In addition to specific music that I like to listen to during the Lenten season, I often find specific books and authors to be helpful in focusing on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus as go through the period from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday and Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Here is a small sampling of some of my favorites.

Michael Card: A Violent Grace

I have always loved the theologically rich and moving music of Michael Card. He has also proven himself to be an insightful author and Bible scholar. One of his most powerful books for exploring the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross is A Violent Grace. Card’s penetrating examination echoes earlier works by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Raymond Brown in reminding us that grace may be free, but our redemption was accomplished with a terrible, bloody cost. The Father’s desire to restore a relationship with us and His love for us through the Son is dramatically portrayed in each chapter.

Calvin Miller: The Singer

Written in a similar fantasy style as that of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Calvin Miller’s The Singer is the first book in a trilogy that poetically retells the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation. In The Singer, Jesus is allegorically depicted as the title character, inviting all to join in with the Song composed by His Father. Most of the short chapters are prefaced by an epigram that is often as good or better than the ensuing part of the story, such as this example:

“In hell there is no music— an agonizing night that never ends as songless as a shattered violin.”

Chad Walsh: The Psalm Of Christ (Forty Poems On The Twenty-Second Psalm)

Chad Walsh was an Episcopal priest, author, poet, and C.S. Lewis scholar. In his evocative series of poems, he weaves together threads from Greek and Norse mythology and philosophy, Shakespeare, and personal experiences from his own life in examining the 22nd Psalm, which is often viewed as a prophetic Messianic Psalm,  which Jesus quoted from while on the cross. The forty poems and 40 days of Lent combine well to make each one a good daily reading.

Walter Wangerin: Reliving The Passion (Meditations on the Suffering, Death, And Resurrection Of Jesus As Recorded In Mark)

Lutheran pastor, college professor, and author Walter Wangerin, Jr. has long been one of the best Christian authors working today. (He won the National Book Award in 1980 for The Book of the Dun Cow.) In addition to his re-imagining of portions of the Bible in his works such as The Book Of God (Old Testament) and Jesus (the Gospels), he has produced devotionals for both Advent and Lent. The latter, Reliving the Passion, gives a short passage for each day of the Lenten season.

Walter Wangerin & Tim Ladwig: Peter’s First Easter

In addition to Wangerin’s adult books, he has written a number of children’s books, including four with magnificent illustrations by my longtime neighbor and dear friend, Tim Ladwig. In Peter’s First Easter, the two combine their talents to produce a classic that takes the deep themes and elements of Christ’s Passion and translate them for children, without watering down the story or its significance for our lives.