This summer, read two old books for every new one
We asked a few faculty members to recommend one new book and two old ones in the same category for summer reading.
S. Lewis famously said, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”
Similarly, J. I. Packer urged Christians to read two old books for every new one. This summer, we hope you are resting and reading some good books.
Dean of Boyce College
New: The Blood of Emmett Till (Simon & Schuster) by Tim Tyson. Tyson is one of those historians who is always worth reading and who is a master of prose. His newest book is beautifully written and meticulously researched, but often painful to read. Our country has buried too many black and brown boys. Reading this book is a needed reminder of the complex and far-reaching reality of sin, depravity, and evil in a racialized society.
Old: The Negro: His Rights and Wrongs, the Forces for Him and Against Him (Cornell University) by Francis Grimke, 1898. A friend recently gave me a copy of this and I was delighted to know of its availability in print. Originally delivered as a series of sermons in 1898, Grimke’s biblical call for justice and hope still rings out with hope.
Old: David Walker’s Appeal (Hill and Wang) ed. Sean Wilentz. Written in 1829, Walker’s abolitionist manifesto remains a remarkable testimony to the power of biblical truth to demolish the “principalities and powers” of injustice. Walker’s devastating critique of slavery and his call for repentance was one framed and filled with Scripture. Any Christian who wants to be better equipped to engage with the ongoing challenge of racial injustice and inequality in our nation, and in our churches, would do well to pick it up.
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
New: William Grimshaw of Haworth (Banner of Truth) by Faith Cook. A gem of what revival Christianity looks like—despite his eccentricities (which this reader found utterly endearing), Grimshaw epitomizes the heart of 18th century Evangelicalism. A cure for wimpishness!
Old: The Memoirs of Samuel Pearce (Kessinger) by Andrew Fuller. In this work, Fuller sketches the life of his close friend Samuel Pearce (1766-1799), the mutual friend of both Fuller and William Carey. Pearce stands for Fuller as a model of “holy love” and missionary piety, and was regarded as such by many in the 19th century, the age of missionary globalization.
Old: A Breviate of the Life of Margaret Charlton by Richard Baxter. In this brief work, the famous Puritan leader Richard Baxter outlines the life of his wife Margaret Charlton and the major contours of their marriage, a quintessential Puritan union of intimate allies.
Professor of New Testament Interpretation
New: A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (IVP Academic) by Thomas C. Oden. This autobiography gives you an inside look at a mainline Protestant’s fascinating journey from a liberal, social gospel to Christian orthodoxy. I read this book at the beach this summer and found it both enjoyable and spiritually nourishing.
Old: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Dover) by Robert Louis Stevenson. We’ve all heard of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” but have you ever actually read the captivating book? I listened to the audio book after hearing Tim Keller reflect on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Presbyterian background and what the book teaches about depravity. There’s a good free audio version available via the LibriVox app. (I recommend the version read by David Barnes.)
Old: The Wealth of Nations (Bantam) by Adam Smith. Published just prior to the American Independence in 1776, this book is foundational for understanding economics, free trade, division of labor, etc. Parts of the book are boring and dense; others are lively and fascinating, with immediate application to current political debates. I’ve been listening to the free audio version of the book read by Stephen Escalera, available via the LibriVox app.
Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Biblical Theology
New: Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University) by Larry Hurtado. In this excellent book, Hurtado shows how Christianity stood out in its cultural environment in the first centuries. It was considered odd and strongly opposed in the Roman world. Hurtado’s book is helpful for us today as we are relearning what it means to be a Christian in an alien culture.
Old: A Bruised Reed (Banner of Truth) by Richard Sibbes. This book is a gospel balm for to heal our wounded and hurting souls.
Old: Pensées (Penguin) by Blaise Pascal. Pascal never finished the book he intended to write, but the notes he collected continue to be read four centuries later. Pascal speaks to modern people searching for meaning and for life.
Professor of Biblical Spirituality
New: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Penguin) by Tim Keller. If there’s a more comprehensive volume on prayer, I’m not aware of it. Deeply rooted to Scripture, with healthy, helpful doses of theology and Christian history, Keller’s well-written book is also intensely practical.
Old: The Pilgrim’s Progress (Desiring God) by John Bunyan. An allegory of the Christian life, Bunyan penned this masterpiece in the Bedford, England, jail where he was imprisoned for his rejection of the law that preachers must be licensed by the state. Published in 1678 and never out of print, it is often regarded as the all-time bestselling book in English other than the Bible. Spurgeon claimed to have read it 100 times. Enough said. Make sure to get an edition with parts 1 and 2, and avoid modern-language versions, which invariably modify the theology. The inexpensive Oxford University Press paperback is a good choice.
Old: George Müller of Bristol (Waymark) by A. T. Pierson. Written in 1899 following Müller’s death the previous year, it recounts the life of the man considered by many the most remarkable person of prayer and faith since the New Testament. With more than 50,000 specific recorded answers to prayer in his journals—30,000 of which he said were answered the same day or hour he prayed them—Müller’s life reads almost like a continuation of the Book of Acts. I devoured this biography when I was in seminary, and it changed my life.
Professor of Church History
New: God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught . . . and Why It Still Matters (Zondervan) by Matthew Barrett. Every generation of evangelicals must take a firm stand on the authority and sufficiency of holy Scripture against not only the overt onslaughts of secularism and liberalism but also our own sinful facade of self-sufficiency. Now Matthew Barrett has done the church a service by building on both of these great thinkers and by showing us that the Bible is able to withstand all attacks from anti-God forces. God’s word has authority and sufficiency for God’s people because it is the very word of the triune, covenant-keeping God to his people.
Old: It Says, Scripture Says, God Says, by B. B. Warfield. Warfield’s classic essay demonstrates the inerrancy of the Bible based on an in-depth inductive study of the Bible’s treatment of its own words.
Old: Fundamentalism and the Word of God (Eerdmans) by J. I. Packer. Packer’s book from the mid-20th century follows Warfield but also also employs Calvin’s notion that the Bible is self-authenticating since it the production of the Holy Spirit himself.
Professor of Christian Preaching
New: Learning from a Legend: What Gardiner C. Taylor Can Teach Us About Preaching (Cascade) by Jared E. Alcántara. Not only is this a book about preaching, but also an examination of a preaching life. Gardiner C. Taylor was one of the greatest masters of the pulpit of the last 100 years and this book strikes gold at the intersection of biography, history, homiletics, and rhetoric.
Old: How to Preach without Notes (Baker) by Charles W. Koller. This reprint actually combines two of Koller’s books, Expository Preaching without Notes and Sermons Preached without Notes. While the title is actually a bit of a misnomer, because what Koller actually teaches and advocates is preaching with very brief notes more than none at all, but his masterful instruction will liberate a preacher from the albatross of dependence on a manuscript and enables him to preach from the overflow of the study of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Old: Cadences of Home: Preaching among Exiles (WJK) by Walter Brueggemann. Though a word of caution is in order—Brueggemann does not hold my theological convictions—he correctly argues that to preach today is to proclaim the Word of God to people who are not at home in this world. Written in the 1990’s, his word to preachers is even more relevant today in a culture increasingly at odds with historic Christianity. In addition, Brueggemann is a master of verbal imagery and his evocative manipulation of language stands as both inspirational and instructive to anyone who wants to use the language well in order to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.