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by Christine Ellis

Summer has always felt like a liminal space - that transitional time between the "what was" and the "next." It has the uncanny ability to fly by and languish on forever at the same time; where every day can almost feel the same, and yet by the end of it, you feel like a completely different person. And if there were one thing that completely embodied that feeling for me, it would be this: the summer reading list.

Or at least the lists we were assigned at the end of every school year. I love reading, always have, but I couldn't seem to appreciate the classics my teachers had picked out. I would skim and speed read through each book as quickly as possible, completely missing any lesson contained in those chapters. But like with any liminal space, it is the times where we learn to wait and let it form us that are the most transformational.

I recently finished a book that teaches this very lesson. A summer reading list in its own right, "On Reading Well" by K.S. Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing. In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society.

While you wouldn't find any of the books we've recommended on any teacher's list, our Summer Reading List is a compilation of books, podcasts, and RightNow Media content that has engaged, entertained, and enlightened us. I'll leave you with the same advice that Prior opens her book with; read a book like you would enjoy a delicious, expensive meal. Take your time and savor it. Linger in one part of it for a little while and re-read parts that speak to you. And over time, let it transform you.

Recommended by Christine Ellis

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Recommended by Tom Jenkins

The Time is Now

A Call to Uncommon Courage

Book by Joan Chittister

Beloved nun and social activist Joan Chittister offers a soul-stirring and inspiring guide that speaks to all who feel disillusioned and dissatisfied with the power-hungry institutions and systems of this world. 

Joan Chittister has been a passionate voice for women's rights for over 50 years. Called "one of the most well-known and trusted contemporary spiritual authors" by Publishers Weekly, this rabble-rousing force of nature for social justice and fervent proponent of personal faith and spiritual fulfillment draws on the wisdom of prophets--both ancient and modern--to help us confront the societal forces that oppress and silence the sacred voices among us. 

Pairing scriptural insights with stirring narratives of the truth-tellers that came before us, Sister Joan offers a compelling vision for readers to combat complacency and to propel ourselves toward creating a world of justice, freedom, peace, and empowerment.

For the weary, the cranky, and the fearful, Sister Joan's energizing message invites us to participate in a vision for a world greater than the one we find ourselves in today. This is spirituality in action, this is practical and powerful activism for our times.


Recommended by Joshua Rodgers

Leading from the Second Chair

Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams

Book by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson

"Leading From the Second Chair" will raise awareness of the need for strong leaders in secondary positions. It will describe the value they can bring to their organization and to primary leaders when they are serving at their full potential. It will reshape the way they view their role, with an emphasis on their own responsibility as leaders. It recognizes the unique challenges and frustrations of serving in a subordinate position and equips these leaders with the attitudes and skills that they will need to survive and thrive in this new paradigm. Because of the scarcity of resources for second chair leaders, particularly those in the church, this book will offer a practical way to improve the performance of any organization. 


Recommended by Blaire Hill

ThoughtFull, GraceFull, & ColorFull

Books by Dorena Williamson

This series was birthed out of the joy I experience in God's diverse kingdom. Each book focuses on relationships as the avenue for teachable conversation on relevant issues. My hope is that readers see God's intentional design in our skin color, appreciate the value in our unique gifts and abilities, and gracefully care for our neighbors of varied socioeconomic status.

ColorFull has this message: Be fully aware of the colors God made! Plants, animals, and especially people – all are created intentionally with color. See it. Celebrate it. Why be colorblind when we can be ColorFull instead!

ThoughtFull is an encouraging story that shows how life changes when we learn to value those who are differently abled and to champion the power of thoughtfulness.

GraceFull is a touching story that opens a dialogue on the tough subject of homelessness, showing young readers how God showers grace that is meant to be share - so we can all be Gracefull! 


Recommended by Charity Gwaltney

Love Lives Here

Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want

Book by Maria Goff

There are a lot of second-best options, but we weren't made to live a second-best life. Finding what we actually need is different than what we are often offered. There are many books full of opinions, steps, and programs. This isn't one of them. This is about craving the things that matter. Things that don't just work, but last. In a life that may seem to be all fun and games with an endless supply of balloons, author Maria Goff shows how this life is also lived with intentionality, passionate purpose, and a little planning—all of which make a life rich in legacy. But she had to figure out the help she needed first in order to live the beautiful life God wanted for her and wants for us. Love Lives Here is a collection of stories that include the ways Maria and her husband, Bob, navigated family their way, without clear instructions or a road map. It's about what they learned to make their lives meaningful and whimsical and how they created a space for their family to grow together while they reached outward.


Recommended by Neil Tullos

Franklin Steak

Dry-Aged Live-Fired Pure Beef

Book by Aaron Franklin & Jordan Mackay

The be-all, end-all guide to cooking the perfect steak—from buying top-notch beef, seasoning to perfection, and finding or building the ideal cooking vessel. Aaron Franklin may be the reigning king of brisket, but in his off-time, what he really loves to cook and eat at home is steak. With their trademark rigor and expertise, Franklin and coauthor Jordan Mackay go deeper into the art and science of cooking steak than anyone has gone before. They demystify cattle breeds, explore the technique of dry-aging, explore globally-inspired techniques like the reverse sear and hibachi-style cooking, and even teach readers how to build a custom, backyard grill setup. For any meat-lover, backyard grill-master, or fan of Franklin's fun yet authoritative approach, this book is a must-have.


Recommended by Neil Tullos

Sports Wars

Podcast hosted by Dan Rubenstein

Sports rivalries can fuel fans and athletes to fight and argue for years. But what's the real story behind these epic battles?

This series offers an immersive look at some of the greatest athletic rivalries of all time: two superpower nations facing off in the Miracle on Ice. The battle for the starting quarterback gig in Green Bay between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. And many more.

Host Dan Rubenstein (Sports Illustrated, S.B. Nation) will take you from the grudge matches to the pranks, from the tantrums to the triumphs: what really happened, who was right, who was wrong - and you can decide whose side you're on.


Recommended by Bridget Keel

If You Only Knew

My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free

Book by Jamie Ivey

What if you knew all the moments of my past that I am not proud of? What if you really knew me, the messy parts that I’ve hoped to forget and worked hard to conceal? For so long, my greatest fear was what you might think of me if you only knew the whole story.

 It’s exhausting, this guarding of our stories and struggles. Fear of being found out had caused me to hide—but I wasn’t just covering my flaws, I was unintentionally blocking the beauty of God’s grace. My journey to real freedom began when I quit running from my mess and started trusting Jesus to make something beautiful of it. 

 This book is that story. It’s stepping out of shame and insecurity into gospel freedom. It’s letting God turn our failures and frailties into testimonies of His faithfulness. I’ve discovered that when we quit hiding, God gets the glory and we are able to fully embrace not only our relationship with Him, but also with one another. 

Transparency brings freedom, and in every moment, we'll find that God can absolutely be trusted.


Recommended by Blaire Hill

The Happy Hour

Podcast hosted by Jamie Ivey

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey is a place where girlfriends gather to talk about the big things in life, the little things in life, and everything in between. Each week Jamie and a guest invite you into their conversation, and you will be inspired, encouraged, and pointed to Jesus through every show.


Recommended by Jason Duran

Love Like That

5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus

Study by Dr. Les Parrott (RightNow Media)

Let’s be honest. How many times have you fallen short at being a good friend, a wise parent, or a self-giving spouse because you didn't love—truly love—at the highest level? It’s tough. We’re bound to fail. The bar is so high, especially if you aspire to love like Jesus. But it’s not impossible. In this 6-part Bible study series, Dr. Les Parrott examines Jesus’s life and character traits to give practical definition to what it means to love like Jesus. The Holy Spirit invites us to trade detachment, exclusivity, judgment, fear, and self-concern for mindfulness, approachability, grace, boldness, and self-giving. He empowers us to love like Jesus, and frees us to experience genuine joy.


Recommended by Bridget Keel


The Art of Discipleship

Study by Jennie Allen (RightNow Media)

Within the church, discipleship is a common topic of discussion—and for good reason. Jesus calls us to go and make disciples. Practically, what does it look like to do this? Throughout this study, our goal is to simplify the act of discipleship. By simplifying it, we do not mean taking away from the value of discipleship or turning it into a neat, pretty, and clean equation. Rather, we hope to shed light on how Jesus has shown us the way of discipleship.

Discipleship is about relationships. Simple, right? Relationships involve people, and we all have people in our lives. Relationships stem from family, the workplace, friendships, school, church, clubs, teams, organizations—everywhere. We come into contact with people each day, and with that comes the opportunity to create relationships. As we love and serve the people in these relationships, we exemplify the love of Christ. We love and serve others because all people are image bearers of God. This is discipleship. Throughout this study, our hope is to explore the meaning and importance of discipleship, to highlight the way Jesus did discipleship, and to model His ways.


Recommended by Christine Ellis

Cold-Case Christianity

A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

Study by J. Warner Wallace

Written by an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist, Cold-Case Christianity examines the claims of the New Testament using the skills and strategies of a hard-to-convince criminal investigator. Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity.