Reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
This is an unusual book. There is no single author or editor mentioned. The thirty-plus chapters are each from a different author. And the subject of each chapter is different from all the others. The book’s inscription reads,
To Iain and Jean Murray
With the affection and appreciation
Of grateful friends
You Must Read is a book about books, as the title implies, and the books in view have all been published by Banner of Truth – which means, of course, that Iain Murray was involved in producing them all. It is not quite a Festschrift, but a book in Murray’s honor nonetheless, on the 60th anniversary of his founding of the Banner of Truth Trust. It was a day when solid Reformed literature was relatively scarce, and no one could have predicted the influence Banner of Truth would command in the coming decades. “The Calvinist resurgence” is old news today, and the many titles that Banner published played no small role in it.
You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives features thirty-two chapters, each written by a recognized preacher, teacher, or author and focusing on a particular book – a Banner title – that has shaped or otherwise impacted his ministry. Full of interest just for that reason, You Must Read is of further value as a guide to some of the great books of the church that have influenced countless Christians.
Sinclair Ferguson has never been shy to tell of the influence of John Owen on his own theological work, so you will not be surprised to see his chapter, “The Glory of Christ by John Owen,” an essay that winsomely introduces both Owen and his famously insightful and devout Christology. Again, you might not be surprised to see R.C. Sproul’s chapter, “The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended by Jonathan Edwards,” or Jerry Bridges’ chapter, “The Apostle’s Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton.” But surprised by it or not, the personal dimension of the books’ influence in the lives of others you’re acquainted with furthers the enjoyment. Other chapters tell of the influence of John Bunyan on Faith Cook, the influence of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Alistair Begg and John MacArthur, the influence of Spurgeon on Al Mohler and Stuart Olyott, the influence of John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied on Al Martin, the influence of Richard Sibbes on Mark Dever … and on goes the list.
It is appropriate to publish a book in honor of Iain and Jean Murray for their astoundingly influential work over the years, but You Must Read was a great idea in its own right for its captivatingly “personal” introduction to some of church history’s most outstanding ministers and writers.
This from Sinclair Ferguson’s Introduction to the book:
You Must Read is an ambiguous title. As Christians ‘we are what we read’. God’s word is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit renews our minds and transforms our lives. The same is true, to a lesser extent, of Christian literature. The biographies of Christians whose lives have left a permanent mark on the church often disclose the influence of a particular book, or books, they themselves have read. So, You Must Read is a perennial maxim. You really must read!
But we also use these words when we are enthusiastic about a good book. We instinctively ask our friends, ‘Have you read …?’ And if the answer is ‘no’ we tend to say ‘Oh, you must read …’
But where do you begin? There are so many books from which to choose. Many of us want to ask, ‘Can somebody please tell me what books I should read?’ You Must Read provides some answers from the pens of a number of well-known Christian leaders, including Joel R. Beeke, Alistair Begg, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., John MacArthur, Stuart Olyott, R. C. Sproul , Derek W. H. Thomas, Geoffrey Thomas, and many others.
A most enjoyable new book about old authors and their continuing influence. You must read!
P.S.: You may also like to see our Interview with Sinclair Ferguson, where he talks to us about this book.
Fred G. Zaspel is Executive Editor here at Books At a Glance
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YOU MUST READ: BOOKS THAT HAVE SHAPED OUR LIVES