Name three books, other than the Bible, that you would highly recommend. This is not an attempt to determine (subjectively) the greatest or (objectively) the top-selling books.

Rather, it is a way of sharing with others some reading — of any genre — that has been enjoyable and helpful. To get started, and to provide an example of the preferred format, my own contributions are below.

For those who follow instructions better than examples, here are some suggested guidelines: Give the complete title and author, along with a publisher and date. Then offer no more than four sentences about each book to explain its essence — and to express why you found it interesting and/or helpful.

Selected entries — sent to — will be shared in Baptists Today. Remember: these are not critical reviews, but brief personal reflections and suggestions.

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia
By Dennis Covington (1995, Penguin Books)

This well-written book by a gifted journalist, Baptist and thrill-seeker takes readers into a world known by few and understood by perhaps fewer. The real-life characters found in this subculture — like end-time evangelist Charles McGlocklin of New Hope, Ala., and Kentuckians Elvis Presley Saylor and Gracie McAllister — are simply fascinating.

Considered “too worldly because she believed in doctors,” Gracie skipped snake handling one July due to snakebites during that month the two previous years — deciding to “just handle fire and drink strychnine” instead. The writer concluded: “Good idea, …it always pays to be on the safe side.”

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness
By Simon Wiesenthal (2nd edition, 1997, Schocken Books)

This book raises a question that cannot be easily or fully answered: whether forgiveness does or should have limits. The author was a young Jew imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp when summoned to the bedside of a dying Nazi soldier wanting to confess his sins and seek forgiveness.

Wiesenthal left in silence but continued to wrestle with the question, as do others enlisted to write responses from various faith perspectives. So will the reader long after putting the book away.

The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment
By Daniel Taylor (1986, Jarrell, now in paperback from InterVarsity)

As a young adult I found myself identified in and affirmed by Taylor’s description of a “reflective Christian” as a “stone-turner” who is “sensitive to and fascinated by the complexity of things.”

An easier read than Leslie Weatherhead’s The Christian Agnostic, this book by an insightful English professor likewise reminds us that faith, by its very definition, excludes certainty. Yet he warns of being mired in endless cycles of reflection without action.

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