Reading Time: 5 mins

Our Summer Reading List 2024

Reading Time: 5 mins

Below is a compilation of some of our staff and contributor’s recommended reads for this summer. Let us know if you find a book you love!

Scott Keith, 1517 Executive Director

The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic on Mental Illness  by Jonathan Haidt (2023)

Haidt discusses the ways in which our current obsession with social media may in fact be causing an “anxiety crisis” among America’s youth and young adult population. A must-read for parents navigating the ever-deepening complexities of our digital age. 

Winter Swimming: The Nordic Way Towards a Healthier and Happier Life by Susanna Søberg (2022)

In this book, Danish scientist Susanna Søberg leads the reader step by step into the icy water and explains how contact with cold water all year round can have a significant positive impact on our physical health, confidence and well-being.

Family Unfriendly: How Our Culture Made Raising Kids Much Harder than It Needs to Be by Timothy Carney (2024)

In this book, author Timothy P. Carney leads the reader through the progression of societal “family unfriendliness” that may be contributing to lower birth rates, record rates of anxiety, depression, medication, debts, loneliness and more. Carney encourages the reader to have more kids, have more fun, cancel the travel soccer games, let your kids wander off, and give them deeper sources of meaning than material success.

Bob Hiller, Craft of Preaching Editor

The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson (2024)

I’m a big fan of Erik Larson’s writing, so I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time. The book recounts the days between Lincoln’s election to the presidency and the Confederate’s attack on Fort Sumter. Larson is a master of weaving together a variety of narratives to give a rich and complete picture of the history he’s recounting. Knowing very little about the Civil War, I’m hoping to learn a lot from this one. 

Face to Face: Martin Luther’s View of Reality by Robert Kolb (2024)

Dr. Kolb’s teaching on two kinds of righteousness has given shape to my theological thinking. My generation of graduates from Concordia Seminary St. Louis have the Latin phrases coram deo (before God’s face) and coram mundo (before the world’s face) drilled into our brains. In “Face to Face,” Kolb lays out how the Christian lives in face-to-face relationships in every facet of life. Kolb’s way of doing theology is both profound and pastoral. I always come away enriched by his writing.

Sam Leanza Ortiz, 1517 Publishing Managing Editor

Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age by Robert D. Kaplan (2022)

I was gifted this book a few years ago after devouring a history of Venice’s maritime empire and raving about it to everyone. Adriatic draws on some of the same history as the author ventures from Ravenna, Italy, to Corfu in Greece. Thus far, it is impossible to pigeonhole this book into a single genre. Is it travel writing? Is it a celebration of good literature? Is it historical narrative? A study of geopolitics? Kaplan’s ability to weave these genres together is impressive in his discussion of this fascinating corner of the world.

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend (2021)

This book was heartily recommended on The Rest is History podcast’s excellent series on the fall of the Aztecs in the early sixteenth century. While the Protestant Reformation in Europe is a more familiar subject, it still astounds me to think that this earth-shattering event was unfolding during the very same years, a world away, and so I look forward to understanding this historical moment and its impact more. 

Bruce Hillman, 1517 Scholar in Residence

After Postmodernism: Reconstructing Ideology Critique edited by Herbert W. Simons and Michael Billig. (1996). 

This book, like most of my selections this year, is dated, but the contrast between current understandings of postmodernism and what, at the time, was an emerging sense that it had been surpassed by something else (to which there remains today no agreement) is helpful and fascinating. An interdisciplinary collection of essays, this book analyzes the effect of postmodernism on critical theory, feminist ideology, psychology, cultural studies and empiricism. Particularly, these essays look at the lasting challenge of postmodernism to foundations, political and philosophical, and continue the debate surrounding the nature of truth. A time capsule of academic thought in the late 90s, I hope the book gives me a greater sense of emerging critiques of postmodernity across the spectrum of academic disciplines. 

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings edited by Susanna Heschel (2011). 

Abraham Heschel (1907-1972) was a scholar of Judaism whose writings became very popular with Christians as well as Jews. He served as an official observer to Vatican II and was influential in critiquing the legacy of anti-Semitism in the Roman Catholic Church. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and was a Jewish protestor to the war in Vietnam. But he is perhaps best known for his monumental work, Prophets, which I think is the single best book ever written on the subject. This current book is a collection of his writings. Heschel is witty and poetic. I wish I could construct one sentence like he does, and he seems to do it with ease.

Mao’s People: Sixteen Portraits of Life in Revolutionary China by Michael Frolic (1980).

This book is a collection of first-person testimony from a stratum of Chinese people written shortly after Mao’s death about life during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The book captures an extremely short and important period of China’s history in the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s rule, where China was still poor and somewhat backwater, before its meteoric rise to one of the most powerful countries in the world. The testimonies here are raw, entertaining, and unbelievable. You really get a sense of what life was like before Mao and during his premiership. A gripping look at a conflicting time when a nation rose from centuries of poverty and imperialistic victimization to become the world’s second most powerful nation. 

Adam Francisco, 1517 Director of the Academy and Scholar in Residence

The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory by Abigail Favale (2022)

This relatively short book is a must-read if you are trying to understand the history and ideas that animate transgenderism. This book isn’t just an attempt—and an excellent one at that—to describe what gave birth to the gender craze, though. Dr. Favale also provides a compelling argument for the dignity and sacramentality of male and female bodies and their place in the order of creation. (You can also listen to her Faith and Reason Exchange interview here.)

Rethinking the Dates of the New Testament: The Evidence for Early Composition by Jonathan Bernier (2022)

This is a scholarly monograph, so it might not be for everyone. But it is essential reading if you are interested in the historicity of the New Testament. This is important because, in academic circles, the assumption is that the Gospels (for example) were written late in the first, if not early second century (thus allowing myths and legends to creep in). Christians have long believed otherwise, for the Gospel is not “a cleverly devised myth” (2 Pt. 1:16) and the evidence confirms it. 

Excavating the Evidence for Jesus: The Archeology and History of Christ and the Gospels by Titus Kennedy (2022) 

This book will bring you up to date with all the things archeologists have discovered that repeatedly demonstrate the reliability of the Gospel narratives. It also illuminates the time and places Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead. 

Kelsi Klembara, 1517 Online Content Manager

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (2007)

I was gifted this book and it will be my first Enger novel. Peace Like a River is Enger’s debut novel which he has followed with three subsequent novels, including this year’s publication of I Cheerfully Refuse. Enger is known for his “Christian-fiction,” which in this case, shouldn’t be a turnoff - each of Enger’s books is award-winning and tops bestseller lists. Peace Like a River follows the Land family as they search after the eldest Land son, Davy, who has escaped prison and is on the run. 

The Word of the Cross: Reading Paul by Jonathan Linebaugh (2022)
In this collection of 12 essays, Linebaugh exegetes key Pauline passages as well as offers conversations and comparisons between the apostle, early Jewish texts, and the works of reformers like Thomas Cranmer and Martin Luther. Linebaugh’s goal is to define the heart of Paul’s message as the scandalous and surprising message of grace presented through the cross itself.