Summer is one of the only times I get to read novels. Or rather, it’s one of the few times I let myself read novels, because I’m one of those people that can’t put a book down until I’ve finished it. So I’ll ignore everything else in my life until it’s done. That’s why I only read on holidays.
Recently my husband and I were camping just outside of the city where my husband works, so that his commute wouldn’t be as long and so that we could relax together at night at the campground.
I brought my Kindle along, but it wouldn’t connect to their wifi, so I ended up browsing the library of the campground to see if there was anything interesting.
I picked up a romance novel by a very popular writer (it doesn’t matter who) and sat down to read it. It was SO BAD. I mean really, really bad. My daughters make fun of how formulaic Christian romances are, but secular romances are just as awful.
In this one, she described a man’s eyes like this (when the woman first met him at an airport):
His eyes were mesmerizing and intoxicating….no, almost dangerous. They were so dark she could almost swim in them. She felt herself shivering, trembling, as he turned his gaze towards her. And then she knew: in that brief, ten second glance those eyes knew everything about her.
Okay, what exactly do those eyes look like? I turned to my husband and said,
Honey, can you gaze at me as if your eyes know everything about me?
We ended up laughing hysterically for about fifteen minutes.
I couldn’t read it. It was just too awful.
I did pick up a thriller I enjoyed by Jeffrey Archer, though. So I thought I’d write a post on ten books I’m now reading, or have recently read, that I’ve enjoyed, to help you as you try to find something worthwhile to read this summer! I’m going to start with novels, and then finish the list with three non-fiction books.
1. Eve’s Daughters by Lynn Austin
One of my favourite Christian novels of all time. Lynn Austin writes the tale of a woman having trouble with relationships, but you can trace the root of it back several generations. And as she looks at how different generations of women have handled love, marriage, and heartache, she shows how understanding your roots, and understanding the real grace of our Saviour, can help rebuild a broken heart. From an immigrant woman not sure if she loves her husband, to a woman who lets passion result in a hidden pregnancy, to a modern woman trying to figure out whether to stay with her husband, we see how real love and commitment does triumph.
Eve’s Daughters is such a hopeful book, and it’s lovely.
2. Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde
The world is full of broken people, and everyone in this book is broken. An 8-year-old girl, living in a run-down small apartment building, is being neglected by her drug addicted mother. Her neighbors, though, are determined that she not be apprehended by children’s services and placed in the system. So they step in to fill the gaps.
In doing so, many of these neighbors have to overcome their own brokenness. And as they administer tough love to the mom, they start to see a family repaired. It’s just such a touching book. Not a Christian one, but it still shows the truth that even in broken people grace can break through. I don’t often weep at books, but I did at this one.
One of the big insights is that much brokenness is really isolation, and the cure for it is community. If we all lived in community, we could heal so much more easily. I think there’s a major message in there from the church. I thought Don’t Let Me Go was beautiful.
3. Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
One of my favourite novels ever. I can’t read it without crying. It’s about the persecuted church in China, but it will touch you like little else you’ve ever read. The description of the motivations of Christians in China cut right through you. There’s a story in the book that actually happened–a village had everyone move out. They left all their homes behind. The reason? Everyone in the village was already a Christian, so there was no one left to witness to. They had to spread out. The whole book is like that. Tons of spiritual warfare stuff, too.
Safely Home will change you (in a good way).
4. Dominion, Deception, and Deadline by Randy Alcorn
I do love well-written Christian books with a great plot, and Randy Alcorn always delivers. Here’s his modern series focusing on homicide detective Ollie Chandler, investigating different murders with characters we’ll come to love. More John Grisham than the typical Christian novel, but with a huge focus on the spiritual element, with glimpses of heaven and spiritual warfare, too.
I really enjoyed the whole series, but you can buy each book separately, too.
5. The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers
This wasn’t my favourite of her books (I enjoyed Leota’s Garden and the Mark of the Lion series better), but I did like this one. A young student at a Bible school is brutally raped and impregnated one night by a stranger. The Bible college requires her to announce her rape publicly so that others don’t assume she has “sinned”. She refuses, and eventually is kicked out.
The book is more about the relationship between her former boyfriend, her new boyfriend, and her best friends and how everyone handles the rape. I thought it was far-fetched when I first read it (how can a Chrsitian institution blame a girl for being raped?), but my eyes have really been opened this year about how much legalism there still is in the church, and so I think Atonement Child is an important one to revisit.
6. Anything by Jeffrey Archer
I’m not the kind of girl who escapes to romances (and I’ve written about why romance novels can bother me). When I want to escape, I want a sweeping epic story. And I do love Jeffrey Archer for that. He’s not a Christian author, but he tells a good story, and there aren’t usually graphic sex scenes at all (unlike Ken Follett, who also writes sweeping epics).
I found The Fourth Estate in that library at the campground and devoured it, and it reminded me how much I like him!
7. Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga
What do you do when you grow up in a legalistic family to parents who have different dreams in life–and you’re caught in the middle? You develop anorexia at 9, and spend your life trying to please everybody.
Emily has written a touching memoir about battling anorexia, finding love, experiencing grace, and finally finding healing. The memoir takes us around the world as Emily tries to escape pain, but ends up right back where she started, as she finally finds healing.
Emily’s written on the blog before, and shared an excerpt of Atlas Girl here. She also wrote a while ago on why she couldn’t get undressed on her wedding night, a confession she also makes in the memoir. I’m reading it by the beach this summer, and I’d encourage all of you who need healing from your past to pick up Atlas Girl, too!
8. Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas
And now we’re on to nonfiction!
Do you struggle with doing devotions? Do you struggle with hearing God and experiencing God when you sit down for half an hour with a Bible and highlighters and a prayer journal? Maybe you just have a different Sacred Pathway.
Gary Thomas’ premise is that there are nine pathways, or ways that we most relate to God and experience God. One of those ways is through reading your Bible analytically, but many of them are not. You may experience God through nature. You may experience God through service. You may experience Him best through liturgy and candles and tradition.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. My whole family has read it now (my mother and my daughter are both trying to get Bible studies started in their respective circles of it). It helped me understand myself better, and why I need to go camping every year, especially in the rain!
As I’ve written before, many women don’t think their husbands are spiritual leaders, and long for someone to lead the family in prayer. But perhaps your husband just has a different spiritual pathway. Read Sacred Pathways. It’s awesome!
9. Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax
I so enjoyed this easy to read book, and any parent will! It’s got great commentary and what kind of schooling works well for most boys and for most girls; for what moms and dads contribute to a kids’ development; to what discipline techniques work better for boys and what ones for girls; for how to handle teenage risk-taking among boys; and more. If you’re raising both genders, you’ve probably noticed how they’re different. This book will assure you that you’re not crazy; that girls and boys really do need different parenting–and different schooling.
Every teacher should read this, too, because it’s a great commentary to why boys are also getting left behind in schools. Check out Why Gender Matters.
10. People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck
Scott Peck took the New York Times Bestsellers List by storm in the 1980s, I believe, with his groundbreaking book The Road Less Traveled. Peck was (is?) a clinical psychologist, and his book about grace resonated with people (my daughter’s reading it now and loves it!). He wrote several more, and then followed up with this one, his most Christian. Peck was on a spiritual journey as he wrote, and I believe became a Christian in the middle of writing People of the Lie.
In this book, he’s making an argument that “evil” should be a psychiatric diagnosis. Some people are just plain evil, and there is no way to treat them. They aren’t just narcissistic or disturbed or anything like that. They are actually evil, and the only way to deal with it is with a spiritual, not a psychiatric, approach. And if we realized that some people were evil, we’d stop using psychiatric ways to cure them.
And who are these evil people? They’re everywhere. They’re often married. They’re often professionals. They’re all among us. Peck shares stories of patients he’s tried, and failed, to treat, that he now believes are simply evil. I started reading the book when my husband was having trouble with someone at work, and Peck’s description fit this person to a T. People of the Lie is riveting, and it will make you see the world in a new way.
Maybe that’s not a good book to end my list on, but it is hopeful at the end. And it is a fascinating summer read!
So there you are–whether you like fiction or non-fiction, I hope there are some books that can entertain you this summer while also making you think and turning you more towards God.
Now I’d love to know–what are you reading? What do you think are great summer reads? Let me know in the comments!
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