I read a lot of great books this summer. I was thankful that I had so many good books available and that I didn’t waste my time with too many duds. Have you ever felt frustrated by reading several poorly written or uninteresting books in a row? Within the last few years, I’ve finally given myself permission to not finish books that I don’t like because there are more good books out there that I want to spend my time on! This summer, I really didn’t have that problem, though.
What Does God Want of Us Anyway? by Mark Dever
This short book gives a great overview of the message of the Bible as a whole and the themes of each book. After my first quick read through, I’ve referenced this book as I read through each book of the Bible.
From what I gather, this book is basically an introduction to the much longer–and heavier!–books, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. I had the opportunity to buy the longer versions for an excellent price at a conference this summer, but I had only brought a small carry on and couldn’t figure out how I’d get the big books home. So I bought this little one and read it on the plane ride back to VT.
Side note: For the first time, I heard Mark Dever preach this summer and have since subscribed to his sermons on iTunes. He’s an excellent preacher who exposits the Word of God in a clear and interesting manner. In addition to recommending his books, I also highly recommend that you listen to his sermons.
Girls Gone Wise by Dannah Gresch
This is a great book for women of all ages, though it is marketed toward young women. Dannah teaches women how to pursue wisdom rather than pursuing the world and uses the Proverbs 7 woman as a negative example. Again, I read this book pretty quickly this summer, and now I’m going through it more slowly and deeply. Dannah also has a website called Girl Gone Wise, and she has posted some helpful resources that supplement the book.
Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
Excellent book about pursuing the true God rather than chasing after the counterfeit gods of money, sex, and power. Anything by Keller is well-written, biblically based, and thought-provoking.
The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves
I really enjoyed this history of the Reformation and some of the most important leaders. This book is an engaging read and was very helpful and informative.
Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper
Moving and challenging biographies of William Tyndale, John Paton, and Adoniram Judson. I highly recommend this book. (I also found Piper’s explanation of the phrase “filling up the afflictions of Christ” to be helpful, because I was a little confused by the phrase.)
The Spiritual Leader by Paul Chappel
I read this book because of something Pastor wanted me to write. This book is written for pastors; most of the book applied in no way to me (preaching, leading deacons and training leadership, planning messages, etc), so I skipped the last half. The first part of the book had some good stuff about scheduling your time, which I found helpful.
Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Townsend
This book was one of the most life-changing books I have ever read. I learned so much about “when to say yes and how to say no” as the subtitle proclaims. I think it will take a long time to fully put into practice the things I learned from this book, but I’m working on it. (I’d like to write more about this book later–we’ll see when that actually happens!)
Radical by David Platt
This is the second life-changing book I read this summer. I’ve really been thinking a lot about Platt’s teaching about forsaking the American Dream and radically following Christ. I plan to write a longer review of this book later. You can watch a short video about the book here.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
This is an unusual, often humorous, (sort of) modern retelling of the King Arthur stories. I especially liked the first part about young Arthur learning about the world as Merlin taught him. I also enjoyed learning more about the Knights of the Round Table, as I was unfamiliar with most of the legends. Caution: I thought the moral tone was poor, especially when dealing with Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere’s relationship.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
I really liked the descriptions of New England in this book, and in certain passages, the writing sparkled and Knowles created vivid word pictures. However, the story line is dark, depressing, pointless, and ended hopelessly (and there are many potentially offensive elements), so I wouldn’t recommend this book.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Now, this book has some similarities to A Separate Peace–it’s set during World War II and deals with many of the same themes of friendship and death–but it’s a much more gripping story, beautifully and tragically told. This is a great book and I highly recommend it. It’s not exactly beach reading, which is where I read the book, because the story is powerful, the characters are memorable, the themes are deep, and the mood is haunting.
I loved the characters and cried at several points when terrible things happened to them. I also loved the color imagery throughout and how the colors supported the themes and characters.
A friend warned me that there was a lot of swearing in the book, but most of it is in German. So I skipped the paragraph that explained the meanings of the German words and was able to enjoy the story without translating the German into English swear words.
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
I’d never read a Tom Clancy novel, but my brother loves them and has read several. I asked him which one would be a good first novel to read, and he pulled this one off his shelf. Now, I’ve been known to skip long passages that go into great detail about war tactics (the 80 pages about one battle in Les Misreables, for example), but I really enjoyed this book. It’s long and took me a long time to read–and I almost didn’t get to read the last 200 pages, but when my flight back to Guam was delayed and I had a couple extra days to finish the book, I was glad I did. I don’t know if I’ll tackle another 900+ page Clancy novel any time soon though.
Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs
I LOVE Tim Downs’s novels and his newest did not disappoint. Although this story is different from the Bug Man series and his other stand-alone novels, I enjoyed the unique characters, the snappy dialogue, and the quickly moving plot (just like his other books!). I also appreciated the (not overt) religious theme and kept thinking of the verse “some have entertained angels unawares.”
The Love Story of Charlotte Bronte
Well, I think I wrote down this book title incorrectly, because I couldn’t find it online. . . Suffice it to say, I read a nicely written, fictionalized biography of Charlotte Bronte’s life. From what I could tell, the story was pretty accurate and true to the non-fiction biographies, but since this story was told as a narrative, the author definitely took creative liberties with the dialogue and characterization.
This short, entertaining, practical book emphasizes the importance of personal accountability in the workplace by asking the Question Behind the Question. This is a good, helpful book.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
I enjoyed this book about how Mortenson’s hiking adventures led to a desire and opportunity to build schools in remote Afghan villages. He has established the Central Asia Institute, which now supports 145 schools, most of which educate women. This is an inspirational book and my burden for that region of the world increased dramatically upon reading his stories. I recently borrowed a history of Afghanistan from a friend of mine and plan to read Mortenson’s book Stones into Schools soon.