Three Books to Read This Summer

Three Books To Read This Summer

By Blair Thompson-White

These three books are great summer reads for your spiritual growth. I've included some discussion questions for each book as a resource for your personal reflection or small group conversation. 

1) Everything Happens for a Reason...And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler. 

This book, released in February, is a New York Times Bestseller. I am recommending it to anyone going through a difficult diagnosis, anyone who knows someone going through a difficult diagnosis, all medical personnel, all clergy, all who have been exposed to messages of the prosperity gospel...ok basically everyone. 

Everyone should read this book. (purchase now on AmazonSmile)

Here's the synopsis: Kate is a scholar on the faculty of Duke Divinity School. Her primary research is about the prosperity gospel in America. At age 35, she is diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her candid account of her journey through cancer is remarkable; the way she articulates the problems with the prosperity gospel's take on her illness is right on. 

Reading this book will give you language for speaking out against the prosperity gospel and deepen your empathy for those going through cancer. The prosperity gospel preaches easy answers to life's hardest questions; Kate's witness gives weight to the power of deep, abiding faith that is able to sit with uncertainty and still be more than ok.

Discussion questions: 

  • Kate says a lie she's loved is that "everything happens for a reason." What are some of the lies you've loved? Why and how has your perceptive on these 'lies' changed?
  • How does Kate's account of her experience with cancer relate to your difficult experiences? What do you learn from her? 
  • How should we care for others going through cancer and other diagnosis? What is a list of do's and don'ts for how to help and not hurt?

2) Gratitude: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass

Politics is so gross right now, so divisive; there is so much ugly in our country and world...and yet, Bass has written an entire book on gratitude. She admits this topic may seem out of touch with what is going on in the news today.

The temptation would be to write a book about gratitude that is all 'pie-in-the-sky,' meaning real nice to read about but not too real-world in practical application. Bass has not done that at all and that's what makes this book about gratitude stand out. 

If you are expecting her to tell you to start a gratitude journal, well she does mention that--BUT--she goes way deeper than that, offering historical perspective on gratitude and reciprocity in the ancient world and its influence on our politics today. (purchase now on Amazon Smile)

It is not too much too say that reading this book may not only transform you...if enough of us read it, it may well transform our church and American political system.

Discussion Questions

  • What would it look like for you to focus on gratitude? For schools, businesses, churches to focus on gratitude? For our country to focus on gratitude? What would shift in our interactions and transactions if our society designated "a year of gratitude"?
  • What intentional practices of gratitude might you begin to implement? 
  • How might our politics be different if we moved from the game of tit for tat to that of neighborly reciprocity, to gift and gratitude?

3) How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living by Rob Bell

Rob Bell's most recent book "What Is the Bible" is excellent and popular and also one that I highly may have missed his previous book How to Be Here. This quick-read is simple and profound, as we have come to expect from Bell. 

This is a great read for the summer because summer is a great time to focus on being present in the moment. Summer may also be the right time to reset some of those work and family routines and habits that are not working and not sustainable to living a truly fulfilling and meaningful life.

How to Be Here is incredibly practical. For example, you won't read his insights on Sabbath and feel guilty that you don't take it; rather, you'll feel equipped to take the next step to creating a life that is more intentional about rest. (purchase now on Amazon Smile)

Discussion Questions:

  • When you listen to your life, what is your "ikigai": what is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? How does this influence how you spend your time?
  • Bell says we get stuck because we don't know all the steps ahead. He says you don't have to know the 17th step, you just have to know the first step. What makes you stuck right now? What is the first step you are being led to take at this time in your life?


What Are You Reading?

I hope you'll use the comment section to share your reflections on these books and offer other titles you recommend. May what we read this summer inspire our spiritual growth!