Welcome to BreakPoint’s recommended reading list for summer 2013!
As Eric Metaxas mentions on the air this week, we’ve polled the BreakPoint and Colson Center staff for their suggestions. You’ll see from the list that we have not restricted the list to explicitly Christian works. Fiction, history, biography, spiritual guidance, everything was fair game.
All of these books are available either at the BreakPoint online bookstore or at Amazon.com. We’ve provided the links. And yes, BreakPoint does receive a small percentage of the value of every book you buy with most of these links, so thanks for your support.
Enjoy your summer, and enjoy reading!
Eric Metaxas, BreakPoint Radio commentator
As Eric mentions on Wednesday’s BreakPoint Radio, he recommends
“The Little Way of Ruthie Leming” by Rod Dreher
“The Searchers” by Joe Loconte
“Angry Conversations with God” by Susan Isaacs
“A Free People’s Suicide” by Os Guinness
Eric also recommends used and new copies of “The Yale Shakespeare,” which are available at Amazon.com. For individual Shakespeare plays, visit our bookstore at BreakPoint.org. Just search under “Shakespeare.”
John Stonestreet, BreakPoint Radio commentator
“Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child” by Anthony Esolen
A functional society tends to make process and skill more important than inventiveness and imagination. Especially today, Esolen explains, children need to develop skills of innovation to be self-driven and productive.
“West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life” by Jerry West
The biography of the "logo" of the NBA. Jerry West was one of the greats of basketball, and yet admits that any sort of peace and contentment has eluded him. Further evidence that financial success and fame cannot replace a father, or a heavenly Father.
The story of a brave group of students who opposed Hitler by distributing tracts documenting his atrocities. Caught by a janitor, Sophie Scholl and her brother were exposed, tried, and executed.
“The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt.
Chuck Colson used to say that ideology was the enemy of truth. Haidt argues that the deep political and moral divide we face as a nation is not the result of any robust debate, but of "gut reactions" or intuitions about right and wrong held by each side. The book shows the power of deeply held beliefs in forming our decisions and shaping society.
“The Brothers Karamozov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dostoyevsky dissects, in fiction, the great moral quandaries debated by philosophers through the ages, which he boils down to one, unforgettable dictum: If there is no God, then everything is permissible.
“That Hideous Strength” by C.S. Lewis
As with Lewis’s other fiction, the storyline is structured along great Christian themes.
The Father Brown mysteries by G.K. Chesterton
Follow his clean, clear logic as Father Brown solves his cases, proving that if you immerse yourself in God’s truth, you’ll become a more rational thinker.
Stark describes how Christianity’s emphasis on reason led to the rise of Europe, and how our ideas about democracy and equality stem from the central teachings of Christianity.
“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
This book was instrumental in my own conversion. And it’s tough for a thinking person to deny Lewis’s logic.
Roberto Rivera, Senior Fellow, Colson Center for Christian Worldview
(Editor’s note: Roberto Rivera has written for Chuck Colson and BreakPoint for nearly 20 years. Roberto’s provocative and far-too-seldom “Internally Displaced Person” columns can be found at BreakPoint.org. When you ask Roberto for his recommendations, you’d better be ready to receive them.
First, an explanation/clarification. The most important criteria for any book recommendation is, one, did I enjoy the book? And, two, do I think the book is worth reading? By “worth reading” I don’t mean “does the book make some big/important/vital/essential worldview point?” In my experience, books that are recommended on this basis are often not worth the time and effort needed to find out that they are not very well-written and, thus, not very interesting.
And I certainly don’t mean “this book provides some important talking points.” Spare me the talking points!
By “worth reading,” I mean I think that people would benefit from reading the book. “Benefit” is vague, which is kind of the point: Reading is an intensely personal experience, so I can’t tell you how you will be better off having read a book—only that you’ll be better off than having read yet another derivative crime novel.
Enough throat-clearing, some recommendations:
“Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World” by David Brion Davis.
If you haven’t read Davis’s masterwork, you don’t understand American history. You also don’t understand that Christianity has been a two-edged sword as a cultural force in the West.
“What Hath God Wrought” by Daniel Walker Howe.
I’m going to go ahead and recommend that you buy and read the entire Oxford History of the United States. Howe’s volume is the single best work of American history I have ever read. If you want to understand why America looks and feels the way it does, start here. If you don’t get why that is a good thing, please don’t tell me.
Now for something completely unexpected: Christian science fiction. Really. The Lamb Among the Stars trilogy is set 12,000 years in the future. Humanity has colonized worlds as far as 300 light years from Earth. Actually, “colonized” isn’t quite the right word. Before setting foot on these worlds, it first terraformed them.
There’s faster-than-light travel via “gates” a la “Babylon 5.” But no aliens. The society of 13888 A.D. is remarkably egalitarian, non-materialistic, and peaceful. That’s because sometime around the turn of the 22nd century, in what the book calls “the Great Intervention,” evil was restrained in a decisive way.
If that sounds, well, millennial to you, you’re not alone. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I’ll add two things. Actually, three. One, “restrained” isn’t synonymous with “eliminated.” Two, the book only occasionally rings a preachy note. Three, I wish that millions of Christians had read this instead of the “Left Behind” series.
“Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond and “The Signal and The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t” by Nate Silver.
When I shake my head or make faces when reading or hearing something, more often than not the issue is not that I disagree but, rather, that I suspect that the person cannot know what he or she claims to know. What’s more, I’m also pretty sure that the person doesn’t know that they don’t know what they don’t know.
These two books are a tonic for my frustrated soul. They, in very different ways, reinforce the need for epistemological humility. Diamond’s tome, notwithstanding his occasional lapse into a kind of geographical determinism, is a bracing antidote to the kind of cultural triumphalism that many worldview types traffic in, e.g., “Christianity is true because it produced Western Civilization—except of course all the horrid bits which were totally not Christianity’s fault—and Western Civilization totally rules.”
If more people read Silver, there might less rushing to judgment on the Internet 30 seconds after “something” happens. It’s either read this book or enforce Deuteronomy 18:22.
T. M. Moore, General Editor, Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and Worldview Church; Dean of the Centurions; friend of David Carlson
"History and the Human Condition" by John Lukacs
Perhaps the last book by the great historian, this collection of essays and reviews highlights important historical developments over the last generation. The final chapter is an extended and melancholic meditation on the state of things in our culture, including the condition of Christian faith.
"Loving to Know: Covenant Epistemology" by Esther Lightcap Meek
Meek offers a helpful overview of the process of knowing, and demonstrates in everyday ways how dependent human beings are on knowing, and how gracious God is in enabling us to know.
"The Witness of Poetry" by Czeslaw Milosz
The late Polish-American poet shows us how relativism and secularism eroded the value of the arts over the 20th century, and points to truth-based poetry as a way of finding the path that leads to God.
"Confessions" by Augustine of Hippo
Be encouraged that even the most fleshly, worldly, egotistical, lost folks can be won to Christ—and can change the world.
"Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery" by Thomas Owen Clancy and Gilbert Markus
Those ancient Celtic Christians could write, and much of what they wrote was poetry. Good, deep, theological poetry.
Gina Dalfonzo, Editor, BreakPoint Online
“Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me” by Karen Swallow Prior.
Part spiritual autobiography, part literary memoir, and wholly delightful.
“Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture” by Adam S. McHugh
An introverted pastor shows that being a person of faith doesn’t mean one has to be outgoing and gregarious. An important read for introverts (and the extraverts who love them).
“Craving Grace: A Story of Faith, Failure, and My Search for Sweetness” by Lisa Velthouse
The woman who once wrote “Saving My First Kiss” describes how maturity, and a few mistakes, gave her a whole new understanding of God’s grace.
Stan Guthrie, author and BreakPoint contributor
“The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept” by Mark Dever
The companion volume to Dever's “The Message of the Old Testament,” this book devotes one sermon (chapter) to each biblical book. Dever helps us understand not only the main points of each book, but how they fit together, and what difference they should make in our daily lives.
“C. S. Lewis: Images of His World” by Douglas R. Gilbert and Clyde S. Kilby
A coffee-table book with beautiful photos from places where the Oxford don lived, worked, and thought. Lewis wasn't just a great Christian apologist, he was a man situated in, and shaped by, a particular time and place.
“The Church History ABCs” by Stephen J. Nichols and Ned Bustard
If you want your children to understand the great men and women of church history, what they stood for and what they did, have them read this insightful and brightly illustrated volume. And while no one's looking, you could read it yourself!
“The Odyssey” by Homer
The classic tale of one man's quest to get home touches on longings that all of us experience—and which can lead to fruitful gospel conversations about our heavenly home.
Sam Smith, Editor, Worldview Church website
Braun explains how we are not just isolated individuals. Instead, our lives are “woven together with others . . . the choices one person makes affects the lives of others, for good and for bad.” The author makes vivid how our connection with fallen Adam is transformed through being in union with Jesus Christ, making abstract theological concepts easy to grasp.
“A Big Life: Ordinary People Led by an Extraordinary God” by Peter Hone
A narrative of how the Lord transformed a few “ordinary” people and connected them across continents to reach the unevangelized in the 10-40 window. The house-church movement they established, led by indigenous pastors, it now has surpassed 10,000 with 140,000 attending weekly. Endorsed by Chuck Colson and Mike Huckabee.
“Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies)” by James. K. A. Smith
In the second of a three-volume theology of culture, “the author expands and deepens the analysis of cultural liturgies and Christian worship he developed in his well-received “Desiring the Kingdom.” Not light reading, Imagining the Kingdom identifies how we, as people of desire, can be captivated by the glory of God and His unseen Kingdom.
“Risk Is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It” by John Piper
This stand-alone edition is a chapter taken from Piper’s book “Don't Waste Your Life.” Piper teaches that risk opens us up to the possibility of loss or injury, but that living for Christ necessarily involves taking risks in faith, a road that ultimately leads to fullness of joy, the glory of God, and the good of others.
“The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters” by Albert Mohler
What the church needs today are spiritual leaders that really do lead. Mohler lays out the strategic significance of “transferring of conviction to others, affecting their actions, motivations, intuition, and commitment. This practical guide walks the reader through what a leader needs to know.
Sam Dye, Vice-President, Prison Fellowship
“What's So Amazing About Grace” by Phillip Yancey
The best book on grace I have ever read. Practical, down to earth, this book impacted me. I read it again and again.
Best book I have read this year. The key topic is disciple-making. I really liked the concept of "discipling to conversion." Very practical.
“The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief” by Larry Alex Taunton
The book that is personal for me because I have three adopted children from Ukraine. One Amazon reviewer said it better than I can: "The Grace Effect by Larry Taunton is the story of one family’s journey to adopt a little girl from Ukraine. While this may not sound terribly appealing at first, you must realize the underlying theme, that is to reveal the effects of the near eradication of Christianity on one society.“
“The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet” by Father Thomas Dubay
This is a book I come back to read every so often. An excellent work that delivers a compelling argument for the power of beauty as a primary evidence of the existence of truth, made evident in the handiwork of the Lord at every level of the created order.
A personal favorite, since I am very introverted person living in an extroverted world. Good observations about why it is great being an introvert!
Kim Moreland, Managing Editor, Colson Center; Research Associate, BreakPoint
"Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers," by Dr. John J. Ross
Many times, authors inject certain personal trauma and tragedies antidotes into their writing, as is the case with six famous authors whom John Ross brings to life in this joint biography. Ross writes from an evolutionary biology perspective, and obviously knows both literature and medicine.
Novels of P. G. Wodehouse on audio. I’ve mentioned my enjoyment of P. G. Wodehouse novels on BreakPoint Blog before, but I’m mentioning him again because my appreciation has deepened since listening to them on audio book read by actor Jonathan Cecil. Cecil adds a certain je nais se quoi to Wodehouse’s work through his own gifted performance. Listen and laugh.
“Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind” by Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia is a virtuous southern lady of a certain age. After having been duped and unloved by her husband, the newly departed Wesley Lloyd Springer, Miss Julia blossoms and begins to confront legalism in her church and vice elsewhere. Ann B. Ross has a great ability to develop believable characters. I started the series out of order, but have been able to follow the book. So far, the series has been a hoot and a holler.
Ben Booker, BreakPoint Editorial Intern
“The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis
A profound but concise read on the four different loves: Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity. Lewis uses his sharp wit and easily accessible metaphors to illustrate the characteristics, benefits, and potential pitfalls of these types of loves. A good guide for those who are trying to decipher what is the proper way to love those in their life.
“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Examining both the decision to enact murder and the subsequent consequences visited on the murderer, this book is a compelling read. It is an epic psychological drama taut with tension and rich with incredible characters that bring to bear different perspectives on the struggles of human existence. Not just entertaining, it also provides an intense look at the consequences of sin, and the need for and power of redemption in a person's life.
“Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes
Considered one of the first Western novels, Don Quixote is a towering epic featuring the memorable characters of Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panzo. It follows Don Quixote, a crazed noble who believes he is a knight of old, and Sancho, his poorer, more pragmatic counterpart, as they embark on adventures to fulfill Don Quixote's dream of becoming a knightly hero of old. “Don Quixote” is a hilarious tale as it documents the mishaps of these two unlikely adventurers, while also highlighting the beauty of life and the importance of passion.
“The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller
If you have ever had questions about where the evidence is for God's existence, and why Christianity is logically sound, this is the book for you. Keller examines the philosophical, psychological, spiritual and, to some degree, scientific evidence that supports the conclusion that there is a God. Furthermore, Keller reveals how this evidence points to Christianity as the only truly logical conclusion to life's big questions. Informative without being dry, this book will help confront any intellectual doubts in your mind about Christianity and will help you answer people's questions about Christianity's rational basis.
“The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris
This is the first book in Morris's trilogy on the 26th U.S. President. This book details the formative years before he assumed the presidency. During that time, Roosevelt was a botanist, dentist, cattle rancher, state assemblyman, governor, author, assistant secretary of the Navy, police commissioner, colonel, and much more. Roosevelt was a remarkably versatile, high-energy man and his life was a whirlwind of activity. His life is an exciting read, and in Edmund Morris's capable hands (it won the Pulitzer Prize in biography), it becomes a memorable look at one of the most influential men in American history.
Shane Morris, Web Manage, BreakPoint and Colson Center
"The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller
Keller has not just thrown together another laundry list of evidences for the existence of God. He’s penned an incisive and sometimes startling page-turner that challenges the reader to search his or her own heart and understand the rationale behind assumptions that underlie everything we do and say. This one goes down with “Mere Christianity” as a true apologetic masterpiece.
Being eclipsed by Narnia isn’t such a shame—that is, unless you’re better than Narnia. In the case of the too-little-talked-about Cosmic Trilogy (usually called “The Space Trilogy,” in America), C. S. Lewis’ brilliance as a fiction author reaches what I consider a pinnacle. There are very few works of science fiction with the power to completely reprogram what you know about your world in way that’s both alien yet tantalizingly familiar to the mind and heart. Lewis here does both in a way that will make you laugh, set your scalp tingling and have you looking up from the page every few minutes exclaiming, “Yes, course. It was always like this!”
"Paradise Lost" by John Milton
This old poem is one of those works that these days gets talked about a lot but seldom actually read. That’s a pity, because if I may borrow a modern cliché, it’s one of the most epic experiences you’ll ever enjoy. Forget going to see the latest superhero movie. Milton’s delicious, lyrical masterpiece offers an action-adventure of celestial proportions, using a surreally muscular vocabulary to retell the story of evil and the Fall of man from Satan’s point of view. Few books have given me as clear a glimpse into the mind of Hell as this, or startled me as much by how deeply I can sympathize. But neither has any book offered me such a glorious depiction of the grand narrative of history, or of God’s absolute control over all.
"Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe
We’ve all seen and read adaptations and abridged versions of this classic, but all of these fall well short of the original. Defoe basically founded the archetype of a man stranded on a desert island, but his original still surpasses all the imitations. That’s because this book isn’t primarily about how a resourceful fellow survives a harrowing ordeal, but about one man’s journey from agnosticism to robust Christian faith. Readers will find themselves growing fuller with life and more dependent upon God right alongside Crusoe. You’ll never think of an old, tattered Bible the same way, either. Great companion for the beach!
"The Law" by Frédéric Bastiat
A very little book with a paradigm-changing message. In the midst of political turmoil and soul-searching among members of both political parties about the role of government, Bastiat administers a bracing antidote to what he sees as institutionalized theft and envy in most of the world’s states. He offers instead a common-sense yet revolutionary alternative both to business-as-usual bureaucracy and utopian reorganizations of society by central planners. “Try liberty,” he dares us. We ought to take him seriously.
David Carlson, Editor, BreakPoint
“The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis
C’mon. Haven’t you read this classic yet? If not, now’s the time. If you have, it’s time to re-read it. Letters from a senior demon to his lesser demon pupil. Brilliant insights into temptation, sin, and the reality of evil—and the truth that God is greater than them all.
“Summer of ’49: The Yankees and the Red Sox in Postwar in America” by David Halberstam
This is the best baseball book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of them. Halberstam won fame as a journalist during the Vietnam War, but he is a brilliant historian of baseball. “The Summer of ’49” is about the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox, Joe DiMaggio vs. Ted Williams—and why the Yankees triumphed (Boo. Or, yay, if you prefer). A page-turner. Please note: As Halberstam reported actual conversations by the players, the book does contain profanity.
“Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose
Since I’m into superlatives, this is, despite what Roberto Rivera writes above, the best American history book I’ve ever read. Ambrose is such a gifted storyteller, and he brings the Lewis and Clark expedition to life. This isn’t a book of facts and dates and a linear re-telling of events. It’s a story, and a great one, filled with Indians, grizzly bears, trials, and tribulations. The stars of the book are Merriweather Lewis and Thomas Jefferson. I couldn’t put it down once I started.
“The Third Reich in Power” by Richard Evans
A gripping, chilling account of how evil can overwhelm an entire nation.
Image courtesy of 360Solutions.