Book Recommendations From My Summer Reading

Like many, I enjoyed reading through some books on my list this summer. I listened to some as audio books while road-tripping with my family, others while running around the river, or still others simply reading a physical copy outside.

I’ll miss this summer, but remember how these books made me think, feel, laugh, and hope. I recommend them to you, hoping you might come to share some benefits from them.

J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Ian Murray. Over the years, I’ve been helped by Ryle’s writing, especially Holiness and his commentaries. But aside from his fantastic beard and some general details, I didn’t know much about him. Ian Murray helps with this. He allows readers to see the man described as a “man of granite with the heart of a child.” The title reflects Ryle’s commitment to orthodox evangelical doctrine. He was an Anglican bishop who found himself in contexts where he was a minority voice contending for the truth. His fearless resolve encouraged me, but his commitment to writing alongside his pastoral work challenged me. He was convinced that his pastoral work and pen would bear fruit long after he was gone. And so he worked and stayed on the line. Read this book to get to know Ryle, but come away resolved to stand for something important, even if it means standing alone.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows, by Zack Eswine. Many people are aware that Charles Spurgeon struggled with depression. But few know how much he interacted with it in his sermons and writing. And how helpfully he talks about it. Eswine does the heavy lifting of combing through the massive material Spurgeon published to collate a mercifully short and accessible field guide for those trying to get a handle on depression. The book includes three sections: Trying to Understand Depression, Learning How to Help Those Who Suffer from Depression, and Learning Helps to Daily Cope with Depression. I found the book jam-packed with hope. We can get down on this subject and feel like the clouds won’t leave. But Spurgeon, through Eswine’s pen, pokes holes in the clouds so the rays of a better day shine in. It’s a great book to read for yourself or to help others.

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. It is a story about a family that moves to Alaska to restart after the Vietnam War. The war had changed Ernt Allbright; he became unpredictable and violent. For Cora (wife) and Leni (daughter), they thought moving to Alaska would help their father deal with life. Instead, it equipped them to deal with their father. The descriptions of how people survived in the 70’s on the Alaska frontier were riveting. But the familiar story of human brokenness and perseverance in the pressure cooker of hardship locked me in. This became one of my favorite novels. There’s a reason I’ve made my older daughters read it as they think about marriage.

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger. This one has been on my list for several years due to several friends’ recommendations. I was glad to read it this summer. The story is a masterfully woven tapestry of apparent miracles and surprising providence. I don’t want to give away too much here, but I was refreshed by a prayerful father, perseverance through pain, curious providences, and smiling over simple things. Enger is a terrific writer who carried me along in the story without much effort. I marked this as a “re-read” because it made me feel and think.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann. I now see that this book is famous and soon to be a movie this fall. I honestly picked it up because I saw it at the local library, and the thought of the birth of the FBI was intriguing. However, it was the context that made the story. The Osage Indians are displaced from their land to Oklahoma. Being pushed out, they settle in this area that appears less than ideal. Until oil is discovered. What follows is greed, corruption, murder, mystery, and pain. Over and over again, I shook my head and thought, “This is so bad.” The book covers a disturbing chapter in American history. If you plan to watch the movie, you should read the book first.

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