Every year, I usually give ten titles as a suggested summer reading list. These are books that either I have read, or plan to. Most are brand new. A few, here and there, may be a year or two older. Either way, they are on the top of my recommended summer reading list.
So in no particular order …
David McCullough, The Wright Brothers. McCullough should probably be called America’s favorite historian. Before him, for me, it was Daniel Boorstin. I read everything McCullough writes. In my humble opinion, so should you.
C.J. Sansom, Lamentation. If you haven’t become a fan of Sansom’s “Matthew Shardlake” novels, then you are in for a treat as you feast on each and every one. For those already on board, you won’t want to miss this, his latest. I know – I’ve already devoured it. But don’t start with this one if you’re new to the series – go back to the very start and begin with Dissolution.
Conn Iggulden, War of the Roses: Stormbird. Historical fiction is a weakness of mine – meaning, I love it in almost every form. And Iggulden is a master. I tore through his series on Genghis Khan, then ripped through his series on Caesar. Now he takes on the War of the Roses. I’m so there. Actually, was there. Already read the first installment like devouring dessert.
Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir. Every now and then I tell my soul that I need a good stiff dose of Manning to counteract the toxic elements of my (often) graceless thinking. Though it came out as his last book (in 2011) before his death in 2013, I just read this autobiography, and it was another helpful journey. But if you haven’t read any of Manning’s books, don’t start here. Read (at least) The Ragamuffin Gospel first, then delve in.
Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. Okay, I have more biographies on Churchill in my library than almost anyone else. I’m not only a closet anglophile, but a Churchillian. So why read yet another? Johnson himself is an intriguing figure, but more than anything, I like the “Great Man” approach to history. And since Churchill is, in my estimation, the great man of the 20th century, I’m all in for this one.
Joseph J. Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating the American Revolution, 1783-1789. Ellis has produced some of the best work on early American history to date. Period. This should prove to be a worthy addition.
Steven Johnson, How We Got To Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World. Just read the title – how could you resist? He was also the author of The Invention of Air (another worthy read). I can even give you the six innovations, as it won’t do anything but whet your appetite: glass, cold, sound, clean, time and light. Now how can you not read it?
Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. If you don’t understand this aspect of recent history, you won’t understand the world in which you live. And in case you didn’t recognize the author, he’s the one who wrote the bestselling biography of Steve Jobs. In other words, you’ll be in good hands.
Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. Hmmm…worth a read to see what he says. And if it’s informed. I think it will be an angle worth noting, but not an angle worth enshrining. But there’s no doubt his premise has some merit, and worth reading, if for no other reason than to learn to pick our way carefully through the cultural minefields.
Grant Wacker, America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. I respect Wacker’s work, and the cultural tie-in makes it even more intriguing. It may not be the definitive biography of Billy (so far, to my thinking, that goes to William C. Martin’s A Prophet with Honor), but I’ll see after I read it. I suspect I’ll really, really like it.
An entire summer.
James Emery White
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 latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.