Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is now behind us. That means it’s time for my annual summer reading list (you can find last year’s list here). These are the top 10 books that I have either read over the past year or are at the top of my list to read over the summer. Most are new. A few, here and there, may be older works that I’m only now discovering myself or wanting to reread. From year to year, they are often a blend of history, fiction, biography and more.
Here they are, for 2021, listed in alphabetical order by author:
Barr, Beth Allison. The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth. There was a lot of hype surrounding the release of this book. In this case, the hype was deserved. This is a much-needed and helpful corrective to the wooden interpretations given to many passages of Scripture – not to mention histories of the church – regarding the role of women. I don't agree with everything she says, but I agree with a lot of what she says.
Burton, Tara Isabella. Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World. I do not know if Ms. Burton is a card-carrying person of faith (though she holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford). However, she has opened up the world of post-Christian spirituality in a way that few have. She writes in the tradition of the immersive journalist who observes social phenomenon firsthand.
Collins, Jim and Bill Lazier. Be 2.0: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company. Read everything Jim Collins writes. Repeat: Read everything Jim Collins writes. This is an update to an earlier classic that many missed. If you read the initial work, there is enough new content to make it worth your while. If you missed the earlier work, then you are in for a real treat.
Cotherman, Charles E. To Think Christianly: A History of L’abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement. I was strongly shaped by this movement, particularly Schaeffer and L’abri, so this piqued my interest at once. It didn’t disappoint.
Gladwell, Malcolm. The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation and the Longest Night of the Second World War. Though his later works haven’t matched the intrigue of The Tipping Point, Outliers or Blink, I’ve never spent time with a Gladwell book and felt it was time wasted as there is always a gem or two of an idea or story. This is no exception.
Grant, Adam. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. If you read his earlier book Originals, then you probably already have this book and have devoured it. This is a book about rethinking, specifically rethinking your opinions and opening other people’s minds.
Haass, Richard. The World: A Brief Introduction. I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one of those rare books that save you from reading 20 separate books to glean the same information. Sane, balanced, impartial, deeply informed… again, I cannot recommend this book enough. In a single, readable volume, you will find the knowledge you need to process and engage the world in which we live and its cascade of current events.
Kim, Jay Y. Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places and Things in the Digital Age. I came to this book a bit late. In full disclosure, someone on our staff who read it said that he quoted me. I picked it up to see how I was being used. My role was minimal, his work was outstanding.
Sprinkle, Preston. Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church and What the Bible Has to Say. Simply the best book on what is arguably the hottest and most controversial topic of the moment. If you read or recommend one book on the “T” in all things LGBT, this should be it.
Trueman, Carl R. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. This work is strong on description, a bit weak on prescription, but that is the norm for such works. But make no mistake—the description is absolutely spot-on and worth its weight in gold.
White, James Emery. After “I Believe.” This is a sequel of sorts to my earlier book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians. That work was written, explicitly, for people who were not Christians but willing to entertain an exploration. The idea was that it would be given to them by a Christian friend. After “I Believe” is the book to put in the hands of someone after they have crossed the line of faith.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & 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, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.