Our Summer Reading List

Reading Time: 6 mins

Some of our 1517 staff members have shared what they are looking forward to reading in the coming months below. If you’re looking for titles to fill your own summer reading list, we hope this list is a helpful resource.

Sam Leanza Ortiz, 1517 Publishing

Inferno by Dante Alighieri

In college, excerpts of this classic were required reading, but I never got around to reading the whole work. A few years after graduation, I went to Florence, and Dante and his work seemed to be such a significant part of the city's past and present –– so much so that I promised myself I'd read the entire Divine Comedy before I went back so I could more fully appreciate that wonderful place. With travel opening back up, I'm hoping to go back in the next year or two, so I need to get reading!

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us by Joseph J. Ellis

Each year around the Fourth of July, I tend to read a book on the founding era to commemorate and contextualize America's independence. In a year where our political and social climate feels more divisive than ever, I look forward to Ellis's conversational approach to the history behind America's enduring controversies.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund

I don't know if it's the circles I travel in, or what, but I feel like I'm one of the last people I know to read this book. What's taken me so long? I'm just finishing it as I head into summer, and I'm glad to have read it. Ortlund's work presents Christ as an ever present person who cares for us amidst our troubles and toils, never growing tired or annoyed at our failures in the flesh. This truth is all too easy to forget amidst the anxieties of life, and Ortlund's reminders, bolstered by Scripture and the works of Purtian devotional writers, are a balm to a weary soul. I was deeply encouraged by this little gem of a book.

Chad Bird, 1517 Scholar in Residence

With God in Russia: The Inspiring Classic Account of a Catholic Priest's Twenty-three Years in Soviet Prisons and Labor Camps
by Walter J. Ciszek (HarperOne, 2017)

This Jesuit priest spent fifteen years in a Soviet Gulag, secretly bearing witness to Christ, before his release in 1963. Here is faithful vocation in the midst of severe tribulation.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution
by Carl Trueman (Crossway, 2020)

About once annually, I study a book that is an analysis of modern culture. A kind of how-we-got-to-where-we-are type book.

On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen (Eerdmans, 2006)

Kitchen is a renowned Egyptologist and expert in the ancient Near East. His maximalist view of the historicity of the Old Testament is rigorous, highly detailed, and often delightfully humorous.

Bob Hiller, Craft of Preaching Editor

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (W.W. Norton & Company, 2020)

This book has been in my “to-read” pile for a few years now. I am increasingly becoming a Luddite at heart while at the same time growing more addicted to the wonders of the internet. In a very Romans 7 sort of way, the technology I want to avoid, I find myself using all the more! Perhaps Carr’s book will rescue me from this habit? If nothing else, I’m interested to learn more about the impact these forms of media are having on our brains individually and as a society.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (Penguin Classics; Reissue Edition, 2003)

Every summer, I commit to either a fiction series or a larger work of fiction just for fun. Last year, I read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy (which was great, but I don’t think I’d classify them as “fun”). This year I’m going to revisit one of my favorite novels of all time. Last time I finished this 1200+ page book, I was left wishing it was longer! I’m looking forward to revisiting this old friend.

Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Ministry by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans, 1992)

Literature on pastoral ministry is littered with “how-to” manuals based on the latest marketing techniques, all promising to guide today’s pastor towards more effective ministry. The sainted Eugene Peterson was one pastor willing to call a thing what it is and expose the vacuous nature of these cheap (or is it overpriced?) business model knock-offs that have no place in Christ’s church. He’s not so much concerned with forming “effective” pastoral leaders as he is forming faithful shepherds with God’s Word. Peterson has become an important guide for me in my ministry and it has been far too long since I worked through one of his books. I’ll gladly reverse the trend this summer!

Scott Keith, 1517 Executive Director

The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther (Baker Academic, 2012)

This is Luther's great work and a key to understanding the gospel, maybe even the key to understanding why we at 1517 are so locked onto keeping the main thing (the proclamation of the gospel of Christ Jesus), the main thing. I try to read this yearly and have failed the last couple years. This summer I hope to read it with a friend while listening to Steve Paulson's explanation in the Outlaw God podcast.

Deep River by Karl Marlantes (Grove Press, 2020)

I like Scandanavian fiction literature, and since I cannot find any more books translated into English by my favorite Norwegain author, Lars Mitting, I thought I'd give this one a try. It is about Finnish immigrants in the logging industry in the Northwest. It was recommended to Jim Nestingen by his son who is a professor of Scandanavian Literature. Jim in turn recommended it to me and I have high hopes for it.

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston (Random House, 2008)

A popular-level historical account of the people who first explored the canopies of the great California redwoods using rock climbing techniques and equipment. This was given to me by my colleague, David Rufner. We often trade books similar to this having to do with exploration and the outdoors.

Kelsi Klembara, 1517 Editor

Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life by Gerhard Forde (Wipf & Stock, 2012)

I’m finishing up this work by Forde. Like all of the well-known Lutheran theologian’s writings, although short, it packs a punch. Forde’s focus here is on how Paul’s use of the life and death metaphor is central to the Christian’s understanding of justification, and therefore, the Christian’s understanding of sanctification as well. Living, we die, and dying, we live, he says.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, 2021)

When I read Bel Canto in high school, Patchett blew my mind with her textured storytelling and intricate scene and character building. She is a master craftswoman when it comes to narrative prose. I need more fiction in my life and so I am looking forward to picking up her newest novel, The Dutch House, which, unsurprisingly, I’ve heard nothing but singing praise for since it was published earlier this year.

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Folks, even as I write this I have my doubts I can plunge my way through this tomb of a book by summer’s end (I am, unfortunately, a very slow reader). And yet I feel like I must make an effort to tackle Taylor’s important documentation of our current era because it’s quoted and cited too often in my circles to ignore it. While I have read chunks of A Secular Age before, I’m excited by the challenge to give it a thorough reading from beginning to end – but ask me how I feel in August.

Dan van Voorhis, 1517 Scholar in Residence

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden (IVP Academic, 2010)

As the host of the Christian History Almanac, I have the pleasure of reading history and historical theology more than I ever had. The more I do the show, the more I am reminded of just how big the church is. Africa was at the center of the Christian world in the first centuries of the church and the church’s center of gravity seems to be shifting back in that direction.

Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri (Levine Querido, 2020)

My wife is a librarian and thus reads more than most. And because she works at an elementary school, she is particularly up-to-date on young adult fiction. Of all the books she has read, this true story of an Iranian refugee in Oklahoma has struck her the most and she encouraged me to read it.

Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff (Ecco, 2021)

The host of the Soul of Christianity (season 4 coming later this year!), Debi Winrich wrote me a text that explained this book as a mash up between the movie, Stand By Me, and Tom Sawyer. The book came recommended by author Nicholas Butler who was a guest on season 2 of the Soul of Christianity and is the author of Little Faith, one of my favorite books of the past couple of years.

Daniel Emery Price, 1517 Director of Content

Adirondack Mountain Mystery by Margaret Goff Clark (Funk & Wagnalls, 1966)

It was pre-teen mystery novels that made me start writing. At 12, I was certain that I was going to write the next great young adult mystery series. This was one of my favorite books as a kid. I’ve probably read it 10 times but it has been 25 years since I owned it. I was recently able to find a copy online and quickly ordered it. It will be read in a single afternoon the day it arrives in my mailbox.

Luther's Outlaw God: Volume 3: Sacraments and God's Attack on the Promise by Steven Paulson (Lutheran Quarterly Books, 2021)

This is the third and final volume in Steven Paulson’s Luther’s Outlaw God series. The first two books are fantastic, and I am very much looking forward to reading Paulson’s conclusion to the trilogy. If you are interested in the theology of Martin Luther, these books are a must read.

Fair Sunshine: Character Studies of the Scottish Covenanters by Jock Purves (Banner of Truth; revised edition, 2003)

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. It was recommended and given to me by a friend and this is the year I get to tell him that I read it. This book tells the stories of 13 Scottish Covenanters under intense persecution between the years 1560 and 1688.