Top 10 Books You Should Read this Summer
Summer presents an incredible opportunity to catch up on some long-neglected reading. The hustle and bustle of life often pushes reading to the sidelines. In the summer you can break out the lounge chair and crack open that book you’ve been waiting to get to for years. Here’s ten books that I think are worth your time. 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History
Quite simply this is the best biography I’ve ever read. Winik masterfully captures the complex series of events that defined the history-shaping year of 1944. The uniqueness of the book lies not in its grasp of historical data, but in the fact that Winik tells the story through the eyes of the people who played a key role in this critical year. The personal journey of FDR rises to the forefront of the book as Winik attempts to answer the question: What caused FDR to delay for so long before he sought to deliver Jews in the Holocaust? The fascinating intricacies of the answer to this question make this a hard book to put down.
Silence: A Novel
Novels typically do not make my list of must-reads, but after seeing this book recommended by a number of people I decided to pick it up. If nothing else, I thought it would provide a break from the type of reading I normally do. To my surprise, I read the entire book in 24-hours. Endo traces the journey of two Jesuit priests who served as missionaries in Japan during a season of intense persecution. Endo’s writing is complex, weaving the biblical story of the betrayal of Christ, into the true story of these missionaries who face a martyrdom akin to Jesus’ himself. Be warned: The unexpected ending of this book will haunt you long after you finish reading.
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
Keller opens Prayer by stating that he found prayer later in life, not because he wanted to but because he had to. Throughout the book, Keller describes his personal journey towards intimacy with God in prayer in a way that invites readers to assess the vibrancy of their prayer lives. As always, Keller says everything better than I say anything. His unique ability to capture complex principles in simple, memorable truisms and stories makes this book a great companion for your quite times throughout the summer.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet
Yes, I’m a bit behind the curve on this book recommendation, but Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer is a gem. I cheated a bit on this one though—I listened to Bonhoeffer on Audible one day while doing some projects around the house. At first, the litany of names and places in the book can unnerve a reader who is unfamiliar with Bonhoeffer’s story. However, Metaxas paints a compelling picture of an enigmatic figure in Christian history. He recounts details of Bonhoeffer’s journey that shaped the development of his theology and practice, including his eventual death at the hands of the Nazi regime. On a popular level, Bonhoeffer is often known for his Christian classics, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, but his life serves as a testimony to the sovereignty of God and the devotion of one towering figure in Christian history.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
One-part autobiography, one-part guide for writing, King’s On Writing is one of a small number of books on the craft of writing that is worth reading. In the first part the book, King describes his entry into the world of writing and then launches into a litany of wisdom regarding writing in the later part of the book. In typical King-like fashion this book is R-rated at times and is filled with graphic illustrations and stories. Yet, King is brutally blunt in his advice to writers, showing us all the typical mistakes novice writers make and guiding developing writers into mature, thoughtful, skillful prose (He’d not like the previous sentence because I failed to kill my adverb. –ly words are a classic no-no, according to King). Since pastors and leaders in the church are writing on a weekly basis, King’s book is worth reading quickly and applying carefully.
The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
After finishing, and loving, Freakonomics, a friend of mine suggested that I check out The Drunkard’s Walk because of the commonalities between the two books. Mlodinow writes with an overt premise—All that we attribute to the logical progression of cause and effect may not be so. In fact, life is ruled by randomness. This thesis flies in the face of the Christian worldview, and discerning readers will find much about Mlodinow’s conclusions questionable. Where Mlodinow sees randomness around every corner, the Christian can point to the ever-active hand of a sovereign God. Either way, the fascinating studies that define The Drunkard’s Walk reveal that there is far more to life than what we can see and explain.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
After a recent trip to Chicago with the North American Mission Board, I picked up this book at the recommendation of a city missionary. The Devil in the White City tells the story of the development of Chicago in the time leading up to the 1893 World’s Fair. Larson paints a picture of a city in tension—one marked by growth, development, and riches (the white), yet, colored by the ever-present impact of evil. Modern day Chicago testifies to this reality, as gang violence and murder rip apart one of the world’s greatest cities. Larsen uses the riveting stories of the characters of the day to tell a historically reliable account of a city that now serves as a microcosm of our entire country.
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
I like Kevin DeYoung more and more with every book of his I read. Crazy Busy is a perfect summer read, not only because it is well-written and grounded in Scripture, but also because the summer months provide a respite from the normative pace and life and a time when disciples of Jesus can make needed changes to the rhythms of life. DeYoung’s book is not a simplistic list of steps to take control of your life. Rather, he calls out the root idols that drive our relentless pace. DeYoung writes, not as an expert on the subject, but as one who has clearly battled these idols for years and is still growing and maturing, giving the reader hope that change really is possible.
Being Nixon: A Man Divided
Thomas packs a lot of punch in his one-volume treatment of the life of one of the most complex leaders in American history. Being Nixon describes, not merely the events which defined Nixon’s life and presidency, but the personal and psychological factors that made him the man he was. As one with a modest grasp of American history, I found Thomas’ book approachable and clear, without the wasted words and complex details found in many biographies. Nixon’s life testifies to the multifaceted nature of the human personality—as sheer brilliance is coupled with deep depravity in one, larger than life person.
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional
It’s dangerous to recommend a book when you are only two weeks in, but PDT’s track record and the quality of what I’ve already read make this a great summer choice. Readers who swim in the circles Tripp frequents are not likely to find a vast assortment of new content in New Morning Mercies. However, packaging of the book, which is laid out in one-page per day reading nuggets provides a perfect supplement to one’s daily devotions. Along the way, readers will find Tripp’s signature ability to turn a phrase and provide sticky, gospel-centered insights on each page. As one who is generally not a big fan of devotional guides, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this book.
So many books, so little time, right? I’d love to hear what books you’d add to my list. For now, my 9-year-old has me reading Harry Potter. I’ll let you know what I think in a few weeks.