Summer Reading List

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For about a year now I have been in a bookclub that I absolutely love!  It consists of about 5 girls (women?? are we there yet??? 🙂 ) who meet once a month on a Saturday morning at a local coffee shop, IHOP, or even each other’s kitchens to discuss the month’s read.  It’s laid-back, fun, and totally indulges my bookworm self.  And I love it b/c everyone actually reads the book (most of the time) and we get some great discussions going on.  Reminds me of my college English days, except we get to pick what we want to read instead of having to succumb to the professor’s obsession with Charles Dickens.  (Bleak House……ugh! that was a bleak semester!)  And I also love how we rotate whose turn it is to pick the book, b/c it gives me the chance to branch out and read choices I’ve never heard of or ones I would have never picked for myself.  And we’ve decided to have a contest to see who picks the best book for the year and we’ll all chip in and buy her breakfast at the last meeting.  Currently, my friend Amy is getting my vote for one of her picks, but I’m determined to beat her out and get me some free buttermilk pancakes! 🙂

So if you know me at all, you know I get a little obsessive about things I passionately love (or don’t love) and I always want to share them with everyone.  “Here – read this book!…..You’ve GOT to see this movie!….. Have you tried this recipe yet???”   You get the idea!  Well here is a list of books that I’ve read over the past few months.  Some are bookclub picks, others are just my own thing. Let me know if you’ve read any and what you think!  Or if you decide to read one and then later, what your opinion is.  I love discussing books- whether I like them or not!

  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp –   There are only a handful of books that have truly altered the way I think and view the world (gosh i love that! the power of the written word!), and this is on that list!  This is the one I’m picking so far as the best book.  It’s written from a Christian perspective and it’s all about finding the beauty and the grace in the every day.  In the mundane.  Even in the tragedy.  And it’s so real and eye-opening and BEAUTIFULLY written!  Seriously- every page is like poetry and Voskamp has such a way of creating these visual word pictures that penetrate the essence of each thought. Just amazing.  I want to actually re-read it soon and maybe post some of my favorite quotes……she’s got some powerful stuff.
  • Moon Women by Pamela Duncan –  About a family of North Carolina women and the bonds they have through the generations.  Sort of like a Steel Magnolias type of book for mountain folks.  Duncan does an excellent job on the Southern dialect…..I could hear my grandmom’s voice throughout the pages.  Also I think she accurately conveys the close-knit, complicated, and emotional bond among women in a family.  Good read.  Also, it was fun hearing all the Asheville references. : )
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – This was a re-read for me.  Saw the Gwenyth Paltrow movie, Sylvia, over the summer and it perked my interest in Plath again.  Read her years ago, but knowing more of her biography got me going.  I’ve since read all her poems and was pretty much obsessed with all things Plath during the month of July.  Bell Jar is in my top 10 for books.  The odd way she views the world, the cool and logical way she describes her mental breakdown, the poetry in her writing…..it’s all so good.  I just LOVE Plath! Which I realize makes me the cliche English major. But I’m ok w/that. 🙂  And her death is so sad- all that talent and potential.  Also, when you think about the time period she was writing in, the 1950’s, it’s pretty incredible how much she put herself out there- her ambitions, her desires, her mental illness.  In a day where every little thought we have is displayed for all the world to see, we take all that frankness for granted, but for her time period, it was pretty brave and revolutionary of her.
  • Wish Club by Kim Strickland –  Ugh! This book just sucks! And guess which brainiac used it for her bookclub pick??? Yep.  That’s be me.  We had just read a heavy one and so I tried to pick something that looked light-hearted and fun.  And Amazon gave it tons of good reviews.  But it was cheesy.  And cliche.  And just plain silly.  About a bookclub of women who decide to start chanting and using witchcraft to get their dreams to come true.  Just awful writing on so many levels.  Don’t read!
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett – We jumped on the bandwagon and read this book and I’m SOOOOO glad we did!  Such a great story – about the complex relationships b/w maids and their women employers during the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi. And the characters are the best!  The are so well-rounded and Stockett describes them so clearly, giving each one her own distinct voice, that you actually miss them (well some of them) when the book is over.  And though it’s fiction, it’s definitely grounded in real-life history.  It was neat b/c the book opens in the early 60’s – the time my mom was born – so I got a glimpse into more of what her life and my grandmother’s life was like during that time.  And it’s neat to think that just a mere 50 years ago, one generation removed, blacks and whites were still segregated.  I was reading this when I had to take my grandmom to the doctor one day and I thought it was interesting b/c  a black nurse was the one who drew my grandmom’s blood that day.  Just to think that 50 years ago that would never have been allowed and now it’s just common life.  I know racial tensions still exist, and always will in some way, but we also have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time.  Anyways.  Good book.  Everyone else agrees- it’s been a top seller forever.  Also, the movie was good too!
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman – Futuristic, sci-fi book about a world where parents can “unwind” their children when they become teenagers if their kids are behaving badly or cost too much money or whatever the problem is.  Unwinding involves dismembering them and donating their body parts to those who need them.  Yeah, it’s an icky concept.  But the “unwind” solution came after years of fighting over abortion, so there’s a bit of reality/truth in the book.  This book probably caused the most discussion in our club.  It’s also probably one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read.  Though it’s written well, fast-paced, and full of interesting characters, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to the tender-hearted :).  Also, I read it right after finishing the Hunger Game series (awesome!) and it was just too many kids-getting-killed-and-killing-each-other books for me to handle.  Finally, there is a scene in the book where one of the characters actually gets “unwound” and wow!.  That chapter still haunts me.  Let’s just say this is a book I hope never does get turned into a movie!
  • Mad Church Disease by Ann Jackson – Over the summer I’ve been working a small part-time job at my church in the children’s ministry.  I ran across this book about the burnout effect of people working in a church, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  Very interesting to kind of go behind the scenes and see the church stuff from a different perspective.  Didn’t really take much from it personally, but I think if you have a tendency to overwork yourself in your job, especially if you work at a church, with all the emotions and expectations it brings, then this would be a helpful book.
  • Death by Suburb by David L. Goetz – LOVED this book!  Written for Christians who find themselves caught up in suburbia life, but want to live for Christ in the fullest.  Goetz is great at getting to the heart of the matter without being preachy or condescending, and he does it all with a heavy dose of humor.  He encourages Christians to not worry about the cookie-cutter, American-dream life, but to live fully with God and for God right where you are.  Even if it’s not in the middle of some 3rd world country being a full time missionary- we can, and should, still live out the life of love and service wherever we are.  Even if it’s in a beige neighborhood house with a white picket fence (next to 50 other beige homes with white picket fences). 🙂
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis – Just finished this last night.  Oh Aslan……how I love thee!!! 🙂  Fell in love with reading (and Jesus) through the Chronicles of Narnia way back in 4th grade.  So these books will always hold a special place in my heart.  This is the last of the series; it’s about how Narnia ends and the “real” Narnia begins.  Lately thoughts of heaven and death and eternity have been hammering my head and heart, so I thought I’d read this again.   I don’t know how Lewis manages to take something so incomprehensible, like eternity, and make it feel somewhat understandable and even create a visual for it all.  But he does.  I guess that’s what makes him so genius.  But anyways.  This book is great.  And it just makes me want to go home even more than I already want to.
Well that’s it for my book recommendations. Share your opinion on any you’ve read! And please let me know if you have any good ones you think I’d like.  It’s my turn to pick next for bookclub and I want it to be really, really good! I have to redeem myself after my last pick! (and let’s not forget the pancakes!) 🙂
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7 responses »

  1. I am not going to comment on your blog until you post some kitchen/remodel pictures!!! Seriously.

    Okay… not seriously, but I am looking forward to seeing the finished product. 😉

    Thanks for the book list, lots of good info.

    A few of my faves:

    Chronicles of Narnia (Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite, by far, but so many great scenes and concepts in every book!).

    Father Tim / Mitford series by Jan Karon
    Fictional story of a small town minister, his parishoners, and his faithful dog. Great books!

    Elm Creek Quilters series by Jennifer Chiaverini (sp?)
    Fictional series about a group of women quilters, their lives and the history/importance of their craft. Another excellent series!

    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
    Fictional interpretation of the Biblical character Dinah, Jacob’s daugher. Very interesting, a fast read.

    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
    Fictional book about the plague and it’s effect on one small town / family. I know my description sounds grim, but it really is a well written book.

    Trespassers Will be Baptized by Elizabeth Hancock
    Hilarious stories about a girl growing up as a preacher’s kid.

    • melanie- i promise i will post some pics soon! still trying to get it all together and the perfectionist in me wants to wait till it’s “just right” before sharing. silly, i know! but you are welcome to come over anytime for an in-person viewing! 🙂

      and thanks for the recommendations…..i especially want to read the last 2 you suggested- sound really good!

      and i gotta give you the latest bookclub info so you can join in! we’ve had a slow month b/c of schedule conflicts and all, but we’ve got to get you one board! love you!

  2. i’m assuming you’ve read it, but “the great divorce” by c.s. lewis is a fave and definitely a conversation sparker=) and “a severe mercy” by sheldon vanauken-one of cs lewis’s good friends…we loved it for whatever reason-i would love to see what you think about it!

    • katie- i love that you’re a fellow Lewis lover (and Aslan lover!) like me! i will definitely have to read “severe mercy” and share my thoughts. a friend of lewis and a recommendation from you- sounds perfect!

      p.s.- i miss you! and love you! 🙂

  3. You have already redeemed yourself (a thousand times over!) by passing along Death By Suburb, yikes. It’s killing me.

    However, Amanda D. is topping my list as best book club book chooser. Seriously good choices coming from the girl who lives at the top of the hill.

    Also, I laughed aloud when I read about you finding a new favorite thing and recommending it. So true, but one of the many qualities I love about you.

    Have a good week, friend.

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