Article by: Ivan Mesa
On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked S. D. Smith—author of middle-grade fantasy adventure books The Green Ember, Ember Falls, and The Black Star of Kingston—about what’s on his nightstand, his favorite fiction books, books that have shaped his thinking on arts and the imagination, and more.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
- A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- The Song of Glory and Ghost by N. D. Wilson [read TGC’s review]
What’s one book you wish every evangelical read and why?
Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. I find many who have their doctrine “straight” don’t find the world wonderful, and so pit the doctrine of redemption against the doctrine of creation. We become cold utilitarians. But many who have their doctrine “crooked” have fallen out of love with the romance of orthodoxy, reason, and the inheritance of tradition. We become vulnerable to every enchanting fad. When I read Chesterton, even as a Protestant, I find myself wooed back to fresh wonder and old truth.
What are your favorite fiction books?
- Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- The Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin) Series by Patrick O’Brian
- The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Author Conan Doyle
- Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse (or any of his books)
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Which books have most shaped your thinking on arts and the imagination?
- Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton (especially chapter 4: “The Ethics of Elfland”)
- Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
- Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer (years ago)
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
- Genesis. The creation account is so important for me as a sub-creator, and everything in the rest of Scripture goes back to the Pentateuch. The Gospels make so much sense after Genesis—an incredible book. I’m sad it’s often only used as a lifeless exhibit in arguments. There’s so much more there!
- Ecclesiastes. My favorite book ever. This is the book that reflects reality like no other, and it’s a great goad to real joy.
- The Gospels. Jesus! Compelling. Beautiful. Everything.
- Orthodoxy because it’s so full of goodness, truth, and beauty that I find more for my soul and mind with each return.
- Sherlock Holmes. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect it’s the Victorian/Edwardian era order (or perceived order?). I like the way the men speak respectfully to women and the old fashioned adventure that feels timeless.
- The Lord of the Rings because it’s the best and has made me, more than almost any other book outside the Bible (fiction or non-fiction), love the things (and persons) I ought to love.
What are top children’s books every parent of young ones should own?
- All of Tolkien and Lewis, obviously.
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
- The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger L. Green.
- Beatrix Potter.
- Dr. Seuss.
- Modern: N. D. Wilson, Andrew Peterson, and Jonathan Rogers.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
The great lesson for me over the past several years has been the power of habits in every area of life. For years I wandered in the wilderness of spontaneity, believing only what was unscripted and unplanned could be truly spiritual and please God. It’s been a gift to connect to the inheritance we have from the church—in history and tradition.
I’m also learning how impossible it is for me to adequately protect and provide for those I love. I’m learning more that Christ is our protector and provider, and I’m called to be a servant to my family (and others) with the gifts and capacities I have. And I’m profoundly limited. So I must, as a habit, turn to God and and turn over to him the anxieties that threaten to wreck me every day. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
Also in the On My Shelf series: Curtis Woods • Mindy Belz • Steve Timmis • David Mathis • Michael Lindsay • Nathan Finn • Jennifer Marshall • Todd Billings • Greg Thornbury • Greg Forster • Jen Pollock Michel • Sam Storms • Barton Swaim • John Stonestreet • George Marsden • Andrew Wilson • Sally Lloyd-Jones • Darryl Williamson • D. A. Horton • Carl Ellis • Owen Strachan • Thomas Kidd • David Murray • Jarvis Williams • Gracy Olmstead • Matthew Hall • Drew Dyck • Louis Markos • Ray Ortlund • Brett McCracken • Mez McConnell • Erik Raymond • Sandra McCracken • Tim Challies • Sammy Rhodes • Karen Ellis • Alastair Roberts • Scott Sauls • Karen Swallow Prior • Jackie Hill Perry • Bruce Ashford • Jonathan Leeman • Megan Hill • Marvin Olasky • David Wells • John Frame • Rod Dreher • James K. A. Smith • Randy Alcorn • Tom Schreiner • Trillia Newbell • Jen Wilkin • Joe Carter • Timothy George • Tim Keller • Bryan Chapell • Lauren Chandler • Mike Cosper • Russell Moore • Jared Wilson • Kathy Keller • J. D. Greear • Kevin DeYoung • Kathleen Nielson • Thabiti Anyabwile • Elyse Fitzpatrick • Collin Hansen • Fred Sanders • Rosaria Butterfield • Nancy Guthrie • Matt Chandler
Ivan Mesa is an editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.