also represents God as a very violent and wrathful deity.
This book unpacks a different way to look at scripture. A way which disarms it and in turn leaves us with a God who looks like Jesus.
The second book from Brad Jersak to make my booklist. This book is fantastic. Undertaking a huge task to save the notion of a God that looks like Jesus from Christianity’s less than Christ-like portrayal. Brad is a great writer and makes a heavy and complex topic a real joy to read.
Campbell is a serious theologian and some consider him to be one of the worlds leading authorities on Paul. He is well known for his dense 1300 page book Deliverance of God. Which is why this book was such a surprise. Weighing in at less than half the pages it covers the life of Paul from pre-salvation to death. It’s a page turner, fun, interesting, very challenging. For anyone who loves the writings of Paul its a must have!
Capon is one of my favourite writers. And actually this is far from my favourite book of his. In fact, I found it a bit hard to read. But it provides some amazing insight into the parables that I’ve not seen matched by many. With a complex communication method like parables there is huge scope for error and reading our own warped pictures of God into them. Capon masterfully helps us see this tendency and gives us much healthier options steeped in love, grace and hope.
In this breakthrough book Marlene Winell talks about the very real problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome and how it effects many who decide (or are required) to leave their churches and faiths. It’s a must read if you thing you are dealing with religious trauma.
Spiritual & Psychological Development Models
A fantastic look at Spiral Dynamics through the lens of Christianity. Tracking how Christianity has evolved over history and where it might be evolving to in the future.
Death & Grief
The Shack is one of my favourite pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I usually try and pick this up every year or two to read and every time I find myself shocked as I realise it still has depth way beyond where I am. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with a good God even more. Read it if you haven’t before… and if you have, maybe pick it up again.
This fantastic work by Brad Jersak looks at the history of Hell. For most Christians in the Protestant/Evangelical world they have only ever been told 1/3 of the options on the afterlife. But the truth is the Church has always welcomed a very broad spectrum of views on the afterlife and the Bible is far from black and white on the topic.
Sex, Gender & Sexuality
In this gracious, well argued and often funny book Martin outlines why he believes it is ok as a Christian to be affirming of homosexuality.
It is a very well written piece and a great supplement to anyone doing serious study on this topic.
Widely considered to be the gold standard book on gender. It’s not a Christian book but frankly if you want to learn about gender and get your head around it’s complex nuances I’m not sure reading a Christian book is the best route to go.
This book is not for the faint of heart, it’s raw, vulnerable, rude, racy and very graphic. But it does an amazing job of outlining what gender is as well as helping humanise a group of people that most in the church tend to alienate.
Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage
Coontz is considered the world’s leading expert in the institution of marriage. Ranging back to the beginning of time she tracks one of mankind’s oldest institutions.
But be warned we quickly find out that for most of history marriage was not linked to love. Love is a very recent addition to marriage, which surprisingly the Church was the strongest advocates against.
A thoroughly engaging book and one that will make you read the Bible very differently when you see the word marriage.
A fantastic read about the culture in which the New Testament exists. Reading this will radically shape and inform your reading of the NT and you won’t regret it.
Cahill is an amazing historian. But not only that he’s funny, interesting and surprising. In this book he explores the history of the Jews, how they came about and ended up shaping much of the way the world is today.
Bailey is a genius at creating a picture of history and transporting you there. In this book he shows through many different examples how having a cultural context can blow wide open different parts of the Gospels. His work on Lukes Parables “Poet and Peasant” is also well worth a read.
As I said before, I’m a big fan of Cahill… in this book he does a great job framing the ministry of Jesus by painting some amazing pictures of the world into which He comes. Brace yourself to laugh and be shocked as key passages are turned on their heads.
One of my favorite texts that explore the historical Jesus
Literally anything by Bart Ehrman is going to be incredible. This is a great place to start but honestly look through his massive list of books he’s written and grab whatever strikes your fancy… it’ll be a good read! Bart is a very accessible door to the world of historical NT scholarship.
Campbell’s work here is not for the faint of heart (like most of the books in this section) weighing in at over 1300 pages it will take you a percentage of your life to read if you read as slow as me. But it will change everything you know about Romans and potentially the gospel. And for me that’s well worth the time.
(His book Paul: An Apostle’s Journey is above and a great read too, much more accessible and fun to read, quite the page turner in fact)
Considered by many scholars as one of the most important pieces of Biblical scholarship in the last 100 years.
Join him as he works his way through Galatians and upends many of our assumptions about Paul, the Gospel and what it is to be a Christian. This is a great resource to walk through in a Bible Study… if you are in a Bible Study full of people who love to read big heavy theological books.
A great resource to begin with for anyone who is wanting to learn to read Greek.
Make sure you pair this with a good Lexicon – at a push you could probably get by using Strongs if you must.
Far too many Christians don’t have access to a good lexicon. Now that’s not really a problem usually. Except for the fact that people these days have instant google access to something like Strongs. Which is biased and equips readers to make poor translation choices. At the end of the day you need to know Greek Grammar to make good contextual translation choices. But if you aren’t going to learn to read Greek (and I wouldn’t blame you!) at least make sure you are looking up the Greek words in a good lexicon.
An essential resource for any NT scholar. With the discovery of so many documents in the last 100 year our understanding of Second Temple Judaism, (the period of time leading up to and including Jesus’s ministry) has radically changed. Most pastors and teachers are still teaching very out of date information on Judaism in the time of Jesus and this resource will help you build up your knowledge on everything and anything about the Jews and their world in this time period.
Please note: It is absolutely essential you buy the revised edition of this as the original does not contain any of this new information I’ve talked about.
A fantastic – although dated Bible Dictionary. Be wary you don’t just buy one volume if buying online – this collection comprises of 10 volumes.
Be aware that this writer was not aware of much of our recent discoveries of Second Temple Judaism so hold this in tension when reading the brilliant information within.