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Summer Reading: Three Books That You Love

We love our literature here at The Rabbit Room. Our web store is full of achingly beautiful fiction like Shiloh and The Fiddler’s Gun; rich young adult fantasies like The Wingfeather Saga and The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, thoughtful explorations of faith and theology like The Anglican Way and Behold the Lamb of God, moving memoirs like The Last Sweet Mile and Everlasting is the Past, and much, much more.

And newly available in the Rabbit Room store is Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus – “In Slow Church, Chris Smith and John Pattison invite us to leave franchise faith behind and enter into the ecology, economy and ethics of the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loved the church.” (More on an upcoming reading group for this book in the next few days.)

But let’s dig even deeper. There are thousands of books out there, waiting to be opened. How do I weed through them to find my next summer reading? Well, I figured the community of Rabbit Room contributors was a good place to start. I asked them a single question (one that I stole from Anne Bogel’s book recommendation podcast):

What are three books that you love?

We’ve focused solely on prose (leaving poetry and comics ripe for later discussion), and we’ve tried to stay away from Rabbit Room standbys and ubiquitous classics. The result is a lineup of books that may not be on your radar—and our hope is to encourage you to pick them up and explore something new! And by the way—this isn’t a closed discussion. We want your voice too! So once you’ve read through the recommendations below, you can share your own top three in the comments section, or share freely at the Summer reading discussion in the forums. We’re dying to hear your favorites!

Historical Fiction

  1. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy: The jacket calls it “an epic novel of violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion.” Not appropriate for all readers, but one of my favorite novels.  —Thomas McKenzie

  2. The Bull From the Sea by Renault: A great work of fiction set in Ancient Greece. —Eric Peters

  3. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: This is the best book in the world. Everyone should read it. I’m writing in Gus McRae for president. —Pete Peterson

  4. Lust For Life by Irving Stone: A superb fictional biography of Vincent Van Gogh. —Eric Peters

  5. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: This 1948 gem by Dodie Smith (yes, that Dodie Smith, author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians!) is an enchanting summertime read. A father with writer’s block who takes a 40-year lease on a crumbling castle in the English countryside, an older daughter who wants to live in a Jane Austen novel, a pair of wealthy young Americans who inherit the estate next door, and a younger sister who ‘captures’ everything in her journal all adds up to a witty-but-tender coming of age story. Some of the most lyrical prose I’ve encountered. (Don’t cheat yourself with the subpar 2003 movie version.)  —Lanier Ivester

  6. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice: I know some people might consider this book edgy, but I find it beautiful, respectful, and an insightful imaginative exploration into the mind of the young Jesus. —Chris Yokel

  7. Godric by Frederick Buchner: One of the most beautifully-written novels my eyes and heart have ever touched. So very insightful. If for no other reason, it’s worth the read for Elric’s demon-blasting antics. —Dave Bruno

  8. In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden: A successful London businesswoman walks away from everything she’s ever known to take orders in a Benedictine monastery. This is a cloistered epic, spanning several years of the very human lives of nuns and the forces that affect them (including Vatican II). Truly a book to quiet the soul, and based upon the author’s three years of research living near Stanbrook Abbey in Worcestershire (a stint which eventually led her to convert to Catholicism). —Lanier Ivester

  9. Lila by Marilynne Robinson: Robinson is a ridiculously good writer, and this is a beautiful book. What happens when the economy of grace meets the hard-bitten economy of take what you can get? —David Mitchel

  10. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok: A look at the artist’s life. —Eric Peters

  11. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Full of great characters and great scenes, and has one of the most moving endings ever. –Pete Peterson

  12. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt: Seventh grade is a rough year for anyone, but for Holling Hoodhood, 1960’s turmoil and Wednesday afternoon Shakespeare lessons make it nearly unbearable… at first. There’s a lot of humor and a whole lot of heart in this middle-school page-turner. —Jonny Jimison

Fantasy / Sci-Fi

  1. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery: People are always asking me which is my favorite of L.M. Montgomery’s books, and it’s a question I honestly can’t answer—it would be like choosing between my best friends. But supposedly The Blue Castle was Montgomery’s own favorite, and, knowing her as I do, I can see why. So much more than a “girl finds out she’s dying so she makes up her mind to actually live” story; so much more than a “grownup fairytale”—but it’s both of those things. And it’s absolutely beautiful. —Lanier Ivester

  2. The Book of the Sandman and the Alphabet of Sleep, Rien Poortvliet and Will Huygen: You may know Poortvliet from his gnome books, but this is by far my favorite work of his. This is a heavily illustrated book for adults and children, which begins as a mock-telling by men who traveled to an Italian mountain side to document a rare bird. Their journey leads them to a remote village where a loose plank of wood inside a cabin loft leads to the discovery of the Alphabet of Sleep and the Book of the Sandman. I can’t recommend this book enough. —Joe Sutphin

  3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: A great, all-around story brimming with originality and creativity. Gaiman’s imagination is ridiculous and it spurs me on to be more unconventionally creative. —Jamin Still

  4. The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis: This book is about a bus excursion by the inhabitants of Hell (a grey, dingy town that goes on for endless miles) to the outskirts of Heaven, and how the Bright Spirits from Deep Heaven come down to try to convince these souls to come into Heaven. “But there is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery.” —Ron Block

  5. Lilith by George MacDonald: This is a profound, dreamlike little fantasy book, packed full of themes of redemption that make me think, imagine, and reimagine. I’ve read it many times and periodically return to it because it’s such a deep well. —Ron Block

  6. The Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull: An absolutely engrossing story of a brother and sister who discover that their grandparents’ farm is actually one of only a handful of sanctuaries around the world for fabled creatures, good, bad and otherwise. Packed full of adventure, mystery, magic, , twists, scares, thrills, and an exhaustive list of fabled beings, my son and I could not put it down until we had finished all 5 books. Easily one of my favorite fantasy series ever. —Joe Sutphin

  7. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: As the world seems to have moved on from believing in fairy tales, the last lonely unicorn sets out to discover what happened to the rest of her kind, and receives help from a bumbling magician, a feisty maiden, and a lazy prince along the way. This story captivated me as a kid, and it still holds up when I need a little lyrical prose, some memorable characters, and a reminder that maybe there’s still a little magic in this old modern world. —Jen Yokel

  8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Richard Mayhew, a bored young businessman, appears to be the only one who can see an injured girl named Door in the street. When he steps out of his ordinary life to help her, she leads him into adventure in the terrifying world of London Below… yes, a parallel world under the streets of London. Just creepy enough to play along the fringes of horror (because Neil Gaiman), but overall a fun fantasy adventure that broke me out of a fiction reading slump last year. —Jen Yokel

  9. The Princess Bride by William Goldman: Seriously, the book is probably even funnier than the famous film. The whole premise — that the author is editing an obscure fairy tale down to “the good parts” — is ridiculous and awesome. —Jen Yokel

  10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: This book is a master class in sparse writing. Nameless characters, a scorched earth, and the dread of encountering others create a deeply personal, terrifying and strangely hope-filled apocalyptic story. Imagine The Walking Dead without zombies. —Russ Ramsey

  11. The Song of Albion trilogy by Stephen Lawhead: Narnia for adults with a strong Celtic sensibility. —Chris Yokel

  12. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin: This book defies description. There are swords, flying horses, ice ships, New York City, a cloud wall (whatever that is), a priest named Mootfowl, a plot to build a bridge to Heaven, an apocalyptic hellscape, and many more strange things that I dare not spoil. Absolutely baffling and brilliant. —Pete Peterson

Faith and Theology

  1. Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning: No one preaches the Gospel better than Brennan, and this was his best book. —Thomas McKenzie

  2. After You Believe by N. T. Wright: It lives in the long shadow of its predecessor Surprised by Hope, but this book is at least as important, showing how the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of New Creation, leads to the formation of both common virtues (prudence, temperance, courage, justice) and distinctively Christian virtues (humility, mercy, charity, chastity). It also contains some of Wright’s best writing. —David Mitchel

  3. For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann: The best description of the Sacramental life of the Church I’ve ever read. A faith-deepening, and faith-expanding, experience.  —Thomas McKenzie

  4. Playing God by Andy Crouch: In this book, Crouch attempts to “redeem the gift of power.” He does an amazing job. This would be a good book to read or reread for Christians, as we approach November and the power of American politics. —David Bruno

  5. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: Lewis gives an enlightening and humorous look at the inner workings of the human heart and the subtleties of the Tempter.  An elder demon, Screwtape, writes letters to a younger, more inexperienced tempter. Screwtape’s growing frustration is amusing and his thoughts on temptation are enlightening. —Ron Block

  6. Telling the Truth by Frederick Buchner: A refreshing, beautifully written look at the gospel. —Jamin Still


  1. The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare by Doug Stewart: The astonishing true story of a young man who forged several original Shakespeare manuscripts. He finds himself in over his head when, against all odds, the hoax not only fools people but goes viral. Hilarious, tense and tragic, all at the same time. —Jonny Jimison

  2. Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb: Israeli agents hunt down a surviving Nazi in Argentina in the 60s. All the suspense, drama and gadgets of a spy thriller – but this actually happened! I couldn’t put it down. —Jonny Jimison

  3. A Magnificent Catastrophe by Edward J. Larson: One of the great historians of our time (Larson’s book on the Scopes Trial, Summer for the Gods, won the Pulitzer) writes about the fascinating dramatis personae — Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr — heated rhetoric and thick intrigue of the first truly contested presidential election in American history: 1800. —David Mitchel

Essays and Memoirs

  1. Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet: A gorgeously illustrated book on Peet’s childhood, young life and frustrating career working under Walt Disney. A fascinating and insightful read that holds up to many, many rereads. —Joe Sutphin

  2. The Areas of my Expertise by John Hodgman: Never have I laughed so hard than when reading this fictional almanac. Probably not for everybody, but it should be. —Jamin Still

  3. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis: One of the greatest intellects of our generation writing from the gut about his own real-time sorrow. Raw, full of unanswered questions, and from the heart. He originally wrote A Grief Observed under the pseudonym “N.W. Clerk”, and the story goes that when some of Lewis’s friends read the book, it made them think of him, so they bought it for him hoping it would provide some comfort. (Sounds borderline implausible, but what if it’s true?) —Russ Ramsey

  4. The Real World of Technology by Ursula Franklin: Franklin is a German Quaker, relocated to Canada, where she established herself as an experimental physicist and alchemist at the University of Toronto. This is a collection of essays from her Massey lectures. She explains why we feel uncomfortable with technology but also why we like technology. Read this book and the lights go on. —Dave Bruno

  5. Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard: A collection of stand alone essays, which contains what my be my favorite bit of writing in the world—her essay called “An Expedition to the Pole.” This book reads like a collection of really good, but a little quirky B-sides from her more well known books. But man, is she a skilled writer. —Russ Ramsey

  6. Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller: Kind of a Christian “On The Road”. I’ve never been on a cross-country road trip, but I’d like to imagine it would be like this. —Chris Yokel

Now it’s your turn: What are three books that you love?


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