7 books for your summer reading list
Today is the first day of June, which is a little weird considering I’m pretty positive it was Christmas yesterday, but that’s beside the point. June means that the official start of summer is just around the corner, and what better way to kick it off than by sharing a list of page-turners to get your nose stuck in while your toes squish around in the sand?
Even though the days when summer meant summer break are gone (no thanks to you, #adulting), there’s still something about sunlight dancing on the skin that makes a good book all the better, and summer the perfect time for reading.
I’ve written before about how I believe words are powerful, but that their power is often not instantaneous. Rather, I believe that words find their power in repetition, when we steep ourselves in them.
I love the image of a rock which has found its home under the running waters of a stream. Imagine its soft, gentle contours—those did not appear at the rock’s first contact with water, rather it took years of water running over the rock’s surface, softening its rugged edges, and sculpting it into a masterpiece for it to become what it is.
It’s the same with words. Our minds are continually being shaped. It’s impossible to be in “neutral,” free from influence. Whether through Instagram or a TV show or a conversation, our minds are continually being influenced, and what we allow to enter our minds gives shape to who we become.
I’m learning to be intentional about the things I give power to shape my mind, because those thoughts running around in my mind are a wellspring to so much of my life.
Books are powerful because they aren’t just one “drop of water,” they are streams running along the contours of our minds, giving shape to and expanding our perspectives.
My thought with reading is, why not draw from the wealth of wisdom being offered to us in intimate conversation by authors near and far, living and deceased, all with a variety of experience and expertise. If our minds are continually going to be shaped, why not give some of that power to the words of people who are movers and shakers in this world, who are living fully and courageously to step outside of “comfortable” to help people and make a difference? What a privilege we have to learn from others, or simply enjoy their creativity.
Below, in no particular order, are seven books I’ve LOVED reading recently, ones that will certainly make your spot on the beach this summer an even happier place.
1) Undaunted by Christine Caine: Christine is the founder of the A21 Campaign, a massive global organization striving to abolish human trafficking and sex slavery in the 21st century, bringing freedom to the millions trapped in its horrors. Undaunted is the inspiring story of her stepping out into that calling, daring to do what God called her to do. Oftentimes stepping into God’s calling is scary, but when we’re ignited with passion to recognize the need, then it suddenly isn’t about us, it’s about God’s glory, working through us to meet that need. If you need to be jump-started with a dose of inspiration, READ THIS BOOK. I had this book with me while traveling for work and read it while eating dinner at a restaurant two nights in a row. No joke, I had to physically stop myself from sobbing, hoping the waiter wouldn’t think I was crazy. The tears weren’t just because of her way with words, but because her words point to the power of God—who He is and what He is capable of doing in our lives when we surrender to Him. He’s got so much in store when we decide not to let fear win, when we allow Him to do that crazy thing through us for His name’s sake.
BONUS: I just picked up Christine’s newest book, Unashamed, and I already know it will be incredible. It’s core message is kind of the anthem God is singing over me lately: step out of the lies that entangle and into the FREEDOM of truth!
2) A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller: Hands down one of my all-time favorite books, EVER. This book ignited in me a love for the concept of story, and a desire to step boldly into the best story I can possibly live with my one life. Don says that a story can be defined simply as “A character who wants something and has to overcome something to get it,” but that the point of the story is never the character’s success (or failure) in getting what he/she wants. The point is the character transformation that happens along the way. The best stories aren’t free from challenges and conflict, and may even be fraught with fear, but when we don’t give into fear, the story changes the character for the better.
3) Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: I could NOT put this one down—it is so inspirational in the way it speaks to the fears that often accompany creativity. When it comes to those unspoken fears of stepping out creatively, Elizabeth offers understanding, wisdom, and a gentle nudge of truth to propel you into action. A MUST for anyone want wanting to make the courageous choice to live a life of creative contribution over consumer criticism—my only complaint about this book is that it ended.
4) One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: Ann is one of the most gifted writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and speaks truth in such a hauntingly beautiful, poetic way. This book is all about cultivating gratitude and training our eyes to see the goodness God has spilled out around us, hidden in millions of seemingly insignificant moments. In doing so, we reorient our hearts towards BELIEF in KNOWING God is good, and we also experience joy and content. This book has completely transformed my posture of thanksgiving, showing me how to live more fully in the present.
5) So Long, Status Quo by Susy Flory: This talented author goes to my church, and agreed to meet me for lunch not too long ago so I could learn from her and ask her questions about writing. Not only was she gracious enough to spend time with me, she even brought me a copy of this book, which I’d been been wanting to read! Both convicting and inspiring, it takes the reader on the journey of nine remarkable women who have made a difference in the world, evoking desire to look beyond the comfortable, safe lives we build and see that there’s more—that we can play a part in accomplishing God’s purposes in this world. A thoroughly enjoyable, must read.
6) Compassion by Henri Nouwen, Donald P. McNeil, and Douglas A. Morrison: This masterfully crafted compilation of essays provided me with a more robust understanding of what it means to live a compassionate life. Compassion is being present with someone, it is a virtue of the heart that works itself out into an expression of love for God and people, through prayer and action. It’s a read that will teach and challenge, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
7) The Alchemist by Paul Coelho: I just started this one, but I’m already positive it’s a treasure. Paul speaks with the kind of simple, profound truth that makes you feel deeply because it resonates with something buried within. This book holds the tale of Santiago the shepherd boy and his journey of self-discovery and stepping into dreams, but the reason it has resonated with so many is because his story reflects each of our own.