Summertime is around the corner, which for some of us means we’ll have extra time to read what we’d like or explore genres outside of our common literary diet.
I asked my editorial colleagues to share what they’ll be reading this summer. Perhaps you’ll be prompted to add one or two to your own list.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1960). I was never assigned this book in school, and I’m curious why it’s adored by so many.
James Baldwin, No Name in the Street (Dial Press, 1972). I’d like to get to know James Baldwin better after having read The Fire Next Time, and this book is filled with his reflections on his experiences.
Yaa Gyasi, Transcendent Kingdom (Knopf, 2020). I was floored by Gyasi’s first novel, Homegoing. As she traced the lineages of two Ghanian sisters, it felt like a personal journey for me since ancestry tests for black Jamaicans (my dad’s side of the family) don’t tell much of a story. I’m also brainstorming ways to approach a (poetic) fictional story I’m working on, and Gyasi’s writing inspires me.
J. Gresham Machen, Things Unseen: A Systematic Introduction to the Christian Faith and Reformed Theology (Westminster, 2020). I’m excited to learn from Machen’s defense of the faith in these newly republished radio addresses. His era has many lessons for our own.
Eric Nelson, The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God (Belknap Harvard, 2019). My two academic loves are theology and political theory—and Nelson’s recent work combines both, exploring how debates between Augustinians/Calvinists and Pelagians/Arminians shaped the development of small-l liberalism (the political philosophy). I’m interested to see how Nelson’s work informs recent debates over classical liberalism among Christian thinkers.
Marilynne Robinson, Jack (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020). Robinson is my favorite living fiction author, and I’m looking forward to diving into the fourth volume in her Gilead series. If I have time, I may just go back and read the others again too!
Andrew T. Walker, Liberty for All: Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age (Brazos, 2021). There are few Christian political thinkers I respect more than Andrew Walker, and one of them wrote the foreword to this book. How could I not read it?
Christiana Hale, Deeper Heaven: A Reader’s Guide to C. S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy (Romans Road, 2021). I’m never quite sure whether I like Narnia or the Space Trilogy better. But I am sure that good books about the Space Trilogy are harder to find. For that reason, Hale’s book is a welcome offering—one I’ve been looking forward to for several months now.
John Milton, Paradise Lost. I’ve only read this epic poem once, and it’s been almost 20 years. I must confess that for me poetry is like vegetables—I wish I liked it more, but I hope by force of will I can train my palate just a little before I die.
Ann Patchett, The Dutch House: A Novel (Harper, 2019). I’m cheating a little, because I intended to save this for a summer read—but I couldn’t resist opening it right away. Patchett is one of my favorite novelists, and her exploration of how people can be shaped by a physical setting did not disappoint. The book was a sort of World’s Most Extraordinary Homes (another favorite) in novel form. I loved it.
Cal Newport, A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload (Portfolio, 2021). I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now, but my overflowing inbox keeps demanding my attention. Maybe the summer months will provide the needed respite to evaluate the way I work and how I can better communicate with and care for my coworkers.
Rebecca McLaughlin, 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (And Answer) About Christianity (Crossway, 2021). During the pandemic, my husband and I have been having a weekly book discussion with our preteen and teenaged sons. Most recently, we’ve been reading and discussing John Owen’s Glory of Christ a chapter at a time. When we finish, we plan to read 10 Questions; I expect some lively conversation and mutual iron-sharpening.
Stephen King, On Writing (Scribner, 2003). King’s horror stories were never of interest to me, but his occasional nonfiction writing, including a regular column for Entertainment Weekly, is a model of brevity and elegance. Reading him is an effort to learn a few lessons, albeit late in my career arc, from a master.
Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1987). So far, Percy’s comic novel is similar to The Children of Men by P. D. James: plausible at the time of its publication, and all too familiar decades later. It should bring some comic relief to what John Paul II has called our Culture of Death.
Paul C. Vitz, Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious (Guilford Press, 1988). Freud, one of the most consequential critics of faith in our time, was Christ-haunted. Vitz, who taught Freudian psychology for years at New York University, reports his findings about a most influential Christian nanny in Freud’s childhood.
Richard Adams, Watership Down (Scribner, 1972). I’ve decided to only read fiction this summer, and more than a few people whose tastes I admire call this children’s-literature classic their favorite novel of all time. That—plus its being about British rabbits—is enough reason for me to add it to my summer reading list.
Wendell Berry, Nathan Coulter (North Point Press, 1985). Reading Berry’s fictional stories in the Port William series is, for me, the literary equivalent of resting on a hammock on a warm summer day, the sound of a bubbling brook nearby. I’ve yet to read this entry in the series, which was the first Port William novel Berry published.
Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021). The latest from Nobel Prize–winning British writer Kazuo Ishiguro, this dystopian novel sets out to explore questions of humanity’s meaning in a technological world, much like his 2005 novel Never Let Me Go. We need more novels probing these urgent questions.
Frank Hebert, Dune (1965). For a lover of fantasy and science fiction, it’s a glaring omission that I haven’t read Hebert’s classic. With the planned film adaptation directed by Denis Villeneuve (of Arrival fame), I’m excited to finally dig in.
Daniel R. Bare, Black Fundamentalists: Conservative Christianity and Racial Identity in the Segregation Era (New York University Press, 2021). As we witness the breaking apart of the Reformed evangelical movement (largely owing to divisions over public theology), I find it helpful to look to the past for insight. Bare looks at the often-overlooked black fundamentalists of the early 20th century who held on to the doctrinal essentials of their white counterparts while differing on the topic of racial justice.
Peter Leithart, The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, vols. 1 and 2 (Athanasius Press, 2017, 2018). I’ll teach a few lessons through Matthew’s Gospel in Sunday school this summer. I always learn from Leithart’s attentive reading of the biblical text, so these books will be close guides.
Daniel Silva, The Cellist (Harper, 2021). I’ve read every novel in the Gabriel Allon series and don’t plan to stop the streak this summer—the newest installment releases July 13. Silva is a master storyteller and one of the greatest spy novelists alive today.
Gordon T. Smith, Institutional Intelligence: How to Build an Effective Organization (IVP Academic, 2017). As I prepare to plant a church in Richmond, Virginia, I’m trying to internalize some principles of effective leadership. (It’s my first rodeo, so I need whatever help I can get.)
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016). I enjoyed The Nickel Boys (Anchor, 2019) and so I’m interested to check out Whitehead’s previous novel. He illustrates racial dynamics with poignancy and verve.
Abraham Kuyper, On Business and Economics (Lexham Press, 2021). At heart, I’m a deeply practical person, which is probably why I love thinking about faith and work. I’m curious to dig into the ways Kuyper applied theology to the uber-practical areas of business and economics.
Jeff Robinson, Taming the Tongue: How the Gospel Transforms Our Talk (The Gospel Coalition, 2021). Like Jeff, I love to talk. I’ve also gotten in trouble from not being careful enough with my words. I’m looking forward to hearing wisdom on this from a brother I greatly respect.
Greg McKeown, Effortless (Currency, 2021). I really enjoyed McKeown’s Essentialism a few years ago, so I’m eager to see what common-grace insights on productivity and efficiency he’s offering this time.