Friday, June 12, 2020

The Bookbag * 2015 - 2019 Cherished Summer Reads

June was 'specially designed for a sturdy hammock that swings in a shady, tree lined nook.  A comfy lawn chair perched right in the sun's path.  Or the big ol' sofa that takes up half the porch.

Occasionally teamed with a well-worn sweatshirt, a fuzzy blanket, and a thermos of tea, we often find ourselves seeking out our own little quiet space ... always with a book in hand.

Today I'm sharing my most beloved summer reads for the last five years.  Not to be book bossy or opinionated or anything, but I do believe these selections are a real treasure trove ... for your own personal enjoyment or for a stimulating book club discussion.

I do hope you'll share your own absolute favorites in the comment section.

And welcome back, dear libraries and enthusiastic librarians!

Oh how you've been missed ...


Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church 
Rachel Held Evans 
After Rachel's untimely death last 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  $9.49
Kindle $7.99 

Everything Happens For a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved
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 - $12.60
Kindle - $12.99


Monticello: A Daughter and her Father; a Novel
Sally Cabot Gunning
I loved this novel ... complex and beautiful, detailed and mesmerizing.  You won't put it down.  I 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 - $12.59
Kindle - $9.99

The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in A World of Distraction
Adam McHugh
I'm not going to endlessly go on and on about what just might be one of the best books I've ever read.  And if ever The Listening Life needed to be in each and every body's hands, it would be right about now, yes?

If you've been around here for awhile you'll fondly remember The Listening Life Book Club that kicked up some meaningful, life-altering discussions.  Click here to walk down memory lane and be sure to soak up the intriguing comments ya'll made.

So very good.

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?' 

Honestly?  If you're looking for a signature gift to stock up on, I can't think of a single soul who wouldn't benefit from what has clearly been a game changer in so many lives.  This simple masterpiece was destined to be required reading for such a time as this.  

Polish off your graduation, birthday, and Christmas shopping right now.  Go ahead.
Paperback - $12.99
Kindle - $9.99

The Shell Seekers
Rosamunde Pilcher
This hefty gem was a real page-turner as reader joined author in looking back at the amazingly intricate Penelope and her turbulent life and heartbreaking loves.  By the end of the first page, I was hooked.  Really.  How often does that happen with a novel?

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.

I'm ready for a huge tome right about now.  I think I'll check this treasure out of the library again this summer.
Paperback - $13.50
Kindle - $9.99

Please share your favorite summertime literary loves ...



sharing good reads with
Anne & Mary & Lisa


as an Amazon associate,
 I may make a very small financial profit
when you use the links on this post


  1. I love your book lists, Linda. I am always on the lookout for new books to read. I am about 2/3 of the way finished with Searching for Sunday right now. what a powerful book. I love it! I don't agree with all of Rachel's conclusions, but that woman could WRITE! I think Everything Happens for a Reason might be my next book.

    1. I'd love to hear your take on Everything Happens if you get to read it, Laurie. I found it to be superb ... and a real companion for those who are battling cancer and those who love them.

  2. Looks like some good reads Linda. I ordered one through Christian book dist. to carry to the beach in July for our family beach trip. I hope it gets here in time. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

    1. How cool to be so purposeful to order a book especially for your family trip, Cindy, instead of just grabbing the next one on the pile. I hope you have the absolute best time with your lovely gang.


  3. Yeah Everything Happens For a Reason does seem like a cliche and unrealistic expression ... or we just can’t see that here. I might check that book out

    Fav this year was Where the Crawdads Sing and now I am enjoying the Lost Roses by Martha Kelly. I very rarely read non fiction but of cousrse, the memoir Educated by Tara Westover was truly an unbelievable story.

    I keep looking for The Shell Seekers in ebook but not come across a copy to borrow yet. I find ebooks so much easier to recline with and I love their look-up ability in dictionary, pronunciation of words and search function. I recommended our library system bring this book to ebook format so will probably wait til then.

    1. Yep, I'm with you, Carol. Crawdads and Educated were 2 of my very top reads last year. So absolutely outstanding, mesmerizing.

      Has THE book club read The Listening Life yet? {hint, hint}. I'm guessing they might find it thought-provoking?!


  4. I always appreciate the books you recommend, Linda! I will definitely look into the ones mentioned here that I haven't read. So loved The Listening Life and Monticello - fabulous books!
    Blessings, my friend!

    1. I love that you and I thought these two books were fabulous.

      Two peas in a pod, yes?


  5. I love your recommendations, too! So thankful for the time and effort you put into blessing all of us! May God richly bless you, in return for all you do, sweet friend.

    1. Cheryl, I'm looking forward to grabbing my copy of Biblical Minimalism: From a Life of Abundance to a More Abundant Life and then sharing it in my July Bookbag!

      READERS - Be one of the first to check out Cheryl's brand new volume!

    2. Thank you ever so much for this mention, sweet friend! I am so grateful to you and pray God's richest blessings are showered upon you!

    3. I'm excited at this important, much needed offering, friend ...


  6. For six weeks in January/February, I was recovering from surgery and read to keep my mind off the discomfort (Spinal-fusion) - and I loved it! Then I re-read some favorites. I'm ready for something new - and I want to sit on my porch with a blanket and tea and read just for the pure pleasure of it! Thanks for the list!

    1. You're not going to believe this, but I was thinking of you a day before you dropped in here! It's good to see you again, and I trust that each day you'll be feeling stronger, a bit more mobile, and in less pain.

      Please give yourself plenty of grace and space, old friend ...

  7. Linda,
    What a mix of books and themes. I always enjoy a good review before I make the decisive move to read a book. I do believe I could learn a lot from "The Listening Life." A good read for all during this day and age, don't you think?
    Bev xx

    1. The Listening Life. Yes, go for it, Bev! I'd love to read your review when you're finished ...

  8. I just finished The Shell Seekers and loved it!!! I loved The Listening Life and Everything Happens got a Reason... I need to revisit them soon!

    1. Elena, hi! Yes, we do track on the alot of the same books, don't we ...

      That makes me smile.

  9. I still can't believe Rachel Held Evans is gone. :( She was definitely a bright spot for me, too. I'm finally reading The Listening Life this year. I'm going slow so I can better absorb it. Glad to see several books here that I haven't read; gives me much to look forward to!

    1. We've turned out to be good referrals for each other, Lisa! Thanks for continuing to enlarge my borders ...

  10. Love your book lists and especially how you write about them great insights