What Should You Read?
So you have some extra time this summer, how should you use it? Last week, Colleen gave some great ideas on how to use the summer wisely, especially with regard to family worship. Let me now expand on one of those ideas: reading.
Even if you don't enjoy reading, you should still read for the benefit of others (see yesterday's post). But maybe you don't know where to start?
One of the keys in my own reading over the years has been to make sure I have a steady diet. If I am reading in only one genre area alone, I find that it makes me lopsided. So I make sure that my reading is pulling steadily from seven major genre areas:
- Biblical Studies
- Christian Life
Pursue a well balanced reading diet. And remember: when you are choosing what to read, choose not just for yourself, but read for the benefit of others. How will this shape my parenting? How will this further my serving in a ministry area? How will reading this affect my wife?
So here are some quick recommendations for each category from books that I have read recently in the past year (*with a caveat, I do not necessarily endorse everything these authors write or say!):
First and foremost, make sure you are reading the Bible more than anything else. Only after this should you go to something else. Biblical Studies represents a category of books that help you understand the Bible better. Here I recommend N. T. Wright's Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. There are few authors who understand the story of Jesus in the Gospels as well as Wright does. Be prepared to see Jesus and the four Gospels afresh!
The last few years in politics and culture have brought fear to many Christians. If you want to escape fear and have a vision of hope, I encourage you to read Russell Moore's Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel. In fact, I encourage you to read anything by Russell Moore.
Next year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's famous 95 Thesis event. If you want to understand more about a core doctrine arising out of this event, "Faith Alone," I'd recommend reading Tom Schrenier's Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. This is a valuable survey of the history of that doctrine and the issues surrounding it today. Schreiner is an excellent New Testament scholar who applies his exegetical skills to this doctrine.
I love reading history; but it is not the facts and dates that grab me. It is, rather, the stories in history that teach me. Whether it is church history, military history, or other stories from the past, I am captivated by how events played out in the past and bore fruit even today. Though there are too many to choose from, I must recommend to you, Erik Larson's Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. You will find a compelling story about events in World War I, along with tracing the "distracting romance" of President Woodrow Wilson and fascinating subplots of German submarines.
Biography could really fit under History, but it is so important to me that I make it a separate category. Reading the lives of others helps correct my own life. If you haven't read it yet, let me recommend Eric Metaxes's Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Though it is short on analysis when compared to other Bonhoeffer biographies, Metaxes is able to write Bonhoeffer's life into a compelling story that will captivate you. I could not put this down.
I am always looking to read something that helps me apply the gospel better to my life. To that end, I found Robert Jones's Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts. Who doesn't face conflict? This book will apply the gospel to conflict in your life better than any other book I've read.
Some of you may be surprised to see this category, but I adamantly believe Christians should be reading fiction. Fiction taps into areas of life that nothing else can. It helps me see things in a new, reimagined way. I normally read nothing but classic fiction; but that changed for me this spring when I discovered Andrew Peterson's The Wingfeather Saga (thank you John!). Four books make up this series and each is captivating. When I turned to the fourth volume, I nearly collapsed out of delight by the perfect surprises contained there. You will not regret reading this series.
A Final Word
There you have it, seven recommendations for your summer reading. Even as I write, I am tempted to put more, but let me leave it at this: read. Do the hard work of reading and you will bear much fruit. I promise.