Summer often affords us time to read books that are less urgent, though not necessarily less important. You can reach for the novel that's been on your night stand for months, that biography you've waiting to get lost in, that thick theological tome that you can now go slowly through.
I asked my editorial colleagues at The Gospel Coalition to provide a few titles from their reading list this summer. Maybe you'll be provoked to add one or two to your own list. Then share with us: what are you reading?
- Elisabeth D. Dodds. Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1971. Repr., Laurel, MN: Audubon, 2003 (with a foreword by John and Noel Piper). Currently out of print. One of my wife's best friends calls this her favorite book on marriage. John Piper says of the book, “I desire that all the theology I embrace make me a better husband and a better father. Elizabeth Dodds helped me see this more clearly in her portrayal of the Edwards family.” Our used copy just arrived in the mail last week.
- Gordon D. Fee. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. 2nd ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, September 2014. Fee's first edition released in 1987, and I read it cover to cover when I was in college. It's brilliant. I don't agree with all of Fee's exegetical conclusions, but his scholarship is solid and arguments clear. I'm enjoying working through a galley of this revised edition.
- Eugene Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989. I don’t always like what Peterson writes, but he always seems to grab the soft part of my heart and gets me to pray more. I wish more authors did that for me. Or maybe I should just read more authors who do that for me.
- John Owen. On the Work of the Holy Spirit in Prayer (The Works of John Owen, vol 4). Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000. Here’s a good start.
- Tim Keesee. Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World's Difficult Places. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2014. When I'm looking for stories to read that help “stamp eternity on my eyeballs” the chronicles and biographies of missionaries are at the top of the list. I really enjoy the Dispatches DVDs, and Keesee's book looks equally spectacular.
- Michael Green. Evangelism in the Early Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. Every so often I put this encouraging book on the top of the re-read stack with great expectation, and this summer seems like a great time to dig in.
- Dorothy Sayers. Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane. New York: Harper, 2012. I read fiction not only because I enjoy it, but also because I think it helps my writing and imagination. A friend recommended this book to me because it features a strong female character who struggles to balance her professional and personal lives.
- Thomas Brooks. Heaven on Earth. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth. 1961. I try to read at least one Puritan paperback a year. I chose this one because it is about something that I can never hear too much: the assurance of being a child of God and the joy of experiencing that as a reality right now.
- Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan. Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, A Broken Mother's Search for Hope. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Multnomah: 2011. I'm just catching up on this one; it sounds like a treasure of a story that's been hugely encouraging to many people.
- David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, eds. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, BIblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. Don't know if I'll get through this whole substantive-in-every-sense book, but I'm anxious to dip in deep.
- John Kennedy Toole. A Confederacy of Dunces. New York: Grove, 1980. Now that I live in the South I have no excuse to overlook this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. I don't know what to expect, but if I know anything about Southern literature, I can look forward to some Christ-haunted absurdity.
- Andrew D. Kaufman. Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014. I probably read War and Peace about 10 years ago, and I appreciated the sweeping tale of Russian families fighting for survival and normalcy in the Napoleonic invasion. But I'm sure I could have gleaned so much more from Tolstoy's classic. I'm betting on this new book to offer wisdom for reflection in our strange days.
- Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros. The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. New York: Oxford, 2014. Two causes that weigh heavily on my heart and conscience—violence and poverty—overlap in this oft-recommended book. Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), and Boutros, federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice, believe that violence is at the core of what it means to be poor and argue that efforts to alleviate extreme poverty will largely be ineffective until we find a way to end to the everyday violence to which the poor are subjected.
- David James Duncan. The Brothers K. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Because I’m a painfully slow reader and do well to make it through one novel a summer, I try to choose each book carefully. I’ve frequently heard The Brothers K called the “Great American Novel” and since people are still recommending it two decades after it’s publication, I figure it’s worth a look.
- Ross Douthat. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics New York: Free Press, 2012. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is one of my favorite public thinkers, and I'm excited to consider his argument that “America's problem isn't too much religion, or too little of it. It's bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place.” Everything I've heard indicates this is a uniquely perceptive book for understanding our nation's current cultural and religious climate.
- Tim Keller. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions. New York: Dutton, 2013. I read every book Keller writes, though I admit my expectations for this one were lower given that it's a collection of lectures (and the transition from spoken word to written word ain't always pretty). My reservations couldn't have been more mistaken. This has been one of the most spiritually encouraging books I've read in some time. Keller takes us to the Gospels and walks us through story after story, showcasing the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the beauty of gospel grace.