Summer reading list
Around the office we’ve been talking about books for the last few weeks. What’s everyone reading? What are we looking forward to reading in the summer? Our goal has been to produce a list of recommended summer reading to share. I’ve been more or less carrying the list around. Last week I organized a list to share with the staff at Alpine Camp where I was leading some staff training. You’ll find that list, with a few additions from various All Saints staff, below.
Seems like this book list is necessarily going to always be a work-in-progress. Yet it also seems important to go ahead and put something out there as a record of where it stands today. Hopefully you’ll find something in the list below that you’ll want to add to your own “book list” after reading it this summer.
Caveat: I’ve read most of what is on this list, but that means little more than that the list is of a personal nature to me. I read for many reasons: content, tone, the beauty of language, spiritual edification, mental sharpening , simple repose. You might find something on this list with which you will disagree or that even disturbs you. That said, the list is pretty safe – nothing outlandish. I recommend everything here. I pray that this simply serves as an aid in gaining ideas for books to read, for the summer and beyond. Since this is a blog, I’d welcome you to comment with your own recommendations or thoughts.
Also, I’d recommend you consider beginning with C.S. Lewis’
Introduction to On the Incarnation (the first book on my list). In introducing this ancient book Lewis comments on the value (and surprising approachability) of so many “old” books. He proposes, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”
So, in the spirit of Eugene Peterson’s translation of Ezekiel’s vision, “Eat these books.” Read, digest, and be nourished by these words. And do so with a pencil in hand.
Athanasius; On the Incarnation (Athanasius was the brain and heart behind the Nicene Creed; this gives you an understanding of how pre-modern thinking differs from modern thinking; a devotional read, truly worshipful.)
Augustine; Confessions (classic in spiritual formation); On Christian Doctrine (more philosophical, especially helpful in regard to the nature of words and knowledge)
Barrs, Jerram, The Heart of Evangelism
Berry, Wendell; Jayber Crow (novel about a bachelor barber in the fictional setting of Port William; an excellent intro to Berry’s agrarian thought; What are People For?; Sex, Economy and Freedom (essays by one of America’s foremost thinkers. Given (recent poetry by Kentucky’s former poet-laureate); A Timbered Choir (poems written on the “Sabbath” over several decades).
Bradbury, Ray; Fahrenheit 451
Bridges, Jerry; Transforming Grace; The Disciplines of Grace (excellent foundational books in terms of what constitutes “the gospel” of Christ Jesus.
Bruner, Frederick Dale; Matthew 1-11 (The Christbook); Matthew 12-28 (The Churchbook) – purchase through Eerdman’s website; possibly the best commentary you will ever read. Much more than an exposition of the gospel of Matthew.
Calvin, John; The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Please read him before you judge him and his work, and know that this it is not as difficult as you might suppose. The parts dealing with the Ten Commandments are alone worth the price and effort.)
Chappell, Bryan; Each for the Other (One of the best preachers in America in one of the best books on the subject of marriage – great for the married and unmarried alike, including teenagers).
Collins, Billy; Sailing Alone Around the Room (two-time US Poet Laureate)
Chesterton, G.K.; Orthodoxy (a keen wit combined with an unparalleled ability to frame the argument; perhaps the most quotable Christian, besides Lewis, in the 20th century).
Dillard, Annie; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard is one of the heirs of the American Standard plumbing company (yes, the toilets) and thus has been able to spend her life reading and exploring. The fruits of a life of scientific curiosity, walks in the woods of Virginia, and unorthodox theological musings, combined with a poetic prose; like few other things you’ll read; An American Childhood (Annie Dillard pours her talents into the description of growing up.)
Earley, Tony; Jim the Boy
Eire, Carlos; Waiting for Snow in Havana; confessions of a Cuban boy
Ferguson, Sinclair; The Christian Life; A Heart for God (approachable, biblical, foundational theology in a small package)
Gonzalez, Justo; The Story of Christianity (Volumes I & II) (a thoroughly enjoyable and readable ancient and modern church history; we need more writers like Gonzalez).
Greene, Graham; The End of the Affair; The Heart of the Matter; The Power and the Glory
Guinness, Os; The Call (for the Christian and non-Christian alike … truly helpful and encouraging with many engaging biographical illustrations)
Herbert, George; The Collected Poems
Hugo, Victor; Les Miserables (one of the best modern novels; humanistic in overall scope, Hugo was no stranger to the gospel, and his book includes some of the most redemptive characters and scenes in Western literature. If you have always wanted to read a big book, but thought you couldn’t, give yourself a year and read one to two chapters per day.)
Hunter, James Davison; To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World
Lee, Harper; To Kill A Mockingbird (follow it up with Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields)
Lewis, C.S.; The Space Trilogy (not as well known as other works, but near the top for Lewis); Mere Christianity (a modern classic; originally talks given over the BBC radio network); The Great Divorce (a great intro to Lewis; a “fable” about a bus trip from the edge of hell to the edge of heaven – priceless dialogue between characters); The Collected Works [especially “God in the Dock” and “Christian Reflections” (these two collections of essays are the sources for the vast majority of C.S. Lewis quotations in modern works), Surprised by Joy (Lewis’ biography/conversion narrative; gives excellent insights into Lewis’ training and the pagan interior behind Great Britain’s “Christian” exterior in the early and mid twentieth century)].
Lundgaard, Kris; The Enemy Within (former pastor turned Dell executive turned missionary to Slovakia, who has written one of the most helpful books out there on identifying and putting sin to death)
Maclean, Norman; A River Runs Through It
McCarthy, Cormac; All the Pretty Horses (Bk 1 of the Border Trilogy; The Crossing; Cities of the Plain); also No Country for Old Men, The Road, The Sunset Limited, etc.
McCloskey, Robert; One Morning in Maine (illustrated)
McMurtry, Larry; Lonesome Dove
Newbigin, Lesslie; Foolishness to the Greeks; The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (foundational works regarding Christianity and Culture; Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (required reading for incoming Covenant Seminary students); The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church; Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History
North, Sterling; Rascal (perfect summer reading)
O’Connor, Flannery; The Complete Stories (the standard for ‘Southern’ Christian fiction); Mystery and Manners (posthumously published essays on what it means to read and write and encounter the world-at-large as a Christian)
Pascal, Blaise; Pensee’s (an introduction to the ‘thought’ (pensee means thought) of one of the world’s great thinkers. Yes, this is the same Pascal from geometry class. “Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride, and before whom we humble ourselves without despair.”
Percy, Walker; The Moviegoer; The Last Gentleman (Southern, Roman Catholic, Existentialist fiction; the best books I know of for getting into the mind of the modern male and understanding the anguish (‘malaise’ in Percy’s language) and fear produced by the modern world; also excellent for understanding the modern South)
Petersen, Eugene; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Peterson’s meditations on the Psalms of Ascent; Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (volume one of Peterson’s spiritual theology)
Potok, Chaim; The Chosen; The Promise; My Name Is Asher Lev; The Gift of Asher Lev (Potok was a Rabbi, Professor of Literature, Painter, Biblical scholar and Editor)
Pratt, Richard; He Gave Us Stories (summary of how the Old Testament is put together and how to understand it from a Christ-centered perspective)
Rogers, Jonathan; The Wilderking Trilogy
Schaeffer, Francis; True Spirituality; The God Who Is There (excellent intro to Schaeffer and to in-depth Christian thinking)
Schmemann, Alexander; For the Life of the World (first three chapters are exceptional in their outlay of a Christian approach to life; with the latter chapters being less reliable)
Tolkien, J.R.R.; The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings (trilogy which can and should be bought as a set; these go together in the order listed. There is nothing else like them, at least in terms of quality of prose, depth of narrative and character development, and breadth of scope. Problem: once read, similar fiction always fall short.
Williams, Michael; Far as the Curse is Found
Wright, Christopher; The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Wright heads the Langham Fellowship, the theological wing of John Stott’s church, All Souls)