Summer reading

I thought it might be helpful to list a few books that I would recommend if you're looking for something to read during your summer holiday.

With all those listed below I have tried to ensure they aren't too heavy: physically or in content. Physically heavy books are difficult to lug around, and nearby impossible to read when lying on one's back in an effort to get an even tan. So the ones I've chosen can be lifted by even the weakest among us. And none are too 'dense' because it's unlikely that your brain will be in that kind of mood. Having said that, the best holidays I've had are when I've been refreshed in my spirit, not just relaxed. So make the most of the opportunity to meet with God without all of the usual rush.

When I don't desire God, by John Piper. We'll start with the book that is probably the heaviest here, and the only one I'm recommending that I haven't read! So not a great start, but let's keep going. Piper's assertion that 'God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him' has had a profound affect on my life and faith. This book is for when living that way is hard: when there is a fight for joy. If you're coming to your holiday weary and joyless, this could be the book for you. It is also available as a free (massive) download.

Incomparable, by Andrew Wilson. Andrew is a friend of mine, and is one of those guys whose intellect seems to radiate out from him without any effort on his part. In putting his brains to work on this book he has produced an amazing blessing: fifty short chapters exploring the character of God as revealed to us in the Bible. One of these a day is enough to get you thinking and worshiping; reading through the whole thing will build a sense of awe and love for our incredible God.

The Father you've been waiting for, by Mark Stibbe. The story of the prodigal son is one of the most famous Jesus told. This book shows us how the parable is really all about the Father, exploring ten aspects of God that Jesus revealed to us. Whether you're a Christian giving your all for God, someone who has turned away, or you have no idea what God is like, this book is a wonderful revelation.

The Master, by John Pollock. The gospels in the Bible are not biography, they're more like news reports. But most people read them as biography and so are confused by what they include and what they leave out. In this book, John Pollock tells the story of Jesus in a manner that we recognise more easily. It's absolutely not a replacement for the gospels, but it is an excellent complement.

Cash: the autobiography, by Johnny Cash. A friend introduced me to the music of Johnny Cash a few years ago and he is the only country singer I like, period. My sister bought me this autobiography and I loved reading it, you really feel like you're in the room with the old man as he reminiscences about an amazing, turbulent life. (By the way, on point of principle I will never read an autobiography with the subtitle 'My autobiography' because you can't write anyone else's but your own, so the 'My' is completely pointless. And yes, I'm a geek.)

Facing the frozen ocean, by Bear Grylls. Grylls has come in for a lot of criticism for misrepresenting some of his adventures on TV, but there is no doubting how wild and dangerous this one was: "the first unassisted crossing of the frozen north Atlantic in an open rigid inflatable boat". Although you know he makes it through alive (how else could he have written it?) the sense of excitement is always there, and it's a great example of teamwork and trust.


The meaning of sport, by Simon Barnes. Barnes is The Times newspaper's chief sports writer and I really enjoying reading him for his wit and intelligence (which are rarely found in the sports pages), although he can rather pretensious. This book collates his observations and reflections from all the major sporting events of 2004 to 2006. It probably won't convert anyone who thinks sport is a waste of time, but for those of us who know that it is sport's very meaninglessness that makes it so enjoyable, this is an enjoyable vindication. (Contains occasional very strong swearing.)

Crime fiction

Dark fire, by C.J. Sansom. This is the second in what is currently a four-part series of novels set in Tudor England, and probably my favourite of the lot. It's a crime thriller but its real distinctive is how realistically it describes life in the time of King Henry VIII. Experienced readers of crime fiction may find it a bit formulaic, but it kept me interested right to the end. I actually find novels quite hard to read because they are so involving and have a different agenda to me, especially ones like this series which subtly sow seeds of doubt about Christianity in general and the church in particular. I haven't read many overtly Christian novels however, so I don't know what I think about them!

The code of the Woosters, by P.G. Wodehouse. This is probably the best of the funniest series of books I've ever read; I defy you to read it without bursting out laughing on at least one occasion. This is a part of Wodehouse's 'Jeeves and Wooster' series: short stories and novels about the adventures a rich, brainless young man and his supremely gifted butler set in the 1920's. Wodehouse only uses a couple of plot ideas but his writing is comic genius: timing, deftness of touch,
what's left unsaid and full-on farce are combined perfectly. They were made into a TV series, but the books are the best. And you can't take a TV and DVD player to the beach now, can you?