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 at The Gospel Coalition to share what they’ll be reading this summer. Maybe you’ll be provoked to add one or two to your own list.
Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan, Are My Kids on Track? The 12 Emotional, Social, and Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach (Bethany House, 2017). As a mom of three boys, I’m never quite sure how to assess my children’s development. I frequently scratch my head and ask my husband, “Is that just a boy thing?” The oldest of three boys himself, he assures me that it’s all par for the course. But since I can’t draw on personal experience, I’m grateful for David Thomas’s work on raising boys and look forward to reading another book he coauthored.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial, 2002). I originally read this classic as a child and look forward to reading it again in anticipation of seeing the Broadway show this summer. I’m a stickler for reading the book before seeing the movie or show, and I’m afraid my first read is too far gone to count.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Eerdmans, 1984). My dad, a retired pastor, has often mentioned the influence of Martyn Lloyd-Jones on his preaching and ministry. He’s read nearly everything Lloyd-Jones wrote and recommends it all. But I’ve heard numerous others reference Lloyd-Jones’s Sermon on the Mount as a particularly transformative influence on their walk with the Lord. So I’ve borrowed my dad’s copy, and though I’m only a few chapters in, I can already see why this is a beloved work.
Candice Millard, River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile (Doubleday, 2022). Candice Millard is outstanding at exploring lesser-known corners of historical figures and events and then writing nonfiction narratives that read like novels. It’s action/adventure with presidents and prime ministers. When Millard pens a new book, I usually save it up for a weekend away.
Hannah Nation and Simon Liu, eds., Faith in the Wilderness: Words of Exhortation from the Chinese Church (Kirkdale Press, 2022). One of my joys in writing and editing is learning from brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. In many cases, they’ve already endured what Christians in other countries worry could happen to them. That’s certainly true for Chinese believers, and I hope to slowly absorb what these seasoned saints can teach us.
John Hindley, Refreshed: Devotions for Your Time Away (The Good Book Company, 2022). The cover of this little book looks like a postcard from summer vacation. The author offers a series of devotions to read during times away. The chapters cover a variety of scenarios, and the meditations could fit a week at the beach or exploring a city for the day. I’ve enjoyed other short books by this pastor from the United Kingdom, so I look forward to this one.
Samuel Rutherford, Letters of Samuel Rutherford (1664; Reprint, Banner of Truth, 1973). Contrary to the popular characterization of Puritans as being dour, fearful kill-joys, the Puritan’s own writings reveal them to be moved by great love for Christ and great delight in his kindness toward them. Samuel Rutherford’s letters give readers a glimpse into the heart of a man who loved God deeply and intimately. I’m looking forward to allowing his love for Christ to stir my own.
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Random House, 2012). There comes a point when so many people have recommended a book to you that you can’t not read it. Haidt’s work has come up again and again in my conversations with co-workers and in articles and books by people I admire. I’ve determined I can’t put The Righteous Mind off any longer.
Jacqueline Winspear, A Sunlit Weapon (Harper, 2022). My dad first introduced me to veteran nurse and private investigator Maisie Dobbs about 15 years ago, and I’ve been following her adventures ever since. A Sunlit Weapon is the seventeenth book in Winspear’s mystery series, and I’m looking forward to reading it on my favorite Cape Cod beach later this month.
Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson) (Knopf, 2012). In 2020, I devoured Caro’s book Working, which explores his approach to research, interviewing, and writing. I raved about it to my friend Champ Thornton and discovered his shared love of Caro. Champ recently gave me this volume from Caro’s multivolume biography of President Johnson (aren’t friends great!). It explores the use and abuse of power at the highest levels of the American government.
Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Grand Central Publishing, 2016). Throughout my work life, summer has been a time when I take account of how I do my work. I make plans, rethink daily rhythms, and take time to not merely work at my job, but work on my work. In my first year at TGC, there’s plenty to think through. Ivan Mesa recommended I begin here.
Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved (Simon and Schuster, 2019). The arts ministry at our local church hosts a faith-and-fiction book club. Each month or so, we read a novel that explores Christian themes. The book discussions aim to equip participating church members to read and interpret fiction thoughtfully from a Christian perspective and to help them learn how to discuss challenging content graciously. Wall’s book (our book club pick for September) tells the story of two men, Charles and James, who in 1963 are hired to steward Greenwich Village’s historic Third Presbyterian Church. The novel explores their marriages and ministries through patterns of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment.
Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility: A Novel (Knopf, 2022). I try to mostly read fiction during the summer, and since reading St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (and loving the HBO series it inspired), I’ve had my eye on her latest novel, just released in April. The publisher’s description—“a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment”—is more than intriguing, and if it’s anything like her last novel I’m sure I won’t be able to put it down.
Glen Scrivener, The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality (The Good Book Company, 2022). I was excited when I heard about this new book from Glen Scrivener, one of the best contemporary apologists I know. In the same genre as books like Tom Holland’s Dominion or Rebecca McLaughlin’s The Secular Creed, Scrivener’s book looks at seven “values” taken for granted in contemporary post-Christian culture, yet which derived originally from Christian morality. I’m looking forward to leading a summer discussion group about this book at my church.
Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus (Oneworld Publications, 2012). I’d not heard of this contemporary Russian novel until I read Jessica Hooten Wilson’s commentary on it in her new book, The Scandal of Holiness. I purchased it immediately on Amazon as I read Wilson’s describe it: “In Laurus we experience the Christian ideal in all its difficulty. . . . Reading the novel introduces you to holiness; it becomes palpable in the life of this fictional character. His extreme sanctity increases our desire for holiness.” A novel about medieval Russia that increases my desire for holiness? Sign me up.
Neal Ascherson, Black Sea (Hill and Wang, 1995). Having spent multiple years living near and traveling through countries bordering the Black Sea, I’m intrigued by this region, its diverse people, and its eclectic history. Given the current conflict in Ukraine, with the most intense fighting focused on port cities along the Black Sea, I thought Ascherson’s work could help me understand a bit more of this region’s past while providing helpful perspective on the present.
Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know (Little, Brown and Company, 2019). For the last few years, I’ve been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History. While I don’t always (perhaps rarely) agree with his conclusions, I’m fascinated by his creative personal genre which often mixes psychology, culture, philosophy, and history. I’ve also heard many good things about his books, including Outliers and The Bomber Mafia. But I’ve chosen this as my first foray into Gladwell’s writing.
Wendell Berry, The Memory of Old Jack (Counterpoint, 2003). I’m also a bit of a newcomer to Wendell Berry’s writings. Other than reading a few chapters of Jayber Crow a few years ago, I’m mostly unfamiliar with his work. But since so many of the readers I respect would name Berry among their favorite authors, I think it’s time to take up and read.
Martin Luther, Genesis 1–5, Luther’s Works, vol. 1 (Concordia Publishing House, 1958). This summer I’ll visit London and take a class on biblical interpretation in the Reformation, which means I’m reading a lot of commentaries by Luther and Calvin. I’m already seeing how these reformers saw themselves as retrieving earlier biblical interpretation (Ad Fontes!), with frequent citations of church fathers like Augustine, Chrysostom, and so on. I’m looking forward to spending much time with Luther on Moses’s first book.
Daniel Silva, Portrait of an Unknown Woman (Harper, 2022). If the name Gabriel Allon means anything to you, then you probably know the 22nd volume in the Daniel Silva’s series comes out this summer. Allon, an art restorer and Israeli spy master, always offers a spellbinding story that makes summers complete.
Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI: A Life (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2020). Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, the first German pope in almost 1,000 years and the first pope to resign in six centuries, is endlessly fascinating to an evangelical Protestant like me. As head of the office historically responsible for the Inquisition and today charged with defending Catholic doctrine, Ratzinger earned the nicknames “God’s Rottweiler” and “the Panzer Cardinal.” After reading TGC’s review of Seewald’s two-volume biography of the Pope Emeritus, I picked up both books.
Candice Millard, River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile (Doubleday, 2022). I read everything Millard writes, for she is a true master of narrative nonfiction. Whether the subject is Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, or James Garfield, Millard excels at unearthing little-known stories from history and recounting them with novelesque verve. Her new book tells the harrowing story of one of history’s great feats of exploration—and its complicated legacy.
Michael Connelly, The Black Ice: A Bosch Novel (Grand Central, 1993). As a big fan of Daniel Silva’s spy novels, I’ve been searching for a comparable alternative. My friend Nick Roark—the most omnivorous reader I know—suggested Connelly’s series about L.A. homicide detective Harry Bosch. I read the first installment and enjoyed it. On to the second.
Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750–1858 (Banner of Truth, 1994). When it comes to revival, Christians can wrongly resist it—or wrongly try to manufacture it. Comparing the methods of the First Great Awakening to the Second, historian Iain Murray distinguishes revival (a divine gift) from revivalism (human attempts to reproduce it). The latter’s logic endures today in pragmatic approaches to ministry, both in America and abroad. Yet biblical revival—the real thing—cannot be scheduled, much less manufactured or mass-produced. Through the ordinary means of grace, we can certainly arrange the kindling. But only God can send the fire.
C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (HarperCollins, 2000). As winter sets in here in Australia, I’m cozying up with an old favorite—in a new way. I plan to gather with friends over homemade bread and soup as we take turns reading Narnia aloud. What better way to wait out the chilly months than being reminded that when Aslan “shakes his mane, we shall have spring again”?
Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Penguin Books, 2001). Off the east coast of Australia, thousands of humpback whales have started their long migration from Antarctica to warmer waters in the north. I hope to spend hours sitting at headlands watching them pass. When I can’t be there, I’ll enjoy a whale-themed read. This nonfiction book, recommended by a friend, tells the story of a doomed whaling ship in the 19th century—the true tale that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
Ray Rhodes Jr., Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon (Moody Publishers, 2021). Last year, I read several books by and about Charles Spurgeon to put together a brief reader’s guide. The glimpses I got of his wife Susannah intrigued me and I want to learn more about her. Once I’ve finished reading a biography of William Tyndale, I plan to pick up Ray Rhodes’s biography of this remarkable woman.
Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Tyndale, 1981). Last year, I read Ellen Vaughn’s excellent Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, which made me eager to read Elliot’s own version of her life. But I forgot about it until this spring, when I took a trip to the Amazon rainforests deep in Peru. A spiderweb of rivers connects the city I visited to the isolated Waodoni that Jim Elliot and Nate Saint approached. These rivers are still some of the spiritually darkest places in the world, so Through Gates of Splendor is a must-read for me this summer.
Rachelle Starr, Outrageous Obedience: Answering God’s Call to Shine in the Darkest Places (Bethany House, 2022). Five years ago, I wrote a story about a girl named Rachelle who started bringing meals to the dancers who worked in strip clubs in Louisville. She is a bright light in a dark and dangerous business, and God has blessed and expanded her work. Now she’s written her own version of events, filling in a lot more of the details. Even the short version was fascinating, so I cannot wait to hear the rest of the story.
Paul David Tripp, Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions (Crossway, 2022). I’ve been working for more than a year on TGC’s newest book, Social Sanity in an Insta World, which is aimed at helping women engage with social media in a gospel-centered way. Paul David Tripp is doing much the same with his new title (perhaps with an eye more toward Twitter than Instagram). I’m excited to hear his insights—I’ve got my highlighter ready!