The main event ...

If you've never read the Bible before, I heartily recommend the following sections to get a quick picture of the pathos of the story of God's love for people, and all the sex, violence, backstabbing, and selfishness you can handle ... from a translation or version you feel comfortable with (some particularly fresh contemporary English ones are the New Century Version and New Living Translation, or for more literal translations, try the New American Standard or New King James, or the incredible new paraphrase called The Message).

    The Gospel of John -- for the run-down on the life of Jesus as seen by one of His closest friends
    The Song of Solomon -- for those who still think of God as the cosmic killjoy
    The Book of Job -- bad things happen to good people, even then
    The Book of Genesis -- sex, violence, betrayal ... this is the stuff of epic mini-series
    The Letter to the Romans -- the theology of redemption and one heck of a treatise even today
    The Letter to the Galatians -- an encouraging letter from a friend
    The Book of Psalms -- take a peek in the song book for real-life, from pain to revenge to joy
    The Book of Hosea -- okay, God, you really want me to marry a hooker?
    The Book of Judges -- we love you, we love you not, we love you, we love you not, He loves us still

Learning to dance in grace ...

    The Message by Walter Wangerin
    On a Hill Too Far Away by John Fisher
    Making Real What I Already Believe by John Fisher
    12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee by John Fischer
    Real Christians Don’t [with "Don’t" crossed out] Dance by John Fischer
    True Believers Don’t [with "Don’t" crossed out] Ask Why by John Fischer
    What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
    Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church by Philip Yancey
    Ice Cream as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe by Billy Sprague
    Addicted to Mediocrity by Frankie Schaeffer
    The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
    Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
    Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner
    The Wisdom of Each Other by Eugene Peterson

Defuzzing the picture …

    Immanuel by Michael Card
    The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
    Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey
    Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey
    Can Man Live Without God? by Ravi Zacharias
    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    No Wonder They Call Him the Savior by Max Lucado
    More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
    Alone in the Universe: Aliens, The X-Files & God by David Wilkinson
    God, Sex & the Search for Lost Wonder by Mike Starkey
    Streetwise Spirituality by Jim Thomas
    Coffeehouse Theology by Jim Thomas
    The Challenge of Jesus by N.T. Wright

Asking the big questions …

    A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
    The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
    Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer
    He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer
    Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer
    The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
    Living the Questions by Carolyn Arends
    Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey
    Hungry for Heaven: Rock ‘n’ Roll & the Search for Redemption by Steve Turner

Living by fiction ...

    Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
    Lilith by George MacDonald
    At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
    The Girl I Left Behind by Shusaku Endo
    The Final Martyrs by Shusaku Endo
    Silence by Shusaku Endo
    The Brothers Karamazov by Feodor Dostoevsky
    Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoevsky
    War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    Divine and Human by Leo Tolstoy
    Saint Ben by John Fischer
    Dark Horse by John Fischer
    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
    Between Heaven and Hell by Peter Kreeft
    The Singer by Calvin Miller