On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. I talked with Tony Reinke, content strategist for Desiring God and author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011), about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, his favorite fiction, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
The nightstand is in a state of chaos while I’m in the middle of vetting books to bring along on my three-day reading retreat. The retreat is coming up in a couple of weeks, and it’s something I try to do once a year, usually in the spring. This will be my sixth year in a row: getting away, getting offline, and getting to read a stash of great books that fall outside the scope of my official book reading responsibilities (which is typically focused on new releases).
I try to organize these retreats around a particular theme, and those themes vary each year. (My baseball retreat, focused on the era between 1884–1912, remains my favorite, thanks to Cait Murphy’s Crazy ’08, Edward Achorn’s Fifty-Nine in ’84, Timothy Gay’s Tris Speaker, and Mike Vaccaro’s The First Fall Classic.)
For this upcoming retreat, most of my selections are shamelessly grubbed from Douglas Wilson’s enchanting survey of authors, Writers to Read (Crossway, forthcoming). With his praise as my adviser, here are the titles I’ve finalized for the retreat (also, spoiler alert!):
- Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb
- G. K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse
- G. K. Chesterton, In Defense of Sanity
- T. S. Eliot, On Poetry and Poets
- T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture
- H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (a model of writing, not faith)
- H. L. Mencken, My Life as Author and Editor (a model of writing, not faith)
- Thomas Peters, The Christian Imagination
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
While I don’t self-consciously set out to “re-” read them, there’s a small collection of books I keep adjacent to my reading chair 24/7. Each has been finished at least two times, but that’s not my goal. In the words of Tim Keller in his reading of The Lord of the Rings, I just don’t stop reading them. With these four I just pick up where I left off, read, and then eventually start over again from the beginning.
- Augustine, The Confessions (Boulding/Vintage)
- G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology
- Herman Ridderbos, Paul
- Virginia Tufte, Artful Sentences
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
As a writer, books are my treasures and friends. They humble me. They inspire me. They disciple me. Books model for me the mastery of written English, for the spread of the gospel, to the profit of the church. In this category, particular voices come to mind more than individual books: C. S. Lewis, Paul Tripp, John Piper, Tim Keller, Don Carson, Michael Reeves, Christian George, and James K. A. Smith.
As for non-Christian writers who skillfully expose the brokenness of life, opening wide the door for gospel ministry, my ministry is helped and inspired by Anneli Rufus (non-fiction) and David Foster Wallace (fiction). They both jab at the exposed nerve of our shared human experience in this fallen world and touch the raw, haunted places that plead for solutions that will never be found outside the all-sufficient grace of Jesus Christ.
What are your favorite fiction books?
The Lord of the Rings is tops, of course. But of the novels I’ve been introduced to in the past few years, these two are gems:
Also in the On My Shelf series: Tim Keller, Bryan Chapell, Lauren Chandler, Russell Moore, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Jared Wilson, Kathy Keller, J. D. Greear, Kevin DeYoung, Kathleen Nielson, Thabiti Anyabwile, Collin Hansen, Fred Sanders, Rosaria Butterfield, Nancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.