Books to Read This Summer

Posted On June 16, 2021

As summer approaches, many students and professors desire a break for a few weeks from reading. A time to rest their weary eyes and brain. Others, like myself, enjoy using the summer months to read books they might not have had time to read during the academic year. Often, my students will ask whether I have any good recommendations for summer reading. I never turn down the opportunity to recommend good books, so here are a few titles that I will be passing along to any who ask for such recommendations. Some of these are older works. Some are newer works.

Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

In my opinion, this is one of the most important Christian books written in the last ten or twenty years. In this book, Trueman seeks to explain how Western culture reached the point where the sentence, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body,” is now considered to be a meaningful statement. This book should be required reading for every pastor and every person in a leadership position in any form of Christian ministry. I strongly recommend it to every Christian parent and every Christian high schooler as well. It isn’t light reading, but it is important reading.

David Wells, No Place for Truth and God in the Wasteland

In 1993, David Wells published No Place for Truth, and in 1994, he followed with God in the Wasteland. Several other volumes followed, all of which I would recommend, but for those with time for only a few books over the summer, I would recommend reading at least the first two books. Although these books are a few decades old, they remain relevant. Wells puts his finger on the problem with modern American evangelicalism in the first book, and then begins to explain the solution to the problem in the second book.

Stephen C. Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis

While I have not yet completed this book, I’m recommending it because I’ve greatly enjoyed Meyer’s previous books Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt. Lord willing, this new book will be one of the books I will be reading over the summer.

Matthew Barrett, None Greater and Simply Trinity

One of the most serious problems in the contemporary evangelical church is distortion and sometimes even rejection of the classical biblical doctrine of God. Very prominent and popular theologians are redefining and rejecting the biblical attributes of God and seriously distorting biblical Trinitarianism. These two books are a helpful re-introduction to the classical biblical doctrine of God. None Greater examines and explains the attributes of God, and Simply Trinity examines and explains classical Trinitarian theology. For those who are concerned about the contemporary problem but who may not fully understand the issues at stake, these two books are a great starting point.

Guy Waters, J. Nicholas Reid, and John R. Muether, eds. Covenant Theology

When I finally realized that dispensationalism is biblically indefensible and I discovered Reformed theology, I was introduced to the biblical doctrine of the covenants through O. Palmer Robertson’s book The Christ of the Covenants. That book helpfully covers the covenants as they appear throughout Scripture. What I could not find was an equally helpful book explaining the larger biblical-theological themes outlined in Reformed covenant theology. Covenant Theology is the book I have long looked for. It provides a thorough explanation of Reformed covenant theology. The chapters, all written by professors at the various Reformed Theological Seminary campuses, cover covenant theology from biblical, historical, theological, and practical angles. If you’ve ever wondered what traditional covenant theology is, how it developed historically, how it relates to other biblical doctrines, then this is the book you should read.

Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography

I first read Peter Brown’s biography of Augustine well over a decade ago. It remains one of the two or three best biographies I have ever read. Brown’s prose is simply beautiful. I put this book on my summer reading list for those who enjoy biographies. If you are one of those people, try this one. You’ll learn some history, some theology, and you’ll do so while also enjoying some of the best writing you can encounter.

Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

While working on a project last year, I had the opportunity to read a lot of old Puritan works—many for the first time. One of the Puritans I grew to love over that period of time is Thomas Brooks. Banner of Truth published his collected works in a six-volume set. I’d really recommend that because there isn’t a throw-away work in all of those volumes. It’s all grade A. But for those who would like a sampler first, read his best-known work Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. He is a fantastic writer whose passion for Jesus is evident on every page.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

Another Puritan author I grew to appreciate much more than ever before is Richard Sibbes. Banner of Truth also publishes a multi-volume collection of his works, which is well worth buying and reading. But again, because of the cost of those large sets, it may be worth reading one smaller work first. I would recommend Sibbes’s book The Bruised Reed. I think Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s words about this book say it better than I ever could: “I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil. I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as ‘The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ was an unfailing remedy. The Bruised Reed quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged, and healed me.”

C. S. Lewis, The Reading Life

If you have made it this far in this blog post, you may be a bibliophile like me. If you are a bibliophile, you will love this book. The various chapters are culled from a number of other books and essays and offer Lewis’s thought on literature and reading in general. If your only exposure to Lewis has been his fictional work, this is a good introduction to the other side of this brilliant writer.

J. R. R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf

I can’t write a recommended books list without including something by my favorite author of the twentieth century. If you’ve read The Hobbit and/or The Lord of the Rings and have wondered what else you might want to read by Tolkien, I would recommend this little book. It contains his famous essay “On Fairy-stories,” which is a brilliant and insightful explanation of the nature and purpose of fairy tales and fantasy literature. It also contains the poem Mythopoeia, which puts many of the ideas of “On Fairy-stories” into poetic form. The poem also reflects a conversation Tolkien had with his friend C. S. Lewis, a conversation that was instrumental in Lewis’s conversion. Finally, it contains Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle.” The story is a somewhat autobiographical allegory, and if you know anything about how much effort Tolkien put into his literary creation over the course of six decades, this story will hit you in the heart.

Dr. Keith Mathison is professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College.

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