The psalms are for many of us a favourite book in the Bible. Often it is the place to turn to for a word of encouragement. In reading the psalms, we find we can identify with the writer as so often we share some of the same thoughts and feelings. We can relate to the psalmist’s own journey in verse, from despair to hope, from fear to safety, from anguish to comfort, as they lead us into prayer, and peaceful meditation.
I have compiled a list of the best books about the psalms that I have read in the last twelve months. If you already love the psalms maybe you will find something new to read. If you haven’t yet discovered a way of enjoying the psalms then read on, there may be something here to help!
Reading the Psalms
The psalms are a unique mixture of honest conversation and wonderful declarations of faith. They often start with the psalmist revealing the cry of his heart by asking open questions. But they then lead us, through a journey of remembrance and fresh revelation, into praise and worship. Contrastingly the psalms also inspire devotion with beautiful poetic descriptions, which remind us of the Sovereignty and faithfulness of God. They are in essence a book of praise intended to shift our focus off our own lives and onto the majesty of God.
10 Best Books About the Psalms
The psalms are an endless source of inspiration for writers and there are a range of different types of books about the psalms. I have deliberately selected a variety and I have discovered some new ways to enjoy reading the psalms. In my selection of ‘best books about the psalms’ I start with some commentaries, then Bible study, and move on to devotionals. I finish by including, what was for me, something new, poetry and artistic reflection.
Best Commentaries on Psalms
Bible Delight: Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible Teacher and Hearer by Christopher Ash
This is a commentary on Psalm 119 the longest psalm in Scripture, broken down into twenty-two manageable sections. The book is framed around eight words which the author identifies as being used for different nuances for the term relating to ‘God’s word’ in this psalm. Different translations may record variations on these words, but they are: Instruction, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgements, Word, and Promise.
All of these are covenant words, and a quote from the author “covenant is the wallpaper of the psalm; it lies behind every verse.” These words, instigated by God, create and sustain relationship. There are two questions for personal response at the end of each section. This makes the book a great devotional, particularly for those who have more time, to study and reflect on God’s word.
Soul Anatomy: Finding Peace, Hope, and Joy in the Psalms by George Robertson.
This commentary consists of twenty-four chapters, focusing on twenty-five psalms, with each one highlighting a different theme. The author is a Pastor and theologian who has preached on all one hundred and fifty psalms, twice over, in the last twenty years. This clearly reveals his lifelong love of this form of God’s word, and deserves a place in my list of favourite books about the psalms. Read the full review, here: Finding God Among Us.
The book reviews at Finding God Among Us focus on Christian books – adult and children, fiction and nonfiction. The specialty is books on faith and new Christian book releases.
How to Study the Psalms with Application
The author takes us through a familiar Psalm with fresh insight. Throughout each chapter there are ‘Making it Real’ sections. These are short reflective thoughts and questions which bring practical application to the readings. This is the foundation of the book, that God’s word is relevant for our lives today and reading His word builds our relationship with Him.
The Psalm 23 life is an invite to live in ‘complete safety, punctuated by rest that restores our souls’. A book that draws so much truth out of a much loved psalm and encourages a love for studying God’s word with application.
The author has chosen familiar, and possibly favourite, psalms to study in this guide. There are twelve lessons, and they all follow a set format. The book is designed for group study but equally could be used by an individual. Each session starts with ‘Reflection’ which is an ‘ice-breaker’ type question. The psalm to be studied is quoted in full in both NIV and NKJV. There is a short ‘Inspiration’ which is a teaching passage and lots of questions which would be great for group discussion. In my recommendations of books about the psalms, this would be a good introduction for a group starting to study Scripture together. There is plenty to discuss without being too academic.
Daily Devotionals for Reading the Psalms
150 daily devotions, progressing through the book of psalms. The author selects one verse from the psalm of the day as the basis of a short reflection. The Passion Translation is used throughout, which brings a different dimension to sometimes familiar words.
In the introduction the author outlines some recurring themes throughout the book. Each day he has drawn out of the Scripture words of hope and encouragement based on hearing God’s voice and an awareness of His goodness, love, and faithfulness. This stirs a response of joy, praise, thankfulness and freedom in our lives.
This book is one of gentle encouragement, delighting in God’s word. A gift for those times, when you need a moment of refreshing.
This book is compiled by Daily Bread ministries and is written by a collection of different authors– simply 365 daily devotions on the psalms. The book goes through the psalms, basically, but not strictly, in chronological order, and the readings are dated. One page for each day of the year. Mainly one selected psalm verse per day, and a short devotion with a one line take-away thought. Always words of encouragement and a restful and easy way to reflect on God’s word – particularly helpful for those busy seasons of life.
The psalms were written as a hymn and prayer book and were intended to be sung or spoken. There is something about reading out loud, rather than just reading to ourselves, that slows us down. Our reading becomes more careful and considered. In reading the psalms audibly they can become our conversation with God. The author believes the psalms “get us praying when we don’t feel like it, and they train us in prayers that are honest and right. They are both encouragement to pray and patterns of prayer.”
This devotional recommends a passage of Scripture to read and focuses on one verse. The reflections are short, five to six lines at the most and then a written prayer of about equal length. Often, we think prayer is all about our words, but a conversation requires us to listen as much as we speak! The author invites us to enter into the psalm, and to spend time meditating and reflecting on the words.
Books About the Psalms – Poetry & Art Inspiration
At the beginning of the book the author includes some testimony of the challenges he faced to use the gifts and talent that God has given him to write. His story is inspirational, and he has accomplished, by the grace of God, a mammoth task of rewriting all one hundred and fifty of the psalms in rhyme. The book is not a translation, but the author’s own interpretation of each psalm while not diverting from the original meaning.
This brings fresh insight and is especially effective when read aloud – which reflects the original purpose of the psalms to be spoken or sung. The book provides an additional element to our understanding and reading of the psalms for personal or group study.
This is ‘The Passion Translation’ of the psalms in a journaling edition. Most pages have a space for you to journal your own thoughts in response to the word. Using a different, and less familiar, translation is a good way to find fresh meaning in familiar words. There are frequent illustrations, which you can colour while you reflect on the reading. The book is traditionally divided into the five books of the psalms, each with their own title page and illustration.
For anyone who enjoys doodling, and/or journaling this is a relaxing way to enjoy meditating on the psalms.
This book contains 52 devotions, with the suggestion to read one a week. But equally, if you wished, you could use it as a daily reader. Each devotion has a large colour photograph and most also have a smaller picture. They start with a Scripture reading and then a reflection, and conclude with reflect, apply, and connect thoughts/prayer. Dotted through the book are nature facts and quotes from other Christian writers.
The title ‘Earth Psalms’ for me was slightly misleading. The devotions are all based on a Scripture reading which is given at the top of the page, but not from a psalm. Each devotion does include a psalm verse – as the final thought – and the same verse is quoted on the beautiful illustrations. This book would appeal to those who are visual learners and particularly those who are inspired by nature.