I suppose the most ironic thing about forming a “summer reading list” is the small detail that, no longer being a college student and working full time, I’m no freer during the summer than any other time of the year. Nonetheless…
It still makes my heart happy to come across other people (teachers, headmasters, professors, or students) who, being giddy with the prospect reading time arriving thanks to the summer months, put together a list of the books that they hope to get through over the next couple of months. It makes for a good mix of ambition, hope, and an unashamed affection for literature (which is awesome, duh). So, this post is in large part inspired by Chris Marchand’s 2013 summer reading list. When autumn arrives and masses of people reluctantly return to their classes, I will hopefully be able to look back and see my reading efforts as reasonably successful. So, off we go (hurrah for books!)
Theology that I’ve been wanting to read
I guess it’s technically cheating to count an anthology as only one book, but I’m really excited to dive into Lewis’ works. I read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters in high school, but haven’t picked up any of his work since then. That is a shame, and needs to be remedied. Thankfully, this will be fixed this summer, and I’m interested to see if/how my thinking is shifted after reading so much Lewis at once to make up for lost time.
A few months ago, I read Hays’ most recent book, Reading Backwards, which for me was one of the most powerful and interesting theology books that I’ve come across in the last few years. Overall, he seems to focus on intertextual reading, and in this case looking at how Paul alluded to and referenced Old Testament passages in his letters. It should be a good collection of thought-provoking essays on Paul.. so yeah, you could say I’m excited to dig into them.
I really try to read across theological traditions in Christianity, not getting too sectarian in only reading works from perspectives that I already agree with. It’s only too easy to find myself only reading works from a Wesleyan, Reformed, or (to possibly make up a new word) Wrightian point of view. Therefore, I’m interested to read this introductory work. From what I could tell as I researched online, this seems to be one of the most accessible and high quality introductions to the theology and history of the Orthodox Church. It should definitely be interesting and hopefully broaden my theological horizons a little bit.
One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in the last few months was Christina Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ. In it, she really goes into the different types of behaviors and thought patterns that make it hard for Christians of differing beliefs to get along with each other and avoid stereotyping or being dismissive towards the views of other Christians with differing theological beliefs. We all at times lapse into these types of less-than-helpful attitudes, so I’m going to be glad to get my hands on this book by Dan Boone. He is the president of Trevecca Nazarene University, and while this book is short (less than 200 pages), I’m still hoping to learn a few things about having deep conversations with people from other viewpoints without letting the tone of the conversation becoming as hostile or divisive.
Science, history, and other nonfiction
I guess one could categorize this book, by Helen Rhee, as being a theology book or a history book; maybe it’s a hybrid. Either way, I’m really interested in the historical origins of the ways Christians have dealt with and thought about poverty and other social justice issues, so this should be a good addition to our bookshelf’s population of social justice/church history books.
I really enjoy studying ecology – learning about the web of connections and feedback cycles that intertwine amongst all of the different plant species, bird populations, etc. in an ecosystem. Almost everything is connected in one way or another, and ever since my undergraduate time at Bradley University studying invasive plant species (thanks Alliaria petiolata), I’ve remained interested in the subject. So, Henry Nicholls’ history of this most famous of archipelagos should be a treat.
Mary Norris has been part of the copy department at The New Yorker for more than thirty years, and as I’ve gotten back into writing, one of my favorite sources of interesting stories and good writing has been The New Yorker. In this book, part memoir and part treasure chest of writing advice, she reflects on her life and on writing. Out of all the books on this reading list, this is one of the books I’m most excited about.
Once upon a time, I was going to read all of the novels discussed in this book, making it an ad-hoc class of sorts. I would read the novel Lawrence Buell was about to discuss, and then afterwards read the chapter in his book discussing it and its relation to the larger theme of searching for “the great American novel,” a term coined in the 19th century by Henry James. My dreams have dimmed somewhat, but I still think it sounds like a cool trip, investigating this distinctively American literary topic.
I’ve loved To Kill a Mockingbird since I first read it (at some point) in high-school. Recently, Bekah decided to read it again, and listening to the first chapters of her work, I re-realized how good the book is. Despite the controversy surrounding the announcement that Lee was finally publishing (after having the manuscript sit for decades!) Go Set a Watchman, I’m really excited to get reacquainted with Scout and whatever new characters included in this novel. I’ve heard some express concerns about Go Set a Watchman, fearing that if it won’t prove to be a worthy successor to To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, it is indeed possible that it won’t be as good. That won’t make me respect Lee any less, however. We will always have To Kill a Mockingbird, and it will be a funny and important literary classic regardless of how Go Set a Watchman is received by the rest of the reading world.
I had this novel recommended to me a while back, and I’ve skimmed the first chapter at Barnes & Noble. It looks like a fantastic mixture of mystery novel in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes while simultaneously taking one on a fascinating journey into the world and philosophy of 14th century Europe. It was also the first novel by the Italian author and professor Umberto Eco, so that is interesting in its own right to me as well.
Foundation, by Isaac Asimov, is a classic within the sci-fi genre. Skimming the reviews on the first page of the book one day, I came across many sci-fi authors who basically said they owe their love and involvement in the world of sci-fi literature to Asimov in general and Foundation in particular. Grand in scope and original in conception, Foundation is the type of sci-fi novel I really enjoy: exploring interesting ideas and following the consequences of these ideas and concepts out to their conclusions in an interesting fictional world.
A year or two ago, this was developed into a movie starring Tom Hanks, but I’ve never watched it. However, I did listen to a book club podcast episode discussing the novel that fully converted me into an interested potential reader. I’m most intrigued by the structure of the novel. It starts out with the beginning portion of a number of separate, though related, stories, has one complete short story in the center of the novel, and then tails off into the conclusions of the separate stories from the first half of the book. If that sounds confusing to you, it does (a bit) to me as well. However, it also reminds me of a Russian doll with all of the successive layers, and besides the novel’s structure, I’ve also heard good things about the writing style.
It will be interesting to look back this fall and see how much of this list was left untouched. Here’s to a summer full of interesting texts! Of course, I would also be interested to know, what are you (few, dear readers) going read?