My 12 Best Summertime Books

Wow, my bookish companions!

I've combed through eleven years of summertime posts searching for the books that would be the perfect fit for you, my readers.  

These are the volumes that have hit home during this most laid back of seasons ... lounging on the beach, swinging in the hammock, or laying in front of the fan.

These twelve are the ones that impacted, sharpened, tenderized me.  I hope they'll do the same for you.

Click on the links to read more or to buy at Amazon.  {And yes, I get a few cents if you make a purchase! 

Dig in ...

Rachel Held Evans 
After Rachel's untimely death this spring, I felt a strong pull to read one of her books, to get to know this remarkable woman who struggled with the church and left her indelible mark on the next generation of seekers, the wounded, the marginalized.  Searching for Sunday is a deeply powerful memoir, a stunningly penned 'road map back to church.'

Rachel was a lover of God, savvy and wise, with a superb gift of storytelling, her memory keen with an eye to detail; her observations, sharp and pointed; her humor, wry.  She wrestled with her own cynicism and pride and insecurities, she learned hard won lessons along the way and shared them freely.

And if you grew up in the evangelical church like she did, you will laugh and cry at her stories, her recollections.  I promise.

I found myself challenged, convicted, and disturbed ... sometimes all in the same paragraph.  I'm guessing that some of her thoughts will leave you unsettled in your spirit, too.  You might embrace every word as your own ... or reject her viewpoint entirely.

However this book impacts you, I'm guessing that Rachel would smile knowing that some of her readers headed to their Bibles and did some heavy-duty soul searching as a result of reading her impassioned writing. That maybe we'd be open to conversations we've been putting off.  That maybe hope or faith, understanding or forgiveness or reconciliation would somehow be kindled.

This is a must-read for every believer, every soul wounded by the church, every outcast and wanderer.  Like me, you might find that these pages end up leading you, by the power of the Spirit, to begin yet again to clarify and sharpen your own biblical view of what the Body of Christ is meant to look like.

'The church is God saying: "I'm throwing a banquet, and all these mismatched, messed-up people are invited."'
Paperback - $9.51
Kindle - $7.99

2.  The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
Adam McHugh
McHugh's the kind of guide you'd choose if you're taking a long, winding journey to someplace unknown.  He's wise, he's got a keen sense of humor.  He knows where he's headed, because he's the first to admit the mistakes he's made in the past.  His subject matter is deep, yet engaging and readable.  He's got some crack-you-up anecdotes to share along the way {and his wry humor is even interlaced in the books's end notes}. 

If you like reading with a highlighter or pen in hand, grab yours.

'The question that drives this book is, how would our relationships change, and how would we change, if we approached every situation with the intention of listening first?  What if we approached our relationship with God as listeners?  What if we viewed our relationship with nature as one of listening?  What if we approached our relationships using our ears rather than our mouths?  What if we sought to listen to our emotions before we preached to them?' 
Paperback - $12.61
Kindle - $9.99

Susan Cain
If you're an introvert, there's a good chance you read Susan Cain's huge 2013 bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.  And you probably breathed huge sighs of relief as you found yourself in every chapter.  At last, someone finally gave clear voice to who you truly were ... and you felt so incredibly validated, uplifted, and empowered by the time you finished the last chapter.

{Not sure if you're an introvert or an extrovert?  Take this little assessment!}

If you have younger introverts in your life ... kiddos, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students ... you'll want to grab hold of this book.  Her latest book is geared to 'tweens / teens and focuses on the big challenges they face in navigating schoolwork, the cafeteria, parties, extracurricular activities, peer relationships, and family life.

In a word, I think it's superb.

And while it might be written for the next generation, the author doesn't talk down to her target audience ... and the adults who read this little masterpiece won't find her style in any way childish.  The illustrations are charming and Susan's practical wisdom and down-to-earth stories offer hope to quiet kids who are weaving their way through the oft' overwhelming maze of daily life.

You'll wish this book had been available to you back in the day.

Introverts have beautiful gifts, marvelous strengths, and unlimited potential.  The more we understand ourselves and the unique way God has shaped us, the more we're empowered to live life big and bold ... but in ways that align with who we are.  Giving this gift of insight to the kids in our lives is a priceless gift that equips them to soar.
Paperback - $9.08
Kindle - $9.99

Sally Cabon Gunning
I loved this novel ... complex and beautiful, detailed and mesmerizing.  You won't put it down.  Promise.

The author says, 'I can't tell you how excited I am about this novel.  When I discovered a letter Martha Jefferson wrote to her father when she was fourteen, "I wish with all my heart all the poor Negroes were freed . . . " I knew I had to read more about her.  I poured through her letters to her father and his to her and realized that she and I had embarked on a similar mission: to figure out her father. This now meant, of course, that my new mission was to figure out Martha. The relationships between father and daughter, between daughter and husband, between daughter and children, complicated by the reappearance of an old love who haunts her conscience kept me happily awake over many long nights.' 
Paperback - $6.75
Kindle - $8.99

Barbara Kingsolver
This is my second read of this 1998 classic novel, 'a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.  They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil.  

What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in post colonial Africa.'

Powerful, beautifully written, disturbing, compelling.

Paperback - $14.55

Kindle - $11.99

Atul Gawande
'In the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit.  Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs.  Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot.  Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.'

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families.  He puts four simple yet profound, clarifying questions on the table that will assist those struggling with endless options, helping shed light and sanity to huge personal choices that can enable us to live well right to the end of our days.

This as a solid, vital resource for those facing life-altering medical choices ... and a must-read for every health care professional, therapist, and pastor.
Paperback - $10.48

Kindle - $9.99

Kate Bowler
Stunning, raw, tragic, with wisps of humor and wisdom that refuse to be quenched, author Kate Bowler gently extends her hand to the reader as she walks through the valley of the shadow of searing loss and the unspeakable diagnosis of Stage IV cancer at the age of 35 ... in the midst of caring for those she adores, forging ahead with the beloved work she's been called to do, and wrestling with broken-hearted faith.
There's something about the author's writing that is absolutely compelling ... I can't put my finger on it but I can tell you that I was totally immersed in the cadence of her words for three hours without ever thinking of getting off my chair.

It was like curling up on the sofa crying with a beloved friend, captivated and mesmerized by the sound of her voice, the enormity of her sorrow, the interwoven hope.

And if that weren't enough, this Duke Divinity School professor tucks in Absolutely Never Say This To People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List and Give This A Go at the end of the book for all of us that might be prone to responding to tragedy by doing nothing ... or saying the most ridiculously hurtful things.

Read this because you must.  Read this because you can't not go there.
Paperback - $11.54

Kindle - $11.99

Rosamund Pilcher
By the end of the first page, I was hooked. 
Set in the English countryside and by the sea, spanning three generations, the oft' times subtly stormy relationships that Penelope has with her children make for some fascinating reading. 

Throw some priceless artwork into the mix, add in a variety of interesting characters along the way, and this 530 page book was a wonderful escape, a splendid piece of fiction centered on a turbulent life and heartbreaking loves.
Paperback - $8.09
Kindle - $2.99!

Miriam Drennan
Here's a wonderful little devotional for your Kindle.  Sweet little readings, nothing too heavy, and wonderful photos make this a good choice that you'll reach for again and again.  
Kindle - $3.99!

Jen Hatmaker
If you're overwhelmed by all that's crowding you out of house and home and are ready to explore an 'experimental mutiny against excess,' Jen Hatmaker's 7 is your baby this summer.  And if you're thinking 'mmm ... not so much,' then this is absolutely must reading!

A client wrote, 'Just wanted to check in with you ... I am loving the book 7 which I bought used!  It is giving me tons to think about.  I have been shopping in my closets and pantry all week.  My kids are excited about this project, my husband is thrilled.'
Paperback - $15.84

Ruth Haley Barton
This volume is Ruth at her best.  It's absolute must reading for every pastor, ministry leader, board member ... and those who sit in their pews.  While easy to read, it's not an easy read.  You will be stretched, awakened, challenged, energized ... and possibly disturbed.  Read with your Bible open, your journal available, a highlighter handy.  There is so much packed into each thought-provoking paragraph, that you will be repeatedly drawn to simply sit quietly and reflect.

It will change your perspective on how you "do ministry."  It will change your perspective on how you interact with God.  It will change you.

Hardcover - $15.77
Kindle - $9.99

Peter Scazzero
'Ah - that's IT!'  I practically shouted out loud. 

And over and over in his books, Peter Scazzero hits the nail on the head as he deals with emotional health and the church. I consider his books to be an incredible breakthrough in how we "do" church life and leadership ... and these truths extend to how we function as families, as well. In a nutshell, he maintains that we can not claim we are spiritually mature and still respond to life in an emotionally immature way.

Coming from his own life experience as a pastor, he vulnerably and honestly shares his journey and powerfully weaves together a Christ-centered approach to the integration of emotional health, contemplative spirituality, and discipleship.

Incredibly right on.
Paperback - $11.98
Kindle - $9.99

Any books in your beachbag?  Any links to recent bookish posts?  Do tell ...

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visiting with
Mary & Sue & Anne

Stack of books photo by
Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels