What I’m Hoping to Read This Summer

Even as we start to get back to something like a pre-COVID normal, this summer I want to do even more of one of my chief pandemic hobbies: reading books. Here’s some of what’s on my reading list for the next three months.


Most of my more academic reading will be devoted to boning up on the history, politics, and ethics of health care — for a new class that I’ll say more about in July or August. But I don’t want to totally neglect non-fiction in my field…

• Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth sounds like an amazing mix of U.S. history, family history, and personal memoir.

• A faculty workshop this week reminded me that I haven’t yet read Ethan Schrum’s history of American higher education after World War II, The Instrumental University.

• It will be over a year until I teach my Cold War class again, but if my experience with The Metaphysical Club was any indication, it might take me that long to get through Louis Menand’s The Free World.


Normally, I hardly ever read novels or short stories. But since last March, I’ve not only revived my love of Sherlock Holmes, but I’ve been working through multiple series of historical novels set before, during, and after World War II.

• After finishing the Bernie Gunther series from the late, great Philip Kerr (here’s an essay I wrote on him last fall), I revisited the novels of Alan Furst, who has never matched the narrative ambition of Night Soldiers (1988) but consistently tells meticulously researched, evocative stories about Europeans struggling to live between the dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin.

• I didn’t like his WWI era Jack McColl books all that much, but I’m excited to see that David Downing just released Wedding Station, a prequel to his Nazi-era series featuring British journalist John Russell and German actress Effi Koenen.

• To branch out just a bit… having found thought-provoking his alternative to traditional Christian apologetics (Unapologetic), I thought it was high time I actually read a novel by the English writer Francis Spufford. His new book, Light Perpetual, imagines how five children in South London might have lived had they survived a German V-2 attack in 1944.


Then I’ve got at least four more overtly Christian books on my summer list:

• I should probably finish her first book first, but Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night seems like timely post-COVID reading.

• I’m planning to review Jeff Bilbro’s reflection on the nature and purpose of news, Reading the Times, for The Anxious Bench after it officially comes out next week.

• It seems like everyone I know is reading or has already finished Winn Collier’s authorized biography of Eugene Peterson, A Burning in My Bones, but this is one bandwagon I’m happy to hop aboard.

• Finally, one of Peterson’s former students, David Taylor, is the author of a new book about the psalms, Open and Unafraid, that was partly inspired by his experience hosting this much-viewed conversation between Peterson and Bono.

Oh, and I’ll be as happy as anyone to get a copy of my spiritual biography of Charles Lindbergh. It’s due out on August 17th.