We’re posting summer reading suggestions from some of our contributors here at DSR. These are recommendations that we want to share with you to hopefully point you to some good books, as well as let you get to know some of our writers a little better. These recommendations will be made up of both old and new books from a variety of genres.
Here are the other recommendations in the series:
The last in our series of summer book recommendations comes from Cade Campbell. Cade and his wife Amy are Mississippi natives. He currently serves as Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship at First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana, and is a graduate of Mississippi College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
One of the advantages of editing and posting this series of book recommendations over the last few days, and holding off on posting my own recommendations until the end, is that I’ve been able to adjust my own recommendations in response to what my friends have already suggested. And they’ve recommended some great books. I like every one of them. But I want to offer a few different suggestions, suggestions that span a variety of genres that I’m constantly reading. So let me suggest a handful of books made up of non-fiction, fiction, biographies, books for southern readers, and yes even some theology books:
- The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks
Pastors are shepherds. That’s literally what the word means. And yet for many of us the actual vocation of shepherding itself is far removed from our experience. That’s just one reason I love this book. In beautiful language that evokes the hills of England’s lake district, modern-day shepherd James Rebanks acclimates readers to the daily and seasonal rhythms of life rooted in a particular place with a specific task – caring for your sheep.
- Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Let’s just say this up front: If you read this book, you probably want to get the original cast recording of the Broadway musical Hamilton. You can get it on CD, vinyl, and it’s available on iTunes or free-streaming on Amazon Prime Music. I love it, and so do lots of other people. This Broadway musical has really become a cultural phenomenon and has garnered just about every award possible. It combines rap, hip-hop, and Broadway ballads to retell the rise and tragic death of founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. This book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the musical, the history of its development, all the lyrics to the songs, and commentary on those lyrics by the musical’s author Lin-Manuel Miranda. So why should you read it? There are three reasons: First, it’s just a fun album and story. Second, it’s a clinic on the power of well-crafted words. Third, it tells the intersecting drama of Hamilton with the man who murdered him – Aaron Burr, the disgraced founding father and grandson of Jonathan Edwards.
- The Relic Master, by Christopher Buckley
Any fictional novel that centers on sixteenth century Germany with characters involved in the Reformation piques my interest. It tells the story of Dismas, a broker hired by Albert of Brandenburg and Frederick the Wise of Wittenberg to provide them with their collections of indulgence relics. An attempt to purchase the “one true burial shroud of Christ” spirals into a manic and comic drama that has been described as a match-up of Ocean’s 11 and The Princess Bride.
- Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman
I like fantasy stories. I like sci-fi stories. I like suspenseful and scary stories. And I like short-stories. This collection has it all.
- J. C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Iain Murray
I’m probably more excited about this little book than just about anything else that’s released this year. Iain Murray is a great biographer, and J.C. Ryle’s life and ministry deserve to be known. His faithfulness is an example.
- The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams, by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
This is an amazing look at the careers, friendships, and work of some of the most important literary figures of the twentieth century. While Tolkien and Lewis are the household names, their interconnected relationships with the other members of their inner-circle (Barfield and Williams particularly) have had a massive influence on the intersection of faith, literature, and friendship.
- Dispatches From Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant
As a southerner it’s sometimes good to get perspectives from folks who aren’t from the country or the Bible Belt. As a Christian I’ve been helped by reading the perspectives of countless unbelievers. This book serves both those purposes. Most of my friends and colleagues are conservative evangelical Christians. Most of my friends and family were born and raised in the south. This book tells the story of travel-writer and journalist Richard Grant, an agnostic-English expatriate who moves, takes up permanent residence, in Pluto, a small community in the Mississippi Delta. Even though he’s just living north Mississippi, for him it might as well be another planet. His perspectives, interactions with, contrasts with, and ultimate love for his newly adopted home were fascinating.
- South Toward Home: Travels in Southern Literature, by Margaret Eby
I love travel writing (i.e. Bill Bryson), and I love southern literature. This book combines both. Margaret Eby travels through the south to visit the homes of some of southern literature’s most important giants like Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Harper Lee among others.
- Brand Luther, by Andrew Pettegree
With the upcoming anniversary of Luther’s protest against indulgences in 1517, there will be lots of new resources in the coming months about Luther. This one is fantastic. It’s not a traditional biography as such, but particularly a look at how Luther’s acumen as a publisher and writer stabilized and strengthened his work of Reformation. (I highly recommend listening to the the interview that Dr. Albert Mohler did with the author for his podcast Thinking in Public)
- Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who, Edited by Gregory Thornbury and Ned Bustard
I’m a Doctor Who fan (a whovian if you will). I’ve also been tremendously encouraged by Greg Thornbury, the president of King’s College in New York. This book considers the intersections of Doctor Who’s world(s) and storyline with the central themes of the Christian faith. The result is mesmerizing. (For an article I wrote on this same subject, see here:Time Lords and the Lord of Time)
…Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra): Honorable Mentions
Lagniappe is a great word. It’s a complementary extra, a little bonus to go along with what you originally got. It’s a great way to describe some extra titles to go with the list of books above. You might call them “honorable mentions,” but as far as I’m concerned they deserve recommendations all their own. Let’s face it: for book-lovers, ten suggestions just aren’t enough!
The Midnight Assassin, by Skip Hollandsworth – A chilling true-crime narrative of America’s first serial killer in 1880’s Austin, Texas.
Valiant Ambition, by Nathaniel Philbrick – Philbrick is great at historical narratives. I’ve read several of his books and have enjoyed them immensely.
Edwards the Exegete, by Doug Sweeney – This is one of the best new works in Edwards Studies, one that’s perfect for pastors or students of Edwards.
Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, by Os Guinness – This is a great book on Christians’ cultural engagement in today’s world.
John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion: A Biography, by Bruce Gordon – Gordon’s biography of John Calvin is my favorite biography of the Genevan reformer. This series of “book biographies” has been great. So I’m really excited about this new book!