Summer Reading 2014
Suggestions for selecting that timeless summer staple, a good book


As has become a tradition here, National Review Online asked friends and family for some book recommendations for summer.

Andrew V. Abela

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life, by Charles Murray. This superb little volume is bursting with useful guidance for young people.

The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, by Niall Ferguson. Because it’s always fun to read Niall Ferguson.

Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society — Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go, by John Horvat II. A thoughtful and contemporary exposition of the principles underlying a Christian economic and social order.

The Servile State, by Hillaire Belloc. Friedrich Hayek wrote of this book that even though it was written decades earlier, it explained more of what happened in Nazi Germany than most books written afterwards. I think it explains even more of what is happening today.

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope. Everyone should have at least one of what Professor John Senior called the “Thousand Good Books” by his bedside at all times. Prisoner of Zenda is a thoughtful reflection on virtue mischievously disguised as a really really good adventure story.

— Andrew Abela is the Dean of the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America.


Nancy French

To all the other mommies and daddies out there who still curl up at night with their little ones, I want to tell you about The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Frequently, children’s books are lacking — especially the kind that attempt to teach eternal truths with cute vegetables, squirrels, or action figures. I was recently told about this book — an accurate, compelling way to teach children about God and a valuable resource for adults. It just so happens to be camouflaged as a kids’ book.

A portion from the first chapter shows how it’s different than others:

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done. Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything — to rescue the one he loves. . . . There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

My six-year-old loves to listen to this book over others, even when given the chance to switch to more modern tales. As an added bonus, my teenagers love to read it to her, since it presents such a compelling Jesus, who is at the “center of God’s great story of redemption” — he is at the center of their story, too. In fact, when I was talking to a friend at a hair salon recently, she commented that it was hard for her to understand the Bible. When I got home, I sent her this storybook, along with an actual Bible . . . and an explanation, of course.

I think it’s easy to measure your success as a person of faith by how many C.S. Lewis books you’ve read. But when you need to be reminded of the basics, this is a great place to start.

Thankfully, I’m in good company. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said that he believes “every Christian should read this book.” 

— Nancy French is a three-time New York Times best-selling author.