Here's the second installment on the books (other than Scripture) that have influenced me most—not necessarily my top recommendations, but in God's kind providence, the ones that shaped my understanding of the gospel, Scripture, and following Christ more than any others . . .
5. Gary Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God. This is actually a minor oops on my part. Piper's The Pleasures of God should be slotted in at #5 ahead of Friesen, but no biggie. The original edition, which I read, had some flaws—mostly debatable overstatements, as I remember—but it exploded the functional mysticism I'd absorbed from various strains of teaching. Rather, not everything is black or white, right or wrong. Sometimes the process we use in making a decision is more important than the conclusion. The more my affections are fixed on Christ, the more my motivations and preferences will be conformed to his.
4. John MacArthur, Study Bible. Though my first read was the NKJV, I'm linking to the brand spanking new ESV—available today, in fact, according to Amazon. Though "I don't agree with everything John MacArthur says," reading through every word of the notes along with the text was invaluable. It exposed me to a plausible interpretation of all sorts of difficult texts and a pretty comprehensive, coherent system of theology and biblical interpretation.
3. Doug Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. Could easily be #2 OR #1. The first time through, it taught me sanctification by grace through faith, not works or human effort. For me and, I think, others in the class, this was a radical shift that's difficult to overestimate. The second time through, it started me on a trajectory that rebuilt my hermeneutics, as I began to grasp how Paul read the OT.
2. D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies. I hope Carson forever changed how I preach. I'm quite certain he forever changed how I listen to preaching. Would it be reasonable to suggest that no one should set foot into a pulpit without reading this? It's just far too easy and immeasurably too costly to mishandle the Word of God, not to dig into this simple gem. Thanks to Ed Williams' classroom presentation requirement and Nashotah House's extensive library of old periodicals, Samuel Sandmel's article on "Parallelomania" is forever burned into my brain.
1. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God. It's interesting to me how both of my top 2 are such small books. And I still don't quite understand how Tozer made it so clear to me for the first time that the Christian life is about cultivating an internal affection for God, not working towards external reformation in order to earn his favor. I'm not sure I'll ever know whether he said something I'd never heard before, or whether the Spirit simply brought it to bear so that it seemed brand new. Other books changed the way I think and what I believe. This one changed my heart.