Summer & Fall Reading

I can’t believe summer is already over, it’s hard to believe how fast it flew by. I got through (almost) all of my summer reading list, and really enjoyed the books I read. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been trying to “plan” my seasonal reading around specific genres, which helps to not only give more enjoyment, but I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to read more when the books are varied by genre. Here’s a brief recap of the books I read this summer:

Christianity and Liberalism – J. Gresham Machen. A classic – one of my new favourite books of all time. Definitely a must-read for anyone remotely interested in the supremacy of the gospel and combating accommodation and/or liberalism in Christ’s church. Machen is a brilliant writer and arguer, yet superbly readable. This work is a modern classic that should be read – and reread – regularly.

The Courage to Be Protestant – David H. Wells. This book is a consolidation and consummation of David Wells’ life work, and is a summary of his previous four books, which are more scholarly, dense, and research oriented than this one. I decided to read this summary after reading several high recommendations. I would echo those recommendations enthusiastically. Wells touches on two serious issues facing the church today – the Emergent church and the marketing churches (megachurches). He systematically gives a brief historical background of each (how did we get to where we are?), then critiques each one (what’s wrong about them? what, if any, good can be found in them?), and finally argues for a return to biblical, historical, Reformed faith (how do we fix it?). It’s a hard book to sum up briefly here, so just read it.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor – D.A. Carson. I got this for my dad for his birthday, and he let me borrow it this summer. I enjoyed it so much that I gave it to my brother to read. It was an encouraging, challenging, convicting, humbling, and engaging read. Carson does a great job embodying the “ordinary” life his dad led as a pastor in Canada, which resonates with me, a PK of an “ordinary” pastor. I was moved to tears several times throughout the book. Dad wrote a letter to Carson thanking him and explaining how much the book meant to him (my dad had a special connection to the book thanks to his British-Canadian roots). I had the privilege of reading the letter, and my dad had the privilege of getting a thank you letter back from Carson that said (in so many words), “you’re the type of pastor for whom I wrote this book.” I’m also looking forward to reading my dad’s journal entries someday, even if I don’t write a book from them, like Carson did for this book.

Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and a masterful work. Enjoyable from beginning to end, and so much better than I remembered. We were on a LOTR kick all summer – books, movies, and LOTR Risk.

The Sovereignty of God – A.W. Pink. This was the densest and hardest summer book I read, and I learned a great deal from it. Pink wonderfully explains some difficult but crucial doctrines (like predestination, election, salvation, the wrath of God), and I especially appreciated how Pink addressed common objections to such doctrines from a biblical standpoint. I’ll have to re-read some or all of it down the road to really get more out of it. I also blogged on one of my favourite chapters: The Sovereignty of God and Prayer. Part I here and Part II here.

The Theban Plays: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone – Sophocles. I read this because Neil Postman cites it several times. Antigone has historically been the archetype tragic play in history, until Freud changed it to the tragedy of Oedipus. I didn’t get as much enjoyment from the tragedies as my humanities professor did, but many interesting themes were present, including commentary on human nature (inherently good, or inherently evil?), duty, and consequences for sin, and private convictions v. public law, but overall I guess I’m not a fan of Greek tragedies. Postman quoted a brief snippet that is an interesting critique on the necessity of having an historical perspective. Postman used it in reference to technology, but it is even applicable to church trends (i.e. the Emergent or megachurch movement, etc.) and other cultural or social situations.

“For Oedipus is overwrought, alarmed
With terrors manifold. He will not use
His past experience, like a man of sense,
To judge the present need, but lends an ear
To any croaker if he augurs [predicts] ill.”

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee. This classic was so much better than I remembered it from high school. It’s a fantastic book not only in Lee’s mastery of language and use of metaphor, but also in her not-so-subtle critique of reason, prejudice, and morals through the lives of children in a small Southern town.

I am still reading two of the books on my summer reading list this fall: Knowing God, which Ken and I are doing for the church blog, and Bruce’s commentary on Hebrews, which I am reading as more of a slow, devotional book. Both have been very edifying so far.

I’ve been trying to finalize my fall reading list, but I recognize that time may be short with the amount of assigned reading I have this semester. Granted, some of my assigned reading will be enjoyable (including Shelly’s Frankenstein and Davis’ The Return of Martin Guerre). I may be a bit ambitious in wanting to get through this list, but time will tell.

Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin – John Piper. I’d like to start reading more biographies, and Piper’s first installment in his Swans Are Not Silent series should be a good start. I’ve already started reading this, and the section on Augustine was excellent.

Mystery of Providence – John Flavel. When talking to my dad about the list, I realized that I didn’t have any old theology books. I’ve also been trying to read books I already own that I haven’t read yet, and happened upon this Puritan gem. It took the place of Driscoll’s Vintage Jesus.

Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis. This is the first of C.S. Lewis’ little-known (and I think out of print) space trilogy. My wife was just given the trilogy from generous friends, and I’m looking forward to reading it. If I don’t have time to read more books, this will probably be the first to go.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – Tim Keller. Keller’s book is a new release that has garnered lots of praise from Christian and secular circles alike. Some have likened it to a modern-day Mere Christianity. I’m excited for this one.

Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe. A childhood favourite, and I don’t think I’ve read the unabridged version. This fulfills my “fiction/classic literature” for the fall.

Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World – edited by John Piper. I usually don’t like to read two books by the same author close together, but since Piper is the editor, it’s not a big deal. It’s a collection of essays, so I should be able to read it in fits and spurts.

Why We’re Not Emergent, By Two Guys Who Should Be – Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck (foreword by David Wells). From the back cover: “Here’s the truth – there IS truth. You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism, and not be an emergent Christia. In fact, we want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.” Since I’m a young, white, middle-class male raised in evangelicalism, and I like Sufjan Stevens, I’m in the stereotypical Emergent demographic. But I’m not, and neither are the authors. I’m really looking forward to this one.

3 thoughts on “Summer & Fall Reading

  1. I'm kind of all over the place, honestly. Not really a system. The most systematic I get is that I keep a list of books I want to get/read in the future, and combine that with the books I already have to figure out which books I want to read next.Some are books I've had for a long time that I need to read (Legacy of Sovereign Joy, Mystery of Providence). Some I'm given as gifts (Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, Christianity & Liberalism). Others are recommendations by friends/family/blogs (Courage to be Protestant, Reason for God). And others are just ones I come across in other reading, or ones I randomly think about (To Kill a Mockingbird, Theban Plays).

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