10 Ideas for Your Reading Pleasure This Summer!
If you’re in for a great biography, then consider Alan Jacob’s ‘The Narnian’ about C.S. Lewis. Jacobs is a great writer, but is not a slobbering fanboy; you’ll see some warts under Lewis’ historical halo. It’s amazing to see how God placed people in Lewis’ life to guide him toward faith in Christ. Can you tell a similar story?
Millions of Christians have read John Piper’s book ‘Desiring God’, but more recently Piper has released a terrific book called ‘When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy’ which is absolutely fantastic. He says, “The essence of the Christian life is learning to fight for joy in a way that does not replace grace.” Sure to spur on great discussion, at only 234 pages, this book is also not a big lift, and well worth the time.
I want to offer two books slightly off the beaten path. The first is Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre‘, and the second is C.S. Lewis’ science fiction series, beginning with ‘Out of the Silent Planet’. Most people have heard or read a bit of Jane Austen, but fewer have read the Bronte sisters, and Charlotte’s work here is particularly powerful in both prose, and in story. There are many crucial moral questions and matters of the heart which can be teased out in Jane Eyre. In the case of Lewis, you’ve likely read or watched a movie involving his Narnian heroes, but Out of the Silent Planet is much different and really geared toward adults. It’s only 160 pages (all three volumes land you in the 800 page realm), and draws you into another world where Lewis works his allegorical magic.
When we are at a play, or looking at a painting or a statue, or reading a story, the imaginary work must have such an effect on us that it enlarges our own sense of reality. – Madeleine L’Engle
Science, Art and Literature
If you want a challenge this summer, or if you simply love science and thinking deeply, then consider Stephen Meyer’s book ‘Signature in the Cell’. It will take some doing, but the end results will no doubt shape and inform your thinking for years to come, and there will be plenty to discuss with friends as you grapple with the wonders of God’s handiwork in microbiology. If you’re a Christian who loves art, and history then I would commend to you Francis Schaeffer’s classic ‘How Should We Then Live?’. This book is so packed full of interesting information and history that you might have to read it several times before it completely sinks in, and discussion with friends will definitely help pull out vital strands of truth and conflict with your own thinking. Finally, for you literary lovers, I would highly recommend Leland Ryken’s series of collected essays on literature/story/movies called ‘The Christian Imagination’. Pick an essay by Madeleine ‘L’Engle or C.S. Lewis and discuss it with your friends – essays range from poetry and the movies, to why Christians should read literature in the first place.
Just two recommendations (which is hard to do in this category!) for you. First, if you’ve never read a book by Jerry Bridges, then you owe it to yourself to try one of his (relatively short) books this summer. The one I’d recommend is ‘The Transforming Power of the Gospel’ – a book full deeply gospel-centered truths that will show how Christ’s gospel changes the way you live your life in “dependent responsibility.” Another book, which falls into the more “classic” variety, and well worth checking out is ‘Christianity and Liberalism’ by J. Gresham Machen. Machen wrote this book in response to the liberalism he saw creeping into the church of his day. This was written nearly 100 years ago, and while it is not a long book, it is astounding how much you can glean from its pages, and how many parallels there are between the struggles of his day and ours.
Many of us consider poetry something we were forced to read in college, or something people of bygone eras did to entertain themselves. If you’re not enjoying poetry from time to time, you’re missing out on the distillation of great thought. Even though it comes in a form that might feel unusual, Ben Palpant’s ‘Sojourner Songs’ is worth the read. Each poem is based on scripture and his own spiritual journey (with the scriptures listed in the second part of the book). Lot’s to share and discuss with friends, and the perfect book for those without as much time for a long literary journey this summer!
For Your Kids
If you have kids from 6 years old and upward, ‘The Bronze Bow’ by Elizabeth George Speare would be a great book to read at the dinner table this summer. Speare’s book explores in dramatic fashion what life was life during Jesus’ time through the eyes of a rebellious teenager who throws his lot in with Jews seeking to overthrow Roman oppression. Searching for gospel application to our own hardened and tested hearts will not be a stretch!
As you leaf though these books, take time to discuss the implications of their ideas and their characters with your friends and church community. NOTE: Not all of these are strictly Christian books, so you will need some discernment as you work to understand the author’s perspective and how it might fit or clash with the Christian worldview.
Happy reading – Soli Deo Gloria!