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Long Summer Days and Tall Stacks of Books: FRC Summer Reading List

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By Daniel Hart

As the warm light of the sun stretches lazily out over our summer days, infusing the early mornings with dew-bright resplendence and filling evenings with a languid glow, a single giddy thought can’t help but enthuse America: more time for reading outside!

Whether you’re stretched out on a beach chair with the ocean wind nipping at the pages of your copy of Ideas Have Consequences, reclining on your deck with an ice-cold shandy in one hand and an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story collection in the other, or simply sprawled on the couch with the summer breeze blowing through your window and your John Adams biography, there’s almost nothing better in life then long summer days and a tall stack of books.

To help get your literary juices flowing for the warmer months, the staff here at FRC has helpfully collaborated on this compilation of great reads. So put your phone somewhere out of sight on silent mode, sit back, relax, and crack open a book (or a Kindle, if you must).

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Non-Fiction

Biographies

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

This detailed biography of one of America’s foremost Founding Fathers was the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Author Ron Chernow’s full-length portrait is a deep dive into how Hamilton in many ways shaped early America with his championing of often unpopular political and economic ideas.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

This is a gripping biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian in the confessing church, which resisted the Nazis. Bonhoeffer also participated in the July 20 plot on Hitler’s life (subject of the movie Valkyrie)—which ultimately cost him his life. While this topic is not as widely explored in the book, it is a thrilling look into a life devoted to God, and the implications of that devotion.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski

This is an in-depth look at the lives of the four primary “Inklings,” the literary circle of Oxford friends who delighted in fantasy, philosophy, and the debates of religion and belief. The Fellowship describes how we came to have the authors of such works as The Lord of the Rings, Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, and so much more. The arc of each of their lives allows us a better understanding of their celebrated works.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A fascinating read detailing the true story of a brilliant neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. His thoughts and approach to life and death are very thought provoking.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

This wonderfully engaging biography of the brothers who invented flight is thoroughly addicting from the first page onward. The story follows Orville and Wilbur from their beginnings as bicycle shop owners, to the famous test flights at Kitty Hawk, to the amazing flying exhibitions demonstrated before hundreds of thousands of gaping onlookers, to fights over patent rights in their later years. Throughout their lives, the Wright brothers displayed a super-human work ethic and humble tenacity that astounded their contemporaries, proving to be an immense testament to the indomitable power of the human spirit to overcome any adversity.

General Interest

The Assault on the Sexes by Jim Fordham

Published in 1977, The Assault on the Sexes is a remarkable book that appeared at the height of the debates over ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex). With both wry humor and solid research, Jim Fordham (“With his indispensable wife Andrea”) took on the then-nascent feminist movement by not only defending but celebrating the differences between men and women. Although grassroots efforts kept the ERA out of the Constitution, many of its principles have nevertheless been implemented since then through court decisions and legislation. The book’s slippery slope arguments that the ERA would lead to same-sex marriage or unisex bathrooms have indeed come to pass.

The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk played a significant role in establishing the intellectual legitimacy of the conservative movement in the 20th century. His book The Conservative Mind fights the public perception that to be liberal is to be academic but to be conservative is “anti-intellectual.” He traces the intellectual history of conservatism from Edmund Burke and the principles of prudence to T.S. Eliot and the importance of faith. The book is both an overview of the movements and individuals that shaped conservative thought as well as a fascinating defense of the conservative belief in a social and political order.

The Drop Box: How 500 Abandoned Babies, an Act of Compassion, and a Movie Changed My Life Forever by Brian Ivie

This book is the inspirational account of a documentary filmmaker who travels to South Korea to film the predicament of orphaned newborns who are left in box and accepted by a pastor. In the process, the author recounts his spiritual journey of redemption.

The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech by Kimberley Strassel

A member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, Kimberley Strassel provides first-hand accounts of how disclosure and campaign finance laws have been hijacked by the Left as weapons against free speech and free association, becoming powerful tools for those who are intent on silencing their political opposition. Strassel carefully catalogues how government agencies like the IRS, FEC, FCC, and SEC as well as state AGs have knowingly participated in the suppression of First Amendment rights of Americans.

Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace by David Brog

A subject that is often highly disputed, this extensively researched book catalogues the history of Israel, recounting how the Jewish people have maintained a sustained presence there for over 3,000 years, despite centuries of persecution. It also covers the untold history of Palestine’s involvement in the Holocaust, the Six-Day War, and Israel’s modern military practices.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer

A comprehensive historical review of how the Nazis came to power in Germany, and what led to their downfall. It is an interesting historical education, and one which reminds us of the evil which can arise when human beings discard any appeal to higher authority.

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Michael B. Oren

In what has been called a “towering work of history” and an “enthralling human narrative,” this impeccably researched account of the Six-Day War between the Israelis and the Arabs lays the historical groundwork for a conflict that continues to this day.

Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism: The Legacy of Burke and Tocqueville by Bruce Frohnen

In Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism, author Bruce Frohnen makes the case for the essence of virtue as being the foundation of conservatism. He argues that conservatives must return to what truly made conservativism great—a concerted focus on the structures of family, church, and community.

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