Best Henri Nouwen Books That Will Give You Hope in Your Life

Henri Nouwen was a Catholic Priest who was born in Holland. He had written over 40 books, some of which were published posthumously. He passed away in September 1996 from a heart attack.

Unlike other Christian authors, Henri Nouwen has a personal yet accessible and universal writing style. Even though he often used his own stories and experiences to share his spiritual insights, people find it easy to resonate with what he shared. He has the ability to touch human suffering in an intimate way with his words and help others feel hopeful and connected to him.

Written beautifully in a vulnerable way, his books can help you heal the deepest part of your pain, some of which you might not even realize you have or that you can’t reach.  

Below you will find 10 of his best works. Go through the list and see which one resonates with you the most.

Top 10 Best Henri Nouwen Books

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1. The Return of the Prodigal Son

“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”

This book is about the author’s reflection on his spiritual life through the parable of the Prodigal Son and Rembrandt’s painting of it.

It’s about homecoming, forgiveness, unconditional love, jealousy, and etc. All the things that humans experience in life.

That’s why this book is very relatable. We all can relate to being the lost son, the one who realizes he made a mistake and is now asking for forgiveness. Or the jealous elder brother, whose lack of self-esteem causes him to resent his father’s unconditional love for his younger brother.

If you are seeking for inner reconciliation and healing, this book is for you.

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2. The Inner Voice of Love

“There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.”

This is Henri Nouwen’s “secret journal”. It gives you a glimpse of the darkest time in his life after the breakdown of his deep friendship with Nathan Ball.

From someone who gives hope to other people to losing hope for his own healing and trust in God, his personal struggle is a great help to those who are living in anguish or inner conflict.

Written in short passages, this book can serve as a daily meditation or devotional to lead you from darkness to light.

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3. The Wounded Healer

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

The title summarizes Henri Nouwen’s role as a writer and minister to serve others.

He believes that an effective minister has to make his wounds available as a source of healing for others. If the ministers have not suffered the same, what they teach will not be authentic.

By sharing his own hurts and struggles, not only does he help others receive comfort and encouragement, he helps them to recognize the work of God in themselves.

Even though this book is written for Christian leaders and those who want to be of service in their church or community, this book is also suitable for people who encounter wounded souls regularly. It helps you to relate to others with compassion.

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4. Life of the Beloved

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved.”

This book was initially written for his secular, Jewish friend, Fred, at his request. Fred wanted a spiritual book that speaks to non-believers. Ironically, his friend did not resonate with the book. It was the searching Christian who already familiar with the Christian concepts that are most helped by this book.

If you are someone who is struggling to apply the Christian principles that you’ve learned to your daily life, this book will help you with the reconciliation.

Written in a tone that is like talking to a friend and intimate, the author believes that regardless of our religious tradition, we are beloved by God. We just need to claim our belovedness.

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5. In the Name of Jesus

“The Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”

This is another book about Christian leadership. The author shares his humbling experience of moving from Harvard, a university where the brightest people are studying, to working as a priest at Daybreak, one of the L’Arche communities for mentally handicapped people.

In this book, he discusses how Christian leadership has been affected by the desire to be relevant, the desire for popularity, and the desire for power. Through his own experiences, he shares how he learn to let go of these desires and reclaim the vulnerable self that is open to receiving and giving love regardless of any accomplishments.

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6. Reaching Out

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.”

In this book, the author shares three movements to live a deeply spiritual life. The three movements are: from loneliness to solitude, from hostility to hospitality, and from illusion to prayer.

The first movement deals with reaching out to our innermost self, the second movement deals with reaching out to others, and the last movement deals with reaching out to God.

Instead of avoiding pain by distracting ourselves with things to do or the people around us, the author encourages us to get in touch with our loneliness and be receptive to solitude.

If you have experienced loneliness, betrayal, or a loss of faith, this book will help you to gain inner peace and see your relationships in a different light.

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7. Turn My Mourning into Dancing

“I am less likely to deny my suffering when I learn how God uses it to mold me and draw me closer to him.”

The author suggests that the way through suffering is not in denial. In difficult circumstances, we might wonder if God really cares about us. But we are not alone with any of our grief. God is with us.

This book is for people who are going through the grieving process. Even if you are not mourning the death of a loved one, this book is suitable for anyone who is mourning a loss such as a loss of friendship or love relationship caused by misunderstanding and conflict.

In this book, the author offers five movements through hard times. Beautifully written, you will find comfort in his words.

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8. Discernment

“To discern means first of all to listen to God, to pay attention to God’s active presence, and to obey God’s prompting, direction, leadings, and guidance.”

If you are lost and wondering what you should do with your life, read this book.  

In this book, the author encourages us to be more contemplative and take time to reflect on the inner meaning of appearances. Instead of seeking a life free from pain and suffering, we should look deeper and uncover the signs that God is giving us through our difficult experiences.

The third book in the spirituality trilogy, this posthumous work is a collection of Henri’s thoughts and words taken from class notes, journals, and books. The questions at the end of each chapter are good for group study.

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9. Love, Henri

“This afternoon I wrote many postcards. While writing I experienced a deep love for all of my friends I was writing to. My heart was full of gratitude and affection, and I wish I could embrace each of my friends and let them know how much they mean to me.”

This book is a collection of over 100 unpublished letters from the bestselling author. Over his lifetime, Henri Nouwen received more than 16,000 letters. He kept every letter and responded to each of them.

In his deeply intimate letters, he used his own experience to help the people who are seeking direction and advice. As he was so honest with his own vulnerabilities, it created a safe place for others to share their feelings with him.

Reading this book is like reading letters from a compassionate friend. If you are interested in reading the author’s personal struggles and thoughts, this book is for you.

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10. Adam

“Adam was sent to bring Good News to the world. It was his mission, as it was the mission of Jesus. Adam was—very simply, quietly, and uniquely—there!”

When Henri Nouwen moved to L’Arche Daybreak Community, Adam, a severely handicapped young man, was the first person he was asked to care for.

This book is about what the author learned about spirituality through his special friend, Adam. Even though Adam couldn’t speak, walk, or express himself, the author was touched by his pure being.

Reading this book will help you change your perspective of life. Life is not about whether or not you make money, have a job, become famous, married or single. It’s about understanding your belovedness regardless of all your external possessions and image.

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