With summer and vacations just around the corner, many people are looking for good book recommendations to read. So to help you out, we’ve compiled a list of books ranging from biographies to practical pastoral help. Whether you’re going to the beach or you’re enjoying a staycation, one or maybe all of these books – could be your best summer read.
1. The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art – Erwin McManus (Harper Collins)
Do you struggle with the idea of creativity? Do you think that you are a creative person made in the image of God? Or is it an idea best left to people who can dance, paint or sing? Erwin McManus believes that all of us are called to live creative lives. That we have the force of creativity in our very bones because we are made in the image of God. In The Artisan Soul, McManus invites us to search our lives for the thread of creativity that is in us and instead of running from it in fear, embrace what that could mean for our lives.
“To create is to be human. To create is to fulfill our divine intention. To create is to reflect the image of God. To create is an act of worship. So who is an artist? Anyone who has a soul. What are the qualifications for being an artist? You guessed it — having a soul. And though we celebrate the way the artisan soul is expressed in those who bring artistry and beauty to the world, this book is not about how to turn yourself into a painter or a dancer or an actor or a writer. Instead, this book is about a process through which you will discover and unleash your personal creativity.”
You can also hear Erwin talk more about the ideas of creativity and artistry in churches on Episode 6 of the ChurchLeaders Podcast.
2. The Wright Brothers – David McCullough (Simon and Schuester)
David McCullough is one of the great historical writers of our time. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, he tackles subjects with clarity and honesty, drawing readers into rich historical settings and giving new life to familiar and unfamiliar people of our past. This time he’s tackled the Wright Brothers, two men from Dayton, OH determined to fly. The path to modern flight was littered with successes and failures of these two men, and McCullough takes care to show us their humanity as well as their determination.
“For Wilbur and Orville, the dream had taken hold. The works of Lilienthal and Mouillard, the brothers would attest, had “infected us with their unquenchable enthusiasm and transformed idle curiosity into the active zeal of workers.” They would design and build their won experimental glider-kite, drawing on much they had read, much they had observed about birds in flight, and, importantly, from considerable time thinking.”
3. Dead Wake – Erik Larson (Crown)
With rich historical detail and the story weaving artistry of a fiction writer, author Erik Larson made a name for himself. He has tackled such subjects as the World’s Fair in Chicago and the American Ambassador’s ignored attempts to warn the U.S. about German in World War II. Now he’s taken on the sinking of the Lusitania, a luxury liner bringing a large number of children and infants from New York to Liverpool across the German U-boat tortured North Atlantic. Larson weaves together details both small and large to paint a picture of all that drew together to create one of the greatest disasters in history.
“It was [Captain William Thomas] Turner who experienced what may have been the most frightening threat to the Lusitania, this during a voyage to New York in January 1910, when he encountered a phenomenon he had never previously met at sea. Soon after leaving Liverpool, the ship entered a gale, with a powerful headwind and tall seas that required Turner to reduce speed to 14 knots. By itself the weather posed no particular challenge. He had seen worse, and the ship handled the heavy seas with grace. And so, on Monday evening, January 11, at 6:00, soon after leaving the coast of Ireland behind, Turner went down one deck to his quarters to have dinner. He left his chief officer in charge. ‘The wave,’ Turner said, ‘came as a surprise.'”
Timothy Keller is one of the most reliable and well-respected voices in Christianity today. With candor and intelligence, he tackles some of the most pressing issues of our time, pointing people back to the Word and what it has to say about what we’re experiencing. While his newest book is not available until June 9, it’s already at the top of best-seller lists. The Gospel Coalition pulled a few quotes from the book, which you can read here.
5. The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown (Viking)
If you read Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, you got a small snippet of the fervor around the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Louis Zamperini took America by storm with his speed and record-breaking races. In the American West, an unlikely team of men were brought together and taught the art of competitive rowing, with their eyes set on Gold – and beating Hitler’s team. This book will immerse you in the lives and determination of men who exhibited unending determination, stamina and in the end accomplished a remarkable achievement.
“Joe and Roger signed the freshman crew registration book, then returned to the bright light outside and sat on a bench, waiting for instructions. Joe glanced at Roger, who seemed relaxed and confident. “Aren’t you nervous?” Joe whispered. Roger glanced back at him. “I’m panicked. I just look like this to demoralize the competition.” Joe smiled briefly, too close to panic himself to hold the smile for long. For Joe Rantz, perhaps more than for any of the other young men sitting by the Montlake Cut, something hung in the balance that afternoon, and he was all too aware of it.”
6. The Life of Elizabeth I – Alison Weir (Ballantine Books)
Elizabeth the I still captures the imagination of contemporary audiences. Her life was one of intrigue and strength, estrangement and glory. For all of the books written on her, few have been able to capture her personality or get inside her mind. She was an incredibly private person with a very public persona. Weir seeks to give readers a glimpse into the mind of this monarch and to dispel some of the myths that still linger, centuries after her death. It’s an interesting and personal look a female leader navigating her public persona and private life in a male-dominated world.
“The first act of Queen Elizabeth had been to give thanks to God for her peaceful accession to the throne and, as she later told the Spanish ambassador, to ask Him ‘that He would give her grace to govern with clemency and without bloodshed’. With the calamitous example of her sister before her, she had already decided that there should be no foreign interference in the government of England, not from Spain or Rome or anywhere else, and was resolved to be herself a focus for English nationalism – ‘the most English woman in England’.”
7. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
A little girl who is blind and has memorized her neighborhood through always touching the model her father built her. An orphan boy who only has his sister and a crude radio that is a link to the world. Both are impacted by the explosion of World War II in harrowing ways, tested to the limit by the tragedy they encounter. Eventually, when their paths cross, each has to make a decision. They can fall under the spell that cruelty is a necessity of war, or prove that even in the midst of the most harrowing circumstances, people can be kind to one another. Anthony Doerr has created a beautifully crafted novel that will alternately break your heart and leaving you wanting more after the last page. (Warning: there is a small amount of language in the book. Check out this review regarding sensitive content.)
“Her fingers travel back to the cathedral spire. South to the Gate of Dinan. All evening she has been marching her fingers around the model, waiting for her great-uncle Etienne, who owns this house, who went out the previous night while she slept, and who has not returned. And now it is night again, another revolution of the clock, and the whole block is quiet, and she cannot sleep. She can hear the bombers when they are three miles away. A mounting static. The hum inside a seashell.”
This book, although published a decade ago, is still one of the best when it comes to examining two powerhouse figures of the 20th century. Meacham takes care to study how their tenuous relationship bonded two countries in a time of war. Churchill and Roosevelt’s friendship resembled a courtship, with Churchill as the pursuer and Roosevelt as the prize. Both men, powerful and stubborn, sparred and parried with one another throughout World War II. They devised plans and active military stands that not only changed the course of the war, but the history of the world. A fascinating look at the power of friendship and politics.
“Reflecting on her father and Roosevelt, Marry Soames, Winston and Clementine Churchill’s youngest and last surviving child, captured the complexities of their relationship by quoting a French proverb: “In love, there is always one who kisses, and one who offers the cheek.” Churchill was the suitor, Roosevelt the elusive quarry. Their friendship mirrored their private characters. With Roosevelt, Churchill was sentimental and shrewd. With Churchill, Roosevelt was cheerful and calculating.”
9. The Road to Character – David Brooks (Random House)
David Brooks tackled how humanity can grow together in The Social Animal. In The Road to Character, he looks at what character means and how it’s developed. Using historical examples of people who developed character through difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible circumstances, Brooks seeks to encourage readers to rethink priorities and build meaningful lives through facing adversity and building our character – not running from it.
“The consumer marketplace encourages us to live by a utilitarian calculus, to satisfy our desires and lose sight of the moral stakes involved in everyday decisions. The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths. We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives us little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character.”
10. The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Middle of Life’s Hard – Kara Tippetts (David C. Cook)
Kara Tippetts knew a thing or two about grace and beauty in the midst of death. Diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2012, Tippetts, a mother of four and a pastor’s wife, shared her journey of struggle, love, tears and Jesus with thousands around the world. In her book, she details places where she’s found beauty in “life’s hard” and continues to encourage others to seek the Lord when life doesn’t make sense.
“All of us know something of the mystery of this life. As you read these words, I hope you will move toward the One who knows the mystery and has a purpose for all things. I hope your deep questions will be answered by the grace that is present, that you will know family and friends and community, and that you will understand a peace that runs through this world and beyond. I am a witness that it is hard, but it is beautiful.”
What else is on your reading list? What did we miss?