I am an avid reader. There was a time when I wasn’t reading much for pleasure anymore. I spent that time working instead. But then I was asked to do a book review and well, naturally I needed to read the book. It was then that I realized just how much I had missed it. Reading relaxes me. It helps me leave behind any frustration of my day and disappear into another world for a while.
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I don’t believe that I am ever the same person by the end of a book that I was at the beginning. I learn, I change, I grow. Because it’s so important to me, I’ve now begun to set goals for my reading. And with that, this is my Summer Reading List. I actually started reading the books on this list on June 1 and by Labour Day, I hope to have read all of them.
Summer Reading List
I’ve Been Thinking . . .: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful LifeAt Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the GlobeSongs My Grandma SangRules of Civility: A NovelA Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel
I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver
I read a chapter (they’re very short – a page and a half or so) each night before I go to bed. It’s a reflective sort of book filled with inspiration, motivation, and wisdom about what’s most important in life. Each chapter ends with a prayer.
At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
I bought this book to read as part of an online book club for travel lovers. It’s a non-fictional account of Oxenreider’s trip around the world with her family. Seeing the various cultures she encounters through her eyes is enlightening and delightful.
Songs My Grandma Sang by Michael B. Curry
I first encountered Curry when he was preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. His vibrant enthusiastic preaching style and his focus on how it’s really love that matters above all else really resonated with me. So, when I heard about this book in which he talks about how songs of faith were always a part of his upbringing and part of how his faith was formed, I was anxious to read more about him.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
When I was told about this book, I was told that if I “liked The Great Gatsby”, I would love Rules of Civility. That was enough to sell it to me. F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favourite authors and the one who first introduced me to this time period. I was enamored. Post- depression Manhattan and the life of cocktails and jazz clubs provides the backdrop for a look at class and privilege and those fighting against it.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Once again, Towles has sold me with content. I was a Russian major in university so anything to do with it (especially Russia of the past) is going to draw me in. Count Rostov is declared an unrepentant aristocrat and sentenced to house arrest by a Bolshevik tribunal. He is placed in an attic room of a grand hotel across from the Kremlin. He has never worked a day in life but now is left only to watch as history unfolds in front of the hotel doors. As may be imagined, his move from grandeur to humble living has a profound effect on him personally.
The Lifegiving Parent: Giving Your Child a Life Worth Living for ChristBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearThe Address: A NovelThe Dollhouse: A NovelJust Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation
The Lifegiving Parent by Clay and Sally Clarkson
This parenting book is so refreshing and uplifting. Instead of providing all the rules for what to do and not to do with your children (making many of us feel inadequate as a result), this is simply Christian-based encouragement (without preaching!!!).
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I love Elizabeth Gilbert. I find her just so perfectly imperfect. Or imperfectly perfect. I’m not really sure which it is but I just see so much of myself in her. She makes mistakes, gets messy, and keeps on trying. In this book, she is sharing her wisdom on what it means to be creative and just how easy it is for anyone to move past the fear and into curiosity, wonder, joy, and of course, creativity.
The Address by Fiona Davis
Fiona Davis has always written the kind of books that are so compelling that I have a hard time putting them down. This book has two intertwining story lines of love and loss – both centered on the same building in New York City, one set in 1885 and the other in 1985. The two heroines are both participants in and yet on the outside, looking in at those living opulent lives. One is the world of the Astors and Vanderbilts; the other the club scene of alcohol and cocaine.
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
As you can see, Fiona Davis is a favourite of mine. The Dollhouse, another novel rich in historical detail, is focused on the famous Barbizon Hotel for Women, a fixture in 1950’s New York City. Once again, the story is told from the perspective of the aspiring models, secretaries, and editors living there in the 1950’s determined to do whatever it takes to reach success as well as that of a journalist 50 years later who finds herself living at the Barbizon and enthralled with the stories of its past occupants.
Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt
This is a book about hospitality and the effect it can have on others. As we’ve moved away from neighbourhood gatherings into spending more time online, perhaps we have lost a bit of what we all need to feel truly loved and accepted. In this Pinterest generation, we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve perfection before letting anyone in. Jen provides simple ideas and encouragement to make hospitality possible for everyone.
Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible StandardsThe Little Paris Bookshop: A NovelThe Little French Bistro: A NovelThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
I was so saddened by the loss of Anthony Bourdain. I’ve had this on hand for a while but haven’t read it. It’s Bourdain’s memoirs and a gritty behind the scenes look at working in restaurant kitchens. Be warned; it’s somewhat inappropriate and not always politically correct.
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
I just adore Jen. I follow her on social media and have been listening to her podcasts for a while. Jen has this beautiful outlook on life – one that is filled with loving first. She believes in giving others grace, in having fun, in being kind, and in showing courage. We CAN love each other as Jesus wanted us to do.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Jean Perdu owns a bookshop on a barge. That in itself was fascinating enough for me. Then when I read that he considers his shop to be not just a bookstore but a literary apothecary, I was completely intrigued. Perdu has amazing skills when it comes to his customers. They come in and tell him their woes and he prescribes just the right books for them. The question is, will he be able to cure himself?
The Little French Bistro by Nina George
Okay, you might be seeing a theme here. Forgive me, but once I find an author I like, I tend to want to read pretty much everything they’ve put out. And once again, all you have to do is set a book in Paris and I’m going to want to give it a try. As with The Little Paris Bookshop, this is a story of the charms of living in France and of second chances at life. Marianne has had enough of her loveless, unhappy marriage. So, she leaves her husband of 41 years and sets out on a journey to the coast of Brittany. She learns to take delight in life’s small moments again and that it’s never too late.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Another book about second chances and finding that it’s never too late to embrace life and happiness. Grumpy AJ Fikry has been living a life of loneliness. Even the books in the shop he owns have stopped giving him pleasure. One day a mysterious package is left behind at Fikry’s store and with that, his life is transformed.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Poignant story of forbidden love between a Chinese American man and a Japanese American girl in the time of World War II, the period details are so perfect that you feel a part of the story yourself. Fast forward to 1986. The Panama Hotel has been sold and the new owner has found that the belongings of Japanese families sent to the camps were being stored there in the basement. This discovery takes Henry Lee on a journey through his memories of Keiko, the young woman he loved. Keiko and her family were shipped off to an internment camp and they lost touch, but now Henry is face to face with the sacrifice he made for love and for his country those many years ago.
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
As with Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, this book is also set in Seattle. This time though, the time period is during the Great Depression. A 12 year old Chinese American boy named William is living at an orphanage where he was placed ever since his mother’s lifeless body was carried away from their home 5 years prior. When the orphans are taken to a movie, William sees an actress named Willow Frost who looks just like his mother, Liu Song. Convinced she is alive, he escapes from the orphanage with his best friend Charlotte in search of Willow Frost.
The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
I’m going to be honest. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this book but I’m too intrigued by the pairing of Bill Clinton and James Patterson to pass it up. It’s a political thriller that is said to be informed by insider details that only a former president would know. Plus, I worked on Bill Clinton’s campaign when I lived in Arkansas so I’m kind of interested to see this new side of him.
The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
Have I ever mentioned how much of a Hemingway fan I am? This is a fictionalized account of his first marriage. Ambition, betrayal, 1920s Chicago and Paris? I’m all in.
Love and Ruin by Paula McClain
Still on Hemingway, but this time about a different wife. We’ve now moved forward in time to 1937 Madrid. Martha Gellhorn is a war correspondent reporting on the Spanish Civil War. While there, she meets and falls for the legendary Hemingway. They begin as equals – professionals whose careers are both taking off. But, after the publication of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway meets with incredible success and the balance has been tipped. Gellhorn now has a difficult choice to make between the man she loves and the successful writing career she so craves.
What will you be reading this summer?
Looking for another book recommendation? Unravelled by MK Tod is one I suggest over and over again. Tod writes a riveting story with characters whose love and passion, sense of duty and honour, sacrifice and guilt, draw you into their lives and enable you to see their world through their eyes.