I enjoy reading long books – I like to get fully immersed in a writer’s thoughts and feelings. I’m always a little sad to get to the end of a really well-written book – whether it’s a book about theology or discipleship, or a novel in which not very much happens. I have a friend who will not touch a long book. For her, reading is a chore rather than a treat, so I’m trying to encourage her to read short books that will encourage her heart but not feel burdensome.
Short books can offer a good introduction into a topic for those who don’t want to get lost in all the details. Some manage to be comprehensive – all that needs to be said is said in a few short chapters. Here are a few of my favourite short books. All stand alone – no additional reading is required to engage with the topics. Perhaps you’ll have time this summer to try one or two.
July’s Books: 5 short books
- Before you open your Bible by Matt Smethurst
- The freedom of self-forgetfulness by Tim Keller
- Enjoy your prayer life by Mike Reeves
- Heaven, how I got here by Collin Smith
- The everyday gospel by Tim Chester
Before you open your bible: Nine heart postures for approaching God’s word
If you struggle to read your bible with joy and anticipation, if your bible reading has become dry or routine, let Matt Smethurst help you. In short, easy-to-read chapters, he teaches us how to approach God’s word rightly – with hearts and minds that are prepared to hear and respond to God’s voice. This book is fresh, creative and packed with practical wisdom. Matt works through nine heart postures we should adopt before reading the bible, but these are not intimidating, or time-consuming. Rather, they lead us to read with expectancy and wonder. They help us connect with the bible in deep and thoughtful ways. They draw us into its truth and prepare us to be transformed by it. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you only read one from this list, make it this one!
The freedom of self-forgetfulness: The path to true Christian joy
Do you ever worry about what people think of you? I’d guess most of us do to some extent. Whether it’s a fear of under-performing in work or ministry, under-achieving academically, or under-whelming those we want to impress, it’s easy to be driven by fear. These fears often result in self-focus and introspection rather than joyful serving. Tim Keller’s solution is the gospel: “When a heart is truly captured by the gospel, the result is a life that is transformed from self-focused to one that is self-forgetful.” In this short, practical book he shows how the gospel grows humility and frees us to think of ourselves less – and others more. It frees us to care more about people – not just their opinion of us. And it leads to great joy.
Enjoy your prayer life
This is not a guilt-inducing book. Rather, it is a refreshing reminder of the privilege of communicating with a loving Father whose favour is not increased or diminished by our consistency or confidence in prayer. Mike Reeves is honest about the problem of our prayerlessness. He identifies a false thinking: prayer is something we must do rather than something we can enjoy. And he shows how our prayer life reveals how we think and feel about God – how much we depend on him, how much we delight to be in a relationship with him. But, while it’s challenging to face up to our prayerlessness, this is a hope-filled book. Prayer is an expression of faith in Christ, so the way to grow in prayer is to look at him. Mike helps his readers to do just that. In particular, he reminds us how Jesus prayed. “Prayer is learning to enjoy what Jesus has always enjoyed.”
Heaven, how I got here: The story of the thief on the cross
Collin Smith is a great communicator, and this is a great book. It records the story of the hours leading up to the crucifixion, written from the perspective of the thief who died next to Jesus and was reunited with him in heaven. Collin writes in a dramatic, compelling style. Even though I have read the crucifixion accounts hundreds of times I was gripped by this biblically-informed imaginative retelling. More significantly, I was overwhelmed by the extravagant grace of God. The crucified thief is proof that salvation is not earned – either by good works already done or the promise of future faithfulness. Jesus’ offer of life is for all who will come to him – he will turn no one away. This is an encouraging read for Christians, and an ideal book to give to unbelieving friends. I have bought a copy for my neighbour.
The everyday gospel: A theology of washing the dishes
There are hundreds of ordinary activities we engage in every day – from food shopping to folding laundry, driving to work to drying dishes. How does the gospel impact these daily tasks? In a few short chapters, Tim Chester shows his readers how the everyday moments are opportunities to both serve Jesus and share Jesus. There should be no divide between the sacred and secular parts of our lives; each moment can be holy when the Holy Spirit infuses them with the presence of Jesus. We can reflect God and point to his goodness and grace as we work in the very ordinary spaces of life. And we can find joy in the most mundane activities when they are done out of love for God and love for others. This book will encourage you – even as you wash the dishes.
The glories of God’s love by Milton Vincent
True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts
5 things to pray in a global crisis by Rachel Jones (& all the books in this series)
Can I really trust the bible by Barry Cooper
Why bother with church by Sam Allberry
Keeping the heart by John Flavel
Enough by Helen Roseveare
Unbreakable by Andrew Wilson
Where was God when that happened? by Christopher Ash
God of Word by John Woodhouse
A tale of three kings by Gene Edwards
Suffering and singing by John Hindley
The joy of service by Julian Hardyman
You don’t get your own personal Jesus by J. D. Greear
And so to bed… by Adrian Reynolds
The yellow wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (just because I’ve read it recently and found it both fascinating and disturbing in equal measure)