I’ve always loved reading. My Goodreads shelf has an eclectic mix of historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, classic literature, poetry, LDS fiction, biographies, self-help, and more.
With summer coming up, I thought I’d share some of my favorite books. There’s a mix of longer novels, non-fiction, and even some graphic novels (comics) for when you have time to literally only read one frame.
What books am I missing? I’d love to hear your favorites!
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The “classics” are just that for a reason – they have inspired, entertained, and taught millions of readers over the years through their engaging plots and masterfully developed characters. They can give us a glimpse into the culture, traditions, and concerns of the past. Here are my three recommendations for classic literature:
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- A young woman finds herself employed in Mr. Rochester’s home. Over time, the two fall in love. But not all is as it seems.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Lizzie is the second oldest daughter and dislikes the idea of marrying for money rather than love. Mr. Darcy is a wealthy man who seems to dislike just about everything and everybody – especially Lizzie. As a bonus to reading this book, you can watch the BBC and Kiera Knightly versions of the book and see which one you like better.
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
- A little sad in the beginning, David is hit with trial after trial in his childhood. In adulthood, he doesn’t fare much better. However, the relationships he makes along the way provide for a beautiful story with a very happy ending.
Maybe you can’t travel to a far-off locale this summer, but you can definitely find new worlds at your local public library. Here are my summer reading recommendations for fiction of all kinds:
- The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
- This book follows the life of a fictionalized boy named Harrison who interacts with the very real Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This book taught me as much as it entertained me.
- The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
- Quite slow in the beginning, this book ended up costing me a couple nights’ sleep. There’s a mystery surrounding a family’s past and only at the very end does the truth come to light.
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- A Young Adult book, this was a fairly quick read with a powerful lesson. Stargirl can teach everyone a thing or two about compassion.
- The Very Ordered Existence of Marilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley
- Found in the juvenile fiction section, this is a story about a little girl who sees the world in a truly marvelous way. She makes friends with a boy with a complicated past and together they learn to accept hard things and love themselves for who they are.
- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
- Elle and I read this during our very short homeschooling stint. Karana, a young girl, is left behind when her people leave their island. Based on a true story, this is an incredible story of true grit, ingenuity, and preserving identity.
The movie adaptation of a work of fiction played a big role in mine and my husband’s first date. Read about it here.
Christian books can uplift the soul, answer questions, and enrich gospel understanding. Though not all LDS-focused, the summer reading recommendations below can teach, inspire, and enrich:
- Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes by Sheri Dew
- This book was released in 2013 when a lot of conversation was going on regarding LDS women and the priesthood. Sheri Dew does not speak on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but uses quotes from prophets and apostles and the scriptures to make a case for why LDS women already have exactly the kind of priesthood rights and powers they are seeking.
- The Five Books of Jesus by James Goldberg
- Written by a good friend, this book is a beautiful glimpse into the more intimate lives of Jesus, his family, and his disciples. Following the Four Gospels’ narratives, we imagine a more robust backstory and cultural context for his twelve apostles, his mother, and his friends.
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
- A great read for a book club, this is a fictionalized story of a man who takes a bus up to limbo where various personalities accept or reject the invitation to go to the mountain which symbolizes heaven. Showcasing the most subtle of human habits and weaknesses, this book makes you ask questions like those posed in Alma 5. What sin or vice is keeping you from receiving all that the Father hath?
- Being the Mom:10 Coping Strategies I Learned by Accident Because I Had Children on Purpose by Emily Watts
- I read this book as a new mom years ago and continue to think about it. Her coping strategies are actually wonderfully applicable and practical lessons that apply to the temporal, spiritual, and emotional issues most mothers face. This book had me tearing up, laughing, and desiring to be a better woman and mother. (Read my review of Emily Watts’s latest book Once There Was a Mom here.)
My reading has consisted mainly of non-fiction for the past few years. I could honestly give many, many more non-fiction titles for your summer reading list. But, I’ve narrowed it down to these that mainly deal with home, work, and children:
- The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley
- Written as easy-to-follow tips and organized by each space in a home, I used this book as my checklist for home decorating and improvements. I love my home even more now. The book has gorgeous photographs for every tip and room with various styles.
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter
- The two books above I recommend reading one after the other and in this order (Lean In first, Unfinished Business second). Sandberg’s Lean In got me all fired up for the idea of working outside the home. Slaughter’s Unfinished Business got me all fired up about valuing my role inside the home more. Seeing both sides of the coin is valuable in continuing the discussion of women’s rights in the workplace and in our society.
- The Smartest Kids in the World And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
- Seeing the education system and culture around the world and how they translate into literacy, independence, higher education, and societal contribution was really eye-opening. It’s no secret the US is behind in our education policies and this book shows what could and wouldn’t work to fix it.
After our oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, one of my favorite non-fiction books is Driven to Distraction.
Graphic Novel & Humor
In our family, summer is about relaxing. No school means no homework. No school means relaxed bedtimes. No school means more adventures. It’s nice to just wind down and relax with a good, funny book or two, like the ones below:
- Heart and Brain and Gut Instincts by Nick Seluk
- These are paper collections of webcomics drawn by the talented Nick Seluk. The premise for the series is simple: what kinds of personalities would our organs have if they were anthropomorphized into their own separate individuals? Characters include the ever-pragmatic Brain, the dreamer Heart, the deceptive Tongue, and the oh-so-adorable gallbladder. You can check out the comics on Facebook and Instagram, but I highly recommend getting a hard copy to share with your friends.
- Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
- Oh, Jim Gaffigan. Who doesn’t love Mr. Hot Pocket and the new KFC Colonel? Well, Gaffigan’s written a couple of books and this one is my favorite. Gaffigan takes you on a food tour that you’ll never forget.
What books am I missing? I’d love to hear your favorites!