Here is a sampling of the books I read this summer! With the exception of Bible reading and various ongoing devotional readings, this represents a substantial amount of what I read over the course of the past few months. I am a firm believer in one’s reading list reflecting a lot of who they are, so welcome to a bit of who I am, embodied in my summer reading list.
- The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy (fiction): Ivan Ilyich is a haunting exploration of one man’s foray into the heights of worldly success and his ultimate downfall – a dire diagnosis leading to a rapidly dark confrontation with death.
Why you should read it: At some point, every person must come face-to-face with the sure reality of death in their own life and the lives of others. This book excellently chronicles the struggle of a man devoid of hope, echoing the turmoil of millions even today. For Christians, this should drive an increased urgency in sharing the gospel with those around us. Thanks be to God, through whom “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:55)!
- Into All the World: Four Stories of Pioneer Missionaries, Vance Christie (biography): One of several missionary biographies I delved into this summer, Into All the World succinctly chronicles the lives and ministries of four pioneer missionaries into previously unreached areas: David Brainerd to Native Americans in colonial America, Adoniram Judson in Burma, Robert Moffat in South Africa, and John Paton in the South Pacific.
Why you should read it: Stories of the Lord’s faithfulness throughout the history of His church are manifold, and I often found myself in chills reading about the tenacity and courage of these pioneer missionaries as well as others, such as Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward. Missionary biographies provide a wonderful opportunity to worship the Lord for His great power worked through the lives of redeemed sinners for His glory!
- The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer (Christian living): Tozer’s book is a brief exploration of the attributes of God, approached in reverence and awe. His passion and love for the character of God and focus on increased praise given to the Godhead is stirring and thought-provoking.
Why you should read it: In his Institutes, Calvin said, “Though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.” Therefore, we must be dedicated to a pursuit of the knowledge of the Most High. It is only in light of His character and truth that all else falls into place.
- The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak (fiction): The Book Thief, to this day, is one of the most phenomenally written novels I have ever read. A monumental work of human experience set in 1940s Germany, this book combines rich imagery and grand themes, all woven into a deeply immersive story.
Why you should read it: If a well-executed, personified Death as narrator is not enough to convince you, let me just say that the utter vastness of content in this 550 page book goes far beyond its pages. The gripping nature of Zusak’s exploration of the human heart will leave you reeling for days, as it certainly still does every time I reread it.
- North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell (fiction): Margaret Hale, the main character of North and South, is described as a “renegade clergyman’s daughter.” Though meant as an insult, this descriptor is actually the one that best embodies Hale’s spirit. Driven by the strength of her faith and compassion for others, Hale embarks on a journey into the suffering world of the impoverished and downtrodden.
Why you should read it: Hale’s unflinching fearlessness in the midst of rioting, class tension, and all sorts of other obstacles is mesmerizing. This heroine is also described as having a “straight, fearless, dignified presence” and “stately simplicity,” making her one to admire as a “framework of elegance.”
- Discipline: The Glad Surrender, Elisabeth Elliot (Christian living): Elliot’s firm motivation for a well-ordered life is a love and devotion to her Lord, in discipline of everything from feelings to time. She is open and honest, correcting wrong thinking in her writing with much needed truth from Scripture.
Why you should read it: Well, it’s written by Elisabeth Elliot. Enough said. Really though, her prose is straightforward and piercing, full of both conviction and encouragement. A crucial read for any person in any stage of life!
- The Savage My Kinsman, Elisabeth Elliot (autobiography): The Savage My Kinsman is a chronicle of Elisabeth Elliot’s time spent living with the Indian tribe that killed her husband. Hers is a story of remarkable working of the Lord in the life of a young widow willing to commit herself to the gospel, no matter the cost.
Why you should read it: In spite of hostility and a real threat to her very life, Elisabeth Elliot was determined to be committed in proclaiming the gospel of her God in some of the most grueling life circumstances imaginable. Within the Auca tribe’s village, she truly lived 2 Corinthians 12:15: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.”
- Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot, (Christian living): Elliot’s book is a challenge for women of the Word to stand strong with backbones of steel in conviction, integrity, dignity, and an unwavering devotion to their God.
Why you should read it: What it means to be a woman is clearly defined in Scripture, and Elliot writes bite-sized chapters based on those truths with examples and anecdotes. Moving on from this book, I was abundantly encouraged to walk in closer communion to the Lord through His word.
- Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot, (biography): A thorough and at times chilling recounting of the lives of five young missionary men who poured out their lives to reach a tribe that mercilessly killed them, this is a tale of ordinary men called by an extraordinary God for an extraordinary mission.
Why you should read it: Radical Christian sacrifice is a reality we are all called to. Though it may not directly result in the loss of our lives on the mission field, we know that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). We must be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of Him who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Is. 53), devoting all we have to His service.
- Stepping Heavenward, Elizabeth Prentiss (Christian living/biographical fiction): Prentiss describes one woman’s journey from being a 16-year-old girl to mature womanhood, all through biographically based journal entries in this 19th century classic.
Why you should read it: If anything, read Stepping Heavenward for stunning quotes like this one: “Cheerfully and gratefully I lay myself and all I am or own at the feet of Him who redeemed me with His precious blood, determining to follow Him, bearing the cross He lays upon me.”
May that be my heartcry now and always.
What books did you read this summer? Which books would you like to read?