On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Sammy Rhodes, campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship at the University of South Carolina and author of This Is Awkward[excerpt | interview], about what’s on his nightstand, the funniest book he’s ever read, the book he wishes all evangelicals would read, and more.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
Every year I read Lord of The Rings all the way through at least six times. Just kidding. I never even made it past the Tom Bombadil part in Fellowship, but one time I heard Tim Keller say he reads through it at least once a year so I tried. For me, it’s honestly C. S. Lewis. Mostly Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Four Loves. No one brings together logic and imagination as beautifully as Lewis does. Also, I love his prose.
What books have most shaped how you view gospel ministry?
William Still’s The Work of the Pastor. I try to re-read it every couple of years. It’s that rare balance of favoring authenticity, faithfulness, and depth over popularity, fame, and numerical success. It helps me pick a fist fight with my ministry idols, and I need to do that a lot.
What are your favorite fiction books?
Rabbit, Run by John Updike, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Gileadby Marilynne Robinson, and Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. I remember a friend telling me a story about people visiting Spurgeon’s home after he died. The thing that struck them most was how much fiction he had on his bookshelves. Who knows if he read it or not, but I’ve always thought it a good aspiration, both for sharpening my preaching and writing but also for simply putting myself in the way of beauty, as Reese Witherspoon said in Wild quoting Cheryl Strayed.
What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?
Tina Fey’s Bossypants is up there. Really, really funny. And smart. So smart. And surprisingly grounded. The “Things I Remember About Being Fat” And “Things I Remember About Being Skinny” mini-chapters alone are worth their weight in gold.
Which book do you wish every evangelical Christian would read and why?
Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead. I wish I could drive to all the Christian bookstores in my town right now, clear out all the books (except maybe the Bibles . . . ESV only, though) and just put up a shelf with like 20 copies of Gilead (I’m a realist). But seriously, that book is so good. Just nothing better to me on the longings, disappointments, joys, frustrations, beauties, and sufferings of trying to follow Jesus in a fallen world.