January 15, 2021

Michael Spencer’s Summer Reading List

rt***The humor challenged should turn back now. You have been warned.***

The Internet Monk Research Department is glad to respond to the requests of all Michael’s fans who want to know what he is possibly, well…probably…well….basically going to claim he read this summer. Got your Amazon one-click ordering fingers ready? Here we go:

The Saturday Evening Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
Da Brudderhood of Zeeba Zeeba Eata: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
Da Crockydile Book o’ Frendsheep: A Pearls Before Swine Gift Book (Pearls Before Swine Collection) by Stephan Pastis
Sgt. Piggy’s Lonely Hearts Club Comic: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury by Stephan Pastis
Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My!: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury by Stephan Pastis
Pearls Sells Out: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury by Stephan Pastis
Pearls Before Swine : BLTs Taste So Darn Good by Stephan Pastis
The Sopratos: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
The Ratvolution Will Not Be Televised: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
Nighthogs: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
This Little Piggy Stayed Home: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis

Look for my complete review of these books as soon as my research assistants finish reading them. (Hey…don’t be a hater. I’m a busy guy.)

[See…it’s my job to make sure some of you people don’t feel so bad about yourselves when you see those book lists. You’ve got a family, a job, church softball and like naps, fishing, movies. You don’t ever plan to spend your summer reading all 356 volumes ever written about the Crimean War. So go have a Frosty and don’t compare yourself to other people. Ok?]


  1. You people that don’t like great literature are not welcome on this discussion. You’ve been warned.

  2. Imonk, are you familiar with this series?


    And, by the way, in blog comments, do you prefer to be called Imonk or Michael?

  3. No and either.

  4. Scott Eaton says

    Yeah, what’s the big deal about summer reading lists anyway? Who has time for reading in the summer. We have a short window of nice weather and have to take full advantage of our time outside. Fishing? Yes. Walking? Yes. Playing ball in the yard? Yes. Cooking out with friends? Yes. Reading? Only if there’s time.

    Michael, I think books can become an idol. What do you think?

    Great list, by the way.

  5. Tulsaman says

    What about Get Fuzzy? Some of the best writing anywhere today. (Present company excluded, of course…)

    Oh–and want to rile up a crowd of Christians? Tell them your favorite cartoon strip is Doonesbury. Boy, do I get the hateful stares when I say that.

  6. My pastor absolutely loves Pearls Before Swine! He got me hooked on it and now I follow it “religiously”.

  7. Scott: I really am happy to read all the time, and I love books. There’s an idolatrous side to them, but what I’m getting at here is this:

    I’m not sure I can actually believe that the average-to-above average guy in ministry, with kids, with a wife, with a job, with no research staff, with no extra ministries, with yards to mow and vacations to take and things to do that normal-not famous- people apparently don’t do, needs to be told that their spiritual models are reading the 37 volume history of the thumbtack. I’m gald some guys are that bright. I’m glad their wives are that understanding. I’m glad their schools or churches aren’t demanding. I’m glad they can afford the books. I’m glad they don’t have toddlers that keep them from doing anything, including just sitting in church without distraction.

    But that’s not most guys, and it doesn’t need to be held up as most guys.

    Where is the champion of the ordinary Joe in the Christian blogosphere? I have never seen such a display of the “spiritual olympics” sometimes.

  8. As a rule of thumb, I don’t really believe summer reading lists. Newspapers use them as filler when the weather finally gets good enough that most normal people are heading off to the beach (or at least sitting out in the back yard with the radio on and getting a tan).

    The English satirical magazine “Private Eye” regularly mocks these lists as soon as they appear, pointing out that it’s awfully coincidental that Jon Author in the “Guardian” is gushing over Jill Writer’s 37-volume history of the thumbtack (to steal your example) while in the “Telegraph”, lo and behold! Jill Writer is adamant that Jon Author’s slim volume on wet socks and their affect on the 15th century wool trade in Cumbria never left her grasp until she had devoured every last word.

    Most people actually read the latest Stephen King or Tom Clancy or whatever summer blockbuster is out at the time, but when asked what they’re currently reading for a list that’s going to be published, somehow it’s all Highly Improving Great Literature stacked up on their bedside table 🙂

  9. Let me just clarify that the book series I mentioned are comics, as I don’t think that’s apparent from the cover.

  10. >> So go have a Frosty and don’t compare yourself to other people. Ok?


    As a homeschooler, I have a huge list, but I’ll be dipped if I ever get a chance to read any of them! (I think the homeschool blogosphere can be just as bad as your Christian blogosphere when it comes to some of this stuff.) Thanks for letting me off the hook!

  11. Monk,

    Thanks for relieving my guilt and sense of worthlessness. In my last post (on Calvin’s birthday orgy) you accused me of being humor-challenged, and I’ve been suffering since. Today I learned you liked Pearls Before Swine, and now know what I should have known then:The problem is with you, not me. Monty, Bizarro, Brewster Rockitt, and The Duplex are current strips worthy of leather-bound collections, along with the great Far Side and the incomparable Calvin and Hobbs. Pearls Before Swine? Hillbilly toilet paper.

  12. sue kephart says

    My reading list is already full. When is the movie coming out?

  13. What would happen if Calvin and Hobbs grew up? Maybe Frazz?
    The only time I have to tackle any reading that requires an attention span is when riding the bus to work.

  14. I’d read all day, every day if I could get away with it. I don’t do reading lists because I find them very limiting. I’m pretty much a drive by reader — I’ll pick up a book on just about anything including folks like Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel) and W. E. B. Griffin.

    What I will be reading when the books arrive are some interesting sounding books on Discipleship and Evangelism (I sometimes wonder if there is really a difference), principally Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.

  15. James,

    I’m glad that you mentioned Frazz. That has to be one of my favorite comic strips. Only 1 of only 4 that I follow, if necessary, on the Internet.

    Tigger, I like Jared Diamond as well. Have you read his “Collapse”?

  16. I never heard of these Pearls Before Swine books. I bet they are a lot of fun!

    I have been doing some “heavy” reading lately, but then I will break it up with some light stuff. Plus, I watch the comedy “news” of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart and I bet a lot of Christians would think I am WAY off-base to like those guys. But I do like them, so there.

  17. I have a dozen books on my summer reading list.

    None of them would be considered to be deep, thought-provoking tomes by these SuperPastors and SuperTheologians.

    They’re books like Paul Miller’s A Praying Life; Ed Welch’s Depression; Mark Driscoll’s Vintage Church; and Paul Tripp’s Broken-Down House.

    I struggle to start, and follow through on my own list. I do good to check my email and scan thru Google Reader.

    I persist because I believe reading is well worth the effort and time put into it, and I really want to read these books.

    Besides, I’m lucky to find one book on SuperTheologian’s list that interests me.

  18. iMonk, by the way, thanks for bringing Pearls Before Swine to our attention. I’ll check it out online.

  19. Boy, now do I feel guilty about having just read The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. Honestly, I didn’t mean anything by it!

  20. Just finished David Crystal’s (author The Story of English) “Shakespere Miscellany”. Or was it “Shaxpere…” ?
    Fun trivia. A book not to be read from front to back, but in random fashion from here to there. On sale for 4.98.
    Left it at my last job site for another construction dude or dudette .

    Comics ? We got yer comics.
    The local (secular) book giant carries
    an abridged bible rendered in anime style. It’s pretty good from what I could scan in 60 seconds.
    And remember the book a few years back titled, “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” ?

  21. That Other Jean says

    Ooooohhh. . .Da Brudderhood of Zeeba Zeeba Eata! I knew we had to have SOMETHING in common.

  22. IMonk, thanks for helping relieve some guilt. Most of have “normal lives,” and aren’t Christian celebrities with speaking circuits, big book deals and research assistants. Seriously, some of these guys are so driven with a desire to “be somebody” you can almost taste their ambition. I think this post helped a lot of people, including me.

    Can I ask a related question? What do you think of the trend of pastors and church leaders reading so many business books? I really admire guys like Driscoll and Piper because they actually know and read theology and don’t seem driven by the latest fads and ideas from the business community (although I admit many of them are helpful and interesting).

  23. They read business books because they think they have the answers to growing a big church and becoming a big church pastor. That’s the primary source of all spirituality in mainstream evangelicalism.

    BTW- I am very skeptical of these reading lists. I’d like to ask a lot of questions about personal schedule, family life, use of assistants, etc.

  24. Slightly off-topic, but:

    “Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.”


  25. IMonk,

    I completely agree with your last statement. Most of us do not have research assistants or families that would allow the kind of time needed to read like “the man” says we should. I love reading but my daughter could care less about the latest book on the Trinity or whatever when she wants daddy to come outside and play!

    Do you think with your platform that you could push for some of these questions to be answered? I would also like to know if comparable time is spent in Scripture reading as well (I once had a older pastor offer the advice that I should spend equal time reading Scripture as I do reading other books).

  26. Thanks for being real. I am currently 27 books behind on my suggested reading list. Don’t forget that in addition to the reading list we are to have an hour of quiet time. that breaks me up! Pastor, Parent, husband, tent-maker, pet owner, sure, an hour of quiet time each day, just to get right with the Lord and hear Him in the quiet of our lives. I wish!

  27. Willoh,

    That is one of the reasons why I like the book “More prayers for busy people.” It’s similar to the liturgy of the hours, except with a more casual tone. It takes just about 15 minutes or less, 3 times a day.

  28. Patrick Lynch FTW! G-G is brilliant — do check it out if you can.

  29. Heard a segment on NPR this morning about the annual Bloomsday celebration in Dublin, dedicated to Joyce’s Ulysses novel. Which, of course, is one of the most difficult-to-read, yet important books in the English language.

    The interviewer talks to a group of friends in a pub. They’ve been celebrating Bloomsday for ten years. But they admit:

    “I read the first page, and then I gave up!”
    “I have to admit to not comprehending everything that was in it.”
    “We’re actually here because we love it, but we haven’t read it. We love it more because we haven’t read it.”

    My kind of people.

  30. Pearls Before Swine isn’t great literature? 😉 And, Tulsaman, I love Doonesbury, but I am a recovering Fundamentalist.

    Personally, I’m reading Anne Lamott’s TRAVELING MERCIES right now. Les Miserablés has been on my to read list for four summers now, and I have managed to get through about ten pages. So much for great literature.

  31. Dolan McKnight says

    As a humor challenged lurker, I would recommend a serious book on management to wile away the hours on the beach. “The Dilbert Principle” would be my top choice, in that Dilbert is the voice of sanity and sharp perception in the typical business environment in which he survives. Just as “Pearls before Swine” enlightens us on general principles of life, Dilbert focuses on real life situations in the work place.

  32. OK, just read the entire list.

    Not sure I’ll have time this summer to read the books that are on the list, though…

  33. Pearls Before Swine is one of the most spiritually insightful comic strips currently in production. I’m not kidding.

    Doonesbury is well-drawn. I’ll give it that.

  34. 1)I can’t believe you have time to read. I can’t believe you even have all the time you obviously put into this blog, including checking the comments.
    2) Pearls before Swine is cool, but Dilbert (when he’s not mocking Jesus during Holy Week) and Piranha Club are better. Gotta love Effie singing “Halleloooyah!”.

  35. Songs for the Broken says

    Interesting point by a commenter on spending as much time in scripture as books on the “reading list.” There’s a lot of validity in that.

    Anyway though, I want to chime in with a recommendation, since cartoons/comics are the order of the day: Naruto, by Kishimoto Masashi.

    http://www.onemanga.com/naruto/ to read online…

    oh, and “Bone” by Jeff Smith. Bone is complete, so you can actually buy it in one volume, Naruto is still ongoing…

  36. My summer reading usually consists of moving the stack of books I bought throughout the year and haven’t yet read from one location to another. Pearls Before Swine is good, but I’d certainly add Calvin & Hobbs and anything by Johnny Hart.

  37. It’s funny you should mention this. I was reviewing my own archives, and I found what I think is one of my favorite posts ever, but it’s not really my writing which I love there so much: it’s the Pearls Before Swine cartoon I used to punctuate it.

    The easily offended should be. See for yourself.

  38. There is also this one which has nothing to do with P-B-S, but it’s still a charmer.

  39. I enjoy Pearls Before Swine ( it should be the name of my band) but it pales in comparison to the late and greatly lamented “Far Side”.
    And as others have obliquely pointed out above, anyone who has ever worked in the idiocracy of corporate America will find “Dilbert” to be pure genius.
    Just as an aside, one of if not THE problem with American Church life is that it seeks to emulate corporate America.
    How sad.
    And worse, how tragic.

  40. Google ‘Achewood’. You didn’t hear me say that.

  41. sue kephart says

    This all reminds me of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland always looking at his watch. “No time, No time”. Hurry hurry hurry thought life. “Can’t stop”.
    My time is so important.
    What I do is so important.
    I am so important.

  42. it’s my job to make sure some of you people don’t feel so bad about yourselves when you see those book lists

    But now I feel bad about myself that I didn’t realize there were so many Pearls books. 🙁

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