2011 Summer Reading List

A bad book is a time thief, and with four kids to chase (a form of exercise, I assure you) choosing material wisely is a must. Sifting through book reviews and excerpts allows me to locate my preferred writing style – one I know will hold my attention until the last page. A good find is much like a beloved friend; you laugh, cry and struggle at times, but in the end, you’re better off knowing each other. Here is a list of personal favorites for your summer beach – reading excursions. Enjoy!

Redeeming Love
By Francine Rivers
I’m not the romance novel type, but bestselling author, Francine Rivers sets the bar high for this genre. Redeeming Love opens in the 1850’s with Sarah (the by-product of an affair) rejected by her father at a young age. Her mother turns to prostitution to provide, but when tragedy strikes, Sarah is sold to a brothel and renamed “Angel.” Used over and over, Angel harbors hatred towards men and learns to disconnect from her circumstances. One day the spiritually minded Michael Hosea passes Angel on the street and hears God tell him this is his promised bride. Michael pursues Angel, even pays for a night to talk with her and promises a better life if she’ll marry him. Abandoned, tricked and abused too many times, Angel doubts his offer of unconditional love. From the first chapter to the last, Rivers draws the reader in with enough detail to keep the pages turning. Every woman should read this book; it’s like taking a bath in God’s forgiveness. Warning: Although handled gingerly, references to sex, drugs, drinking, abuse and molestation appear.

Take Two (Above the Line Series #2)
By Karen Kingsbury
Bailey Flanigan and Cody Coleman: how glorious it is to read about you through the talented pen of Karen Kingsbury. If ever there was an author’s mind to explore, Kingsbury’s would top my list. Take Two, from the Above the Line Series (Take One, Take Two, Take Three, Take Four … so wish there was a Take Five!), was my favorite installment in the bunch. However, they all called to me during the day as I fussed with laundry or washed dishes. When a storyline refreshingly sprinkles in moral tidbits throughout (without slamming you over the head with it), I know I’ve found a new best friend. This fiction book is a must-read for teens before entering college since it addresses everything from smearing the moral-toleration line to premarital sex. I walked with the characters, fighting for them to make solid choices. One night I even got the, “You’re still reading?” from my spouse. Although a Take Five doesn’t follow, Kingsbury recently released Learning, a Bailey Flanigan Series! (Note: I rarely use exclamation marks unless no other word suffices to capture my true emotions; cheapens the writing, in my opinion. But for Kingsbury, I’ll throw her the ultimate hail of approval!)

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope
By Mary Beth Chapman, Steven Curtis Chapman & Ellen Vaughn
With tears dripping down my face from page one, I devoured Mary Beth Chapman’s (wife of singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman) inspirational memoir. Her well-written story answers the question “Where is God in the midst of our hardships?” Mary Beth describes her humble beginning with Steven, the rise of his career and her emotional struggle to stay home and raise kids alone all, while battling the tides of depression. The heart of Mary Beth’s message surrounds the accidental death of their five-year-old adopted daughter, Maria. You’ll cry, laugh, get angered and then hopefully, choose to SEE God work through their deepest pain.

The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective
By Andy Andrews
The Noticer is part auto-biographical, part fictional story of bestselling author and inspirational speaker Andy Andrews. Throughout the book, Jones, a homeless man, mysteriously appears in the lives of people undergoing crisis – those teetering on divorce, contemplating suicide, facing bankruptcy and the sudden loss of a spouse. Jones offers a new viewpoint and words of wisdom, like “You will look back at the worst time of your life as a fortuitous event.” This compelling quick-read is powerful, relevant and perspective-altering.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
By Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski
Francis Chan, founder of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California and the Eternity Bible College, authored the New York Times best-seller Crazy Love. Chan’s book stirs the lukewarm pot, motivating Christians to live markedly different, with a sense of urgency and being eternity-minded. “Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it?” Chan stated. “The God of the universe – the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs and try not to cuss.”
Chan pushes readers to remove their safety net of conformity and sacrifice everything for the sake of Christ.

The Hiding Place
By Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
It took a few chapters for the unraveling of Corrie ten Boom’s life in The Hiding Place, but once the corner was turned, my unbelieving eyes sorrowed page after page as she described the underground movement to hide Jews from German Nazi’s during World War II. The cruelty she and her sister endured was a great reminder of how God’s strength sustains our souls when we need Him most. The faith-filled Boon was a heroine of her time and now offers hope for those persevering painful circumstances; a classic and unforgettable “must-read”.

Heaven is For Real: A Little Boys Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
By Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
Currently holding the New York Times #1 best-seller slot for paperback non-fiction, Heaven is For Real details four-year-old Colton Burpo’s account of heaven during a near death experience. The humble retelling by Todd Burpo (Colton’s father) explained how Colton saw John the Baptist, sat on Jesus’ lap and met his great-grandfather in heaven. As you may imagine, his parents questioned the experiences. Then Colton asked his mom, “You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” The mother had miscarried years before, an impossible-to-know detail the parents shared with no one until Colton claimed he met his unborn sister in heaven. Of course, skeptics have risen to disparage this story but I say read it – formulate your own opinions. I do know that little Colton’s got one thing right: there is a coming last battle.

The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
One of the best (and cleanest) secular books I’ve ever read. The Help is based in the 1960’s on the verge of the civil rights movement, when white ladies squabbled over Junior League shenanigans, all the while the black help tended to the house and children. Seeing the unfair oppression unfold before her eyes, a sensible, college educated white woman, Miss Skeeter, documents the maid’s stories of abuse. Skeeter compiles the tales into a book with the hope of revealing these injustices to the world. The Help is a refreshing, frustrating and laugh-out-loud piece of work. It may take three chapters to lure you in, but I promise–once hooked–many nights of undercover flashlight reading will follow. Warning (and spoiler alert): mild infrequent language, racial injustice, miscarriage scene and references to sex and domestic violence are involved.

Yada Yada Prayer Group
By Neta Jackson
In my quest to find an uplifting summer-read, I came across the Yada Yada Prayer Group. With the title stuck in my head, I skimmed an excerpt, but when the page ended mid-sentence, I scrolled down wanting more of Neta Jackson’s humorous writing. The story begins with Jodi Baxter reluctantly attending a women’s conference where she is forced into a small prayer group of diverse women (ex-con, former drug addict, real estate broker and college student). A crisis occurs and the mismatched group continues their prayer meetings after the conference ends. This 2004 Christy Award Finalist novel is fun-filled Christian fiction with a message.

Through My Eyes
By Tim Tebow and Nathan Whitaker
“Tim Tebow established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of college football … winning two BCS national championships, becoming the first sophomore in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy,” according to Harper Collins Publishing. Tebow’s memoir reveals how faith, family values and an unrelenting will for success formed him into the inspiration he is today. Son of Christian missionaries, Tebow’s mom was gravely ill during her pregnancy. Doctors treated her with medication, but feared the side effects would cause a stillbirth. When the illness threatened to take his mom’s life, doctors advised an abortion. From Tebow’s birth to the national controversy surrounding this homeschooled boy playing on a public high school football team, his memoir provides evidence that God can defy all expectations.

Well, friends, this is my inventory of personal favorites. As scientist and philosopher, Francis Bacon said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed.” This list should give you many summer days (or nights) of savoring.

Tell us what your reading this summer. Comment below!

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