Summertime is around the corner, which for some of us means we'll have a some extra time to read what we'd like or explore genres outside of our common literary diet. Albert Mohler shared some worthy titles
for summer reading and then reminded us,
Reading is an individual act that, at its best, overflows into our relationships, conversations, and generous sharing. Good books make us think as we read and reflect. The best books make us think deeply, without the overwhelming sense that thinking is what we are doing.
Because of this, 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. Then share with us: what are you reading?
Collin Hansen (Editorial Director)
Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life (Crossway, 2015). What little I've read of John Newton has been greatly beneficial in my spiritual growth. I don't doubt Reinke will be an able guide as I dip deeper into the wells of insight from this amazing minister of grace.
John E. Miller, Small-Town Dreams: Stories of Midwestern Boys Who Shaped America (University Press of Kansas, 2014). Professor Miller encouraged my interest in history when as a boy I met him at South Dakota State University. I'm excited to learn about the history of the nation through his account of the formative experiences of men such as Henry Ford, George Washington Carver, and Walt Disney.
Robert D. Putnam. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Simon and Schuster, 2015). I think of this book as a sad companion to Miller's work. I'm convinced that evangelicals, myself chief among them, have neglected the slow disintegration of church of community in rural and small-town America. I'm not convinced Putnam and I will share perspectives on the solution, but I'm grateful that this eminent Harvard sociologist from a small Midwestern town is raising the issue. [Review]
Matt Smethurst (Senior Editor)
Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive (Crossway, 2015). A friend texted me this week and said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book this thoroughly helpful on ministry.” This is a guy I trust—and he reads a lot, too. I was a member of Dever and Dunlop’s church for a year, and I can testify that the “body life” there is unique. It is thick and vibrant, laced with life and joy. I’m excited to learn from these two seasoned pastors in this much needed book. [Review]
Erik Larson, Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Vintage, 2004). Having just finished his new book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Crown, 2015), I am eager to read something else by Larson. His historical journalism makes for page-turning mastery. And Collin Hansen, who’s never led me astray, says Devil in the White City is the one to pick up next.
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (Random House, 2010). When Andy Crouch tweets, “The best book I’ve read so far this year: essential for understanding race in America—or America, full stop,” I pay attention. There are several books on race I’ve been hoping to read (e.g., Just Mercy; Don’t Shoot; The Collapse of American Criminal Justice; The New Jim Crow), but I sense this may be the one to tackle first.
Jeff Robinson (Senior Editor)
H. W. Brands, Reagan: The Life (Doubleday, 2015). Presidential biography is a regular category within my reading mix and Dutch was the first president for which I had the privilege of voting. I view Reagan as the best president of my generation, so I try not to miss critically acclaimed works on his life and administration.
Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins, Baptists in America: A History (Oxford University Press, 2015). There are few historians I have more respect for than Tommy Kidd and Barry Hankins. Kidd’s recent biography of George Whitefield and Hankins’ Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives and American Culture are in my top 10 history books of the last dozen or so years. In their capable hands, Baptist history will be both lively and engaging.
Iain H. Murray, Archibald G. Brown, Spurgeon’s Successor (Banner of Truth, 2011). Can you imagine what it must have been like to step into the pulpit previously occupied for decades by Charles Spurgeon? Kind of like following Ruth in right field for the Yankees or Alexander on the throne of Ancient Greece, I imagine. I want to learn more about seldom-remembered man who, by all accounts, was an able successor to one of church history’s great men.
Joe Carter (Editor)
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt (Random House, 2011). While Teddy Roosevelt shouldn’t be listed among our greatest presidents, he definitely tops the lists of the most intriguing. I’ve enjoyed Morris’s other two volumes on our 26th president (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex) so I’m looking forward to this final volume in the series.
John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (P&R, 2013). Unlike a lot of the folks here at TGC, I’m not the type of theology nerd who spends summers reading works of systematic theology. That’s why every Summer I attempt to read a work of systematic theology: I need to be forced out of my comfortable beach reading so I can grow in knowledge of the doctrines of the faith. Frame is great choice because he’s both one of the best thinkers in evangelicalism and a clear, engaging writer. I suspect that reading this magnum opus won’t feel like I'm being forced to eat my theological vegetables. [Review]
Janette Oke, Love Comes Softly (Bethany House, 2003). I’m a huge fan of genre fiction, especially subgenre mashups (e.g., literary zombie novels, military sci-fi, apocalyptic westerns). Even if I’m not a fan of a particular genre I try to read the best works in a category to see what (if anything) I might be missing. I’ve never read a “Christian romance” but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with Oke’s best-selling, Gold Medallion Award-winning first novel. Also, Justin Taylor recommended it on Twitter, so if nothing else, I can entertain myself by guessing which passages of the book made him teary-eyed.
Bethany Jenkins (Editor)
Erik Larson, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Crown, 2015). The events featured in Dead Wake take place at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a time of incredible technological innovation. The Lusitania set sail 10 years after the Wright brothers' invention of “the flying machine” and 3 years after the maiden voyage, and horrific sinking, of the Titanic. Having read (and loved) Larson's telling of the 1983 Chicago World's Fair (Devil in the White City), I'm excited to see how he weaves the story of the Lusitania together.
Kevin Vanhoozer, Everyday Theology (Cultural Exegesis): How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends (Baker Academic, 2007). I'm trying to develop a processing framework for vocational decision-making for people, especially my students at The King's College. In my research, my friend Dave Blanchard of Praxis recommended this book to me as a good introduction for why cultural exegesis should be a part of that framework.
Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War (Mariner Books, 2005). My friend Andy Crouch recently, and beautifully, reflected on his sabbatical from almost all screens in his life. In his piece, he mentions Helprin's book, saying, “When I finished the book, I sat in silence for half an hour. I thought later, and still am tempted to think, that I would never fully trust any pastor who had not read it. That seems unreasonable, though, given all the worthy and unread books int he world. Put it this way: I do not think I can trust anyone to tell me the truth about God, myself, and the world, if I suspect they wouldn't care if they did read A Soldier of the Great War. There is just too much tragedy and terror, as well as beauty and grace, in Helprin's story for anyone entrusted with others' souls to treat it carelessly.” When I read this paragragh, not only had I not read Helprin's story, I hadn't even heard of it. I decided then and there that I had to change that.
Gavin Ortlund (Editor)
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press, 2012). This one has been on my “to read” shelf for a while now. I love Douthat's writing. My favorite read last summer was his Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class. I’m looking forward even more to Bad Religion, mainly because of the relevance of his cultural/sociological analysis to pastoral ministry in the United States. [Review]
J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014). I found Middleton’s earlier book on the meaning of the imago Dei to be very perceptive, and the doctrine of heaven is a perennial interest of mine, so I’m looking forward to all I will learn from this book.
Benjamin Reaoch, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic (P&R, 2012). This has been on my “to read” shelf for a while now. I want to read it to become acquainted with the hermeneutical issues involved in translating biblical commandments from their cultural context to our own. These issues are highly relevant not just for the biblical view of gender, but also for other increasingly controversial topics in our setting, like the biblical view of homosexuality. [Review]
Kathleen Nielson (Director of Women’s Initiatives)
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ (Crown & Covenant, 2015). I'm guessing that if you read her first book (The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert), then like me you will want to read this one as well, coming out mid-summer. [Or, did you read her recent article “The Dead End of Sexual Sin”?] I'm grateful for the way Rosaria combines wonderful prose, a personal voice, relentless gospel focus, and clear talk about issues relating to sexual identity.
Iain H. Murray, Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes (Banner of Truth, 2015). A new biography of Amy Carmichael is a treat; this one sounds like an honest, accessible, and inspiring account of this remarkable woman who gave her life to gospel work in southern India. Elisabeth Elliot's biography (A Chance to Die) will remain a favorite, and I'm sure Murray's will join the list. [Review]
Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God's Glory (Crossway, 2012). I'm delighted to be part of a women's Bible study group that's digging in to the book of Exodus this year. This commentary series (General Editor Kent Hughes) offers solid expositional and pastoral guidance, and I'm looking forward to exploring this volume in the process of studying the text of Exodus.
Gloria Furman (Book Editor)
Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Eerdmans, 1999). I’ve been working on a book about Ephesians for the past year, and this volume has been immensely helpful to me.
Bummi Laditan, The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting (Scribner, 2014). I’m thankful that this author managed to get inside the mind of a toddler and then wrote down everything she learned. My kids probably wish I would take this book seriously.
Julia Rothman, Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life (Storey, 2011). “Country life” isn’t something we see in our urban/desert context, so this one seemed like a fun book to have on the coffee table. Who knew that Corriedale sheep have a gentle temperament?
Andy Naselli (Administrator of Themelios)
Gary M. Burge, Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor’s Life (InterVarsity, 2015). After writing an essay for Themelios last fall on evangelical academic publishing, I'm interested to see what Burge recommends.
Paul R. House, Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision: A Case for Costly Discipleship and Life Together (Crossway, 2015). I want to shepherd my seminary students well, and this book should help.
I'm planning to read three new books on NT Greek that look to be insightful: (a) Constantine R. Campbell, Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015); (b) Stanley E. Porter, Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament: Studies in Tools, Methods, and Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015); and (c) G. K. Beale, Daniel J. Brendsel, and William A. Ross, An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014).
Brian Tabb (Managing Editor of Themelios)
Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Knopf, 2014). Bonhoeffer is a personal hero for me. His writings and life are compelling and courageous, and so I look forward to reading this new, critically acclaimed biography, recently reviewed in Themelios.
Robert H. Stein, Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13 (IVP Academic, 2014). Stein has been a leading evangelical scholar of the Gospels for over four decades. Here he offers his mature reflections in an extended commentary on one of the most perplexing chapters in the Bible.
G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth (IVP, 2014). G. K. Beale has taught me so much about the NT author’s use of the OT and biblical theology. Here he and Kim weave together the seminal, inter-related biblical themes of the temple, God’s glorious presence, new creation, and the church’s mission in the world.
Ivan Mesa (Editor)
David McCullough, The Wright Brothers (Simon & Schuster, 2015). I’ve enjoyed (almost) all of McCullough’s books that I’ve read. Favorites of mine are his presidential biographies—his works on John Adams (2001) and Harry S Truman (1992), which both earned him Pulitzer Prizes. (I’ll make a plug here for HBO’s adaptation of the Adams book.) McCullough writes with simplicity and is a remarkable storyteller.
Thomas Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (IVP Academic, 2014). As of this writing, I’m halfway through this memoir by one of the leading Wesleyan-Methodist scholars of our day and I am hooked. To my loss I’ve never read anything by Thomas Oden, but I’m captivated by what I’ve read thus far. In some ways, this book is a modern, somewhat academic, version of Augustine’s Confessions. It’s beautifully written, deeply engaging, and while Oden writes about his life it’s clear the focus is on the Lord’s providence. He writes, “Looking back, I now know God has accompanied me on a long, circuitous path in order to help me arrive finally on the narrow road to experience the reliability of classic Christianity” (56). This theologian, once enamoured with heresy, in his midlife woke up “from this enthrallment to meet a two thousand year stable memory” (140). Beautifully put. This might not be everyone’s idea of a page-turner, but I cannot put this book down.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Scholastic, 2005). Over the last few years, usually on summer and winter breaks, I’ve been re-reading the entire Harry Potter series. While some kids grew up in Middle Earth or Narnia, I grew up in Hogwarts, warding off dementors and cheering for Gryffindor in Quidditch (although the Sorting Hat probably would have placed me in Ravenclaw). I appreciate how this series awakened a love of reading, imagination, and story at a young age for me. Because of that, I look forward to reading the series again—and then maybe do a marathon watch of the movies. There wouldn’t be a Rowling without Tolkien and Lewis, but it’s Potter who whet my appetite for Frodo and Aslan. (Jerram Barrs’ Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts, esp. ch. 8 on Harry Potter, is also a great read.)