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Summer reading

I have six suggestions for summer reading.

First, it should include what The New York Times calls “beach reading.” That is, in the words of one book critic, “compulsive page-turners.” This means a book in which you can lose yourself. Romance, historical fiction, detective/crime — not necessarily spectacular literature, but books that engage your mind and heart, draw you away from screens and open you to the sheer joy of words on a page.

Second, summer reading should take you to new places. More and more of us lack the means to travel widely. Yet we still need exposure to other cultures, other ideas, other ways of daily living. Travel literature and books about cooking have become popular. Same with fantasies. They expose us to a larger world at a time when horizons are narrowing.

Third, summer reading should include slow and thorough perusal of a good newspaper, either delivered to your door or read online. I recommend The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Even as social media and lying politicians undermine the world of reality and facts, some newspapers have doubled down on trustworthy information and facts. I recommend taking time with some good magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Plus some quality online news aggregators like Medium.

Fourth, slog through at least one book outlining the decline of democracy and Western civilization. We must know our evolving context. Our demagogic leaders are trying to sell us a dystopian vision that requires them to seize power. The actual state of affairs is different from what they say.

Fifth, turn off social media. I hope you can bring yourself to drop Facebook and Twitter altogether. But if you can’t break that cord, at least cut back. Write emails, start a personal blog or, best of all, meet friends face to face. There’s growing recognition that we need more than a few best friends. We also need casual communities of face-to-face interaction.

Finally, what about faith? Many of us have allowed our faith to become partisan or political, centered in a cultural cause that deeply concerns us. That’s all well and good. But there is an overarching trajectory of God’s life that requires our attention as well. That arc isn’t expressed in our cause du jour. I suggest you step back and seek a longer and broader horizon. I personally am drawn to books that try to peer into what Jesus actually said and did, what he actually wanted, what he actually commissioned his disciples to do. That glimpse can make you grind your teeth because Christianity turned against its own Messiah almost immediately after he died. But it also can be deeply inspirational, not to mention practical, as the real thing shows us what could be today.

Happy reading! See you at the beach. We’ll be the ones lost in the wonder of words.

TOM EHRICH is a publisher, writer, church consultant and president of Morning Walk Media, based in New York.

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