10 Fiction Books to Read This Summer

Check out yesterday’s blog for a list of 10 Christian books to pick from for your summer reading. Today, however, I want to give a fiction list to check out. Many of these authors aren’t Christians, and do not have Christian worldviews, but it’s important that we all take time to enter into our culture, learn how people are thinking about the world, and then see how they interface with the truth of the gospel, which rests at the heart of every great story.

1. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories By Flannery O’Connor – This classic collection of novella length works by Flannery O’Connor is the quintessential example of the American Southern Gothic style popularized in the 40s and 50s. O’Connor weaves complex stories about the depravity of humanity, which uncover the darkest side of the human heart. Yet even the most wicked character offers hints of something better, something worth redeeming.

2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy – This is a gritty story about a father and son attempting to survive in post-apocalyptic America. How do you protect innocence? What’s survival worth? How do you learn to trust? What’s the greatest good? The ethical and philosophical questions presented in this short book rattle our hearts and minds.

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – What would you trade to become beautiful for a lifetime? In this novel, Wilde retells the classic Faustus myth in late Victorian England. He does not allow you to simply despise or empathize with any of his characters, as all of their idols rise to the surface through their part in the enigmatic life of Dorian Gray.

4. The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller – Okay, so this isn’t a novel, it’s a drama. You could just watch the movie, but I suggest actually sitting down with the script. Not only was Arthur Miller one of the greatest American playwrites, but this particular play cuts to straight to the dark side of the American dream, causing me to long for the true good life.

5. White Teeth by Zadie Smith – This novel analyzes race and class relations in the United Kingdom at the turn of the twenty-first century. Blacks, whites, muslims, college graduates, street thugs, rich, and poor all collide in a masterfully woven story about what factors most significantly shape our identities, and how those identities can lead to our rise or demise.

6. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – I know it’s an old fantasy novel, but unlike my previous choices Tolkein presents not only darkness, but also light. This is a moving story that strikes at our deepest desires for a true king, true power, true humility, true redemption, and true repentance.

7. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis – I might as well follow-up fantasy with sci-fi. Lewis is more famous for the Chronicles or Narnia, which are also worth reading, but the space trilogy is an incredible series that blurs the lines between the scientific and the spiritual, thereby opening up doors to questions about the greater purpose of humanity within the universe.

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – Think Harry Potter meets Jane Austin. Clarke’s crisp writing, whimsical storytelling, and compelling character development make a cocktail for top notch fiction. In it she weaves an imaginary world of magical history with true history. It is a story full of hurt and betrayal, only to be followed reconciliation and redemption.

9. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – This is a short, but moving story. It follows two friends as they look for work during the great depression. As the story continues, their friendship thickens, culminating in a series of ethical decisions that challenge our assumptions about goodness and the good life.

10. Daisy Miller by Henry James – Famous for his realistic style, Henry James tells the story of an expatriate American family, where old traditions clash with the new, challenging contemporary assumptions about class, wealth, and morality.

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About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
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2 Responses to 10 Fiction Books to Read This Summer

  1. Patrick, I’m just sort of wondering about your choices…I just feel like almost all of these reads are really dark and are basically extended metaphors about sin (excluding the space trilogy, LOTR, and Jonathan Strange). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed reading most of these stories and I think they are accurate portrayals of the human condition. BUT I don’t think that good fiction has to be dark and depressing. I would just rather have some choices that don’t make me want to kill myself by the end. What about books that give the hope of redemption in addition to the reality of sin? Examples include Peace Like a River, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Book Thief, To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 100 Years of Solitude, A Separate Peace.
    Over half of these stories end in death….just saying.

    • Patrick K. Miller says:

      Katie,

      You make a great point and I totally agree, that’s why I included the fantasy/fairy stories. For whatever reason our culture finds light and redemption most palatable in fantastic stories, as though realism rules it out. That said, I like your list and endorse them all for brighter stories. Especially the fantastic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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