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On My Shelf: Life and Books with Thomas Kidd

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I asked Thomas Kidd—distinguished professor of history at Baylor University—about what’s on his nightstand, history books that he’d recommend to children, what book most shaped him as a historian, and more. 


What’s on your nightstand right now?

I normally have two or three books I work on reading during the evening. These books do not necessarily have much to do with my “day job” as a professor of American history. For example, the pile of books next to my recliner includes Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Jerusalem: The Biography, and John Piper’s A Peculiar Glory.

What are your favorite fiction books?

Other than some crime or spy novels, I don’t read that much fiction just for myself. Since my boys were little, however, we’ve read fiction aloud with them in the evenings, and we recently finished the third volume of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. We also thoroughly enjoyed reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, and of course C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series.

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?

The first would be my doctoral adviser George Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards. I deeply admire Edwards, and this is the finest biography of him ever written. Marsden also brilliantly demonstrated how a committed Christian could write a book like this for a top academic press (Yale).

In a similar vein, I loved Catherine Brekus’s Sarah Osborn’s World. Osborn—a prolific writer and highly influential evangelical in 18th-century America—comes to life in Brekus’s sympathetic yet critical portrait of her faith and struggles.

What history books would you recommend to parents of young children?

When our boys were elementary age, we loved reading anything to them by Simonetta Carr, such as her short illustrated biographies of John Knox and John Calvin.

What one book has most shaped you as a historian?

Aside from Marsden’s biography of Edwards, it was probably Perry Miller’s magisterial two-volume The New England Mind. I read Miller first as a graduate student at Clemson, and his brilliant reconstruction of Puritan ideas floored me. I was smitten with his work and with the Puritans, so much so that I wrote my master’s thesis on Miller, and my dissertation and first book on the Puritans and their legacy.

What’s the last book you read that astonished or profoundly moved you?

Melanie Kirkpatrick’s Escape from North Korea, which tells the story of the incredible suffering of the people of the communist “hermit kingdom,” and the even more incredible work by Asian Christians to help many North Koreans get out.

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

I’ve been praying a lot lately about having my life “centered” on the Lord and his glory, in the midst of my distractions and worries. In my morning Bible reading I was recently struck by Psalm 146:2, “I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” I want my life to be marked over the long term by nothing more than praising God for his salvation, mercy, and goodness to me, my family, and to the church.


Also in the On My Shelf series: David MurrayJarvis WilliamsGracy OlmsteadMatthew HallDrew DyckLouis MarkosRay OrtlundBrett McCrackenMez McConnellErik RaymondSandra McCrackenTim ChalliesAnthony MooreSammy RhodesKaren EllisAlastair RobertsScott SaulsKaren Swallow PriorJackie Hill PerryBruce AshfordJonathan LeemanMegan HillMarvin OlaskyDavid WellsJohn FrameRod DreherJames K. A. SmithRandy AlcornTom SchreinerTrillia NewbellJen WilkinJoe CarterTimothy GeorgeTim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerMike CosperRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti AnyabwileElyse FitzpatrickCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria ButterfieldNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.

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