The Memorial Day celebrations have ended. That means it’s time for a new summer reading list!
The books on this year’s list run contrary to popular headlines, which daily magnify the real and growing division Americans encounter in all corners of our culture.
The truth is, we have a trust issue. Confidence in the nation’s leading societal institutions has been waning for decades. According to a Gallup survey, between 1998 and 2018, government, education, the media, and big business all have received persistently low confidence ratings.
The church in particular has succumbed to this trend. In 1998, nearly 60% of respondents said they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion. By 2018, that number plunged to 38%.
In this climate, it is getting harder to discern what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. The works profiled on this year’s summer reading list draw us back to that path, not to dismiss our current challenges, but to confront them head on. These books remind us much remains in our culture that is worthy of our trust and deserving of our nurture.
So pull up a beach chair, slap on some suntan lotion, and let’s start reading. Here’s the list!
All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson
Daily, we encounter so many decisions. How do we sort out the right ones and avoid the wrong ones? Where do we find the wisdom to recognize harmful choices and pick the good path? What sort of barometer can we count on to measure our steps? Anderson’s whimsical unpacking of Philippians 4:8 helps us appreciate and cultivate the skill of discernment. All That’s Good does not instruct us to simply avoid the evil in life or foolishly pretend it does not exist. It encourages us to recognize and develop a taste for what is good. Thus, having cultivated our taste buds, we might enjoy life abundantly and thrive even in the brokenness.
On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior
Great books teach us how to think, not what to think. We learn much about moral character from literary characters. Author and award-winning English professor Karen Swallow Prior takes us on a journey of great works in literature, that we might understand better our own circumstances but also that we might experience the delicious joy of reading a story well crafted. She selects a collection of authors — from Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy to Jane Austin and Edith Wharton — to explore the central virtues of human thought. Tom Jones, for example, offers comical life lessons of how prudence can balance perfectionism. And Huck Finn helps us see how mob rule is the antithesis of true courage. With a back-of-the-book discussion guide, On Reading Well makes a great book-club selection.
The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks
In his latest release, bestselling author and New York Times columnist David Brooks reflects on what brings meaning and purpose to a life well lived — where the joy is found. He concludes it is found not in self, as is commonly understood, but in the interdependence of community. In The Second Mountain, Brooks argues that decades of hyper-individualism have torn society to shreds, leading to social isolation, distrust, polarization, the breakdown of the family, and loss of community. In truth, we are designed for relationship, not at the expense of self, but as the full expression of it. Our best lives, says Brooks, come wrapped in the practical commitments we make and faithfully keep — commitments to work, family, philosophy/faith, and community.
On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer by Antonin Scalia
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pondered faith deeply. His own Catholic faith informed his personal worldview. His conviction in the founding principle of religious freedom, often animated his decisions as a judge. “This religious tradition of ours has consistently affirmed a national belief in God — but not a national belief in a particular religion. That has been a key distinction,” he writes in one of the speeches showcased in this short volume. The collection includes some of Scalia’s most notable speeches, opinions, and reflections on faith and its role in the public square. As well, the book includes essays, letters, and recollections from those who knew him well. Compiled and co-edited by Scalia’s youngest son, Christopher J. Scalia, and Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, On Faith reveals the vigor with which Justice Scalia defended faith and religion for future generations.
Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise
Because what’s a summer reading list without one excellent biography? You may know Gary Sinise for his television roles as Jack Garrett on Criminal Minds or Mac Taylor on CSI. Chances are you recognize him best from his signature role as Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan Taylor in the Oscar-winning Best Picture “Forrest Gump.” This role re-affirmed an enduring connection between Sinise and military servicemembers. In 2011, expanding on his personal outreach efforts, Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders and their families. Read Gary’s story about his journey from self to service, and how he found his calling raising up those who defend our country and its freedoms.
Watch this video to learn more about the important work of the Gary Sinise Foundation: