Ten Books of Influence

It is always difficult to say what has most influenced you when it comes to books. My Orthodox reading began when I was in college and has thus spanned some 35 years or more. I’ve read much outside of Orthodoxy, very little of which I would recommend. But in response to several requests, I’ll give this short annotated list:

The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Vladimir Lossky. This was the first Orthodox writing I ever read, and not one I would recommend for light or easy reading. I was fascinated to learn that it was also the first Orthodox read for Igumen Jonah Paffhausen. But it opened my eyes to the Orthodox understanding of the reality of God and the necessity of our unmediated union with Him.

On the Incarnation of the Word, St. Athanasius. This is simply a must read for those who want to look at Eastern Orthodox thought of the 4th century versus the developments that would later take place in the West. My auto mechanic father picked it up and read it once when he was vacationing with us and pronounced, “That’s the best book I ever read!” High praise.

St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, Archimandrite Sophrony. A modern saint and Orthodox writer whom all would do well to know.

Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, Fr. John Meyendorff. If you want to know your way through the Councils, this is your guide.

Being as Communion, Met. John Zizioulas. I found this book to be life-changing. It’s hard reading, but it turns many things on their head, and makes sense of the Orthodox understanding of the Trinity.

For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann. This little book is one of the great treasures of our time.

Resident Aliens, Hauerwas and Willimon. Not an Orthodox book for very typical Hauerwas who was certainly influential in my life.

The Theology of the Icon, Ouspensky. Still one of the best introductions to icons. To understand the icon is to understand Orthodox Theology.

Orthodox Spirituality, Dumitru Staniloae, balanced and thorough approach to Orthodox ascetical understanding.

The Enlargement of the Heart, Archimandrite Zacchaeus. Disciple of the Elder Sophrony, I can’t seem to stop reading this book.

I realize that ten is not enough. I did not included any lives of the saints (the list would have been twice as long. And I did not include Scripture.


  1. says

    Thanks, Father! I’ve been looking for recent reading material, and during my recent visit to the Monastery of the Most Glorious Ascension in Georgia I bought “A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain.” After I finish it, I’ll have to pick something up from this (very helpful!) list! :)

  2. says

    I no sooner finished the list when I thought of so many other helpful works. “Top ten” is too arbitrary. I remember reading pretty much everything St. Vladimir’s Press published back in the 70’s. It was all good, and all helpful.

    If I were stuck on an island and had only one, I’d probably take Fr. Sophrony’s St. Silouan of Mt. Athos. However, as much help as books are, I would trade them all for the services of the Church. The liturgy and Matins and Vespers, with their hymnography, are by far the richest theological treasury in Orthodoxy. And that they are “read” as worship is even better.

  3. says

    I highly regard the Philokalia, but readily admit it’s too rich for my blood. I could read a page, or half-page a day, then maybe take a week to digest that much.

    My preference is for writings such as the