Often during the summer, we like to lighten things up some and jump into novels that will transport our imaginations to other places. For me, just about anything by David Baldacci, John Grisham, or Michael Connelly is entertaining, as all three of these best-selling writers are master story tellers (note, they are not "Christian genre" writers).
But just because it's summer doesn't mean that we have to avoid reading that can challenge us in great ways. Having a summer of growth can happen in conjunction with a summer of fun. So, following are my top 10 picks for books I've already reviewed that have the capacity to challenge your socks off (that's okay, barefoot also pairs well with the beach!):
1. "Futureville" by Skye Jethani (published by Nelson Books). An important book because of the truth of its content, "Futureville" begins by challenging readers with the premise that what they believe about the future dramatically impacts our lives today. This book will likely challenge a few of your positions, and you can find my original review here http://bit.ly/O3xsDG.
3. "Radical" by Dr. David Platt (published by WaterBrook Multnomah). Originally, I referred to this book as a "must read," and I still consider it to be an important book. "Radical" has shaken the lazy faith of many lukewarm Christians and has contributed to a national discussion about really living as a disciple-making disciple. Be prepared for this book to challenge how you live for Christ. You can find my original review here http://bit.ly/1hbhx45.
4. "Plastic Donuts" by Jeff Anderson (published by Multnomah Books). This is, hands down, the best book I've read about giving, at least the best in many years. That subject alone usually sends Christians scurrying away, but this is actually a book you can really enjoy. It brings a great but simple understanding to this important topic, yet is communicated in such a way readers can actually enjoy. It's also a very small hardback, so you get a lot of potent content without doing a lot of reading. You can find my original review here http://bit.ly/17icZzm.
5. "With" by Skye Jethani (published by Thomas Nelson). We're constantly told how we should live for God, but we hear little about the fact we need to first learn how to live with Him. Our walking with God is what God desires of us first, and out of that we learn how to live for him. I thought this was one of the more important books of 2011. You can find my original view here http://bit.ly/1qgfzkn.
6. "I Am Not But I Know I Am" by Louie Giglio (published by Multnomah Books). This paperback tells a great story. When you explore who the "I Am" is, you gain a greater and clearer perspective of God's BIG story and where (and how) you fit into it. You can find my original review of this book here http://bit.ly/ZdbEF3.
7. "I Am A Follower" by Leonard Sweet (published by Thomas Nelson). This is the best book on church leadership that has been published in years, one I think every church leader should read. You can learn more about it from my original review here http://bit.ly/wdaD2W.
8. "Body By God" by Dr. Ben Lerner (published by Thomas Nelson). This is the one book I recommend to the people I provide personal training for. Of key value is Dr. Lerner's recommendations for an eating methodology, which I have shared (with great success) with hundreds of clients. Summer is a great time to work on your personal fitness, and this is a good book to gain some insights for doing that. You can find my review of this book here http://bit.ly/1hbq7zE.
9. "The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages" by Shaunti Feldhahn (published by Multnomah Books). This isn't the average book about marriage because it shares, in a very readable, enjoyable, and insightful way, the results of research on the "secrets" to having a highly happy marriage from real people who have highly happy marriages. From my pastoral and clinical experience working with couples, I've found the results of the research to be fairly on point. Definitely worth reading. You can find my original review here http://bit.ly/1kJEBnO.
10. "Awakening Faith" by James Stuart Bell (published by Zondervan). This books provides you with an opportunity to move away from the platitude-lite devotionals to go deeper in your daily devotional time by reading some of the more profound and insightful writings of some of the early church fathers. Check out my original review here http://bit.ly/1hOf3Vo.
Don't think your personal growth has to be put on hold in order to experience a time of fun and refreshing during the summer. Kicking back on the beach with a great book that can challenge where you're at in your walk with God can keep you growing while you enjoy this season.
Have a great summer!