Summer is officially here and that means it’s time to dust off those reading glasses, dig out your library card, and get lost in a book.  

You hear him quote from books on stage all the time; our resident reader and lead pastor shares his book recommendations for the summer. 

Spiritual Rhythm – Mark Buchanan

Mitchel’s take: I’m interested in this book because it is a fresh take on spiritual disciplines. Aside from being an engaging writer, Buchanan calls us to look to different disciplines that correspond to the seasons of our soul. Just like there are things we only do in winter (like buying all the milk, bread, and toilet paper with the prediction of heavy snow), so there are practices we can engage in the winter of our souls. 

Summary: ‘Abide in me,’ Jesus tells us, ‘and you will bear much fruit.’ Yet too often we forget that fruit needs different seasons in order to grow. We measure our spiritual maturity by how much we do rather than how we are responding to our current spiritual season. In Spiritual Rhythm, Mark Buchanan replaces our spirituality of busyness with a spirituality of abiding.

On Reading Well – Karen Swallow Prior

Mitchel’s take: I’m reading this book with a group of younger guys as we look at what is virtue. I am grateful for KSP’s guidance in learning about the virtues from classic literature. I don’t have a lot of exposure to the classics, so any help I can get is appreciated.  

Summary: Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes us on a guided tour through works of great literature, helping us learn to love life, literature, and God through our encounters with great writing.

The Second Mountain – David Brooks 

Mitchel’s take: Brooks has become one of my favorite modern social commentators. You’ve probably heard me quote his previous book, The Road To Character. I’ve found myself giving copies of this book to lots of guys in my circles because it’s such an insightful critique of our hyper-individual, earn-everything-and-achieve-at-all-costs culture. This is a must-read. 

Summary: In The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. Brooks looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed lives, and who have embraced the necessity and beauty of dependence. He gathers their wisdom on how to choose a partner, how to pick a vocation, how to live out a philosophy, and how we can begin to integrate our commitments into one overriding purpose. In short, this book is meant to help us all lead more meaningful lives. 

The Presence of the Kingdom – Jacques Ellul

Mitchel’s take: I’ve heard so much about Ellul from the lectures of Marva Dawn. I was grateful when my friend Kelsey gifted me this book. Ellul seems to have a deep understanding of the kingdom realities and conflicts in the culture we find ourselves in. 

Summary:  In The Presence of the Kingdom, Ellul calls upon Christians to be a radical presence in the world, opposing its will to death with a revolutionary way of life that brings the transforming power of the gospel to bear upon all dimensions of individual as well as collective human existence.

Crossover Preaching – Jared Alcantara

Mitchel’s take: I am reading this book as part of a preaching cohort with area pastors. My friend, Bryan Lorritts, calls this book a must-read textbook for preaching cross-culturally and multi-ethnically. I try to read a book on preaching every year. 

Summary: As society becomes more culturally diverse and globally connected, churches and seminaries are rapidly changing. And as the church changes, preaching must change too. Crossover Preaching proposes a way forward through conversation with the “dean of the nation’s black preachers,” Gardner C. Taylor, senior pastor emeritus of Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.

How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge – Clay Scroggins

Mitchel’s take: Dave Krueger said that Scroggins’ chapter on the Leader’s Identity is one of the best he’s ever read. Enough said.  

Summary: One of the greatest myths of leadership is that you must be in charge in order to lead. Great leaders don’t buy it. Great leaders lead with or without the authority and learn to unleash their influence wherever they are. With practical wisdom and humor, Clay Scroggins will help you nurture your vision and cultivate influence, even when you lack authority in your organization.

Everything Happens for a Reason – Kate Bowler

Mitchel’s take: Marie Celano, our Counseling Ministry Directory, gifted me this book. I’m always looking for ways to expose well-meaning, Christian cliches for what they are. Life is far more complex than we give it credit for. We’ve got to learn ways to really communicate with each other in empathy and love. Bowler has something to teach us about this artform. 

Summary: Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an account she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. Everything Happens for a Reason tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live.

Surprised by Paradox – Jen Pollock Michel

Mitchel’s take: I feel like I’m always using the word “tension”. The Gospel is fraught with beautiful and unimaginable tension. This tension allows us to live in the world as bridge-builders who aren’t on one side or another. Michel calls it paradox. Anybody who’s writing about the tension/paradox is a must-read for me. 

Summary: With signature candor and depth, Jen Pollock Michel helps readers imagine a Christian faith open to mystery. While there are certainties in Christian faith, at the heart of the Christian story is also paradox. Jesus invites us to abandon the polarities of either and or in order to embrace the difficult, wondrous dissonance of and.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

Mitchel’s take: This is just a fun book to widen my own creativity and imagination. 

Summary: Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

Mitchel’s take: A friend said that this book changed his work and life habits. That alone makes it worth reading. While it hasn’t had as strong of an impact on me, I’ll never shop at Target the same way again! 

Summary: At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

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