7 Diverse Picks for Summer Reading
Whether one goes for reading that is diverting or devotional, culturally perceptive or deeply political, these seven recent releases have something for everyone.
Part of The Stream‘s Summer Reading Series.
The summer months bring longer days, the promise of relaxing with loved ones and (hopefully) the chance to curl up with a good read.
When school’s out, those extra hours can be more than just restful. After all, the value of reading has long been confirmed. A recent review of 51 studies found those who read for pleasure have reduced health risks, better relationships and higher educational attainment.
These seven titles meet at the intersection of culture and faith. This list tilts towards unique personal stories, from authors whose lives and work speaks for itself. Just click the title to order, and be sure to pack it before heading to the beach.
New Views on the Value of Every Life
1. Target Africa by Obianuju Ekeocha (196 pages, Ignatius Press)
For decades, humanitarian groups have spent billions to fight poverty and improve health outcomes in Africa. Their go-to strategy of increasing access to abortion and contraception has largely gone undisputed… until now. “That’s kind of a Western solution, isn’t it?” asked human rights activist Obianuju Ekeocha in a recent BBC interview.
Ekeocha has earned multiple biomedical science degrees and worked in hospitals for six years in Nigeria. Her book Target Africa retraces the history of colonialism and its painful affronts to human dignity over centuries. Then she draws troubling parallels to current philanthropic practices that result in ending African lives. “Western nations wage war against the bodies of African women,” writes Ekeocha.
Citing over 100 sources including Pew Research, Target Africa debunks popular notions about population control. Observing how Nigeria’s mothers value children, with strong families caring for each other across generations, the author shows Africa has much to teach the world.
2. Singing in the Wilderness by Luana Stoltenberg (176 pages, Xulon Press)
While she may not be a household name, Luana Stoltenberg is familiar to those invested in the grassroots pro-life movement. During the 2015 Planned Parenthood investigation, she testified before Congress. This summer, she has been at the forefront of bold pro-life legislation in her home state of Iowa.
Stoltenberg presents her story as a devotional journey, taking space to develop biblical themes and questions to end each chapter. She recounts how she lost four children to abortions. Barred from conceiving due to post-abortive health issues, readers walk with she and her husband as they expand their family through adoption.
For anyone seeking to see past their shame, rejection and loss, Singing in the Wilderness illuminates an honest, heartfelt path to a new start.
Entertainment and Culture
3. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Jonathan Cain (304 pages, Zondervan)
Among music industry veterans who profess faith, Jonathan Cain is a remarkable figure. Since 1981 he’s been keyboardist and songwriter for Journey, the arena rock band resurging this past decade. Cain also happens to be married to televangelist Paula White, a close spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump.
His in-depth memoir reaches back decades. From the school fire where young Cain lost nearly a hundred fellow students, to the heady days of being on American Bandstand with Dick Clark, fans learn the origins of Journey. They’ll get to know legendary lead singer Steve Perry, experience a thousand near-breakups and hear the confessions record executives make when they’re high.
Cain candidly reveals what inspired his iconic hits like “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” — a winding pursuit of faith and a father’s unfailing belief in his son. Much like one of his Journey melodies, those themes stick with you. Cain has also released a companion CD with new songs.
4. Beyond the Castle by Jody Dreyer (256 pages, Zondervan)
In case anyone hadn’t noticed, the Walt Disney Company has taken over Hollywood. Having acquired Marvel, Star Wars, the Muppets and Pixar in recent years — with 20th Century Fox soon joining the fold — the House of Mouse continues to expand.
How did Disney reach this stratosphere of entertainment? In 1972, Jody Dreyer started as an intern at Walt Disney World. She stayed for over three decades, working in 22 different positions including at the film studio and Disneyland Paris. In Beyond the Castle, she reveals insider stories. Who knew of their stand to forego casinos on Disney cruise ships? Or of Roy Disney’s efforts to refocus the company?
More than a look behind-the-scenes, Dreyer illustrates truths in every chapter. Serving others, integrity, teamwork and celebrating every day are the real magic, she says.
5. Unified by Senator Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy (169 pages, Tyndale)
The most prominent black elected official in America, Senator Tim Scott has already had one of the most eventful, controversial political careers of the 21st century. As a black Republican, he faces liberal detractors at every turn. Scott also refuses to let convenient conservative myths on racial issues go unchallenged.
In Unified, Scott links up with fellow South Carolinian Trey Gowdy — a close friend who just announced his retirement from Congress. Together, they recount the violent incident in 2015 where a white man entered a Charleston church prayer group and killed nine black members at gunpoint. “He wanted to start a race war,” they say.
The leaders share moments since then: tearful church services, bold addresses to Congress and difficult conversations around dinner tables. With Gowdy’s past in law enforcement and Scott also a businessman, their ideas sharpen one another. Beyond laws and politics, they model how true unity requires personal investment.
6. The Dream King by Will Ford and Matt Lockett (160 pages, New Type)
Sometimes men are connected by more than friendship. Will Ford is a seminary teacher in Dallas, while Matt Lockett leads a house of prayer in Washington, D.C., focused on issues of justice. For over a decade, the two have taught together at Christian conferences across America.
Then they find an intriguing, disturbing link in their families’ heritage. In the era of 19th century chattel slavery, Lockett’s forefathers owned Ford’s ancestors. Confirmed by historical records — The Dream King cites over 60 sources — it shakes them to the core. Yet, relying on biblical principles and (surprisingly) insights received in dreams, Ford and Lockett realize their bonds of brotherhood speak into deeper societal problems.
The confessions of the son of white slave owners convey sincerity. And for a black professor and Bible teacher to address America’s history of eugenics is undeniably credible. Those seeking clarity on modern-day racism and injustice will find The Dream King offers food for thought — and prayer.
Just for Fun
7. How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee (210 pages, Multnomah)
Before you drink that beer, you gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do you, punk? — Billy Graham
There’s only one book where a Dirty Harry misquote opens a chapter on becoming Christlike. For millions who’ve laughed at faith-slanted satire in The Babylon Bee, the site’s founder and editor present a book-length skewering of American Christianity in all its self-contradictions.
Count on heavy doses of snarky humor as the writers tackle our culture of surface-level relationships, church shopping, misguided political activism and the hidden fears that often motivate believers.
Amidst sarcasm, the co-authors smuggle in actual Scriptures and truths about the nature of authentic faith. In the vein of Mark Twain, How to Be a Perfect Christian observes the rituals of the Christian walk through an outsider’s keen vision.
Explore more of The Stream’s picks for summer reading.