“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” wrote C. S. Lewis and I agree. Whether the tea is steaming on a cold day or iced to cool me in summer heat, whatever the season, reading is my favorite form of entertainment.
But it’s summer when many of us often have extra free time to read. School is out, vacations are planned, and tote bags are stuffed with towels, sunscreen, and paperbacks. Or maybe it’s a Kindle or Nook these days.
Whatever your preferred method of reading, I’ve compiled a list of titles I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’ve tried to include many different genres: popular fiction, classics, spiritual, biography, memoir, mystery, and a bit of history. Just a small sampling, but I hope enough to get you started on compiling your own summer reading list!
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. If you’re one of the few people who’ve yet to read this series, let me encourage you to do so! The novels are a brilliant blend of love story, war story, contemporary social commentary, dystopia, and mythology. Due to an uprising in the nation of Panem, the country’s twelve districts must each send a girl and a boy to participate in the Hunger Games — which is a fight to the death –televised live for all it’s constituents to watch. The novels follow Katniss Everdeen as she takes the place of her sister as tribute in the Capitol’s annual games.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. England is trying to recover from World War II and author Juliet Ashton is looking for new material for a book. Despite the sometimes-heavy subject matter, this novel is charming as it follows Juliet’s relationship with the people of Guernsey who were under German occupation and as she discovers a new life for herself as well.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The unnamed narrator only known as Mrs. Maxim de Winter is insecure and knows she’ll never measure up the beauty and talent of Rebecca, her husband’s first wife. Everywhere she goes she is confronted by how wonderful Rebecca was. Or was she? A classic gothic, this novel may have you speed-reading until you get to the end, which you may have to read twice!
Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. Delightful and suspenseful, this is the first of several Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane detective novels. The mystery will keep you guessing and the dialog is fast-paced and witty.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Margaret’s world comes crashing down when her family has to leave the country for her father to seek employment in the coarse and unrefined mill town of Milton. In Milton she is confronted with poverty and views different from her own, along with a conflicted relationship with one of the mill owners, John Thornton. For those of you who wish there was more Jane Austen in the world, Gaskell’s novel offer the same type of old-fashioned domestic love story with a social commentary edge.
Biographies and Memoirs
Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper. This book is a different kind of biography. It tells the life stories of five women: Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim and Helen Roseveare. These women are so inspiring! And Piper ends each chapter by drawing from their lives and applying it to our own, contemporary Christian walk.
My Life in France by Julia Child. Reading this memoir felt like Julia Child was sitting across the table conversing with me. I started it knowing very little about Julia Child, other than what I’d been exposed to in Julie & Julia. I loved reading about her fascinating life, the details for French food, and how much pain staking work went into her landmark cookbook.
Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeline L’Engle. Written by L’Engle, of A Wrinkle in Time fame, this book traces the history of her marriage, painting memories of their meeting, courtship, and early marriage against the backdrop of her husband’s fight against cancer. You easily find yourself with the “present” Madeline in cold hospital rooms while she supports Hugh, her husband, or with the “past” Madeline who is young and vibrant, meeting her husband for the first time in the New York City theater scene. It is an exquisitely poignant celebration of a marriage.
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller. Easy to read, short, and yet so very profound. This book will help you see the prodigal son parable in a way that will impact your life. Whether you identify with the “older brother” or the prodigal son, you will sure to be convicted and encouraged.
The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul. This book grabbed me with the first chapter and kept me turning its pages until the end. That might be a surprising description of a book on the theology of God’s holiness, but it’s true. The term “holy” is one that can be hard to understand, but Sproul did an excellent job exploring what it means for God to be holy and how it applies to my life.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. With superb storytelling that kept me spellbound, the author juxtaposed the creating of the 1893 Chicago World Fair (“The White City”), which demonstrated man’s finest achievements up to that point with the story of a murderer who used the World Fair to lure his victims to their death. Larson does a great job telling the story without making it lurid and many historical figures will come to life within it’s pages.
So pick a book, grab a tall glass of iced tea, and read away the summer with me!