The books we love give us clues to finding our next favorite. It helps to stop a minute to think about why I loved a book so much and what other books are similar.
My top six picks for you if you liked Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus fall into three categories. If you like riveting memoir, I recommend Educated by Tara Westover and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance. If you’re interested in intellectually investigating the claims of Christianity, try Cold Case Christianity by J. W. Wallace and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. If you like exploring a radically different world view, read The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway and Bruchko by Bruce Olson.
In 2017 I wrote 55 book reviews for my blog. The best book I read that year was Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. I heard him speak at my daughter’s graduation from Biola University in December of 2016. At that time he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, which took his life in September of 2017.
If you don’t know much about him, here’s an overview of Nabeel’s life and impact.
I did expand each category in the lists below, for a total of 13 books. Happy Reading!
I loved the account of the raw, treacherous journey that Nabeel Qureshi took to find faith in Jesus. The sacrifices he made, the intellectual, emotional and relational barriers that kept him from finding faith in Jesus and the story of overcoming those barriers.
Statistics are one thing.
One person’s story is something else altogether. What difference can one person’s story make?
Why do we need to know Nabeel’s story?
There are millions of devout Muslims on the planet. If we understand Nabeel’s story, we come closer to understanding the Muslim mindset.
Understanding opens the door to greater compassion. We share the same humanity. Our desires and dreams are common to the human experience.
In looking for a read-alike to Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, it matters why you liked it, and what you’re looking for in your next read. Do you want another riveting memoir? Or are you fascinated by exploring a radically different world view? Or maybe you’re interested in investigating the claims of Christianity?
I highlighted my top picks in each category.
If you love riveting memoir, there’s some great ones out there.
From my point of view, there’s a few elements that make memoirs riveting.
First of all there’s the question, what is it really like to live that life? How did they do it?
Secondly, did they articulate it well? If they did the hard work, the reader’s job is effortless.
Educated by Tara Westover
I found myself thinking about this book long after I finished it.
“Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.”– from Amazon
How do you earn a doctorate without attending school till age 17?
This question drives the book, but there’s so much more: mental illness, brainwashing, belief systems accepted and rejected, family dynamics, isolationism and, mostly, confronting your history honestly without bitterness.
There’s a few heroes I love in this narrative, in addition to Tara herself who confronts her own story with transparency and courage. She dares to travel the road not taken.
Since I’ve read it, it continues to haunt me (in a good way) and intrigue me and fascinate me.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was gratuitous language. Sometimes language in a dialogue can prove a point, but there’s no good reason for it to be in the narrative.
That being said, I love the social analysis wrapped around a boot-strapping overcomer’s story. J.D. Vance emerged from an impoverished childhood to graduated from Harvard and become a successful lawyer.
It has some similarities to Ben Carson’s story in Gifted Hands.
I love the positive impact and stability the author’s grandparents brought to his life.
My heart breaks for the young people in this country, especially for the homes that so many grow up in–for the poverty–not of money so much as love, stability, education and faith.
One thing that struck me is that the author wasn’t able to find much help in counseling, but research, learning and understanding about himself and his formative years brought a measure of peace.
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
What would it be like to be convicted of a murder you didn’t commit and then spend 30 years on death row?
Amazingly, Anthony Ray Hinton is not an angry, bitter man.
It would be the logical reaction for an extreme injustice.
What’s it like for the men sitting on death row? How would you feel? What would you think? How do you make it every day?
This is an inside look. Incredibly, a hopeful look.
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Blue Like Jazz is reminiscent of an Anne Lamott memoir. They’re both off the charts in honesty, transparency and authenticity. We identify with those inner insecurities that we can’t even admit to ourselves, much less to others, committing them to black and white and hurling them to the world.
I’ve read Donald Miller’s memoir several times. I have also read Scary Close, which is somewhat of a sequel, but it doesn’t have the same punch as Blue Like Jazz. Growing up fatherless is an underlying theme of Blue Like Jazz. By the time Scary Close was written, Miller has resolved many of his emotional issues and experienced a lot of healing. So, it’s not driven by the same pain.
I believe writing in itself is therapeutic. As is sharing your story. I heard Miller recently talk about the desire people have to be heard and seen and known. He’s been there, done that and now has no more need to be seen and heard and known. He’s heading a successful company now called StoryBrand that helps businesses tell their story .
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Note: Heads up for language.
I didn’t really understand apartheid until I read this book.
Seeing how it played out in people’s lives is sobering.
Trevor Noah has a white father and a black mother. In South Africa, it was illegal for his father and mother to procreate. His very existance was against the law, hence the title, Born a Crime.
It’s mind-blowing to think about the world and the life that Trevor Noah was born into. It’s a cautionary tale, especially for those who have a vote in their government’s laws and leaders.
I liked Noah Trevor’s personal and relatable writing style as well as the occasional political commentary.
Different World View
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus gives us the inside view of a devout Muslim home. Nabeel grew up in the U.S. But, his parents were from Pakistan and they were devout Muslims. The traditions, rituals and beliefs of Muslims differ from that of other faiths.
Having a different world view affects everything. All your decisions are influenced by what you believe about God, man, humanity, eternity and society.
So many times, we’re not even aware of our own world view until we see life through someone else’s eyes.
The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway
Brother Yun’s story highlights the incredible religious persecution of Christians in China.
The verses of scripture they cling to are not the same ones that are familiar to us because they live a different reality.
It’s good to have that world opened up to us and to spend some time thinking about it.
Christians throughout history have been imprisoned and tortured and persecuted and martyred for their faith. The fact that it’s still happening today often doesn’t impact us.
Bruchko by Bruce Olson
Nineteen year old Bruce Olson left the United States to bring the gospel to a stone age tribe of Indians in Columbia.
He learned their language and fully integrated into their culture. The contrast between their way of life and his upbringing in Minnesota is stark.
He paints such a vivid picture you can almost feel the creepy crawlies. At great personal sacrifice, he accomplished his mission.
Something Needs to Change by David Platt
After listening to Annie F Down’s interview with David Platt on her podcast about his book I knew I needed to read it.
Platt traced his one week trek through the Himalayas and the impact it had on him to see such a dark place first hand.
He recorded in his journal the people he met, the scripture he read on the trip and his thoughts and emotions in response.
He witnessed human trafficking, extreme persecution of believers, children in isolated mountain villages without the most basic education and scores of people who had no knowledge of Jesus.
Platt was overwhelmed by a first hand experience with a dark corner of the world in desperate need, spiritually as well as physically. He eloquently invites believers into his pain as the first step to impacting the world.
The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis
Nik and Ruth Ripken (not their real names) left Kentucky and moved with their family to Somalia to serve God. They encountered a shocking world of spiritual warfare and the persecution of Christians.
Nik Ripken pulls back the curtain to this world.
Believers who are imprisoned and tortured and martyred for their faith. Those who sing to Jesus and can’t resist sharing him with others, no matter the price.
Human life is not valued. Women and children are not valued. Freedoms and dignity are not valued. All stemming from a world view so foreign it is difficult even to conceive.
They have since interviewed 600 believers in 60 countries to give voice to their stories.
These are their stories and Nik Ripken and Gregg Lewis share them so well.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
A Christian family in Holland hides Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Corrie Ten Boom’s incredible story of espionage, imprisonment and forgiveness.
The Ten Boom family takes their faith seriously. They believe the Jews are God’s Chosen People and risk their lives to protect them.
They continue to trust God in spite of horrific circumstances and they see His hand at work.
A Skeptic’s Investigation of Christianity
Nabeel didn’t set out to prove Christianity to be false, but he did seriously investigate principles he had been taught as a devout Muslim against the claims of Christianity.
Other people have set out to prove Christianity false and made a 180 in their beliefs.
It’s eerie how similar some of the stories are.
Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace
“In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs.”
Homicide detective and former atheist J. Warner Wallace used his skills to examine the claims of the New Testament.
Wallace treated the claims of the New Testament as a cold case investigation. Step by step he applied his technique to the search.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Lewis has a way with words. He wrote a lot of them. His own conversion to Christianity was after an intellectual struggle that only a university professor could engage in.
C.S. Lewis lost his mother as a child. He lived as an academic agnostic until, as an adult, he re-examine the claims of Christianity. Many of his friends were believers and after an intellectual investigation, he concluded that the claims of Christianity were true.
He concluded the claims of Christianity to be true.
More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
More Than a Carpenter is mostly a Christian Apologetic. Josh starts with his own story of searching in chapter 1, but then spends the next 10 chapters on the arguments of the biblical claims, including whether the Bible itself is a reliable document.
For decades, Josh McDowell’s book has become a classic history of skeptic converted to Christianity.
Every person in the world grows up with a belief system, whether it’s been intentionally taught to him or one that he’s absorbed by observing and investigating.
Takeaways from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
Every person in the world needs to evaluate that belief system for themselves and embrace the beliefs they choose as an independent person.
Taking that journey with Nabeel is instructive. This is everyone’s story. It’s painful. It takes courage. It impacts relationships. Taking the journey with him increases our compassion and empathy for every human and the courage it takes to live with integrity.
Finally, there’s the question of faith.
No matter what you believe, at some point there’s always a leap. Some point when you say, okay, this is what I believe.
Once you get past the investigating and the wrestling and the struggling. Then you choose. You land somewhere and you have peace.
Or else you continue to live life in the struggle not sure where to land. Or you live life in a fog, doing everything you can to stop from thinking.
So, to a certain extent, we can identify with everyone’s coming of age story. To become human means to own a belief system and world view that will serve you in adulthood.
It helps us to see where someone else broke the trail through the deep snow. We could choose to follow behind and save ourselves a little trailblazing. Or we could veer off across the virgin plain and ease the way for the traveller behind us.
Now that you’ve added some new books to your TBR, what next?
How do you find the time to do the reading you want to do?
Where can you get the books you want to read?