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Summer Reading for 2020


Having just celebrated Memorial Day in the United States, we are now well into summer. For many, that means extra time for reading. In case you’re looking for ideas on what to read this summer, here’s a list of books that are in the queue for members of the ChinaSource team. If you personally know individuals on the team, you might be able to figure out who’s reading what! Descriptions are excerpts from Amazon pages.

Celebration of Angels, by Timothy K. Jones

Do heavenly beings touch our lives every day? Through contemporary stories and biblical accounts of angel encounters, Timothy Jones answers the question with a compelling “Yes!” He shows how relevant angels are to the hopes and truths and exposes the myths that surround these wonderfully mysterious beings.

China and the True Jesus: Charisma and Organization in a Chinese Christian Church, by Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye

The church’s history links together key themes in modern Chinese social history, such as longstanding cultural exchange between China and the West, imperialism and globalization, game-changing advances in transport and communications technology, and the relationship between religious movements and the state in the late Qing (circa 1850-1911), Republican (1912-1949), and Communist (1950-present-day) eras.

Crossing, by Andrew Xia Fukuda

A loner in his all-white high school, Chinese-born Xing (pronounced “Shing”) is a wallflower longing for acceptance. His isolation is intensified by his increasingly awkward and undeniable crush on his only friend, the beautiful and brilliant Naomi Lee. Xing’s quiet adolescent existence is rattled when a series of disappearances rock his high school and fear ripples through the blue collar community in which he lives.

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, by Jung Chang

Drawing on newly available sources, Jung Chang comprehensively overturns Cixi’s reputation as a conservative despot. Cixi’s extraordinary reign saw the birth of modern China. Under her, the ancient country attained industries, railways, electricity, and a military with up-to-date weaponry. She abolished foot-binding, inaugurated women’s liberation, and embarked on a path to introduce voting rights. Packed with drama, this groundbreaking biography powerfully reforms our view of a crucial period in China’s—and the world’s—history. 

Finding God in the Margins: The Book of Ruth, by Carolyn Custis James

The ancient book of Ruth speaks into today’s world with astonishing relevance.In four short episodes we encounter refugees, undocumented immigrants, poverty, hunger, women’s rights, male power and privilege, discrimination, and injustice.

Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution, by Helen Zia

Herself the daughter of immigrants from China, Zia is uniquely equipped to explain how crises like the Shanghai transition affect children and their families, students and their futures, and, ultimately, the way we see ourselves and those around us. Last Boat Out of Shanghai brings a poignant personal angle to the experiences of refugees then and, by extension, today.

Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757, by James Fenimore Cooper

A fascinating adventure story, grounded in American history. As the French and Indian war rages, the two daughters of a British officer prepare to return home. But when, Cora, Alice, and the soldiers who guard them are betrayed by their Native American scout, their safety depends on wily forest tracker Hawkeye and his friends Chingachkook and Uncas—the last of the Mohicans.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises Fredrik Backman 

[That’s where our HK colleagues find it. Also look for My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, same book, same author, different title.]

From the author of the internationally best-selling A Man Called Ove, a charming, warmhearted novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, by Malachy Tallack

In Sixty Degrees North, Tallack travels westward, exploring the landscapes of the parallel and the ways that people have interacted with those landscapes, highlighting themes of wildness and community, isolation and engagement, exile and memory.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God, by Sybil MacBeth

Maybe you hunger to know God better. Maybe you love color. Maybe you are a visual or kinesthetic learner, a distractable or impatient soul, or a word-weary pray-er. Perhaps you struggle with a short attention span, a restless body, or a tendency to live in your head.

This prayer form can take as little or as much time as you have or want to commit, from 15 minutes to a weekend retreat. “A new prayer form gives God an invitation and a new door to penetrate the locked cells of our hearts and minds,” explains Sybil MacBeth. “For many of us, using only words to pray reduces God by the limits of our finite words.”

The Color of Water, by James McBride

Interspersed throughout his mother’s compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.

The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry, by S. Joshua Swamidass

Some think Adam and Eve are a myth. Some think evolution is a myth. Either way, the best available science opens up space to engage larger questions together. In this bold exploration, Swamidass charts a new way forward for peace between mainstream science and the Christian faith.

The Great Manchurian Plague of 1911: The Geopolitics of an Epic Disease, by William C. Summers

When plague broke out in Manchuria in 1910 as a result of transmission from marmots to humans, it struck a region struggling with the introduction of Western medicine, as well as with the interactions of three different national powers: Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. In this fascinating case history, William Summers relates how this plague killed as many as 60,000 people in less than a year, and uses the analysis to examine the actions and interactions of the multinational doctors, politicians, and ordinary residents who responded to it.

The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence, by Benoit Mandelbrot

In The (Mis)Behavior of Markets, Mandelbrot joins with science journalist and former Wall Street Journal editor Richard L. Hudson to reveal what a fractal view of the world of finance looks like. The result is a revolutionary reevaluation of the standard tools and models of modern financial theory. 

The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church, by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.

The book elaborates on the apostolic role rooted in the five-fold ministry from Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teacher), and its significance for the missional movement. It explores how the apostolic ministry facilitates ongoing renewal in the life of the church and focuses on leadership in relation to missional innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Third Revolution:  Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, by Elizabeth Economy

Through a wide-ranging exploration of Xi Jinping’s top political, economic and foreign policy priorities-fighting corruption, managing the Internet, reforming the state-owned enterprise sector, improving the country’s innovation capacity, enhancing air quality, and elevating China’s presence on the global stage-Economy identifies the tensions, shortcomings, and successes of Xi’s reform efforts over the course of his first five years in office.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.  

What are you reading this summer?

Editor’s note: For more summer reading suggestions, check out our recommendations from summers past.

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio


Image credit: Ben White on Unsplash.

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