What are you taking on vacation this summer? Probably the iPod, the Gameboy, maybe even the DVD player—nothing wrong with that. Music and movies can be enriching as well as relaxing. But they’re no substitute for that classic summer tradition of reading books.
Unfortunately, many of us are so hooked on technology that we’re in danger of losing our taste for good books. But we need books to exercise our mind, to explore important ideas, and to provide great topics for family discussion.
So I’ve got a few recommendations for summer reading, starting with a book by one of my closest friends. Michael Novak and his daughter Jana have collaborated on their second book together, Washington’s God. Michael was asked to write it by James Rees, executive director of the Museum and Visitors’ Center at Mount Vernon, who was always getting requests for “a book on George Washington’s religion.”
Michael and Jana discovered that much of the conventional wisdom about Washington was wrong. You’ve probably heard that Washington observed only the outward forms of religion for appearance’s sake. But by the accounts of those who knew him, George Washington’s integrity was such that he never would have done anything just for appearance’s sake. For example, he would have considered it hypocrisy to keep urging his soldiers to pray for guidance and protection, if he himself had not prayed regularly or believed in a God who answered prayer. Michael and Jana provide a detailed portrait of the man’s faith, in large part by “try[ing] to take Washington’s words about God seriously,” instead of dismissing them as so many historians have done.
Another book you ought to add to your list is Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason. This book also reveals truths that political correctness has long tried to bury—namely, that Christianity led directly to the success of Western culture. It was Christianity’s emphasis on reason as a gift from God that gave us our rich heritage in science, politics, and so many other fields. I’ll be talking more about The Victory of Reason in the weeks ahead—so stay tuned.
As you pack the new books, don’t forget to throw in a few old ones as well. It was C. S. Lewis who advised, “You should at least read one old [book] to every three new ones. . . . We all . . . need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.” On our website, BreakPoint.org, we have lists of recommended books that include many of the great classics—including some by Lewis himself. I urge you to check it out. Or call us at 1-877-322-5527, and we’ll be glad to send you our recommendations.
The last thing I want to do is make your summer vacation sound like work. We all need relaxation. But we also need to nourish and re-energize our minds and spirits as well as our bodies, and that can be just as much fun as the video games. So as you pack the electronic toys, make sure you don’t forget the books.
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: The “Recommended Reading List from Chuck Colson and the Wilberforce Forum.”
“C. S. Lewis on the Reading of Old Books,” Jolly Blogger, 17 October 2005.
Jim Tonkowich, “In Praise of Old Books,” BreakPoint WorldView, March 2004.
Michael and Jana Novak, Washington’s God (Basic Books, 2006).
Michael and Jana Novak, “Divining W: Inside Washington’s God,” National Review Online, 20 February 2006.
Michael Novak, “Washington’s Sun God,” National Review Online, 14 March 2006.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060222, “The Victory of Reason: Christianity and the West.”