What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

June 21, 2016

Summer reading lists sometimes lean toward lighter beach reads. But books with some weight—emotional, spiritual or literary substance—can be a good choice when you’re packing your beach bag, too. Here are some suggestions for your summer reading list—fiction and non-fiction—from First Pres clergy.

From Erika Funk: 

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyles – I return to this memoir again and again. Boyle came to the barrios of Los Angeles 20 years ago as a Jesuit priest hoping to bring peace between the gangs. Realizing that lack of jobs was the real issue, he founded Homeboy Industries, an economic development and jobs program for at-risk and gang-involved youth. Each chapter is a compelling and often sorrowful story, easy to read, but impossible to forget. Each time I read it compassion is made flesh and I am encouraged for what is possible.

Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann – Brueggemann never disappoints and his book of prayers is challenging, hopeful and biblically based. I have used it countless times for group devotions, staff training and personal prayer.  It always lands on a shelf not far from my desk or bedside.

Designer Living: What Happens When the Real You Meets the Real God by Susan Sutton – On my “to read” list is this book handed to me by the author’s sister in law, a member of FPC. The author and her husband are missionaries with WEC International in Singapore. FPC has supported their work for many years and they will be speaking here in January for Global Mission month.

Race in a Post-Obama America: The Church Responds – The list of contributors to this book made me want to read this book, which is also on my “to read” list. Writers, pastors and faithful activists share their thoughts on the church’s role in discussing and dismantling racism in America.

From Katelyn Gordon:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – A friend lent this book to me a few summers ago, and I doubted her recommendation for the first half of the book because it moved slowly. By the end, I was convinced. This is an adventure story for adults and raises questions about what motivates us, the people who are in our lives for a season, and how we reconcile ourselves to those things in our lives that are beyond our control.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – One of my top five favorite novels of all time. John Wheelwright tells the story of growing up in small town New Hampshire in the 1950s with his best friend Owen Meany, who believes himself to be an instrument of God. The book has serious themes, but Irving approaches them with humor and wit. I love how Irving tackles questions of faith, the complexity of relationships, and the beauty of people who are broken (which is all of us in one way or another!).

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor – My go-to book when I’m feeling stuck spiritually. BBT (as I affectionately call her) describes spiritual practices that most of us are familiar with, but she gives her reader a new framework for understanding them and practicing them in their own lives. Her chapter on prayer—particularly her paragraphs about struggling with prayer—has been especially helpful for me.

From Katherine Kerr:

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman – This is a surprisingly charming novel about a curmudgeonly Swedish widower named Ove. Despite his best efforts to shut out the outside world and do things his way (which he knows is the right way), Ove finds himself surrounded by people who might actually be friends. This is an easy to read, entertaining and inspiring novel that reminds us all of the power of community.

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans – This faith memoir is a beautifully written, honest account of Evans’ experiences in a wide range of church communities.  From her childhood in a southern Evangelical church to participation in a small church plant, years away from the church and eventually finding a home in a mainline protestant denomination, Evans chronicles her journey to find her place in Christ’s church with candor and humor.

From Pen Peery:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo – A work of non-fiction that tells the story of a world we never see. It’s a bracing look at the thorny issues around globalization in the new city of Mumbai (that sits on the old city of Bombay).

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit (2015) – I read this after our trip to Israel/Palestine this spring and it is an honest view of the complex history of how the nation of Israel came to be.

Christianity After Religion, by Diana Butler Bass (2013) – A compelling and hopeful look into the seismic change that is effecting the church in America. This book has a lot to say to FPC Charlotte and how we might be called by God to embrace our neighbors who are “spiritual but not religious.” I have used this book with the West Campus Visioning Committee.

How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, by James K. A. Smith (2014) – Written in response to Charles Taylor’s 2007 book A Secular Age, this book is on my list per a recommendation from two of my colleagues.

Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, by Ebo Patel (2013) – I read this book as a part of my Doctor of Ministry project. Written by a young Muslim American, the book calls upon “our better angels” and calls our country to embrace the promise of a pluralistic future.