Bearing False Witness Rodney Stark

One of the swelling victories for a Christian is the testimony of the Church for thousands of years.  But her testimony is also one of the scars we bear.  The Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Dark Ages.  If you are trying to follow Jesus in college, there is a good chance you will have to (or want to) answer for the stains which litter our collective history.  But before you decide to whole-heartedly apologize for the Crusades, check out this book.  Stark's brief, sweeping defense of good history puts some tired conversations upright and allows them to breathe.  But be careful, you might get a little unnerved at how much we drink the pop-history Kool-aid.  For further reading consider The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark

Handbook Of the Christian Faith John Schwarz

This might be one of the best books for any Christian to have on their shelf.  How did the church grow in the first century?  Where did the Bible come from?  How does Christianity differ from other world religions?  What does it mean to follow Jesus today?  If nothing else, skim this book for all the stuff you haven't thought to ask yet, and get a half-page synopsis on the foundational knowledge every Christian ought to know about their faith and history.  For further reading consider the articles included in the ESV Study Bible

Engaging God's World Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Can higher education be seen as service in God’s Kingdom?  Plantinga argues that a proper understanding of God’s creative and redemptive work helps us know the value and work of high education.  While this is primarily written for students in a Christian university, this is a very helpful work in seeing education in light of the whole of life and God’s Kingdom work.  Chapter 5 might be one of the best things a college student can read to make the most of their time in college.  For further reading consider The Liberal Arts: A Student’s Guide by Gene C. Fant, Jr.

LIFE SIGNS Henri Nouwen

We fundamentally desire intimacy, fruitfulness, and ecstasy in our lives, but many of us struggle to live that kind of life.  In just over 100 pages, Henri Nouwen examines these movements of intimacy, fruitfulness (fecundity), and ecstasy through an exploration of Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15.  You will be moved to consider living a life of love and hope rather than one dominated by fear.  For further reading consider The Enneagram: a Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

The Problem of Pain CS Lewis

Choosing one of Lewis’ works to recommend is torture - just read them all.  But if you have to start with one of his non-fiction books, this might be the best way to dive in.  While Mere Christianity dives deeper into a lot of these topics, and books like Screwtape Letters or The Great Divorce are more topical, this one has an easier to grasp outline.  It will introduce you to the marvelous, deductive reasoning of Lewis and how generous he is in his arguments.  He moves from what we can all know about the nature of humankind to the nature of God, the problem of pain and suffering the world, and eventually to animal pain, hell, and heaven.  It’s a wonderful sweep and the last chapter will leave you breathless.  Don’t miss the introduction either.  This guy drops dimes everywhere.  For further reading consider Mere Christianity or The Chronicles of Naria by CS Lewis.

Letters From A Skeptic Gregory Boyd 

College is a time when many of us are introduced to a variety of questions we have never considered before.  Boyd (a Christian) and his father (an atheist) wrote letters back and forth over three years covering tons of questions about Christian theism.  This collection is a valuable introduction to a Christian worldview and understanding how our faith informs so many questions.  For further reading consider The Universe Next Door by James Sire or The Reason for God by Tim Keller

Next Generation Leader Andy Stanley

This is the best book on general leadership I’ve read.  Get this, apply the wisdom, and bless your family, friends, workplace, and local church.  There is a lot of talk about what leadership is and who is or isn’t a leader, and so much of the discussion is too theoretical or too faceted.  Andy Stanley provides an helpful foundation for anyone in college to understand how they can begin to exercise more leadership in their life in a way that is helpful and glorifies God.  For further reading consider In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen

A Severe Mercy Sheldon Vanauken 

Thinking about marriage?  Excited by a new dating relationship and wonder where it could go?  Feeling lonely?  This book will challenge the way you view romance and what romance is all about.  It is an a story of love, not lovers and there is just no way a synopsis can do this justice…  But if you pick this up, stick with it until the end and let your heart break and mend right along with Sheldon and Davy.  The 18 letters from CS Lewis in the book are just a bonus, and that’s saying something.  For further reading consider Sex God by Rob Bell or The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Written during WWII to a group of underground, secret seminary students as a graduation gift, there is no better work on the value of living life together as Christians.  Come out of isolation and learn to live a robust, vulnerable life with others.  This short work (less than 100 pages) is packed with Scripture and wisdom for Christian communities.  You will want to read this with others.

The Sparrow Mary doria russell

Do you understand the risks you take believing in God?  Russell wrote this book to help you wrestle with that question and with the gravity of what you believe.  This is dense fiction riddled with brilliant dialogue.  The narrative is a sort of coming-to-faith story of a priest who has lost his heart, but that doesn’t even come close to telling you what this is really about.  I cried for two hours after I finished this book and wondered whether I really wanted to follow Jesus any more… and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  If you want to put your faith to the test - and I hope you do - grab this book over a break and make sure you have a friend to talk with about it when you’re done.  For further reading consider the book of Job in the Bible

Confessions of St. Augustine

It’s hard to believe this was written more than 1500 years ago.  It is just like opening up a journal and reading through heart-rending realizations about self, thoughtful meanderings about life, questions about God, frustrations about current experiences, and anything else you would find in a journal.  It reads that way because that is what it is.  But instead of it being the journal of a your soon-to-be-ex, it’s the journal of one of the most influential people in Church history.  For further reading consider Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

For Men Only & For Women Only Shaunti feldhahn

Short, full of charts and statistics, and packed with riveting knowledge about norms of the opposite sex.  If you want to better understand how to relate to your romantic interests, your siblings, your parents, or anyone of the opposite sex, these books are priceless.  Consider reading through one about you first, and note where it does and does not reflect you… then give it to someone you want to know you better.  For further reading consider Men of Courage by Larry Crabb or Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart