Summer Reading — Books Fit for the Season

Readers are a hopeful lot. Ask most serious readers what they intend to read over the next month, and you are likely to hear a…


Readers are a hopeful lot. Ask most serious readers what they intend to read over the next month, and you are likely to hear a considerable list. Books stack easily in more ways than one. The stack of books to be read beside the desk or reading chair is a statement of hope. No matter how busy we find ourselves to be, the books are there waiting.

That is why summer is a special season for reading. Finally, we can read some of those volumes we have been promising ourselves to read. Hopefully, the stack for summer reading includes some books to read for sheer enjoyment. The following is a list of ten books that, in my opinion, make for great summer reading. The list is heavily weighted in history, but the kind of history I first learned to enjoy as a boy — history that tells a story worth knowing about people and times that fascinate.

This year’s list also proves that boys never grow up. Among the ten books I commend this year are books dealing with cowboys, Indians, gangsters, lawmen, trains, spies, and battles. Those looking for books on birds and romance should consult some other list.

1. Theodore Roosevelt and Daniel Ruddy, Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States (New York: Smithsonian Books/HarperCollins).

Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Daniel Ruddy went through the voluminous writings of Theodore Roosevelt and pulled out “TR’s” magnificent work on the history of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt remains one of the most admired figures in American history, and for good reason. As Edmund Morris, his most gifted biographer, noted, TR was both an “impatient man of action” and “a multicultural Renaissance man.” With the singular exception of Winston Churchill, no modern figure equals Teddy Roosevelt in both making and writing history.

Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States displays TR in all his glory, learning, and sharp opinion. He never minces words. “Impartiality does not mean neutrality,” Roosevelt insisted. “The best historian must of necessity take sides.” Thomas Jefferson was “one of the most mischievous enemies of democracy.” William McKinley “had no more backbone than a chocolate eclair.” Jefferson Davis (with whom Roosevelt corresponded) was “an unhung traitor,” while Robert E. Lee was a man of “dauntless courage and high leadership.”

Throughout the book, the energy and power of Theodore Roosevelt shine and seduce. “I have no right to the title of Excellency,” Roosevelt wrote. “I am simply Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. I would rather be called Colonel than anything else.” Anyone who can write, “I am simply Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States,” is worth reading. There is not a dull page in this volume.


One of the prime dangers of civilization has always been its tendency to cause the loss of virile fighting virtues, of the fighting edge. When men get too comfortable and lead too luxurious lives, there is always a danger lest the softness eat like an acid into their manliness of fiber. The barbarian, because of the very conditions of his life, is forced to keep and develop certain hardy qualities which the man of civilization tends to lose. Unless we keep the barbarian virtues, gaining the civilized ones will be of little avail. Oversentimentality, oversoftness, washiness, and mushiness are the great dangers of this age and of this people.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

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