The Twenty Christian Biographies and Autobiographies that Have Inspired Me the Most...
Aside from the Word of God, nothing inspires me more than reading biographies/autobiographies of men and woman who have truly lived out their faith. Some of these figures are known for their missionary activities, others for the persecution they endured, while still others simply lived 'quiet' lives that daily demonstrated their profound faith.
These men and women were not great in and of themselves, but as you will discover, they were great because they allowed God to work in and through them. Undoubtedly, there are many more inspiring stories that I do not have listed here. Please feel free to include them in the comments section below. The following are simply the stories that have most impacted my own life in one way or another and I pray they deeply inspire you as well!
If I Perish
This is the harrowing story of Esther Ahn Kim who refused to bow down to a pagan Japanese idol in 1939 while working as a school teacher in North Korea. The story follows her stand, her heroic journey and plea to the Japanese officials, her preparations for prison (extraordinary!) and her resulting years in prison and the miracles she witnessed. I know I would not have prepared the way Esther did if I had been in her situation, but I hope her story will help me think differently in future. I know God sure blessed her for the stand and path she took! This is one incredible story!
This book follows the life of Rees Howells from an unknown schoolboy to a man of God who helped effect world events during World War II through the power of intercessory prayer. The detailed examples of how Rees followed the spirit's promptings over the world's "expectations" is powerful and life changing. My prayer life has been radically changed since reading this book and I hope yours will be too. The specific examples of answered prayer submitted in humble belief are extraordinary!
The Hiding Place
Follow Betsy, Corrie and the rest of the Ten Boom family as they demonstrate their faith by sheltering Jews during WWII. The great lengths they went to to protect God's people are truly inspiring. As the story continues we follow Betsy and Corrie’s eventual time in the concentration camps and learn of how God used them in the midst of such darkness. I pray I may endure with even a tenth of the love and forgiveness these women showed were I to face similar circumstances. Thankfully we serve the same God who is more than capable of working through human hearts!
A Tramp for the Lord
If you found the Hiding Place inspiring, you will definitely want to read this follow up book by Corrie Ten Boom! Unlike the Hiding Place, this book picks up after WWII and chronicles her travels around the world and how God continued to work in her life. In many ways, this “sequel” is a lot easier to relate to on a personal level as the “trials” she faces are more in line with those I could personally experience in any given week. Corrie is truly an inspiration, one that has changed my life!
George Mueller was a man given to prayer who cared for thousands of orphaned children in Britain. With faith like a mustard seed, George made his financial needs known only unto God and this book recounts how God provided for not just he and his family but the countless orphans in his care. This book has challenged me to trust God for my own financial resources and even though I have a long way to go, Mueller’s example helps me press on as I pray it will you.
From cricketer to missionary pioneer, CT Studd lived his life for others and changed the world. This book poignantly details the transformation of his heart and the direction his course in life would take as a result. It has also taught me that sometimes God uses one path in our lives to open the door to another. Studd’s story has helped me to hold earthly “loves” (such as a sport) more loosely and the things of Christ’s kingdom more tightly.
Through the Gates of Splendor
This is the inspiring story of Jim Elliot and team who sacrificed their own lives, literally, to bring the gospel to the unreached. Their story initially echoed around the world, later influenced a feature movie and today continues to touch the lives of countless people worldwide, including the relatives of those the men first went to reach. Their story is most definitely a life changer as you read of the events and emotions that led up to that "fateful day".
If you have read of Jim Elliot's sacrifice in "Through the Gates of Splendor" you will want to read this detailed portrait of who this man of God was leading up to those more well known events. Jim’s wife does an incredible job of detailing his personal life, his inner struggles and faith in God - even including journal entries and specific conversations. This book lets you really get into his head and heart to know the man who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Tortured for Christ
He took a stand for God against the communist rulers of his day and paid for it with prison time and torture. Yet, to this man, all the hardships were simply another tool for sharing God's great love with others. This was the first Christian biography I ever read which is perhaps why it is still one of my favorites. I still often find myself thinking back to Wurmbrand’s actions when I am faced with various circumstances in my life. This is truly an inspiring story – one not to be missed!
The Pastor's Wife
While Richard Wurmbrand is the more well known of the two, Sabina's story is no less insightful, convicting and encouraging. Follow her story as she survives her own imprisonment and the remaining years her husband was in prison. This book speaks to the power a simple couple who is firmly planted on God’s word can have. Did you know it was Sabina who encouraged Richard to take that fateful stand in the first place? Yes, it was and her story only gets better from there!
The Cross and the Switchblade
David Wilkerson followed the call to New York City and ministry to the street gangs he found there following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This intriguing story recounts how God used him to help change the lives of many who would otherwise be considered "unchangeable". This particular story has personally impacted my own volunteer efforts and “thoughts” regarding those I minister to. I pray God would give me such a love for people, especially the most downcast, as he did for Mr. Wilkerson. This is truly an inspiring story!
This is the story of a woman who saved countless children from evil and daily lived in community with her sweet Jesus. This is just one of many books by, and about, Amy Carmichael, but it does a wonderful job of giving a general overview of her life and work. Ms. Carmichael’s life work is often used in Sunday School and Missionary stories and there is a very good reason for that as her story is one that can be understood and appreciated by people worldwide regardless of age or situation. This is an incredible story with a lot of fascinating details!
Chasing the Dragon
Jackie Pullinger gave up all she had to travel to Hong Kong and live among the destitute she found there. This is her story of how God miraculously transformed the lives of many of the gang leaders, murderers and drug addicts she lived and worked among. Ms. Pullinger is the epitome of selflessness here on earth and her story has had a great impact on my life just as her work continues to greatly impact countless lives in China and Hong Kong today. Her story aptly illustrates how no life is "too far gone" for the life saving power of the gospel to redeem and transform.
A small woman in stature, but a large woman at heart, Gladys Aylward is loved by the Chinese people for her great service. Read of how she left all behind to serve in China and how God used her to help dozens of children make a perilous and lifesaving journey. I love the examples of courage displayed throughout this book as they are evidently not the workings of this small woman but of our great Almighty God!
Foxes Book of Martyrs
Rather than one long story, this books contains many short testimonials of those who have given all for their Lord and Savior. For those who don’t have a lot of time or who don’t care to read this is an excellent choice as you can quickly obtain a good overview of the lives of many great heroes of the faith. I highly recommend this one! It is especially good for using with students as part of a Bible Study or other similar class.
Follow Hudson Taylor as he travels the world and serves the lost. I especially love the firsthand accounts of how he worked and planned how he would spend his time each day. This has convicted me in my own time management and also encouraged me in that I can potentially accomplish as much as he did if I keep my eyes fixed on our great Creator of time.
Great Women of the Christian Faith
Spread over hundreds of years, these short chapters each chronicle the lives of great women in history. I guarantee there are some here you have never even heard of before who will greatly impact and inspire you. While good reading for men and women alike, this is an especially good resource to use with middle school and high school girls to encourage them in their faith and reliance on God alone in a world that is often telling them otherwise.
They Found the Secret
If you don't have time to read several books, look no further than "They Found the Secret". This little book chronicles the lives of twenty different individuals throughout history who lived their lives for the Lord. Some of the stories are of those already listed on this page while others are completely different. Each person was selected for the way in which they demonstrated a different aspect of the Christian life and they are thus each equally inspiring. Please don't miss out on this great read!
As you will find, Keith's life wasn't always on track for the Lord, but when God called, he listened and the story is a testament to a life transformed. Many know him simply for his music but there was so much more to this man of God than lyrics. I especially loved reading of the practical ways that Keith and his family served the Lord on a daily basis and I have no doubt those lives continue to thank God for the short influence Keith had on them!
Of Whom the World was not Worthy
After interviewing hundreds of people in Yugoslavia, Chapian wrote of how Jakob, Jozeca and other believers persevered during years of war, famine, and a communist regime. Just because this book is listed last on this list does not mean it is in anyway inferior. It is one of my personal favorites and is an incredible story that few have heard - don't be one of them!
Bonus: The Heavenly Man
I know this is supposed to be a Top 20 list, but I just finished reading The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun and I just had to add it to this list. Since I couldn't decide which book to remove - you get a bonus - making 21 great recommendations! The story of Brother Yun is both convicting and inspiring and gives a wonderful insight into the Chinese Underground Church today. Overall, this book and Brother Yun's testimony has inspired me to memorize more scripture than ever before and to give thanks to God for even (what appear to be) the most insignificant things.
I hope the above list has added a few more books to your reading list! Many of these would make wonderful gifts and can also be used for supplementing Bible studies and mission projects. Hopefully you can find some of these titles at your local library, but if not, purchasing new or used copies on Amazon is likely your cheapest option. If you follow the link to the right you can search around for the best deals on the individual titles you are looking for. Happy reading...
OK, so it is not exactly a biography or autobiography, but it is close and boy is it good! I just finished reading Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss for the second time and it is still by far one of the best books I have ever read. While the main character is fictional, a lot of the events and lessons were derived from Mrs. Prentiss' personal life. Written primarily for women, I would still highly recommend it to anyone who wants to grow in their faith and deepen their daily walk with the Lord. The version I read was printed in 1993 and was a revised edition which is very helpful since the original text from the 1880 edition uses some older English that many of us are not familiar with today. All-around a great book - please don't miss this one!
Comments: Have a Personal Favorite? - Please share YOUR favorite Christian biography or autobiography...
click2CYtoday (author) on November 12, 2016:
Yes, I just read The Insanity of God this year myself and it is excellent!!
PB on November 10, 2016:
The Insanity of God, by Nik Ripken. Very good book!
nick5nichols on March 02, 2013:
At one time or another I have read most of the books on this list. They were inspiring and this is an excellent collection! They are all a witness of the power of God through His son Jesus.
Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on January 14, 2013:
I've read a number of these and found them very inspiring. I think the first Christian book I ever read may have the The Cross and the Switchblade. I also was very inspired by Chasing the Dragon. Now I write books which, although not biographies, I hope will bless and inspire others.
DanielBrooks on October 22, 2012:
I love fiction novels
Pastor Cher from United States on October 15, 2012:
Not really, haven't read some of these. I do like biographies and autobiographies though.
click2CYtoday (author) on October 05, 2012:
@MerylV: Thank you for your suggestions! I too found End of the Spear to be very inspiring and I will be adding Surprised by Joy and Son of Hamas to my own reading list.
Meryl van der Merwe from USA on October 04, 2012:
End of the Spear by Steve Saint, Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis and Son of Hamas by Mosab Yousef are all excellent reads, and inspiring.
Thanks for these suggestions. I have read some and will try those I haven't.