Last week, Mark Halvorsen sent me a link to Bill Gates’s summer reading list and asked if I would be willing to put one together for off the shelf. I happily agreed, but then came the question what should I include? As I thought about it, I had a few criteria. First, I wanted to avoid the heavy stuff, so you won’t find Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology on this list (as useful as it is). I also wanted to give our listeners a variety, to keep things interesting. So this list includes a mix of biography, fiction, non-Christian, and of course a little something from Larry Crabb. So without further ado, here are my 6 summertime reads:
Right at the top of my list, I am putting the Hawk and the Dove Trilogy by Penelope Wilcock. In the early 1990s, Wilcock wrote three books that were set in a 14th century Benedictine Monestary called St Alcuin’s. Admittedly, when I first heard that basic background, I was not hopeful, but as I began to read them, I couldn’t put the books down. Through the lives of the monks, Wilcock explores life and relationships in a deeply meaningful and engaging way.
The second book on the summer reading list is All of Grace by Brennan Manning. If you are unfamiliar with Brennan Manning, he was traveling preacher who couldn’t stop talking about the love and grace of God. Although he is most well-known for his excellent book the Ragamuffin Gospel, All of Grace was written near the end of his life. They are his memoirs, his confession. You will be deeply moved by his story.
The Great Divorce by CS Lewis is the third book on my summer reading list. As you may know, CS Lewis wrote many different books. In fact, many of you probably have read some of them like Mere Christianity or the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As good as those books are, The Great Divorce is my favorite Lewis book. In just over 100 pages, CS Lewis writes an allegory, or a story about what the afterlife might look like. The story opens with people at a bus stop waiting to go to heaven. No doubt you will see a bit of yourself in some of the characters.
My fourth book is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. In Daring Greatly, Brown explores the roots of shame that so many of us deal with and points us to a life of vulnerability and authenticity. If you are like me, you have spent much of your life wearing various masks to help keep people out of your mess, but Brown talks about the importance of taking off our masks.
The Pilgrim’s Progress is my fifth on my list. If you have never heard of the Pilgrim’s Progress, pay attention. This book was written by John Bunyan in 1677 when he was in prison for preaching the gospel. Since then, it has never been out of print and remains, after the Bible, one of the most popular books ever published. In it, Bunyan tells the story of a man appropriately named Christian who journeys from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. It is what is referred to as an allegory, or metaphor for the Christian life. If you have never read it before, don’t delay.
The Pressure’s Off by Larry Crabb is my sixth book. As I was looking over my Crabb shelf at home, I was thinking that a book about getting out from under pressure and learning to live in the freedom of Christ is just what we need for the summer. Plus, my copy has two kids jumping into a lake. This summer, break free from rules and performance.
These are just a few suggestions. There are so many good books out there. As Augustine said, Tolle Lege—take up and read.