Is It Too Early For a Summer Reading List?

Offered as a daydream, as by one who trusts rather than knows that the grading will get done and this impossibly busy academic year will reach its end…

Turner, Brigham YoungJohn Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Harvard UP, 2012)

A big part of my summer reading is simply playing catch up, and I’ve already got a head start on that project, managing to carve out time so far to devour the first hundred pages of John Turner’s acclaimed biography of the Mormon Moses. I’ll have more to say about it, and the genres of biography and hagiography, later this week.

Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne, 2014)

Another from the crew at The Anxious Bench. You’d forgiven for assuming that I’ve already finished the latest from the prolific Jenkins, since I’ve mentioned it here several times and quoted it at our Bethel at War project. (Still a work in progress, by the way, but open this week for a sneak preview before closing for summer fine-tuning.)

Margaret Bendroth, The Spiritual Practice of Remembering (Eerdmans, 2013)
Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church (Eerdmans, 2005)

I’m just over a year away from a sabbatical that I’m hoping to dedicate to two writing projects. One will be a general audience argument for the contemporary relevance of the Pietist ethos. The other, still gestating, will be my contribution to the mini-genre that includes Bendroth’s and Williams’ books: attempts to help ordinary Christians be more attentive to the past.

Hillary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Henry Holt & Co., 2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012)

This feels very much like an “I should know better” choice, given how misleading some of Mantel’s characterizations are. But let’s face it: I interrupted writing this post last night in order to watch the BBC/PBS version of Wolf Hall, found nothing but Mr Selfridge, and was pained to realize that there would be no new episodes in the near future. So I might as well stop whining and just accept the inevitability that my guilty pleasure list has grown by two. (Three when The Mirror and the Light arrives…)

Winner, Wearing GodRick Atkinson, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Henry Holt & Co., 2007) and The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (2013)

I picked up the first volume of Atkinson’s “Liberation Trilogy” for want of a better option in an O’Hare Airport book store. Now properly embarrassed how little I knew about the campaign in North Africa when I taught my World War II course for the first time, I can’t wait to fill in my half-knowledge of the war in Italy and then get Atkinson’s take on the theater I know best.

Lauren Winner, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God (HarperOne, 2015)

What Rachel Marie Stone said, in the most recent Books & Culture: “Winner is exceptionally well-read and unusually gifted with words, and it is precisely these qualities that make credible her caution against assuming the total adequacy of any particular metaphor for the divine.”

John Merriman, Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune (Basic Books, 2014)

I’d say that historians have much to learn about storytelling from journalists like Atkinson, but then there’s John Merriman, whose skills as a teacher translate well to the page. It was terribly disappointing to find that his Dynamite Club is out of print, so I’m hoping that this history of the Paris Commune can take its place on the reading list for my Modern Europe course…


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