The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian fellowship in the world, with thousands of years of Tradition, wisdom, and beauty. For many people living in America, the Orthodox Church remains mostly unknown. She is strange and mysterious, something other. And learning about her can be quite intimidating, given just how much there is to learn. In fact, even those who have been Orthodox Christians for decades claim there is still much about their Faith they are uncovering each day! In this post, we share a list of recommended books for Orthodox inquirers, or for those strongly considering baptism into the Church. We hope you find it helpful!
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Table of contents
- Introductions to Orthodoxy
- The Orthodox Church, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
- Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, by Peter Gillquist
- Introducing the Orthodox Church, Its Faith and Life, by Anthony Coniaris
- The Orthodox Faith, Volumes 1-4, by Father Thomas Hopko
- Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religions, by Frank Schaeffer
- For The Life Of The World, by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
- Welcome to the Orthodox Church, by Frederica Mathewes-Green
- Other excellent introductory books
- Orthodox Spirituality
- The Way Of A Pilgrim, by Anonymous
- The Orthodox Way, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
- Acquiring The Mind Of Christ, by Sergius Bowyer
- Thirty Steps To Heaven, by Vassilios Papavassiliou
- Patristic Theology, by Protopresbyter John S. Romanides
- Great Collection Of The Lives Of The Saints, by Saint Demetrius of Rostov
- Other books about Orthodox spirituality
- The Bible, Ecclesiology, and Tradition
- The suggestions for Orthodox books are endless!
- To truly learn about Orthodoxy, you must experience it.
Introductions to Orthodoxy
For those of you who might not know all that much about the Orthodox Faith, you will want to start in this category. There are many book suggestions in here that offer a comprehensive, yet basic look at the Orthodox Faith for inquirers.
The Orthodox Church, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Widely regarded as one of the best introductions to Orthodox Christianity and the Church, this book is a must-read for any inquirer. It explores the Church’s views on a variety of topics, including, for example, the Ecumenical councils, Sacraments, the papacy, and relations between different jurisdictions within the Church.
Unfortunately, later additions of this book have been marred by some increasingly un-Orthodox ideas (most likely flowing from ecumenism). It has come under a fair amount of criticism in circles holding faithfully to Holy Tradition. If you are interested in this book, we suggest finding a used copy of the 1963 or ’64 editions, if possible.
For those inquirers interested in a more comprehensive and general understanding of Orthodox Theology we recommend Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, by Fr. Michael Pomazansky, and Eastern Patristic Thought and Orthodox Theology, by Constantine Tsirpanlis.
Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, by Peter Gillquist
This engaging account of the conversion of over 2,000 evangelical Protestants to the Orthodox Church has helped many embrace the True Faith. However, the author does say a number of inaccurate things and makes certain statements in an un-Orthodox tone. We recommend it cautiously, without in any way wishing to impugn the author’s zeal or sincere intentions to lead others to the Church.
Introducing the Orthodox Church, Its Faith and Life, by Anthony Coniaris
Here is a genuinely different and practical book for the inquirer and potential convert to Orthodoxy. In fact, it is widely used by priests, whose task it is to introduce the members of their inquirers classes to an Orthodox way of life which will touch their lives in a full and complete way.
The Orthodox Faith, Volumes 1-4, by Father Thomas Hopko
This four-volume series provides comprehensive information on Orthodox doctrine and worship, the Bible, Church history, and the spiritual life of the Church. The entire series is available for free online, and is also available for purchase.
Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religions, by Frank Schaeffer
A jolting polemic concerning the problems in Western Christianity, followed by a thorough treatise of the author’s solution: Eastern Orthodoxy. Though often unfair and sweeping in some of his criticisms of the West, Schaeffer does an excellent job calling people to consider the “western dilemma” and to pursue a discovery of the riches of the East.
An excellent read, but beware of overgeneralizations and attitudes that are not accepted by many seasoned Orthodox Christians.
For The Life Of The World, by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
Often the first book read by those seeking to understand Orthodoxy, this book examines the ancient understanding of sacraments and sacramental living. Moreover, it explains how the Orthodox approach to the world stems from the liturgical life of the Church. For The Life Of The World has been a real “paradigm-shifter” for many Western Christians.
Welcome to the Orthodox Church, by Frederica Mathewes-Green
This book, written by the wife of an Orthodox priest, provides an introduction to Orthodoxy through a series of visits to a fictitious Orthodox church. The author provides commentary on everything from venerating an icon to the Orthodox understanding of the atonement.
Other excellent introductory books
- Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy, by Frederica Mathewes-Green
- Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, by James Payton
- Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, by Andrew Louth
- 24-lecture audio course on the Orthodox Church, by Peter Bouteneff
- The Orthodox Church, by Protopresbyter John Meyendorff
- The Faith We Hold, by Archbishop Paul of Finland
- The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers, by Fr. Stanley Harakas
- The Roman West and the Byzantine East, by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Bishop Auxentios
- The Living God: A Catechism for the Christian Faith, translated by Olga Dunlop
This next category of book suggestions are perfect for inquirers and catechumens actively seeking to become Orthodox. They are also perfect for those of us who might already be Orthodox, as they can help us become closer to God.
The Way Of A Pilgrim, by Anonymous
Written by an anonymous 19th century Russian peasant, this book is a diary of his travels through the Russian wilderness as he learns the practice of prayer of the heart.
The Orthodox Way, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
The companion work to The Orthodox Church, this book presents a comprehensive look at Orthodox spirituality. Thus, it reveals the meaning of this life for all Orthodox Christians. Despite the depth of the material, the work is still accessible and worth returning to again and again in one’s journey to Orthodoxy.
Acquiring The Mind Of Christ, by Sergius Bowyer
St. Paul clearly states, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). For the Orthodox Christian, salvation is the acquisition of this Mind of Christ, which we find in the Church. This acquisition moves us from the image of God to the likeness of God; through our obedience to this call we begin to know God and this knowledge is eternal life (John 17:3). This small book hopes to begin to answer how acquiring the mind of Christ is possible and why it is necessary in our lives today.
Thirty Steps To Heaven, by Vassilios Papavassiliou
Many laypeople have attempted to read the great spiritual classic, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. But they have been frustrated in attempting to apply the lessons of this monastic text to their everyday lives in the world. The author interprets the Ladder for the ordinary Christian without sacrificing any of its beauty and power. Now you also can accept the challenge offered by St. John Climacus to ascend closer to God with each passing day.
Patristic Theology, by Protopresbyter John S. Romanides
Is Orthodoxy a religion? What is the essence of Holy Tradition? What are the “two kinds of faith” and “two kinds of revelation”? Moreover, what is “noetic prayer”? What is the difference between orthodoxy and heresy? What is the essence of God and what are his energies? These and other such questions are answered in this unique volume of Fr. John Romanides’ university lectures.
Great Collection Of The Lives Of The Saints, by Saint Demetrius of Rostov
The lives and writings of the Saints are of great spiritual value for every Orthodox Christian. The Saints were people just like us who were tempted by the most grievous sins. However, through prayer, fasting, and repentance, they have attained the Glorious Kingdom of Heaven. As loving Christians, we should always strive to be like the saints, following their lives and learning from their examples.
This collection (currently eight volumes, spanning September through April) offers one or more lives of Saints for each day of each month. Additionally, it includes sermons for major feast days throughout the year.
In reading the lives of the saints of the Orthodox Church, and in coming to a deeper understanding of the examples they have set, we receive deep and beneficial spiritual nourishment. As St. Ephriam the Syrian wrote: “Blessed is he who plants in his soul good plants, that is, the virtues and the lives of the saints.”
Other books about Orthodox spirituality
- The Burning Bush, by Lev Gillet
- The Roots of Christian Mysticism, by Olivier Clément
- The Philokalia (full work)
- How to Be a Sinner, by Peter Bouteneff
- Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical Guide For The Faithful And A Definitive Manual For The Scholar, by Father Dumitru Staniloae
- Wounded By Love: The Life And Wisdom Of Saint Porphyrios, Translated by John Raffan
The Bible, Ecclesiology, and Tradition
This final category of book suggestions is for those inquirers with a deeper interest in the “nuts and bolts” of the Orthodox Faith. These can get a bit complex, but they are nonetheless edifying.
- The Church, Tradition, Scripture, Truth, and Christian Life: Some Heresies of Evangelicalism and an Orthodox Response, by Hierodeacon Gregory
- The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church, by John Meyendorff
- Scripture and Tradition, by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Bishop Auxentios
- The Church is One, by Alexey Khomiakov
- Christianity or the Church?, by Archbishop Ilarion Troitsky
The suggestions for Orthodox books are endless!
As extensive as this list of suggested books might seem for all you Orthodox inquirers and catechumens out there, it is by no means exhaustive. There are dozens of Orthodox Christian publishers out there that sell countless spiritually edifying books. Below are just a few:
- St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press
- St. Vladimir’s Seminary Bookstore
- Ancient Faith Publishing
- St. Sebastian Orthodox Press
- Patristic Nectar Publications
Interested in finding more books to read about the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints? Check out this list of best-selling books from Amazon.
To truly learn about Orthodoxy, you must experience it.
As Metropolitan Kallistos often says, “Orthodoxy is not a system of ideas, but a way of life.” Moreover, he recommends that our primary focus in reading about the Faith should be the lives of the Saints. Why? Because they exemplify the fullness of the Faith, which is not a “religion,” but a cure undertaken within the Church for our salvation.
We must remember: while reading about the Faith is a great start, we cannot comprehend Orthodox Christianity without experiencing it, especially the richness of the Church’s liturgical life. Though this reading list may help you become intellectually convinced of the Truth preserved in the Church, the transformation must ultimately occur in your heart. And that can only come through worship, prayer, and ascetic struggle—an active participation in the life of the Church.
Keep Reading: 8 Ways To Enrich Your Spiritual Life