Books Giving Shape to My Summer

summer books

Around the New Year, I chose the word Shape as a theme for 2014. It’s been a challenging word to embrace, especially over the past couple months. Honestly, if you’d asked me three weeks ago what was shaping my days I would have answered, Scandal and House of Cards. Netflix was a guaranteed way to help the miserable days go by a little faster; I let Olivia Pope handle it.

But once I started to feel a little bit better, I realized how much I missed writing and reading and contemplative quiet; the time came to make a summer reading list.

As I look at what I’ve come up with so far, the first thing I notice is my summer must-reads are much different than what I chose last year. I feel a greater pull this season to listen, with intentionality, to voices different than mine; I’m hungry to be a student of the experiences and studies of others.

A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd:

Brian is an incredible mind, and the way he writes about Jesus and grace pricks all kind of conviction in me; no doubt this book will stir up a lot to think about. The tagline question of the book is, “We know Jesus the Savior, but have we met Jesus, Prince of Peace?”

I used to scoff at the idea of pacifism, and at one time was very much in favor of the death penalty, but during the past couple years I’ve begun to change my mind, in large part because of my Catholic faith. Definitely plan to write more about this in the coming month.

Inventing Hell by Jon M. Sweeney:

I have no idea how Jon busts out so many books; the man is a machine, and each book is SO GOOD. When I heard about this new one, I pre-ordered it within minutes. I started it yesterday and am already halfway through; let me tell you, this is a must-read. I was uttering a ton of Wows and Dannnnnnngs and Sweeney basically takes a match it everything you ever thought you knew about hell and Satan.

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines:

This was another one I planned on reading when it was released. Matthew is of the Reformed tradition, citing men like John Piper as some of his greatest influences, and he has drawn a ton of heat over this book from those who share his tradition. With so much strife among Christians over the issue of marriage equality, and even whether or not gay men and women can be Christians, I look forward to seeing where Matthew’s studies of Scripture took him.

Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu:

You know, people on all sides of culture war debates can say they’re taking their stance out of “love”, whether it is love of God, of people, of scripture or even all of the above. That being the case, Jeff’s book is of particular interest to me, as he details a cross-country journey searching for answers about the love of God, as it relates to him as a gay man.

The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg:

Goldberg is one of my favorite mentors in this thing we call the Writing Life. It’s been a dream of mine to go on one of her writing retreats, so when a book detailing practices she involves on her retreats came out, I snatched it up quickly. She’s the perfect mix of encouragement and kick-your-booty out of complacency, and her prompts are crazy-good.

The Color Master by Aimee Bender:

I’m halfway through this collection of short stories, and I have to say, not one of them has captured me in the way her other stories have. I still very much enjoy her writing style; her themes are striking and provocative, as usual, and yet, it isn’t as compelling as her other works. But, in all fairness, I haven’t finished it so maybe there will be a gem in the latter half.

So what are you planning to read this summer? Also, if you have a few suggestions for must-read novels, please share!