Summer Reading 2013

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Reading 2013

A long tradition at is the summer reading blog – meaning the once-a-year list of ten books that might be worth your while to peruse during some (hopefully) extra reading time over your summer vacation.

It’s a very subjective list.

Mine, to be exact.

Meaning, these are the ten I really liked and would encourage others to consider.

This year I’m doing something different.

This year I’ve selected ten titles from among the box I’ve taken with me on my annual summer study break.

Which means they may be new or old, popular or obscure, just released or evidence I’m behind on a few titles.  But what these selections do represent are those that I have already found to be worth my while and, I believe, worth yours.

In no particular order, enjoy.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  A New York Times reporter examines why habits exist and how they can be changed.  In a style reminiscent of Malcolm Gladwell, a wide body of research and information is brought together into a thoughtful and coherent narrative.

How to Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World’s Most Inspiring Presentations by Jeremey Donovan.  Not the best writing in the world, to be sure, but short, simple, and extremely practical information on a form of education and communication sweeping our culture.

A Glimpse of Jesus by Brennan Manning.  The recent passing of Brennan Manning (April of this year) reminded me of the many times in my life I’ve needed a good, stiff dose of his writing.  Meaning, a reminder of how ridiculously lavish grace really is, and how scandalously God gives it to us sinners.  Why this slim volume had escaped my eye all these years, I don’t know, but I’m relishing it now.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  If you haven’t noticed, the world of young adult fiction has become, well, the world of fiction.  But if you think The Hunger Games is all there is behind it, think again.  Rick Yancey is one of the more celebrated writers in this genre, and his latest work is getting widespread and, I might add, deserved attention.

Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson.  There can be little doubt that Western Civilization’s rise to global dominance has been the phenomenon of the past five centuries.  Ferguson tells us the “how” and “why” in a way reminiscent (to me) of the sweeping, popular way Daniel Boorstin wrote in such works as The Discoverers.  Specifically, detailing the six “killer apps” (powerful new concepts) that the West developed: competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism and the work ethic.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  I know this book has been making waves for a while, but for whatever reason (along with a few other titles this summer) this has not received my full attention until now.  It deserves its buzz.  Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, brings together his many years of research on decision-making.  The overarching thesis is that two systems drive how we think: System 1 is fast, intuitive and emotion; System 2 is slow, deliberative and logical.  The strengths and weaknesses of both systems, as well as their interplay, are just plain fascinating.  The book’s marketing suggests it will change the way you think about thinking.  It’s true.

Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss by Laurence Rees.  One of the more fascinating lectures I attended while in college was around the power of Hitler’s rhetoric.  It was a communications course, and we all marveled at how listening to Hitler speak was moving, even though none of us understood a single word he spoke in German.  Laurence Rees, one of the leading experts on Nazi Germany (I recommend his earlier book on Auschwitz) here details the nature of Hitler’s influence.  Fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni.  If you were taken by Trussoni’s opening novel in this series, Angelology, you will not be disappointed by her follow-up.  She posits a world where the Nephilim still roam, theology matters (regardless of what you think of hers or of that in the book), and a story that makes you turn the page still counts.

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.  Of books detailing the effects of the digital age, there is no end.  But some rise above the others, either due to their better insights or more comprehensive approach.  This is that book.  For a companion volume that details how the digital age is not simply affecting our world, but us, read Cathy Davidson’s Now You See it: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger.  Yes, this sounds dangerously similar to the Heath brothers work, Made to Stick.  And yes, the idea overlaps with Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.  But Berger goes further by gathering a wide array of information and studies as to why things go viral; in essence, what is the science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission?  It’s an engaging read on a subject that is difficult to become overly versed in.

Those are my ten.  At least, for now.

The box I brought is big.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Summer Reading 2013