Summer 2010

The Ultimate Summer Reading List

Nine Biola professors (and two Biola Magazine editors) recommend some of their favorites in a variety of genres and categories.

Matthew Weathers

Professor of Mathematics

Photo by Mike Villa

Favorite Book of the Past Few Years: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. Describes how we frequently base a lot of our decision making on irrational ideas.

Best Book for the Beach: What If? The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been edited by Robert Cowley. Short essays on how history could have turned out differently. I saw it at Borders for $4 on the bargain table, so it doesn’t matter if you get sand in it.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson. Short but profound chapters about living life well.

Book Everyone Keeps Telling Me I Should Read, but Haven’t: The Bible. Just kidding! The Republic by Plato. It’s only the origin of Western thought, and I’ve only read small parts here and there.

Best Book by a Local Author: Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual by Dennis Prager. This entertaining and funny book offers practical ideas about being happy.

Ashish Naidu

Assistant Professor of Theology

Photo by Mike Villa

Favorite Classic: Confessions by Augustine. The church’s first spiritual autobiography from the most quoted theologian in the Middle Ages and the Reformation period.

Book Every Christian Should Read: Institutes by John Calvin. Calvin’s magnum opus is a seminal work in Protestant systematic theology and a must-read for every serious student of theology. The longest chapter is on prayer!

Book I’m Currently Reading: Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology With the Help of the Church Fathers by Donald Fairbairn. An excellent primer for those interested in learning more about the devotional and practical implications of the doctrine of the Trinity from the perspective of the church fathers.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: Desiring God by John Piper. A modern spiritual classic in the tradition of the Puritans; it resonates with biblical realism and a passion for the glory of God.

Best Book of Evangelism/Apologetics: Can Man Live Without God? by Ravi Zacharias. A compelling defense of the Christian faith and worldview from an apologist who is uniquely gifted in communicating biblical truth in ways that reach both the mind and the heart.

Robert Llizo

Lecturer, Torrey Honors Institute

Photo by Mike Villa

Book Every Christian Should Read: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is a heart-wrenching work that explores the lives of three brothers, born of the libertine, sex-crazed rake and sponger Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov. It is a very philosophical novel that explores the themes of God, theodicy, free will, love and morality through the life of the youngest Karamazov, Alyosha.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. This is a witty, engaging and entertaining consideration of how orthodoxy, far from being “repressive,” is actually a great romance, the romance of faith.

Book Everyone Keeps Telling Me I Should Read, but Haven’t: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. No, I have not read the Harry Potter novels, and everyone tells me that since I have done a lot of reading on the history of alchemy, these novels are just packed with alchemical metaphors. I'll get around to it, some day.

Best Book That Only Takes an Afternoon to Read: The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. A short but meaty consideration of how education forms our moral senses.

Best Book About Byzantine History: Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin. This book challenges common assumptions about the nature of Byzantine government and society by thoroughly addressing the nature of Byzantine imperial court culture.

Todd Lewis

Professor of Communication Studies

Photo by Mike Villa

Book Every Christian Should Read: Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs. This very practical book attempts to help Christians learn how to communicate honestly and effectively by concentrating on “planting” rather than being obsessed with soul-winning only.

Best Book for the Beach: I’m Fine With God... It’s Christians I Can’t Stand by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. A book similar to unChristian by the Barna Group people, but more breezy and funny in a “ha, ha, uhhh” sense in that Christians need to be aware of how they are being perceived by non-Christians. If you lose it at the beach, maybe a non-Christian will read it because of the title.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: Authentic Communication by Tim Muehlhoff and Todd Lewis. Hey, I know it’s self-serving, but honestly, the chapters will help Christians begin to identify and work on communication concepts that need to be discussed and embraced in public and interpersonal encounters with others.

Best Book That Only Takes an Afternoon to Read: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. You’re never too old to make a difference in the life of a loved one.

Best Book to Jumpstart Conversations About God: The God Conversation by Tim Muehlhoff and J.P. Moreland. The power of using narrative, stories and personal experiences can ethically disarm people who might otherwise be hostile to a discussion of faith and commitment to Christ. This is a breezy but helpful apologetic book that will help Christians have civil dialogue with non-Christians.

Bradley Christerson

Associate Professor of Sociology

Photo by Mike Villa

Favorite Classic: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. This sad but compelling classic powerfully displays the dysfunctions of the American middle class. Still as relevant as ever.

Favorite Book of the Past Few Years: Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. This book explains a problem that plagues the spiritual lives of many of us (especially those of us in midlife), what ancient believers called Acedia — a state of spiritual despair/laziness that makes life seem pointless and empty.  Norris provides examples from her own experience and the ancients on the means of recognizing and overcoming this state.

Book I’m Currently Reading: Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads With An Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. A powerful and insightful conversation between a Lakota elder and a white man seeking to understand the history and current lives of Native Americans.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol. Chronicles the lives of families struggling to survive in the South Bronx, the forces stacked against them and the faith that sustains them.

Best C.S. Lewis Book That Nobody’s Read: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Lewis supposedly thought that this was his best work, and I agree. A masterful retelling of a Greek myth that shows us how our “false self” keeps us from the love of God and others.  

Natasha Duquette

Professor of English

Photo by Mike Villa

Favorite Classic: A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful by Edmund Burke. I know this is a nerdy choice, but I actually really love reading 18th-century philosophy! This book grabbed my attention when I was a graduate student and has remained a central focus for me through the years. Burke’s compelling argument still speaks into contemporary debates regarding theological aesthetics.

Best Book for the Beach: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This novel is a delightful, comic, witty and satisfying read. Its nature-loving character Marianne Dashwood, with her love of fresh air and walks in the hills, makes it perfect outdoor reading. I still prefer it to Pride and Prejudice, though Elizabeth Bennet does her fair share of solitary walking and even asks: “What are men to rocks and mountains?” ;)

Book Everyone Keeps Telling Me I Should Read, but Haven’t: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I have always wanted to read this novel since I was an undergraduate student. I have read articles about it, heard people talk about it and watched movies that refer to it. I really must read it this summer!

Best Book That Only Takes an Afternoon to Read: Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Usually, when I pick this book up I cannot put it down, and that is why I finish it in one sitting. It is truly gripping. It is for people of all ages who love the ocean, animals and their Creator.  

Best Book From a Distant Land: Between Two Worlds by Miriam Tlali. This novel exposes the injustices of daily life during the apartheid era of South African history. It is an excellent account of a black woman’s struggle to provide for her family, and turn the other cheek, when faced with institutionalized racism. It illustrates the difficulty of balancing grace and justice but ends on a note of gratitude and forgiveness.  

Garry DeWeese

Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics

Photo by Mike Villa

Best Book for the Beach: I don’t do beach. Best book for the mountains: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Brings the reader into the thrill, danger, tragedy and triumph of high-altitude mountaineering.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger. Makes a thoroughly biblical case for Christians to be involved in “creation care,” and while I disagree with some of his stronger conclusions, his suggestions for action are helpful.

Best Book That Only Takes an Afternoon to Read: Life After God by Douglas Coupland. A strange and disturbing little book that should break our hearts for the empty, searching unbelievers around us.

Best Easy-Reading Fiction: Centennial by James Michener. No Nobel prize for literature here, but a sweeping account of the Indians, mountain men, cowboys and entrepreneurs who shaped and were shaped by the American West — specifically, Colorado.

Book I’m Currently Reading: To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter. A thoughtful and provocative investigation of Christianity and culture; on almost every page I can find something with which to agree or to argue.

Lisa Swain

Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Arts

Photo by Mike Villa

Favorite Book of the Past Few Years: The Word that Redescribes the World by Walter Brueggemann. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The radical words of a haunted Jeremiah still convict and challenge me in my world today. Rarely have I read a book that provoked me out of a complacent faith as did this book.

Best Book for the Beach: How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. All that’s missing from this cynical look at capitalism and art gone awry is a rousing rendition of “Springtime for Hitler.”

Book I’m Currently Reading: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. If today’s headlines do not provide enough drama about abusive white male patriarchy, class envy, shifting real estate values and prima donnas, this little book will set up proper.

Best Book for a Discussion Group: Culture Making by Andy Crouch. Not only does Crouch provide a reasonable solution for the “culture wars” approach once held by evangelicals, but he opens up great avenues of discussion about how culture is proposed, considered, absorbed and disposed in today’s American society. A great read for those interested in good salt manufacturing.

Best Book Better Than the 2009 Movie: The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald. Steven Soderbergh’s movie fairly hangs whistleblower Mark Whitacre’s buffoon duplicity on his own wiretap, but Kurt Eichenwald’s slower reveal allows for readers to get as blindsided as the FBI. It makes for a far more satisfying read. Complicated, but worth it.

Doug Geivett

Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics

Photo by Stephen Hernandez

Book I’m Currently Reading: The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher J. H. Wright. There are no glib answers in this sensitive and sensible book about tough questions of faith: “What about evil and suffering?” “What about the Israelite elimination of the Canaanites?” “What about the justice and necessity of Jesus’ crucifixion?” “What about the end of the world?”

Best Book in the Philosophy of Religion: Is There a God? by Richard Swinburne. The book is brief, systematic and accessible. Written by an internationally recognized Christian scholar from Oxford University.

Best Book That Only Takes an Afternoon to Read: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. An unusually insightful book about finding meaning in life, by a secular psychologist. Armed with a thorough understanding of the Christian worldview, a reader should be able to recognize borrowings from the Christian tradition, and missteps due to naturalist diversions.

Best Book for the Procrastinator: The Procrastination Workbook by William Knaus. If you ever get around to dealing with your procrastination, this book will take you through the steps.

Best Book for Managing a Busy Life: Getting Things Done by David Allen. This will appeal only to the truly obsessive-compulsive, who will need to be careful not to let system overtake the responsibilities of life.

Jason Newell & Brett McCracken

Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, Biola Magazine

Photos by Mike Villa

Jason Newell

Editor-in-Chief, Biola Magazine

Favorite Book of the Past Few Years: So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. A train robber and a frustrated novelist journey across the American West in search of redemption while a ruthless detective tries to hunt them down. Think Mark Twain meets Les Miserables.

Best Book for the Beach: Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide by Brett McCracken. A fun, thought-provoking look at what happens when Christianity tries to be cool. I’m reserving a spot for it in my beach bag when it comes out this August.

Book I’m Currently Reading: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright. Wright is one of the most insightful, entertaining and prolific writers alive today — of any genre. I’m about halfway through his latest book (on transformation and virtue in the Christian life), and so far, Chapter 3 has offered some of the best 30 pages I’ve read all year.

Book Everyone Keeps Telling Me I Should Read, but Haven’t: Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard. I picked up a copy a couple of years ago and stashed it in my nightstand, but I guess other books keep taking cuts in line. I’ll get to it one of these days.

Best Book From My Childhood: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. Growing up, I must have flipped through this 1943 Caldecott Medal winner hundreds of times. So when I rediscovered it at a bookstore a couple of years ago, I had to buy it. It’s a simple picture book for kids, but it’s also a poignant parable about progress, the loss of innocence and — ultimately — redemption.

Brett McCracken

Managing Editor, Biola Magazine

Favorite Classic: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not only the best American novel of the 20th century, but maybe the best novel about America ever. The writing is unbelievably lyrical, and the last page is pure poetry.

Favorite Book of the Past Few Years: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Robinson probes deep truths about life, family and God against the backdrop of small-town Iowa. Each page is a revelation of transcendent prose.

Book Every Christian Should Read: The Courage to be Protestant by David Wells. This is an important book that reminds Christians that relevance isn’t so much about keeping up with the trends as it is about being faithful to the transcendent truths that undergird our faith. 

Best Book for a Discussion Group: Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. There is a lot of “rethinking what we think about Christianity” in here that will provoke great discussion.

Best Book for Those Who Think Technology is Oppressive: Technopoly by Neil Postman. Following in the footsteps of Marshall McLuhan, the eminent cultural critic Neil Postman outlines a prescient and disturbing case for the harmful effects of technology in our contemporary society.



  • Mark Twain July 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    Gatsby as best novel about America? Seriously?

  • Marianne July 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Hey!! I HaVe read Till We All Have Faces. It is a great book, easy but meaningful read. Also a great read, The Pilgrim's Regress by CS Lewis. Both books will make you think, if you are thinking while you are reading, that is.

  • BONNIE July 9, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Till we have faces is a great book, read it twice.

  • Debby July 9, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    Wow, Marianne. You're the only other person I know who has also read Till We All Have Faces and The Pilgrim's Regress!

  • Deb July 9, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    INTO THE WILDERNESS by Deborah Lee Luskin - "a fiercely intelligent love story" about two sixty-somethings in 1964 Vermont. One reviewer writes, "Rose Mayer is a feisty character: gutsy, ethnic, working class, politically forward, spiritual – and still sexy. Luskin handles all the tensions of small town life perfectly: flatlanders and woodchucks, Democrats and Republicans, Jews and Christians, working class and professionals, young and old, men and women and —especially—love and time." Marketing is all word-of- mouth, so read the book and spread the word!

  • Claire-anne Williams July 9, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    I just read Before and AFter by Jacqueline Sheehan. SHe's local to western Massachusetts. Quick read - beach read - you should read if you're looking for something light. It's got a dog on the cover. If you love dogs, you'll love the book, if you like dogs but don't like dogs on the cover, you will still like the book. I am of the latter group.

  • Joseph Novak July 9, 2010 at 10:27 PM

    Thanks for the gracious remarks about the "Flow". Professor Csíkszentmihályi is a fellow Hungarian, living in Claremont, CA. We should invite him to Biola for a bit of chit chat.

  • Sarah July 10, 2010 at 12:07 AM

    I really enjoyed Radical by David Platt. As long as you don't allow the book to make you feel guilty for buying some french fries it really makes you think. Very good book.

  • Lenny July 10, 2010 at 3:03 AM

    The book every Christian should read is "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason." However, most Christians would be too afraid to read it. It's easy for them to have faith when it's not challenged, but they don't like it when someone actually uses logic to confound their religion.

  • Merry Jain July 10, 2010 at 3:18 AM

    Wow! Great that you posted not just one token woman, but two ... out of ten! Women represent over 50 percent of the world's population, and your site could only find two professors worth mentioning? Somehow, I am not shocked, but I will keep on looking for another site - that's a bit more gender neutral! C ya'! Oh, and try to have a great non-misogynistic summer! You might actually finally have some fun! Lol! (And do note that I didn't use the words sexist or feminist - I didn't think you'd "get" those words!)

  • Whitney July 10, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    No one mentioned the Twilight saga. That is strange.

  • Myke July 10, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    II read "The End of Faith". A lot of my friends have read it. Most Christians are not afraid of questions and challenges.
    The problem with that book is Harris presents no real evidence against the truth claims of Christianity (or other religions). He merely points out the dangers of various claims or thoughts, and then rejects them on that basis. It would similar to me saying “Fire is very dangerous and can burn someone, even to the point of death…therefore; I choose not to believe in fire”.
    There are much more compelling books than this for those who don’t like religion.
    However, if you truly do like to hear both sides, read Dinesh D'souza’s “What's so great about Christianity”. You might learn something new!

  • jackie July 10, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    good picks!!

  • Deborah July 10, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Interesting the vitriol with which those who see things differently seem to feel the need to attack a very simple article intended for like minded folk who were interested! I also find it amusing that the one counting the representation of women is also the one calling out sexism. Wouldn't it be less sexist not to notice the sex of a person but simply judge the value of their opinions on their own merits? Wow - and they call us narrow and shallow. At any rate - great ideas - I am taking note and would like this list in format I can print if that is possible. Thanks.

  • cindy lamb July 10, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Yes, The Great Gatsby and how about 1984?

  • Heidi Jones July 10, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    Bummer! I can only see the "Best Books for a Discussion Group" and on down as the photo thumbnails are covering everything above that... Is that a problem due to my having a Mac?

  • Kelly Higdon July 10, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    A couple of years ago, I started reading all those books I should have read, but never did. Last summer I read the Grapes of Wrath, and wished I had a clever group of readers to read with. Steinbeck makes me think of social gospel stuff. While some considered socialism after their first read, I was greatly haunted by a need for faith integration and the great gap between my heart-head to my hands. So I'm working on it now. Ya, I'm a fan of summer reading. Right now I am reading too many things; it is time to read slowly through a nice classic.

  • Cath July 10, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    Loved Grapes of Wrath and what I got out of it is we are heading to the same slippery slope as in the early 1900's. Gov could not save them, work did. Regulations are needed, but not total dependance only independence for man with a safety net for unusual situations. When a nation is truly morally grounded, you will not have man's inhumanity to man as you saw in the book. The MAN keeps people down because we let him....

  • Luke July 11, 2010 at 1:55 AM

    It is refreshing to see some books on a Christian site that have decided there is more to Christian reading lists than C.S. Lewis. Thanks for taking us into the 21st century.

  • Carol Weaver July 11, 2010 at 4:33 AM

    Love Brothers Karamazov! It is on my "Top 10"!

  • Laurin July 11, 2010 at 4:37 AM

    Don't forget To Kill A Mockingbird and The Help, two of the most beautifully written books ever.

  • Jackie Bruce July 11, 2010 at 4:52 AM

    I adore Till We Have Faces - I would add Peace Like a River by L. Enger and The Secret Life of Bees by Kidd to the list of amazing, powerful reads.

  • Condor July 11, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    Well, yes, The Great Gatsby is still the best ...romantic depiction of America ever written...I also memorized the last couple of pages.

  • cindy July 11, 2010 at 6:06 AM

    On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is a wonderful summer read with a very important message. I also really have enjoyed The Art of Racing in The Rain.

  • Yvonne July 11, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    Great and thoughtful reading lists. Makes me wish I'd gone to Biola instead of suffering the freakish nightmare of attending Wheaton!

  • Dawn July 20, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    I enjoyed the pictures. Thank you for the lists. The Bar-be-cue and pink lemonade were great photos to encourage a reader to enjoy the book. God Bless Biola!

  • CPeterson July 21, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Great photos of the people featured! Makes me wish I knew them all and had time to enjoy conversations, and time to read all the books. Well, almost all of them. Thanks!

  • Rick July 25, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    I like how one professor said Life of Pi is a one sitting type of book. I'm going on like 3 months now, but I really have been going slowly. Hopefully I'll finish it this weekend! I think a book every christian should read is Uncle Tom's Cabin, such a great story.

  • Rev Bob August 3, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    I would recommend two books every Christian should read - "Why Care About Israel" by Sandra Teplinsky and "Two Nations Under God" by Tom Doyle ( Biola Alumnus)

  • Stephanie August 3, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    Ha! I did Till We Have Faces for my senior Seminar as an English major at Biola.

  • J August 3, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    Heidi Jones, if you're using Safari, just click on one of those ten pictures beneath the big one and it should all slide down and all the book lists should be readable. If you're using Firefox, I'm not sure what to do, because its all visible for me.

    What a list of books!!! I'll have lots to read on the beach and in the dormroom!

  • Lisa August 3, 2010 at 8:48 PM

    This is awesome. Was not expecting to find anything "useful" from a philosophy prof's recommendation, but looking forward to checking out the Procrastinator's Workbook. Thanks!

  • Daniel August 4, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    A big thank you! I copied everybody's recommendations and I hope I can get to some of these and soon. The most provocative and the ones that I sense God can use to help me grow appear to be Flow, Is There a God by Swinburne, Life After God, and Crouch's Culture Making.

  • Robert Llizo August 4, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    There are three other books I included that didn't make the published list, two by the same author, and one by a historian writing about early modern monarchies:

    Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited

    Evelyn Waugh, The Sword of Honour Trilogy (I chose this set of three novels for "beach" reading, even though I'm more of a "cabin in the woods" guy. So yes, this trilogy is what I would take on my mountain retreat, but if the beach is your thing, then I suppose it would work for that too).

    Nicholas Henshall, The Myth of Absolutism: Change and Continuity in Early Modern European Monarchy

    Just to broaden my list a bit.

  • Robert Llizo August 4, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Wow, that looks a bit convoluted, doesn't it? Let me try that again:

    Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." Evelyn Waugh, "The Sword of Honour Trilogy" (I chose this set of three novels for "beach" reading, even though I'm more of a "cabin in the woods" guy. So yes, this trilogy is what I would take on my mountain retreat, but if the beach is your thing, then I suppose it would work for that too). Nicholas Henshall, The Myth of Absolutism: Change and Continuity in Early Modern European Monarchy.

    Just to broaden my list a bit.

  • Stephen Sanya August 9, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    Considering Africa we are headed to becoming more digital and virtual in our interaction with the world, this is really excellent. Am i allowed to use the concept for our University magazine?

    God Bless.

    Stephen Sanya (1987 grad).

  • JIMMYMAINA August 24, 2010 at 4:57 AM


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