How would you like to help me choose my summer reading?

During semester time, my reading is often confined to the subjects I’m teaching – Old Testament Exegesis, Counseling, Leadership, The Minister & His Ministry. In the summer, though, I try to read a bit more outside the box. I do that partly for my own enjoyment, partly to learn about and be inspired by other people’s lives, but also to stimulate fresh thinking and widen my worldview by reading in areas I don’t usually have much time for. It’s also a great way to get up-to-date sermon illustrations.

Here’s my “cheerful” reading list from last summer, and I’d love it if you could help me put together one for this summer. Below are the books (with their Amazon descriptions) that are topping my list right now. You can help me by choosing the books you think I should read first (you get five votes), and by suggesting other books you think should be on that list. They can be old books or new books, politics, fiction, non-fiction (if you must), biography, theology, history (not too much blood and guts please!).

Once the votes and suggestions are in, I’ll read and review as many as I can over the next couple of months.

And what do you get out of it? Well, apart from the reviews I’ll be posting, hopefully my thinking and writing will be refreshed for your benefit too.

So here’s the list I’ve put together so far – in no particular order. You don’t need to have read the book to vote for it or suggest it. Go on, challenge me. You don’t need to enter your email or anything like that. Just five quick clicks to give me hours of reading pleasure. And hopefully some reading ideas for yourself too!

The Tides of Life: Learning to Lead and Serve as You Navigate the Currents of Life

“Who better to write about leadership than a world-renowned CEO known not only for his business skills but also for his life of faithful integrity? Drawing on decades of executive-level experience running a Fortune 300 company, chairman emeritus and former CEO of ServiceMaster, Bill Pollard, offers insight into what it takes to thrive—both professionally and spiritually—in the high-stakes, high-pressure world of corporate America as well as in the home. Reflecting on life-changing encounters with influential leaders such as Peter Drucker, Warren Buffet, and Billy Graham, Pollard invites readers to learn from his own successes and failures, sharing tips and principles for leading well and pleasing God.”

Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places

“In this captivating travelogue, a veteran missions mobilizer leads readers to experience global Christianity, exploring the faith and lives of Christians living in some of the world’s most perilous countries.”

The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets

Nancy Guthrie’s latest in her wonderful series of Christ-centered Bible studies, this time on the prophetic books.

No Greatness without Goodness: How a Father’s Love Changed a Company and Sparked a Movemen

“Randy Lewis bet his career that he could create an inclusive workplace at one of America’s biggest corporations where people with disabilities could not just succeed, but thrive. No Greatness without Goodness is the powerful story of a corporate executive who, after watching the world through the eyes of his own child with autism, Austin, realized that we all have a greater responsibility to make the world a better place for everyone, including those with disabilities.”

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain

“Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain.”

Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love

“SPECIAL HEART is a deeply touching personal story told through the eyes of a journalist as he faces the most daunting challenge in life – far more frightening than reporting from battlefields, infinitely more momentous than interviewing newsmakers of the day: caring for his critically ill newborn son. Baier reflects on past challenges as he looks forward with hope, chronicling the steps on his path to national prominence as a television anchor, as well as his unexpected journey into the world of pediatric cardiac disease.”

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

“Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.”

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

“Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.”

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

An Invisible Thread is the true story of the bond between a harried sales executive and an eleven-year-old boy who seemed destined for a life of poverty. It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned three decades and brought meaning to an over-scheduled professional and hope to a hungry and desperate boy living on the streets.”

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs

“Find God’s vision for your job. Reclaim God’s vision for your life. Many Christians fall victim to one of two main problems when it comes to work: either they are idle in their work, or they have made an idol of it. Both of these mindsets are deadly misunderstandings of how God intends for us to think about our employment. In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert unpack the powerful ways in which the gospel can transform how we do what we do, releasing us from the cultural pressures of both an all-consuming devotion and a punch-in, punch-out mentality—in order to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ.”

Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships

The four oldest Duggar girls share their hearts and their core beliefs, explaining that it’s all about relationships: with self, with parents, with siblings, with friends, with boys, and with God -their most impor­tant relationship of all.

The Poll

And now for the big vote. You can enter suggestions anonymously by clicking on “Other” in the poll. Or simply leave the titles in the comments. Anyone can see the results – you don’t have to vote – by clicking on results. Thanks for your help!

Reader Suggestions

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans

Rush Revere and the First Patriots: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans

Bright Valley of Love

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World 

A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500

Child of Mine


  • David Murray

    Thanks for all the votes and suggestions. I’ve already started on the list and look forward to sharing the fruits of my reading with you.

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  • Guest

    6 months late (or early), but if you haven’t read the Mitford books by Jan Karon, you owe yourself the treat of those books this summer! Purely fiction, but these books (begin with “At Home in Mitford”) that will make you laugh and cry, are steeped in theology and relationships between the pastor of a church and his parish as well as the entire town. Guaranteed to refresh, amuse, and make you think deeply about the truths we hold dear. Definitely a good summer read :)