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Annual Summer Reading List

Each year around this time I offer ten titles - in no particular order – from the previous twelve months for your summer reading consideration, with an emphasis on issues related to church and culture.
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter. One of the more significant books to be published on the interplay between church and culture. Simply required reading for all interested in such things. Click here to view a Church & Culture blog post on the book.
What the Dog Saw…and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell. Seldom does a top ten list of mine come out that fails to mention a new book by Gladwell, if it is available. From the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers comes his best writing from The New Yorker.
Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell. As the book flap says, “this is a story of how intellectuals as a class affect modern societies by shaping the climate of opinion in which official policies develop on issues ranging from economics to law to war and peace. But the thesis is what intrigues - while intellectuals have greater influence than previous eras, it has not been by shaping the opinions or directing the actions of the holders of power….but by shaping public opinion in ways that affect the actions of power holders…whether or not those power holders accept the vision favored by the intellectuals.” Sowell’s work is an interesting read, particularly alongside Hunter.
The Book that Changed Europe: Picart and Bernard’s Religious Ceremonies of the World by Lynn Hunt, Margaret C. Jacob and Wijnand Mijnhardt. “The French Protestant refugees in the eighteenth-century Amsterdam gave the world an extraordinary work that intrigued and outraged readers across Europe. Titled The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World, appearing in the first of seven folio volumes in 1723, religion was put in comparative perspective. Despite condemnation by the Catholic Church, the work was a resounding success.” All to say, here is the work that “shaped the development of a modern, secular understanding of religion.”
Sin: A History by Gary A. Anderson. Rightly fingering “sin” as the “heart of the biblical tradition,” Anderson walks through 2,000 years of history and shows how sin has become, over time, merely an economic metaphor. This is, however, a ridiculous reduction of a very weighty and time-traveling book that deserves to be read and measured.
God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World – and Why Their Differences Matter by Stephen Prothero. The author first burst on to the scene with his book Religious Literacy (click here to read the Church & Culture post). Intriguingly, Prothero’s thesis is against the pop pluralism of the day – that all the religions are the same, and all roads lead to God. Disappointingly, Prothero points to Islam as the religion of the future, but for reasons that any Christian will find challenging and helpful.
Deep Church: A Third Way beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher. Borrowing from C.S. Lewis’ description of the body of believers committed to “mere Christianity” as “deep church,” Belcher offers a vision of a missional church committed to both tradition and culture.
The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Churchby John L. Allen, Jr. Simply put, this is one of the world’s foremost journalists offering an unexpected and provocative look at where the Catholic Church is headed – and what the changes will mean for all of us.
God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible, ed. by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister. The book is a solid and engaging counter to the “new” atheists on the scene, such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, featuring essays by Alister McGrath, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas, Mark Mittelberg, and John Polkinghorne.
The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer. In the second installment of her history of the world, following The History of the Ancient World, Bauer continues her amazing grasp of the big picture and pens a volume that offers enormous promise for the entire series.
James Emery White
Bonus Suggestion (from the “Shameless Commerce Division”):
Just released:
Christ Among the Dragons by James Emery White (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010).

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