Each year at about this time I come across articles in newspapers or magazines recommending books for "summer reading" or "beach reading." The assumption is that the slower pace of summer allows time for more reading, or, at least, more concentrated time to read while one is on vacation. Therefore, a list of possibilities is offered for the serious as well as casual reader.
At the risk of sounding pompous, I thought I might say a word or two about some books I have recently enjoyed and you might find intriguing as well. Admittedly, most of these volumes are non-fiction (and such works may not meet your summer reading criteria), but none of them are ponderous theological tomes for which you will need to keep a dictionary handy. All of them will make you reflect on your life of faith, perhaps in ways you haven't considered before.
If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, both by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. The first volume is a discussion of the authors' belief that no one is ever left out of God's grace - even after death. Of particular interest to me was their re-examination of the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection. The second volume seeks to answer the question of how we should live and relate to one another now if all humanity is going to be in heaven together someday. I found both books to be biblically based and theologically fascinating.
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. The authors claim that since the time of Emperor Constantine the church has felt it must justify its existence to the culture in which it resides. Hauerwas and Willimon say no. The task of the church, they believe, is to be the church and offer no apologies whatsoever. Ever since last fall's election I've found much food for thought in this book.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The lone novel on my list. John Ames is a minister who is dying and wishes to leave some nuggets of wisdom for his young son when he grows into adulthood. He is also the grandson of a Kansas abolitionist preacher who preached with a gun on his hip, and the son of a preacher who took a more pacifist stance. The book is full of beautiful reflections on life in general, and a life of faith in particular.
The Rapture Exposed by Barbara Rossing. If you liked my "No One Left Behind" series of sermons you will enjoy Rossing's book. Though I thought her examination of Revelation is a bit weak, her critique of the Left Behind books is right on target.
On my nightstand next is Jim Wallis' latest book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and Why the Left Doesn't Get It. If you get to this one before I do, let me know what you think.