A Mini Christian Bookshop

There is no longer any Christian bookshop in the city I live in. But not everyone can, let alone will purchase books online. To generalise, this is particularly true of older generations and of the non-tertiary-educated.

We are thinking about avenues for remedying this. For example, our church could run a regular bookstall service – featuring a limited range of books on consignment basis from a willing supplier – for our own congregations. But perhaps we could also open a couple of mornings a week – staffed on a volunteer – to service the wider local Christian community, to whom we would advertise the opening times via their churches.

(In such a case, we would focus on serving evangelical Protestant churches. I am not interested in stocking, or even doing special orders for Christian books of non-evangelical theology, dodgy quality, let alone allied Christian gimmickry!)

Most exciting, there is a weekly market in our city centre mall, just down the road. Perhaps we could have a stall there, selling a limited range of quality Christian Bibles and books (but changing over time), giving away a free Gospel to all who are interested, and perhaps selling handmade greeting cards from some of the micro-income generating projects our missionaries are linked to in Africa as a second line. This would get us out into the community.

In the mean time, a congregation member who volunteers in a local second hand charity bookshop (located where the Christian bookshop used to be) tells me they keep getting asked about Christian books. He hopes his manager might agree to stocking a small selection of Christian books. He has asked me to recommend no more than 20 titles, including 2 translations of the Holy Bible, suitable books for children, something on suffering, and a small range for adults.

Here is my initial list. What would you add? (And what would you drop? Because I am limited to 20 titles!)

Before you answer, please note that I have:

  • avoided older titles that have a higher likelihood of already appearing in the second hand books they stock, such as C. S. Lewis “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”;
  • mainly preferred accessible basic books over those that are longer or more demanding (to serve the variety of reading levels likely to shop in person rather than online);
  • avoided topics or approaches that are strongly polemic regarding particular Christian beliefs (even though I might agree with those views, the particular bookshop is not likely to stock books that are divisive among Christians);
  • selected authors and translations that have a reasonable chance of being known in Australian evangelical Christian circles.


  • Bible NIV 2011 – a bonded leather type (perhaps thinline)
  • Bible NIV 2011 – a large print hardback type
  • Bible ESV Study Bible – standard size hardback
  • Bible CEV – hardback

Childrens Bible Stories

  • Beginners Bible for Toddlers
  • Beginners Bible
  • Big Picture Story Bible (David Helm)
  • Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones)

Adult Books

  • Reason For God by Tim Keller (evangelistic and apologetic)
  • God is Enough by Ray Galea (Christian basics from the Psalms, spiritually refreshing)
  • The Christ Files by John Dickson (reliability of the NT)
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott (one modern classic)
  • Making the Most of the Rest of your Life by John Chapman (suitable for the older customers)
  • God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts (Christ-centred Bible overview)
  • The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges (gospel driven Christian living)

On Relationships

  • The Meaning of Marriage by Tim & Kathy Keller
  • Let’s Talk About Parenting by Tony and Judy Willis

On Suffering

  • If I were God, I’d End all the Pain by John Dickson
  • How Long, O Lord by Don Carson
  • Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray

As I say, what would you add? What would you drop? Is there anything theologically trustworthy but even more basic and ‘inspirational’ and accessible for the poorer reader, you could recommend?

25 thoughts on “A Mini Christian Bookshop

  1. Terrific idea, Sandy. Mack Stiles’ The Marks of the Messenger is a great book on evangelism, suitable for new Christians or old. Randy Newman’s Bringing the Gospel Home is going to help a lot of folk who struggle with sharing the gospel with family.

    • David, I love Mack’s book too, and it would probably make it onto my list of 50 standard titles for our own bookstall. But for better or worse, I don’t think the sort of people likely to be asking for Christian books in the charity bookshop are likely to go for this title.

      I’ve heard some good things about Newman’s book too.

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  3. I would shelve Mark Futato’s book, “Creation: A Witness to the Wonder of God.” Great book that helps us to see God in the world around us. I might also include, “Gospel Truth/Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference?” by Peter Jones.

    • Hi Bill, and thanks for commenting. Unfortunately, (as far as I know) neither of those authors are well known in our circles in this part of Australia. (I have read an article by Jones somewhere.)

      However your suggestions may well be helpful for other places.

      • If you want just Australian authors, Sandy, (Peter Jones is actually British), I would have at least one Goldsworthy title, maybe According to Plan, and I loved Brian Rosner’s book, “Greed as Idolatry.” As for shorter books, it is hard to beat Matthias Media titles. The one book on your list I did not find helpful as a young Christian 25 years ago, and I know others who had the same experience, is Stott’s Basic Christianity. Although I am not a Lutheran, I found John Kleinig’s book, Grace Upon Grace one of the best books on Christian spirituality I have ever read.

  4. Maybe one or more weighty technical books like Stott’s The Cross of Christ. I like the Friday marketplace idea. I would consider volunteering for that.

    • Good on you, Doug. I love The Cross of Christ. So glad I got given it before I went to Moore College.

      However I do not think it will sell to enough people to justify its presence in the very limited space (possibly) available in the charity shop. Perhaps it would go on my long list of 50 for the church and market bookstall!

  5. A very nice idea, Sandy. Please let us know how it goes – good or bad. Some lessons to be learned there.

    Going through my bookshelves, I’m struck by how few *good* short Christian books there are. MM have done well to avoid printing massive tomes! Here are some other shortish books you might want to think about –

    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
    Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul
    A Fresh Start by John Chapman
    A Sneaking Suspicion by John Dickson
    Prayer and the Voice of God by Philip Jensen and Tony Payne
    A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness by John Chapman
    The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson
    Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll
    The Aussie Pilgrims Progress by Kel Richards
    The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
    You by Michael Jensen
    Holiness by Jerry Bridges
    Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer
    The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
    The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther

    • Craig, thanks for your suggestions. Just thinking about the market I envisage, from your list I especially like A Sneaking Suspicion good to have something for youth, which I overlooked.

      I also thought it would be good to have a Piper title, but did not know what the best shorter Piper book would be. I’ll take your suggestion gladly.

      The Lewis titles are excellent for these purposes, and actually my parishioner explicitly requested Lewis. However, I have noticed his books turn up on the second hand market reasonably often, and in addition, are sometimes stocked by the secular bookshops, especially the two you mention. Chappo’s A Fresh Start also turns up at the secondhand booksales a lot. Presumably (sadly) people have often discarded it as an unwanted gift from a keen Christian friend trying to evangelise them.

      Some of the other books might make it onto my 50 longer list for church/market.

      • I’d suggest that “A Sneaking Suspicion” is pretty good for adults too!

        “Don’t Waste Your Life” is a winner, no doubt. Probably my favourite Piper.

        If you want a great Lewis book that is a little rarer, I’d recommend “The Great Divorce”. It’s a beauty.

        I like the look of MM’s new book “The Naked God”, but haven’t read it yet.

        • I’m reading through Don’t Waste Your Life at the moment, and I’d definitely recommend it. Not too long, but packed with purpose from the get-go.

  6. Take out the NIV 2011 – it has some problems. (https://www.cbmw.org/a-response-to-the-niv-translators/) Even if the problems don’t concern you, if your church now uses the 1984 NIV it will soon have to switch to a different translation, because those will not be printed any longer.

    Have a variety of ESV Bibles. I am not a pastor or church leader, but I like the ESV because it is transparent (it does a good job at letting the original languages come through), but still understandable. (http://static.crossway.org/excerpt/why-our-church-switched-to-the-esv/why-our-church-switched-to-the-esv.pdf)

    Include a variety of KJV Bibles. Its a classic, and some people still prefer it.

    • Hi Caleb, and thanks for commenting.

      You may be interested to know that this issue of replacing the NIV84 was explored on the Briefing blog as long ago as October 2011, and my conclusions were published here in April 2012. (Others at the Briefing would disagree with some of my conclusions.)

      This is where context is so important. I would certainly stock the ESV for study purposes on a church bookstall. However, general reading abilities in our area and especially among the demographic who will not buy online is such that the NIV is a more suitable translation. For better or worse it is by far and away the most well known translation still.

      Lastly, I would not stock the KJV, because remember this is a small Christian section in a secondhand bookshop and there are always KJVs available in a secondhand bookshop.

      • I’d stock the NLT. I’ve heard good things of the NCV as an alternative for the CEV, but I haven’t read it myself.

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  8. To others who comment, just remember my context:
    * a small Christian book section in a charity secondhand bookshop;
    * avoiding (older) titles likely to be available among secondhand books;
    * preferring shorter accessible yet reliable titles;
    * avoiding books that are more polemic or authors are unknown in our circles.

    If I want to get any Christian books into this shop, I need to have some wise tactics in my recommended choices. They must sell in the very broad ‘christian’ community. Hope that makes sense. I am looking for solid evangelical authors with broad appeal.

  9. How about the little black book series ? Good for teens/young adults etc.

    What happened to the Christian bookshop behind the Uniting church in Church St?

  10. I’d add another local title, Guidance and the Voice of God, by Phillip Jensen & Tony Payne. The more I read it, the more I see that the Christians around me need to read it, or read it again.

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  13. Love this list,

    I would add the illustrated Big Rescue version of the CEV, or International Children’s Bible (New Century Version) so that there’s something for upper primary school-aged kids. (My year 4-6 Scripture kids loved the Big Rescue version, and for many of them, it was their bible ever and the pictures really helped).

    Over-12s could engage with the NIV, or book like A Sneaking Suspicion as has already been mentioned.

    You can only have twenty books, so if I was pushed to get rid of one (difficult, difficult choice), I’d actually not stock the ESV study bible.

    Hope you get to stock the bookstore!

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