On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Michael Lindsay—president of Gordon College and author of View From the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World—about what’s on his nightstand, his favorite fiction books, the biographies that have influenced him the most, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I’m reading On the Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett, the gripping account of how business icon Ross Perot successfully rescued Electronic Data Systems employees when they were taken hostage in Iran in 1979. It’s an amazing story. I’m about to start Waking Up White by Debby Irving, which came highly recommended. Before the holidays, I hope to get through George Marsden’s The Twilight of the American Enlightenment [read TGC’s review].
What are your favorite fiction books?
For me, fiction is primarily about family bonding. The Anne of Green Gables series is an all-time hit with the Lindsay family. So far, we’ve read five of the books, and we visited Prince Edward Island this summer and took in all the Anne lore we could find. We’re heading next to The Chronicles of Narnia, which is one of my favorite series. I’ve memorized Good Night Moon, which remains one of my special needs daughter’s favorite books; I love that book because through it I developed a special bond with her.
But my love for literature first came through my native Mississippi roots, with To Kill a Mockingbird and works by Eudora Welty first awakening a love for words within me. As an English major in college, I developed a passion for the life of the mind while poring over The Canterbury Tales. My wife and I fell in love while reading Shakespeare together in college, so that also has to be near the top of my list.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
In seminary, I was deeply shaped by the Bonhoeffer biography The Cup of Wrath, and it continues to influence me every time I reread it. I love political memoirs as well, including Colin Powell’s My American Journey and Jimmy Carter’s Keeping Faith. In this special year celebrating the Reformation, I should also mention Young Man Luther, where I first saw how a social scientist—Erik Erikson in this case—could bring his scholarly work to a broader audience through a literary treatment of his subject.
What’s the last great book you read?
A friend recently passed along the slender volume Prayer by Ole Hallesby. It came out decades ago, and it’s not necessarily theologically rigorous or especially full of surprising insights. But the book deeply moved me, helping to reorient some of my practices when praying to God, and it underscored for me how vital prayer is in my spiritual formation. It’s a great book because it changed my approach and thinking on such a fundamental aspect of the Christian life.
In your view, what’s the role of reading in the life of a leader?
Reading reduces the intrinsic myopia that befalls every leader. So much of the reading I do is related to work or my academic interests, but I believe a regular diet of reading widely helps expand a leader’s vision. As a person of faith, I’ve found that reading is a central part of my spiritual formation. From devotional books written by Chuck Swindoll and Mark Batterson to thought-provoking works by N. T. Wright and Miroslav Volf, the most important role that reading has played in my life is in its ability to shape my mind and heart.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
Last summer, a friend recommended Pursuing God’s Will Together, a work by Ruth Haley Barton on spiritual discernment. It explores the process by which institutions and communities can walk God’s desired path in our volatile, complex, pluralistic world. The book helped me see how my colleagues and I at Gordon are called to help our students “test and approve God’s will” (Rom. 12:2). That process occurs best in the context of community. So much of the evangelical world focuses on individual action and personal spirituality, but there’s a rich heritage in the Christian tradition of God’s will being mediated for us through community. I’m appreciating that more and more every day in my spiritual pilgrimage.
Also in the On My Shelf series: Nathan Finn • Jennifer Marshall • Todd Billings • Greg Thornbury • Greg Forster • Jen Pollock Michel • Sam Storms • Barton Swaim • John Stonestreet • George Marsden • Andrew Wilson • Sally Lloyd-Jones • Darryl Williamson • D. A. Horton • Carl Ellis • Owen Strachan • Thomas Kidd • David Murray • Jarvis Williams • Gracy Olmstead • Matthew Hall • Drew Dyck • Louis Markos • Ray Ortlund • Brett McCracken • Mez McConnell • Erik Raymond • Sandra McCracken • Tim Challies • Sammy Rhodes • Karen Ellis • Alastair Roberts • Scott Sauls • Karen Swallow Prior • Jackie Hill Perry • Bruce Ashford • Jonathan Leeman • Megan Hill • Marvin Olasky • David Wells • John Frame • Rod Dreher • James K. A. Smith • Randy Alcorn • Tom Schreiner • Trillia Newbell • Jen Wilkin • Joe Carter • Timothy George • Tim Keller • Bryan Chapell • Lauren Chandler • Mike Cosper • Russell Moore • Jared Wilson • Kathy Keller • J. D. Greear • Kevin DeYoung • Kathleen Nielson • Thabiti Anyabwile • Elyse Fitzpatrick • Collin Hansen • Fred Sanders • Rosaria Butterfield • Nancy Guthrie • Matt Chandler