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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Five fantastic (and fruitful) summer reads

Heading to the pool? Need a book to dive into? Whether you want to escape somewhere fantastical or immerse yourself in history, here are five books that’ll not only entertain you, but also inspire you in your discipleship this summer – recommended by bibliophile and bookseller, Olivia Haysman-Walker.

Wherever you are and whatever you do, God’s at work in your everyday spaces and relationships. But sometimes it’s easier to spot what that looks like in other people – or even in fictional characters. There are plenty of lessons we can learn from books of every stripe, whether explicitly ‘Christian’ or not. Through their narratives, characters, and the stories they tell, each one will help you reflect on one of the 6Ms, a simple framework to help you see how God works through people as they make good work, model his character, mould culture, minister grace and love, and act as mouthpieces for truth and justice and messengers of the gospel. So, make yourself an iced coffee (or another suitably cool beverage) and borrow or buy these summer reads.

1. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett | Model godly character 

Dive into the grime and grit of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and meet Sam Vimes, esteemed Commander of the City Watch. When a manhunt for a serial killer goes wrong, Vimes finds himself flung back in time to a darker era of the Watch’s history, rife with corruption and malice. 

Surrounded by apathy, hostility, and incompetence on all sides, Vimes is determined to hammer his precinct into shape or die trying. A relatable story for anyone who’s experienced a toxic workplace, Night Watch show us that modelling godly character means standing up for our convictions even with the odds stacked against us. 

2. Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague by Jennifer Jenkins | Minister grace and love

The year is 1665. The Black Death has overrun London and the south of England, but Emmott, Catherine, and Elizabeth are safe in their little Derbyshire village of Eyam.

And then the local tailor’s apprentice gets ill… 

The (true) story of Eyam is one of extraordinary sacrifice in the face of a terrifying inevitability. Knowing the plague had already taken hold in their community, the villagers chose to quarantine themselves for over a year to prevent the disease from spreading. This fictionalised imagining of real history asks: can we choose to love courageously even when the chips are down?

3. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight | Mouthpiece for truth and justice & Messenger of the Gospel

Born into slavery in 19th-century America, young Frederick Douglass quickly realised that his education would be the key to his emancipation. After escaping to freedom in 1838, Douglass channelled his talent with words into becoming a powerful voice for the abolitionist movement. 

Douglass’ activism was deeply rooted in his Christian faith. He didn’t shy away from calling out the hypocrisy of churches profiting from the labour of enslaved people. In Blight’s Pulitzer-prize winning biography, discover how Douglass’ unwavering belief in the God of justice inspired this world-class orator to speak truth to power.

4. The How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell | Mould culture

The handbook for training dragons has only one suggestion: ‘YELL AT IT!’ But when Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third gets his first dragon, he decides to try a more unconventional method: talking to it. In a culture that treats dragons like dumb beasts, Hiccup’s open-mindedness might just change the world.

As W. H. Auden said, ‘there are good books which are only for adults, [but] no good books which are only for children’. Don’t judge a book by its cover Cressida Cowell’s brilliant, irreverent, and heartfelt series has so much to teach us about moulding the culture we’re in.

5. The Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie | Make good work

A body in the library. A cryptic nursery rhyme left at the crime scene. A killer must be caught. While the police follow one dead-end after another, an unassuming old lady sits in the corner, gathering the evidence to solve the mystery over tea and scones. 

If you want to watch her crack the case, Sleeping Murder is a good place to start.

Miss Marple sees what the professionals miss. Where they overlook, she listens. Putting her keen mind and sharp eyes to good use, Marple’s kindness, diligence, and compassion for a world that constantly underestimates her is a testament to how your calling doesn’t have to be your paid job.

Olivia Haysman-Walker is Deputy Manager at a second-hand bookshop on Portobello Road. For more of her brilliant book recommendations, check out their Instagram feed @oxfamportobellobooks.

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