June 15, 2016 dedwards

A Church Nerd’s Summer Reading List


We just set the dates for our summer vacation with the family – which means at least two things – packing noise-cancelling headphones and bringing lots of books.

The summer means different things for different people, but in our house it means a little bit of a break to finally find the time to read those books that have been on our Amazon Wish List or have been collecting dust around the house.

My list is a little heavier on preacher nerd stuff than yours might be, but if you are looking for a few good things to dig into this summer, here’s what I’ll be reading at the Lake and on the back porch this summer.

Summer Books

God Stuff:

God Unbound: Wisdom From Galatians for an Anxious Church, Elaine Heath

It is an anxious time to live in and love the church, particularly the United Methodist Church.  Elaine Heath is a bold and faithful thinker and leader.  I don’t pre-order often on Amazon, but when I do it is for a book from Elaine Heath.

The Class Meeting, Kevin Watson

I came out of General Conference with a conviction to return to the sources of our Wesleyan heritage. I’m thinking and praying a lot about what it means to lead a community that is unapologetically Wesleyan and lives into our way of life shaped by the means of grace. Kevin Watson has written a book that I’m confident will help me continue doing just that.

Field Hospital, William Cavanaugh

William Cavanaugh wrote what was probably one of the most influential books I read during seminary – Torture and Eucharist.  We in the church are struggling with the tension, as we probably always have, between generosity and integrity, holiness and mercy.  So, this I am confident, is another important and timely book.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett 

Krista Tippet has interviewed some of the most interesting and important leaders in the church and across the religious spectrum. This book is a compilation of what she has learned.  I imagine it will be hard to read it without coming away a whole lot smarter, a whole lot wiser, and a whole lot more grateful for all that I’ve been given.

The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard 

The classic work that has shaped so many of my friends and leaders who are influencing me about spiritual formation, worship and spiritual leadership.  It’s long and imposing, but I hope to finally tackle it this summer.

How to Survive a Shipwreck, Jonathan Martin

Jonathan Martin was my preacher while I was on medical leave a couple of years ago.  Uniting Pentecostal and Sacramental traditions, he spoke and preached in ways that made me think and made me long to experience more of Jesus in my life. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the physical therapy room listening to a sermon on the treadmill.  He’s been through it a little bit since then, so I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say in this new book.

Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future is Bright, Haydn Shaw

I serve a church and live in a community that is very divided along generational and demographic lines. This book comes highly recommended as a framework to help us better understand one another.  There will probably be a book review coming on this one.

Good Fiction:

The Black Widow, Daniel Silva 

I got hooked on Silva’s mysteries a couple of years ago.  They are quick reads that take you into the world of spies and international espionage.

Modern Lovers, Emma Straub

Emma Straub’s first novel, The Vacationers, was one of the best books I read last year.  She writes with grace and empathy for complicated characters.  As a preacher, there’s a lot to learn there. Plus, she writes funny and great stories with enduring characters despite their flaws.  Sin and grace, we might call it.

NW, Zadie Smith 

Zadie Smith is brilliant and British and an incredible creator of sentences.  This has been on my list for a while – and hope to get to it soon.

The Zero, Jess Walter

Jess Walter, simply, is my favorite writer writing right now. This is one of his first novels, a mystery set after 9/11.  It will be a fun read.

The Book of Jonah: A Novel, Joshua Max Feldman

Joshua Feldman led a conversation at the Festival of Faith and Writing on the theology and philosophy of the Coen Brothers.  When I found out he wrote a book, it went straight to the summer’s to-read list.

Memoirs and Other Stories

Lit, Mary Karr

Memoirs are one of my favorite things to read and Mary Karr is one of the best at the genre.  A harrowing story of the brink of addiction and the power and grace that comes from going to the edge and making it back.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

This one won’t be an easy read or a light read but it is a must read.  I’m working on cultivating a more diverse reading list and this is an important start. I imagine at times it will make me mad and at other times it will make me think.  But most importantly I know reading it will make me a more faithful person when it comes to interacting across lines of difference.

The Arm, Jeff Passan

Jeff Passan is one of the most plugged-in baseball reporters around. His research and analysis on how to locate and best take care of young pitching arms will interest any baseball fan – particularly those like me who saw the Cubs squander two of the best in Kerry Wood and Mark Pryor!

So this is what I’ll have my nose in this summer.

How about you?  What are you reading?  What should be on this that isn’t?  I’d love to hear from you.

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Comments (2)

  1. Appreciate the list. Read “The Class Meeting” over winter break last year. Made me wonder why we don’t have class meetings anymore. Look forward to hearing your take.

    Enjoy the vacation and the books.

    Sent from my iPhone


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