Books are brain food. They make you think. They help you reflect. As a rule, they are more beneficial than blog post brain snacks (like this one). As a rule, they are far more beneficial than the brain junk food of many social media options. (Yes, I know there are junk food books and nutritious social media posts, but you know what I mean.)
Like your body, your brain needs a balanced diet of theology, Christian living, history/biography, fiction, culture/politics/economics, and practical books to help you grow in your realms of responsibility, etc. My favorite guide to nutritious reading is our own Tony Reinke’s excellent book, Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books.
If you’re like me, recommendations are always welcome. So here are a few books that have been food for my brain (and heart) this year:
Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
Kevin DeYoung has a gift for taking weighty doctrines and complex issues and explaining them in ways us average people understand. I find him very helpful. This short book (144 pages), released earlier this year, is a great introduction to and refresher in the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. DeYoung lays out very clearly what the Bible says about itself. Read this to stoke your love for the miracle that is the written word. Anyone from high school on up will benefit from it.
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
This biography is relevant for reasons beyond historical interest. This is a glimpse of what faithfulness to Christ and his word looks like when a nation’s culture turns toxic with evil and hostile to the gospel and the true church. And it is a tragic glimpse of what an unfaithful church looks like when it abandons “taking God at his word” in order to accommodate to the pressure of cultural and political evil in order to preserve itself. We dare not think that this couldn’t happen to us. That’s what too many German Christians in the 1930’s and early ‘40’s thought until it was too late. What fueled Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s courage in confronting the evil of his day and helped him die well was his confidence in and love for Scripture and the God who breathed it (2 Timothy 3:16). You will find Bonhoeffer’s courage encouraging.
The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
I’ve just finished listening to the audio versions of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I hadn’t read them since my late teens. They had moved me deeply then, but they have moved me even deeper now in middle age. I cannot capture in a few words the spiritual beauty they helped me see but I ended the final book with a taste of holiness on my lips and the ache of inconsolable longing for Christ and the age to come in my soul. I was filled with worshipful awe. Read all three in order. They get progressively better and they are the kind of fiction that will help you better understand Reality. And you may find yourself changed when you’ve finished.
Do It Tomorrow by Mark Forster
If you can read a book that gives you one or two tools that make a lasting difference in helping you maximize your time and increase your effectiveness in stewarding the calling God has given you, that book is gold. Do It Tomorrow is one of those books for me. Forster has 1) shown me how I’ve used lists wrongly and how to use them more effectively, 2) helped me finally make a dent in my backlog of tasks, and 3) make more headway with difficult projects. If you’re struggling with what feels like task overload, I commend it to you.
A Word About Audio Books
There are numerous slots of time everyday (commutes, chores, errands, exercise, etc.) that can be redeemed for “reading” with just a phone or MP3 player by listening to audio books. I especially recommend this for fiction, history, and biography. If you haven’t done this, you will be amazed at how many books you can get through this way and how they can turn a chore into an enjoyment. These odd time slots often add up to an hour or more a day of reading, and my commute is only 8 minutes. If you travel for work or sit at soccer practices or tackle a major home project you can make a big dent in a book. I’ve listened to 21 books so far this year, a couple of them over 1,000 pages long. There are a number of free audio book services, like LibriVox, which uses volunteer readers (some good, some not so good). I invest in a subscription to Audible.com because of their excellent service, readers (mainly), and selection. This is a good way to make the most of time fragments to feed your mind and encourage your soul (Ephesians 5:16).
Whatever you do, choose a couple books this fall, make a simple plan, and feed your brain some good food.