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The century's top 100 books

On July 3, WORLD offered a list of what were, from our perspective, the top 40 books of the century.

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Henry Adams - The Education of Henry Adams (1918) This book offered a fine contrast between the pre-modern mind (symbolized by the "Virgin" of the great cathedrals) and the just-emerging modern century (symbolized by the industrial "dynamo"). Buy it today!

Hannah Arendt - The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) What she describes about the dynamics of fascism and communism needs to be heeded today. Buy it today!

Edward C. Banfield - The Unheavenly City (1950) Father of the books critiquing dire public policy consequences of utopian liberalism.

P. T. Bauer - Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion (1983) Presented an important new way of looking at Third World economic development. Buy it today!

Michael Behe - Darwin's Black Box (1996) Biochemist proves, with hard science, that on the smallest, most irreducible scale, life is not random. Buy it today!

William Bennett, editor - The Book of Virtues (1993) Good reading for children and adults about values underemphasized in schools. Buy it today!

Louis Berkhof - Systematic Theology (1941) Tightly-woven account of Reformed understanding. Buy it today!

Allan Bloom - The Closing of the American Mind (1988) A devastating account of how today's moral and intellectual relativism is stifling American education. Buy it today!

James M. Boice - Romans: An Expositional Commentary (1995) One of the best expository preachers opens up Paul's great epistle.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - The Cost of Discipleship (1937) Grace may be free, but it isn't cheap, as this young theologian showed both in his words and in his martyr's death at the hands of the Nazis. Buy it today!

Jorge Borges - Labyrinths (1984) Curious, mind-teasing short stories from the blind Argentinean librarian who was one of the century's most intriguing writers. Buy it today!

Robert Bork - Slouching Towards Gomorrah (1996) A thundering moral critique of contemporary culture. Buy it today!

William F. Buckley Jr. - God & Man at Yale (1951) Detailed how a once conservative college had headed left theologically and politically. Buy it today!

Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest (1937) A devotional classic. Buy it today!

Whittaker Chambers - Witness (1952) The moving autobiography and reflective meditation of a communist spy who became a Christian and, to the scorn of the intellectual establishment, witnessed to God's grace. Buy it today!

G. K. Chesterton - Orthodoxy (1908) This exuberant, joyous, humorous journalist defended the faith with a razor logic and a razor wit. Buy it today!

Winston Churchill - The Second World War (1948-1953) An eloquently written six-volume history, by the man who made it. Buy it today!

Charles Colson - Born Again (1977) The testimony of a Watergate politician who was turned to Christ and to Christian activism in the world. Buy it today!

Robert Conquest - The Great Terror (1968) Thoroughly researched account of the horrors of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. Buy it today!

Richard Crossman, editor - The God That Failed (1949) A collection of essays by ex-communists who woke up to the true nature of their false religion. Buy it today!

William Dembski - The Design Inference (1998) This book does the hard-core mathematical, philosophical, and scientific spade-work for proving that the universe did not "just evolve" but was designed. Buy it today!

Hernando De Soto - The Other Path (1989) Shows how Third World countries can achieve economic progress by embracing free enterprise. Buy it today!

Annie Dillard - Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) Sharply observed and luminously expressed meditations on nature, from a writer at home in both science and theology. Buy it today!

T. S. Eliot - The Collected Poems (1963) The poet who charted the spiritual wasteland of the 20th century, in the process becoming a conservative Christian. Buy it today!

Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man (1952) A powerful psychological novel about race and alienation, from the century's greatest black American author. Buy it today!

Jacques Ellul - The Humiliation of the Word (1981) He defended language and the Word of God against the image-worshippers of modern technological culture. Buy it today!

Shusako Endo - Silence (1969) A disturbing, evocative novel about the persecutions of Christians in old Japan, from a talented Christian novelist from Japan. Buy it today!

Stanton Evans - The Theme Is Freedom (1994) For many on the left, history is the progressive liberation of human beings from the chains of tradition. But this book documents how it has been humanism that has bred tyranny, while Christianity, from the very beginning, has promoted freedom. Buy it today!

William Faulkner - The Collected Stories (1950) With his long, convoluted sentences mirroring the convolutions of the mind, and his Southern gothic characters, Faulkner has to be considered America's greatest fiction writer of the century. Buy it today!

Sinclair Ferguson - Christian Life (1996) A well-written introduction for new believers. Buy it today!

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby (1922) A great American novel on the emptiness of wealth and status. Buy it today!

Shelby Foote - The Civil War (1958, 1963, 1974) The American Iliad, in three volumes. Buy it today!

Anne Frank - The Diary of A Young Girl (1953) The magnitude of human sin expends itself against ordinary, sympathetic human beings, as this diary of a child hiding from the Nazis shows. Buy it today!

Milton Friedman - Capitalism and Freedom (1962) A free-market economist when capitalism wasn't cool, Friedman did the Nobel-prize-winning scholarship, the governmental consulting in Third World nations, and the mass popular education that helped to lay socialism and Keynesian liberal economics to rest. Buy it today!

Robert Frost - The Collected Poems (1930) For all of the century's poetic experimentalism, Frost's poetry, with its thoughtful meditations and traditional forms, stands up the best.

The Fundamentals (1909-1915) Those who consider "fundamentalism" a synonym for narrow anti-intellectualism have never read this series of monographs by various authors who battled liberal theological modernism.

George Gilder - Wealth and Poverty (1981) Readable economics book promoting the idea that capitalism is based on serving others, not greed. Buy it today!

Jose Gironella - The Cypresses Believe in God (1958) Moving account of one family in the years preceding the Spanish civil war. Buy it today!

William Golding - Lord of the Flies (1955) This tale of schoolboys shipwrecked on a desert island, and how, without adult supervision, they revert to primitive violence is a good answer to those who do not believe in original sin. Buy it today!

Graham Greene - The Power and the Glory (1940) The melancholy Catholic novelist wrote a masterpiece about a priest hunted down by anti-Christian socialists during the Mexican revolution. v

F. A. Hayek - The Road to Serfdom (1944) Hayek showed how personal and political freedom is tied up with economic freedom. Buy it today!

Carl F. H. Henry - God, Revelation, and Authority (1976-1983) A magisterial systematic theology for evangelicals. Buy it today!

Michael Horton - In The Face of God (1997) Unveiling the gnosticism--the heresy that objectivity doesn't matter, that religion is just a matter of what is inside my head, and that we can have a direct relationship with God without a mediator-that is implicit in much of American religion and religiosity. Buy it today!

Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1932) This novel predicted virtual reality, hallucinogenic drugs, entertainment-mad hedonism, and genetic engineering. Buy it today!

Paul Johnson - Modern Times (1983) Those who have taken conventional survey courses should read this history of the 20th century that punctures many of the standard myths. Buy it today!

Phillip Johnson - Darwin on Trial (1991) A Berkeley law professor demonstrates the weakness of the evolutionists' case. Buy it today!

William Kirk Kilpatrick - Psychological Seduction (1983) A Christian educational psychologist skewers the way pop psychology has insinuated itself into nearly every other field, including Christianity. Buy it today!

Russell Kirk - The Conservative Mind (1953) The godfather of cultural conservatism, Kirk inspired the revival of conservative thought in America. Buy it today!

Adolf Koeberle - The Quest for Holiness (1936) He explored how sanctification and good works grow out of a rigorous understanding of justification by faith.

Arthur Koestler - Darkness at Noon (1940) A novel about the Stalinist show trials that exposed the lies of Communism to many who once accepted them as gospel truth. Buy it today!

Thomas Kuhn - The Structure of Scientific Revolution (1962) Kuhn showed why Christians do not have to fear science anymore: It keeps changing. Buy it today!

Primo Levi - Survival in Auschwitz (1959) Gripping account of concentration camp life. Buy it today!

C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity (1943) Modernists did not realize that Christianity made so much sense or was so exhilarating until they read Lewis, the century's foremost defender of the faith. Buy it today!

Harold Lindsell - Battle for the Bible (1976) This book arrested the slide of evangelicals toward a liberal view of the Bible, establishing instead the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. Buy it today!

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones - Spiritual Depression (1965) A master preacher and evangelist, Lloyd-Jones here writes about why there are so many joyless Christians. Answer: We do not fully understand the grace of God. Buy it today!

John Gresham Machen - Christianity and Liberalism (1923) This Princeton professor and Westminster Seminary founder showed that liberal theology actually constitutes a new, non-Christian religion. Buy it today!

Naguib Mahfouz - Palace Walk (1956) Evocative and provocative novel about a Muslim family in Cairo during the early 1900s. Buy it today!

Thomas Mann - Doctor Faustus (1948) This difficult but profound German novelist wrestled with the cultural and philosophical demons that led to the ascension of Hitler. Buy it today!

Josh McDowell - Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1979) This compilation of arguments for the truth of Christianity has played a role in thousands of conversions. Buy it today!

Gilbert Meilander - Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (1996) A useful pro-life manual for dealing with the new ethical questions raised by reproductive technology and genetic engineering. Buy it today!

J. T. Mueller - Christian Dogmatics (1955) A summation of systematic theology, from a Lutheran perspective, drawn straight from the Bible.

Malcolm Muggeridge - Jesus Rediscovered (1969) A witty but cynical journalist becomes a Christian.

NIV Bible (1978) The New International Version is a readable and non-ideological translation of Scripture that became an evangelical favorite.

Flannery O'Connor - Buy it today! The Violent Bear It Away (1960) She pushed to shocking extremes the conflict between sin and grace.

Thomas Oden - After Modernity, What? (1990) Go back to pre-modernity, that's what. A once-liberal theologian outlines his pilgrimage back to the historical faith, analyzing the collapse of "modern thought" and giving his own way of being postmodern. Buy it today!

George Orwell - 1984 (1944) The novel that alerted our imaginations to the encroachment of totalitarianism. Buy it today!

J. I. Packer - Knowing God (1973) A wise book that has helped thousands to understand what it means to know God, through the revelation of His Word. Buy it today!

Walker Percy - Lost in the Cosmos (1983) This combination of short stories, theoretical essays, and a mock self-help quiz is both an offbeat Christian apologetic and a devastating satire of America's real religion, pop psychology. Buy it today!

John Piper - The Pleasures of God (1992) One of many excellent books by one of today's accessible but profound theological writers. Buy it today!

Richard Pipes - The Russian Revolution (1995) Scholarly but readable account of Lenin's takeover. Buy it today!

Irina Ratushinskaya - Grey Is the Color of Hope (1988) Wrenching and inspiring poetry from a Christian woman imprisoned for her faith in a Communist gulag. Buy it today!

Hans Rookmaaker - Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (1970) This friend of Francis Schaeffer showed evangelicals how to read art as a manifestation of the worldview of the artist and his times. Buy it today!

Dorothy Sayers - The Mind of the Maker (1941) Dorothy Sayers was an imaginative writer and a scholar who showed how human creativity has its origins in nothing less than the Triune God. Buy it today!

Edith Schaeffer - The Art of Life (1987) The wife of Francis Schaeffer offers wisdom for living ordinary life--in the home, the family, and the day-to-day routine-in a beautiful, God-honoring way. Buy it today!

Francis Schaeffer - The God Who Is There (1968) Schaeffer taught evangelicals to become engaged with culture, art, and the world of ideas. Buy it today!

Herbert Schlossberg - Idols for Destruction (1983) Overarching critique of American life that touched all the bases. Buy it today!

Michael Shaara - Killer Angels (1974) A pioneering historical novel, taking us inside the contestants at the Battle of Gettysburg. Buy it today!

William Shirer - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) A history of the major cultural cataclysm of the century, to be studied lest it happen again. Buy it today!

James W. Sire - The Universe Next Door (1976) A classic explanation of the Christian worldview and its competitors. Buy it today!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago (1974) Solzhenitsyn documented and described the evils of communism in a powerful and evocative style. Buy Vol. I today! - Buy Vol. II today! - Buy Vol. III today!

Thomas Sowell - Race and Culture (1994) A black conservative takes on liberal assumptions. Buy it today!

R. C. Sproul - The Holiness of God (1985) An unforgettable treatment of a quality of God that has been in the 20th century too often ignored. Buy it today!

John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath (1939) Yes, it comes out of Depression-era socialism, but its portrayal of poor but noble Okies is remarkable, and the way it uses biblical symbolism in a realistic narrative stands the test of time. Buy it today!

Shelby Steele - A Dream Deferred (1998) A black intellectual on how affirmative action impedes racial progress. Buy it today!

John R. W. Stott - Basic Christianity (1971) Many new converts got their first introduction to theology from this succinct but profound overview of Christian doctrine. Buy it today!

William Strunk & E. B. White - The Elements of Style (1959) Succinctly states the moral excellence of not wasting or misusing words. Buy it today!

Corrie ten Boom - The Hiding Place (1983) The autobiographical account of a woman whose Christian faith led her to imprisonment in a concentration camp for helping Jews. Buy it today!

J. R. R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings (1954-1956) This Oxford professor wrote the century's grandest fantasy epic, a staggering work of self-contained imagination. Buy it today!

Arnold J. Toynbee - A Study of History (1945-1961) He examined the world's major civilizations through history, traced how they rise, and showed that the Aztecs and the Romans look a lot like us. Buy Vol. I today! - Buy Vol. II today!

A. W. Tozer - The Pursuit of God (1949) Evangelicals do have a legacy of spiritual depth. Buy it today!

Barbara Tuchman - The Guns of August (1962) Account of World War I's beginning that is a lesson to professors on how to write readable history. Buy it today!

Cornelius Van Til - The Defense of the Faith (1955) Although his attention to "presuppositions" rather than "evidence" in Christian apologetics continues to spark debates, Van Til remains the father of worldview criticism. Buy it today!

Walter Wangerin Jr. - The Book of the Dun Cow (1978) A beast fable, an allegory, a Christian fantasy, written in poetic prose. Buy it today!

Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited (1945) Life at Cambridge and in the upper classes, from an acerbic satirist of modern life who happened to be a Christian. Buy it today!

Booker T. Washington - Up From Slavery (1901) A freed slave laid out a strategy for fighting poverty based on faith, hard work, and character. Buy it today!

Richard M. Weaver - Ideas Have Consequences (1947) This catalyst of the conservative revival provided a still-relevant critique of modernist thinking and its catastrophic results. Buy it today!

David Wells - No Place for Truth (1993) An evangelical scholar's indictment of the theological shallowness of much of American Christianity. Buy it today!

Laura Ingalls Wilder - Little House on the Prairie (1935) Her vivid recollections of life on the frontier have become children's classics that are just as mesmerizing for adults. Buy it today!

Charles Williams - The Descent into Hell (1937) C. S. Lewis's friend was an odd, original, yet in the final analysis, orthodox theologian, who worked out his ideas in supernatural thrillers. Buy it today!

Tom Wolfe - Radical Chic and Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers (1970) This pioneer of the "new journalism"-writing about facts with fictional techniques-here answers the questions of why rich people give so much money to anti-capitalists and why the left is fashionable. Buy it today!

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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