Summer is for many of us a time to unplug and relax. Tons of people love a good beach read. But let’s be honest, most of us aren’t reading several different books at a time. We’re reading one book at a time and it might take us a while to get though it. There are ways to unwind and relax, but at the same time learn and grow. Why not read a book that edifies your soul on the beach? Why not let your imagination be filled with the depth of human experience and the often untouched longing for God? Sounds great, right? But too much of media labeled as “Christian” is heavy handed or cliche. I’ve found some legit English literature for your summer reading list. Here’s my top 3 authors:
1) Marilynne Robinson: I have fallen in love with the town of Gilead, Iowa. Marilynne Robinson has written three novels about the complex interior lives of 2 families living in a small town in Iowa in the 1950s. The families are led by two pastors. Rev. John Ames and Rev. Robert Boughton. The New York Times Book Critic A.O. Scott said in 2008, “Gilead” (2006) and “Home” (2008) stand together, in part, as twinned portraits of these godly, elderly patriarchs.” The stories of the 2 novels occur during the same chronology but from completely different perspectives and are filled with beautiful language and sage observations of life with God. The third novel, Lila (2014), tells the story of Rev. Ames’ wife. It superbly describes the fear and shame of being known by an intimate partner and by the Intimate Partner.
2) Penelope Wilcox: You may have heard one of the pastors at Circle of Hope demanding that you read the Hawk and the Dove trilogy (which now has nine volumes). The Hawk and the Dove centers around a 14th century monastery in England and the men that work and pray there. The main character, Father Peregrine, who is known for his hawkish severity, learns through tragedy the gentleness of the dove and of Jesus. The love he learns to kindle in his community is tearfully brilliant. Penelope Wilcox really gets the human heart and the heart of Jesus. Not as masterfully written prose as Marilynne Robinson, but more explicitly Christian. She says, “My aim in writing is to make goodness attractive.”
3) Flannery O’Connor: She is probably best known for her short stories, which may be the perfect beach read because they do not require a prolonged attention. The themes in her stories revolve around morality and Jesus, but in a strange and revealing way. The feel is often dark and the meaning is not always clear but she is definitely tugging on the strings of the heart and soul. She captures the terrible beauty of many points of Christian Theology. “The River” which can be found in the collection “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is probably one of my favorite stories, but its goodness is too hard not to spoil. Just read it! If you must have a novel, her novel “Wiseblood” is on my list for beach reading next week. I’ll tell you how it goes.