Developing a Summer Reading List

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My parents often bought a particular mix of Christmas gifts for my brother and me. There would be:

1. Something fun that we wanted
2. Some clothes that we needed
3. A few supplies for creating new things
4. A resource to nourish our spirituality
5. Stuff for outdoor adventures
6. A book or toy that encouraged us to check out an unfamiliar realm
7. Something scientific
8. A couple of books for hours of solitude

While working up my summer reading list today, I realized that I was automatically finding books that fall into those categories. (My list is pretty nerdy, but I’ll share it with you anyway.)

If you were to choose a book to read in each of these categories, what would you select? What would your kids pick? If your family members decided to spend one week reading on each theme, then invited dinner conversations that revolved around what was being learned, what would you discover together over the next eight weeks?

Just an idea. I’d love to read your lists, if you want to post them below.

—Rebecca

1. Something fun that I want to read: Tremendous Trifles, by Chesterton
2. Something I need to read: a book on the German romantic philosophers (Still deciding on which one, maybe German Idealism by Beiser.)
3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Lyrics by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, early American bluegrass lyrics
4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, by Eugene Peterson
5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Standing by Words, by Wendell Berry
6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Peterson Field Guides
7. Something scientific: Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos, Michio Kaku
8. For times of solitude: Library of Congress: Slave Narratives (These are so moving. Check them out if you’ve never read them before.)

 

Profile photo of Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds teaches Classical Rhetoric and Philosophy of Faith in eastern Tennessee, and is a contributor to the Story Warren website. She’s the author and illustrator of the pediatric series From the Medical Files of Dr. Phineas C. Bones and collaborated with Ron Block as the lyricist for his critcally-acclaimed album, Walking Song. She lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, with her husband and three children.


28 Comments

  1. Chris Yokel

    Here’s my potential summer reading list.

    Something Fun: Any unread Terry Pratchett novel

    Something I Need To Read: The Glass Castle

    Something To Help Me Create: Any Any Dillard

    Spiritual Nourishment: How God Became King by N.T. Wright or Imagining the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith

    Something Outdoorsy: The Last Empty Places by Peter Stark

    Something New: A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

    Something Scientific: In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore

    Solitude: The Outermost House by Henry Beston

  2. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @zpeteman

    Here goes:

    1. Something fun that I want to read: The Streets of Laredo (sequel to Lonesome Dove–which is my new favorite book)

    2. Something I need to read: Whatever my book group picks next week

    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Lots of books of American folklore laying around that are intended for research for a new novel.

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Michael Card’s commentary on Luke

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: The Streets of Laredo – multitasking FTW

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: The Streets of Laredo —because horses

    7. Something scientific: Radiolab — podcasts count, right?

    8. For times of solitude: The Streets of Laredo because multitasking!

    Confession: there’s no way on earth I could read eight books in a summer. I’m just trying to be realistic 🙂

  3. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Hmmmm . . . .

    Something fun: Smith, The Green Ember;
    Something I need to read: Dante, The Divine Comedy;
    Something to help me create: St. Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity;
    Spiritual nourishment: John Stott, The Cross of Christ;
    Something outdoorsy: Berry, The Unsettling of America;
    Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations;
    Something scientific: Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt;
    For times of solitude: St. Maximus the Confessor, On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ.

  4. Laura Brown

    Thanks for asking. Also a draft, subject to change:

    1. Something fun that I want to read: Anne of Green Gables (reading it now). Then “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen” by Mary Norris.

    2. Something I need to read: whatever Chris Yokel assigns in his “Becoming Mindful in Place” writing workshop.

    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: “Centuries” by Joel Brouwer (poems of exactly 100 words each).

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: “Compass of Affection,” collected poems by Scott Cairns, and/or “Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God” by Lauren Winner.

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: “Wild Nights: Nature Returns to the Outdoors” by Anne Matthews.

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: “For the Time Being” by Annie Dillard (might be a stretch for this category, but I’ve had this book for years and I want to finally read it through).

    7. Something scientific: “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” by Francis Collins, because someone asked me to. Also fits in #4.

    8. For times of solitude: “Cape Cod,” Thoreau (also could go in the outdoors category).

  5. Keith Schambach

    1. Something fun that I want to read: The Green Ember- S.D. Smith. I still need to get it.

    2. Something I need to read: Journey to the Fatherless by Lawrence Bergeron

    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I love the old animated movie and have wanted to read this with my kids.

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: How God Became King- N.T. Wright

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Fire by Sebastian Junger. I read it years back and enjoyed it.

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

    7. Something scientific: Pembrick’s Creaturepedia?

    8. For times of solitude: Life in the Son by Robert Shank

  6. Jonny

    I just finished all my current reads and was getting ready to plan my next batch of books, so this post arrived at the perfect time for me! Here’s my wishful thinking for the Summer:

    1. Something fun that I want to read: The Lost Notebook by John Canemaker
    2. Something I need to read: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Seeker by Helena Sorensen
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Before Lewis and Clark by Shirley Christian
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: The Haiku Anthology by Cor van den Heuvel
    7. Something scientific: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
    8. For times of solitude: Empire of Bones by N D Wilson

  7. Laure Hittle

    When the semester ended i threw reason to the wind and immediately compiled a ridiculously long list of books i want to cram in this summer. i wonder how much of that list i can shoehorn into the above categories.

    1. Something fun that i want to read: The Secret Place by Tana French. There isn’t much that’s more fun than soaking in the slow psychological unraveling her murder detectives suffer as they work a case. i am a monster.

    2. Something i need to read: Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer. Jonathan (my husband) assigned it to me. Also, a lot of Hebrew scripture. i’m three weeks into summer and am slacking off already. And one more: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. i’m most of the way through this already. i decided not to put this under #4 because it turns out that Kempis is a flaming dualist misanthrope, but every once in awhile he says something really great and besides, i’m not going to let him win.

    3. If i read this it might help me create new things: Whatever JR assigns in his grammar class. i suspect Flannery O’Connor might make an appearance. Oh, and the Hebrew scripture will help, too, as i am writing a short story in Hebrew (or pretending to).

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Jonathan and i read it aloud together over the course of about four months, so i want to reread it on my own, in something more like a week, and see if i absorb it better. More Hebrew scripture because obviousness.

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Through a Screen Darkly by Jeffrey Overstreet. i want to host film discussions in the library. Also, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Historical fiction isn’t an entirely unfamiliar field, but i think my previous Civil War reading is restricted to Across Five Aprils (read in high school) and Barnabas Bead.

    7. Something scientific: Jonathan also assigned me The Martian by Andy Weir. He just finished reading it. It sounds hilarious.

    8. For times of solitude: Poetry, wherever i can find it. More Hebrew scripture.

    i also want to read Tolkien’s Sigurd and Gudrun (which i’ve started already) and The Fall of Arthur, and i am currently about halfway through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And if i can cram in some Molehill that would be pretty okay too. And Jeffrey Overstreet’s Raven’s Ladder.

    i think i have a problem.

  8. Laure Hittle

    Pete, i selfishly hope that your book club picks The Streets of Laredo so that you can do all that research. Tell them that if they do i’ll make them cookies. #helping

  9. Hannah

    1. Something fun that I want to read: Ready Player One – because Spielberg’s making it, and thus I must read it.

    2. Something I need to read: The Old Curiosity Shop (or, alternatively, another novel with Dickensian sentimentality, or Jane Eyre-esque romance – because I’ve been looking for novels to put on my grandmother’s kindle and those are her favorite genres. Any suggestions?)

    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Knowing God, by J.I. Packer.

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Anne of Green Gables – because there are lots of fields in that book that I have never visited.

    7. Something scientific: Signature in the Cell, by Stephen C. Meyer.

    8. For times of solitude: Silence, by Shusaku Endo.

    That’s what I *should* read.

    What I *will* read? Probably lots of murder mysteries and funny internet articles. Also P.G. Wodehouse.

  10. Jeff Cagwin

    Love this post and comments, gang.

    Deliberately not having a reading list for my summer sabbatical, though read I shall 🙂

    Most looking forward to Walt Wangerin’s brand-new “Everlasting is the Past” … brought to you/me by The Rabbit Room!

    The End.

  11. Jen Rose Yokel

    Well, this is fun. Now I know what to do when I’m staring at the shelf trying to figure out what to read next… hope I remember to come back to this comment! 🙂

    Something Fun: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline / more Discworld

    Something I Need To Read: The Silmarillion by Tolkien so my husband will stop judging me. 😉

    Something To Help Me Create: Lots of poetry. And Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon.

    Spiritual Nourishment: something from the theology shelf I haven’t read yet. Maybe another N. T. Wright or Eugene Peterson book.

    Something Outdoorsy: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

    Something New: An interesting and engaging history book/biography. History was the worst when I was in high school (worse than math!), and I want to redeem those years of boring textbooks and date memorizing. (suggestions welcome!) If I fail to find a history book I can stick with, then JR’s The Terrible Speed of Mercy for a biography.

    Something Scientific: Mindfulness by Ellen Langer

    Solitude: Finish Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being. Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal

  12. Laure Hittle

    Jen, i found Bruce Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language to be a really engaging read. It lives up to its title, and focuses on people—motives and stories—rather than on dates and tedium.

  13. Laura Peterson

    I love this! And everyone’s responses!

    I really need to get through some of the huge piles of books that I own but have not read this summer, and I feel like composing an answer to this list would just make me hunt down more books at the library instead of reading the ones I already own, so I’m not going to do it. 🙂

    But it makes me so happy to think of all of you reading!

  14. Rebecca Reynolds

    These are fun to read, folks. Thanks for your lists! I doubt I’ll get all of mine read, but I love having a big goal, at least. And I love seeing your ideas.

    RR

  15. The One True Stickman

    This is a splendid idea, and one to give a shot at this summer…

    The idea of reading Simon & Dylan’s lyrics is also really appealing to me, as I don’t absorb well aurally – anyone know if these have been published in any form to save me from collecting them from the myriad of competing and mediocre lyrics websites?

    1. Something fun that I want to read: “The Green Ember” seems quite popular, and am saving it for vacation. (And hopefully some Pratchett.)
    2. Something I need to read: Finish “Keeping The Sabbath Wholly” (Dawn)
    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: “Graphic Design Source Book” (one of them) – overview of graphic design trends & fonts across the last century
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Finish “An Arrow Pointing To Heaven” – devotional(ish) by Rich Mullin’s mentor
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” – maybe more about sociology, so science, too?
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: That is a tough one, maybe if there’s a fluid dynamics text for laymen.
    7. Something scientific: Whatever reference material I need to hopefully do some programming/electronics projects I have on my list…
    8. For times of solitude: I have those, with kids? Also, the internet. (I know that was lazy, but it’s when I get to read RR and the other blogs I follow.)

    Laure – The Martian is excellent. Quite a bit of language, but not out of place, and very well written. I heard about it via Adam Savage, and apparently commended/recommended by Commander Hadfield himself.

  16. Katherine Forster

    I don’t know about Paul Simon, but my dad has a book of Bob Dylan lyrics. It’s pretty old, though; my dad says it was published around ’86

    .1. Something fun that I want to read: Continue/finish the Harry Potter series
    2. Something I need to read: Finish the Silmarillion by Tolkien
    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Re-reading parts of the Wingfeather Saga; I should probably read some poetry, too.
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Finish Desiring God by John Piper
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: I have no clue. Maybe something about the seashore?
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Dune or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (I guess you can call sci-fi unfamiliar; I don’t read much of it)
    7. Something scientific: The Marine Biology textbook I recently started
    8. For times of solitude: I really don’t know; that will probably just end up being “all of the above!”

  17. Annie Wald

    Love this way of approaching what to read. And the reminder that summer is coming.

    1. Something fun that I want to read: “Chronicles of Narnia” [again because it’s been too long…]
    2. Something I need to read: “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa [novel research on memory loss]
    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: “Collected Poems” by Richard Wilbur [or Jane Kenyon or Mary Oliver]
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: “The Way of the Heart” by Henri Nouwen [I read "The Wounded Healer" earlier this year and realized I have a lot more Nouwen to explore]
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” by Thoreau [after having re-read “Walden” a few years ago as an adult and enjoying it much more than when I did in high school]
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: “Latin” by Wheelock [maybe a page a day?]
    7. Something scientific: “Color: A Natural History of the Palette” by Victoria Finlay [this feels like cheating but ‘Physics for Poets’ is the only way I got through my college science requirement]
    8. For times of solitude: “Lila” by Marilynne Robinson [I’ve been dipping into this for six months and it is like soaking in a quiet meadow pond]

  18. rdregge

    I myself appreciate the reminder that Christmas is coming, which offers a bit more reading opportunity for us agrarian types.

    1. Something fun that I want to read: Illustrated Norse Myths
    2. Something I need to read: finish Walking on Water (L’Engle)
    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: A Year of Pies
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Wendell Berry’s poems
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: my local library’s section on homesteading/keeping chickens/sheep ….or pinterest, Ha!
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: see #s 1,3,5, & 7
    7. Something scientific: The Gift of Pain (Paul Brand)
    8. For times of solitude: the book of Genesis

  19. Kristen

    I love this approach to developing a reading list. Here’s my list:

    1. Something fun that I want to read: Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge
    2. Something I need to read: The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron
    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Looking at Ansel Adams by Andrea G Stillman
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Birds of Minnesota Field Guide
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: A Clearing in the Distance: Frederic Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century by Witold Rybczynski
    7. Something scientific: In His Image by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey
    8. For times of solitude: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

  20. Sarah

    Ah, you force me to put my summer reading list into categories:

    1. Something fun that I want to read: Swords of Heaven by C .D. Baker and Winston Churchill: An Intimate Portrait by Violet Bonham Carter

    2. Something I need to read: Night by Elie Wiesel and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Washington’s Spies by Alexander Rose

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Heretics/Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Peterson Field Guides?

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

    7. Something scientific: Really? Science in the summer? I agree with rdregge: Pinterest is the closest I get 🙂

    8. For times of solitude: Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

  21. Jen Rose Yokel

    Sarah, Sophie’s World is sitting on my nightstand waiting. I suppose it could fit in that category for me too… I don’t know a lot about philosophy, but I want to!

  22. Jen Rose Yokel

    Katherine, Hitchhiker’s Guide is a pretty fun place to start… so much dry British humor. 🙂 Ender’s Game is also a fantastic sci-fi story if you want to try a more serious classic of the genre. (I haven’t read Dune yet… maybe it should be on my list… argh! So many books!)

  23. Sasha

    Annie, if you’re interested in picking up a little Latin, can I recommend Lingua Latina (Orberg) instead of Wheelock’s? I haven’t looked at Wheelock’s myself, but a few people have told me it’s terrible in comparison. Lingua Latina is written as a story that begins very simply (Roma in Italia est) and gradually introduces grammar and vocabulary so that you can learn a lot just by reading it. (The book in entirely in Latin, no English notes, but there are a few other resources that go with it if you’re working completely on your own.)

    This reading list is a great idea. I haven’t quite pulled together my own list yet…

  24. Heather Ramsay

    This is such a fun, unique way of approaching a summer reading list. I appreciate that its nerd-friendliness.

    1. Something fun that I want to read: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers

    2. Something I need to read: Worship And The Reality Of God, by John Jefferson Davis

    3. If I read this it might help me create new things: Walking On Water, by Madeline L’Engle

    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard

    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: The Apple Grower, by Michael Phillips

    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris

    7. Something scientific: Mortal Lessons, by Richard Selzer

    8. For times of solitude: Solitude? What’s that? In theory, I would pick up anything from the poetry shelf.

    I think I’ll put all these books in a stack next to my front door (on the way to the hammock) and see how many I can actually cover this summer.

  25. Susan B

    Pete…… Love, love, LOVED Streets of Laredo! My absolute favorite in the Lonsesome Dove series.

  26. Chinwe

    This year, I’m trying something new – only reading books I own. So, here goes:
    1. Something fun that I want to read: The Green Ember by SD Smith
    2. Something I need to read: A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola
    3. To help me create new things: One of the many photo books I own.
    4. Nourishment for the spiritual realm: Confessions by St. Augustine (I suspect this will be a long-term project)
    5. This will help me learn about the outdoors: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Started this and it’s been rough going. Trying to plow through because I’ve heard such good things about it.)
    6. Something that will expose me to an unfamiliar field: Astronomy for Dummies
    7. Something scientific: Astronomy for Dummies
    8. For times of solitude: The Book of Psalms

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