Summer Books

Summer is a popular reading time for many, thanks to frequent vacations, slower work schedules, and long summer nights. I was fortunate to have more time than I have been used to for reading this summer, thanks to finishing my degree in June and then living 300 miles from my wife for six weeks. Before summer was over, I was able to add several books to my original Summer reading list. In alphabetical order:

18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know – J.I. Packer (1973/2008). One chapter for each word could have easily gotten out of hand, but Packer writes with clarity and density while weaving each chapter together into one coherent unit. Most helpful chapters were the ones on Regeneration, Mortification, and Fellowship.

Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for JesusLee Strobel (1998). A captivating journalistic-style book that presents the overwhelming evidence for Christ. Each chapter is based on an interview with a leading scholar/teacher/expert. Strobel effectively presents the historical and atoning Christ while addressing common misconceptions and rebuttals against Christ’s life, work, death, and resurrection. When all the evidence is taken into account, it takes much more faith to be an atheist or agnostic than it does a Christian.

God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology – Michael Horton (2006). Horton’s historical and technical explanations (which make up the first part of the book) are difficult at times, partly because the subject matter is dense and partly because his writing style in these sections leaves something to be desired. The latter half of the book on common grace, the New Covenant, sacraments as signs and seals of the New Covenant, and covenant obedience are excellent and demonstrate Horton at his pastoral best. I highly recommend this book even just for those chapters.

Holiness of God – R.C. Sproul (1985/1998). An introductory book on God’s holiness. Full of detailed (but not overwhelming or difficult) exposition, helpful illustrations, and pastoral applications. It’s a great book for anyone who wants to know and understand the God of Scripture more fully.

Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin (1559). Still truckin’. Some great sections this summer, including justification, election and predestination, resurrection, union with Christ, and the marks of a true church.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will (Or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc.) – Kevin DeYoung (2009). One of my favorite books this year. DeYoung delivers a short, powerful discussion of God’s will and decision making, debunking popular Christian views about “finding the center of God’s will” and similar cliches in the process. An especially good book for graduates of any age. I have to say that though DeYoung and Mark Driscoll have similar audiences (DeYoung pastors a church across the street from Michigan State), DeYoung is consistently more biblical, pastoral, and thoughtful while maintaining wit and relevance. Plus, DeYoung baptizes babies, so that’s another plus.

Love in the Ruins – Walker Percy (1971). Recommended from two men at our former church. Percy is a masterful writer with his turns of phrase, intricate character development, thought-provoking narrative, and unique yet vaguely familiar insights into life. A perfect summer read about Dr. Tom More, a psychiatrist with emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles who has invented the “lapsometer,” a device that can cure the world’s ills unless it falls into the wrongs hands. The book is about More’s attempts to prevent his invention from falling into the wrong hands in the apocalyptic, anarchist Deep South.

Not Even a Hint (with study guides) – Josh Harris (2004). A short but helpful book on battling lust. Effective because it is focused first and foremost on the gospel, acknowledging the difficulty of overcoming sin but staying away from the “just try harder” remedies. Harris is not afraid to be blunt, confrontational, or pastoral. The study guide wasn’t as helpful (not written by Harris, but approved by him).

Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World – N.D. Wilson (2009). One of the best books I’ve read; difficult to describe. I tried to offer a brief description here. A nonfiction work that combines theology, philosophy, science, fantasy, poetry, romance, history, geography, and nature. Almost like a Blue Like Jazz type of book but smarter, more orthodox, and less postmodern along with heavy hints of C.S. Lewis/G.K. Chesterton. Actually, it’s in a totally different league than BLJ. Buy it, read it, love it.

Primer on Worship and Reformation: Recovering the High Church Puritan – Doug Wilson (2008). A tiny book on reforming the evangelical church by focusing on worship. Wilson covers liturgy, singing, Psalms, preaching, covenant, sacraments, and warfare, though nothing exhaustively. Chock full of great quotations, but written in a style to provoke further thought and study. A solid read.

Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions – Mark Driscoll (2009). Decent. I did a full review of it here.

Summer of ’49 – David Halberstam (2006). A journal-like book chronicling the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry during the 1949 season. Joe DiMaggio was entering the twilight of his career, Yogi Berra was a gangly rookie, and Ted Williams was ornery. An enjoyable read, though a tad long. I loved it for its in-depth look at the personal side of The Yankee Clipper and The Splendid Splinter. Spoiler alert: The Yankees win the pennant and the World Series, with the season MVP going to Williams.

Surviving Financial Meltdown – Ron Blue & Jeremy White (2009). A good reminder on the priority of tithing, the urgency of getting short-term finances in order, and importance of setting long-term goals; all while in the midst of financial hardship. One of the best nuggets was the answer to “What is the most important economic indicator?” Answer: My checkbook balance. (Thanks, Mom & Dad Steele)

We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry – G.K. Beale (2008). Beale’s thesis is that we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration. He proves this by painstakingly looking at Scriptural examples of idolatry – starting with Isaiah 6 and then covering the entire Scriptures, Jewish history, and (briefly) contemporary culture. This is one of the most difficult books I’ve read, as I am not used to technical Scriptural analysis. It was beneficial, though, and the final chapter was very well worth it.

With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship – D.G. Hart & John R. Muether (2002). A very helpful book on the biblical aspects of worship: what it is, who its audience is, what it should look like, the responsibility of its participants, etc. I’d recommend it to a wide audience, especially church pastors, elders, and musicians.

Tentative Fall list can be found in the right margin. Feel free to follow the links to more information, mostly courtesy of my generous book sponsor, WTS Books.

2 thoughts on “Summer Books

  1. [To the tune of "Richard Corey" by Simon and Garfunkel, which itself is a re-worked version of a poem by the same title]They say that Joel Victor owns one half the books in town,With library connections to spread the print around,Born into society a pastor's second child,He had everything a bookworm could want:Contacts, Time, and Style.But I,I work in his factory,And I curse the life I'm living,And I curse how little I read,And I wish that I could read,Oh, I wish that I could read,Oh, I wish that I could read,As much as Joel Victor…

  2. a) I'm encouraged by your comments on God of Promise. I'm still pushing through that first half; perhaps I'll skim forward a bit to the parts you found most helpful.b) What to read next?? I'm intrigued by the Packer book, but am also interested in Sproul and a few others. Goodness gracious. When will that dissertation get written?Thanks honey, what a librarian you're going to be!

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