It’s July, which means we’re in the dead of summer. The days are longer, the temperatures are higher, and if you’re like me, life just takes on a certain, slower rhythm.
With that rhythm, I’ve always found more time to read. Every year I set out to read more, and every year I never read as much as I’d like, but that’s why it’s called a goal, right? In general, I’ve read more in the last five years than I ever thought possible. During Memorial Day weekend last year I read four books. Who am I? I thought.
Considering all that, I thought it would be helpful to provide you with a reading list for the rest of the summer (and into the fall). These are books that I’ve found immensely helpful in my life. Books that I return to even, as you’ll see in the first example. Are there others? Of course. For example, every summer I also read Brad Thor’s latest thriller novel, and I also love psychology-type business books by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Grant. But those tend to be much more taste-specific. For this list, I wanted to focus on books I think are more universal with messages that feed not just our minds but also our souls.
So without further ado, here’s the list. I’ve hyperlinked the titles as well as provided my own short write-up on what I like. I pray it’s helpful.
“The Abolition of Man” by C.S. Lewis
I think this is one of the most important books ever written. We currently live in an era where everything is relative. We don’t have the truth but rather have my truth or your truth. In this rather short book, Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis (the author behind “The Chronicles of Narnia” series), brilliantly shows why moral relativism – and relativism in general – is not only dangerous but also illogical. This book speaks to so many current topics and issues. Ironically, however, it wasn’t written in 2023. It was written in 1943. In other words, you could call it prophetic. We needed it then, and we need it now.
“A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World” by Paul Miller
I don’t think there’s one single work that I came across at such a perfect time in my life than this book. Full confession: I’ve always struggled with prayer. One of my big questions was always, “If God knows everything, then why do I need to pray? Why do I need to ask for things that he already knows will or will not happen?” Paul Miller answers that question and then some. Not only did he help me understand exactly why prayer is important, necessary and helpful, but he also watered my soul in areas I didn’t realize were dry. If you look at my copy, every page has multiple underlines, highlights and notes like, “YES!” This book is about prayer, yes, but it’s about so much more. It’s about our relationship with our creator and how to cultivate that. It’s about slowing down. It’s about investing in what matters. It’s filled with stories and practical tools that, if you’re like me, will change your life. If you read one book on this list, make it this one.
“The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer Christ-Centered Joy” by Andrew M. Davis
Toward the end of last year, all the guys in my church small group met to talk about where we felt we were spiritually, our biggest struggle and how we wanted to address it. Every single person expressed a problem with being content. Contentment at work, contentment in their marriage, contentment with God. Every single one. We knew, then, we needed to work through contentment, but that’s not a topic that’s often talked about. So I set out to do some research. That’s when I found this book. And it has been powerful. In essence, it’s a book about a book. It’s a modern-day examination of an old Puritan preacher named Jeremiah Burroughs, who wrote a book called “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” in 1643. Davis explains, expands and extrapolates on that work, introducing us to practical examples and stories. For people who struggle with contentment and restlessness, this book is a must-read.
“The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer
There are many things that I think keep us distracted and anxious in our modern world, and one of the biggest is hurry. It’s what we call these days “hustle culture.” The constant preaching to do, consume and be more. From social media to big brands, we’re being accosted with messages that propel us towards a frenetic life pace. John Mark Comer understands that all too well. Even as a pastor, he succumbed to it all. That’s why he had to make a drastic decision to reorient his life. This book is a salvo against society’s elevation of worker ant-ism, while also a salve for those who have created deep wounds as a result of busy bee-ism. It’s a reminder to slow down. To stop. To be. And it shows you exactly why you need to do that as well as how you need to do that.
“Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth” by Richard Foster
As I mentioned to start this list, there are some books I return to regularly. This is one of them. Its words never go out of style. Its message is continuously needed. And maybe because we are apt to stray, its guidelines keep us on a meaningful path. This book examines the central spiritual practices of the Christian faith, everything from prayer, to study, to worship. It goes through each one in great detail, explaining why they are necessary and also how to engage in them practically. I first read this book in college and it changed my life in that it became one of the first books that helped me make my faith my own, not the faith of my parents or my upbringing. I return to it regularly, quote it often and think about it frequently. If you haven’t read it, read it. If you’ve already read it, read it again.
“Live Second” – I Am Second Devotional
I think a lot of us are looking for a guide. Maybe we know that studying Jesus is good and necessary, but we just don’t know where to start. That’s what I love about the daily “Live Second” devotional. Packed with 365 readings, prayers, actions steps, it offers the practical tools necessary to get in the daily habit of pursuing Jesus and cultivating a healthy spiritual life. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do every day, and I’ve found it to be a good baseline to help me with my daily faith journey. I recommend starting your day with it and doing it in chorus with other readings.
“Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life” by Jonathon M. Seidl
Is this a shameless plug? No! Yes, this is my book. Yes, I hope you read it. But the reason I’m putting it on the list is based on why I wrote. I struggle with anxiety, OCD and depression. And in navigating those mental health issues, I found a lot of books written by pastors, clinicians and doctors, but I didn’t find many written by people who were on the journey, too – people who were in the fight and could relay their experiences. That’s why I wrote it. I wanted to have a conversation – from traveler to traveler – about what it’s like to be on this road, what it’s like to find and pursue God amidst the difficulties and how to support our mental health both physically and spiritually. So that’s what I did, revealing the 14 truths I’ve learned along the way. (The book was also born out of an article I first wrote right here on this blog!) I’m also excited to have recently released a companion workbook that will help anyone with a mental health struggle go deeper, looking both upward and inward. If you struggle with any of these issues or know someone who does, I think these two books could be extremely helpful. As a bonus, both the book and the workbook include chapters for the loved ones of those who struggle because they can so often feel lost and hopeless as well.
If you end up reading any of these books, let me know your thoughts. And if you have any other suggestions, be sure to share them in the comments.