What I’m Reading This Summer
Few things frustrate me more than spending hours on a book that didn’t merit 10 minutes. As I’ve heard it said, “There’s no thief like a bad book.” So I’m thankful that this time of year, some of the leaders I respect most post their recommended summer reading. Introduce me to a good book, and we’ll be friends for life.
I’ve gotten a few requests for me to share my bookshelf for the summer. Most of the following came from a recommendation of a friend, so I’m just sharing the wealth that’s been shared with me. These certainly aren’t all created equal, but here are some of the best of the books I’ve been reading of late.
(Tomorrow, for those of you looking for recommendations for your kids, I’ll be sharing what my teenage daughter has been reading this year!)
The Best of My Bookshelf
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance. You’ve probably heard of this book. It’s been the hot item on just about everyone’s list for over a year now. Vance’s writing gives great insight into a community that you may or may not have first-hand experience with. If you’ve lived the hillbilly life, you’ll recognize your family (sometimes humorously, sometimes sadly) here. If you don’t know that life, this captures it well. A great book addressing many of the problems that people have in taking advantage of the American Dream.
Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, Paul David Tripp. I just had our entire staff read through this. Tripp does an excellent job identifying the central problem in our lives, which is a lack of the awe of God.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi. This was one of the most moving stories of a Muslim coming to faith in Christ that I’ve ever read. Along the way, Qureshi tackles some of the most difficult apologetic problems—whether you’re a Muslim, an atheist, or just a Christian with a lot of questions. The story is absolutely heartbreaking in what he experienced in the process of conversion.
Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow. This volume is a beast. But if you love American history, this biography is not only informative but reads like a page turner. All I could think about as I read it is how quickly sin can destroy a really good thing. (And yes, this is the biography on which Lin-Manuel Miranda based his hit musical, Hamilton.)
Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, Tim Keller. Warning: This one is not for the faint of heart and probably not even as accessible as The Reason for God. Keller takes us pretty deep into some of the cultural assumptions that keep people from genuine belief. As with all of Keller’s writings, you get an enormous purview of culture.
A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, John Piper. This is the first of a two-part series that Piper is writing on the Word of God. After all that Piper has written, I say this with a bit of trepidation, but this may be his best work yet. He tackles the question of how people who are not academically trained can come to certainty of faith. He shows how the Bible is a self-authenticating book and how we can be confident that Jesus really is the Christ, the Son of God, based solely on the scriptural revelation of who he is. A Peculiar Glory shows you how Scripture leads you with the question, “How can this not be God?” It really strengthened my faith and has fueled a lot of my preaching recently.
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson. I’m a little late to the party on this one, but this biography takes you on a tour of the development of culture over the last three decades. You begin to realize—either with horror or delight, depending on your disposition—just how deeply technology has shaped our lives during that span. One of the masterminds behind that technology is Steve Jobs. I wouldn’t say he’s a leader you should seek to emulate, but there are several fascinating dimensions of him that Isaacson brings out powerfully. If you want to know more about who is influencing you every time you answer a phone call or check a text message, this one is for you.
The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between, Gregory Koukl. Koukl gets as close to C.S. Lewis’ writing style as anybody I’ve read recently. This is a fresh look on basic Christianity and basic apologetics—Mere Christianity for the 21st century. This book is not just good for somebody unfamiliar with the Christian faith but also for those of us desiring to express Christian truth in ways that answer cultural questions. Several of Koukl’s analogies and examples have found their way into my preaching. This book will become a new favorite recommended resource of mine, one that I look forward to giving to high school and college students.
Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General, Bill O’Reilly. This is a fascinating look at the inside of the life and leadership style of one of America’s most colorful generals. Oddly enough, this is probably the best beach read of the bunch.
Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors, Iain Murray. Murray examines the life of some of the greatest Christian leaders you’ve never heard of. Those of you in ministry, or those of you who get fired up about great teachers in Christian history, will find this book fascinating.
Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility, George Yancey. I’m reading this one now. It helps move the discussion of how the various races in the U.S. can achieve better understanding and move forward, pursuing this “more perfect unity.”
Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, John Maxwell. Failure is an essential ingredient in becoming successful. But you have to know what to do with it. Maxwell tells several fascinating stories illustrating one basic principle: If you enter into a project with the understanding that you’re going to fail, then your failure will actually lead you to great success.
The Rest of My Bookshelf
If you’re curious about everything I’ve read this year (you gluttons for punishment, you), then here is the rest of my bookshelf. Each of these is well worth the time spent invested in them:
- This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel, Trevin Wax
- In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, Erik Larsen
- Is the Bible a Historically Reliable Witness to First-Century Events?, Debate between Bart Ehrman and Michael Licona
- How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature, Michael Bird, Craig Evans, et al.
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
- Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, Bill O’Reilly
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture, John Piper
Finally, the following books I’ve “read” through the Blinkist app, which distills books into 15-minute summaries:
- Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
- Secondhand Time, Svetlana Alexievich
- The Next Decade, George Friedman
- Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein
- Success Secrets of the Online Marketing Superstars, Mitch Meyerson
- The Pomodoro Technique, Francesco Cirillo
- The End of Power, Moises Naim