I Read Books This Summer

This summer has been bonkers. I’ve been writing (not for the blog, as you can see, but give me grace because fun writing is ahead!), we moved last weekend, and we’re having loads of hard/sanctifying conversations and slowly moving forward with fostering these past few weeks. We are tired but in that productive/I-did-a-lot-of-stuff-today kind of way.

BUT. Rest assured, I found time to read. In fact, I read more than I have in a while, and it was glorious. Every book I picked up this summer was good, so I want to share some recommendations with all my friends!

NOTE: If you read no further than this. If you think, “Oh, I’m just not a reader.” I urge you–no, I beg you–please at least pick up Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. She’s outdone herself. (And, if novels are more your thing, hit up Defending Jacob.)


ShanghaiGirls_coverShanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls is about two Chinese girls who were sent to America for a new life with arranged marriages. Their journey is harrowing, but not as harrowing as their time in America proves to be. The books has some really dark themes, but it was eye-opening to my closed-minded, American privilege. Though it starts slow, the book just keeps getting better and better, as it turns into a sort of coming-of-age story for these girls.

11367726Defending Jacob by William Landay

SO GOOD. This book sucked me in and rocked my world and forced me to read way past my 10 p.m. bedtime. Told from the perspective of a murder suspect’s father (who is, ironically, the assistant district attorney for their small town), Defending Jacob is both a courtroom drama and the story of a family in the midst of crisis. Add in about 40 twists and turns, and you’ll stay up til 10:30 too.

Side note: I found out about this book off of Jamie Ivey‘s podcast, Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. She interviewed someone who read 52 books in a year, and Defending Jacob was at the top of her favorites. Count that as a second recommendation, and go get this book! (Also, listen to Jamie’s podcast. It’s my favorite.)

51KxXwy3zeL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin

I was weary about this one. No offense to Karen Kingsbury, but I struggle a bit with Christian fiction–I always find it a little too forced. A few months back, I asked a friend for some book recommendations, and she told me about Lynn Austin. The kicker for me was that she compared her to Francine Rivers, and I could kiss my copy of Redeeming Love. When I went to look up some of Lynn Austin’s books, Candle in the Darkness was FREE on my Kindle (and it still is!) so I gave it a shot.

Y’all. This book is good. Set during the Civil War, it follows a young woman through her internal battle of wanting to support her Confederate-soldier fiancee while personally fighting against slavery. It challenged me to rethink what it looks like to fight for what you believe in. Also, it’s set in Richmond, so I really enjoyed reading about my hometown.

indexFire by Night by Lynn Austin

Candle in the Darkness sucked me in, so I spent $6 on book number 2 in the series. This one follows a minor character from the first book in her quest to become a nurse for the war. Though some of the characters are the same, the plot is totally different, so this book could stand alone. I liked Candle in the Darkness a little bit better, but Fire by Night was really good! I’m officially a Lynn Austin fan. And still officially not a Karen Kingsbury fan.

index2The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I mentioned this a few months back on the blog, but the librarian and I had a moment as I checked out this book. She was a former social worker, so we gushed together about the foster care system and our burdens for orphans. As a social worker, she said that The Language of Flowers made her sad, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It breaks down the stereotypical foster kid and builds up a character who flourished in all the worst circumstances. This book also made me want to go buy flowers.

index3Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons

The subtitle of this book is “A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning.” The author talks a lot about her struggles with panic and anxiety, so I connected to her story of learning to trust God’s sovereignty. My favorite part about this book is that Rebekah is an advocate for big dreamers. She challenges women to dream big and chase after those dreams without letting comparison, fear, or cultural norms get in our ways. “Freefalling” became my biggest dream after reading this book. This is Rebekah’s first book, and I’m excited to keep following her lead.

M54991Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice by Russell Moore

Never has a free e-book ever been so good. This was a short version of Russell Moore’s Adopted For Life. Morgan is reading our copy of the full book now, so Adoption served as a teaser for what is to come. I’ve been feeling a burden to simply understand adoption better, and this book does just that by using Joseph as an example. I’d never thought of it this way before, and it challenged me a lot. Looking forward to reading the full version!

510Ba8PrBiL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A Little Salty To Cut The Sweet by Sophie Hudson

If you’ve pulled up next to me at a stop light recently, you may have seen me laughing to myself. While there’s a chance I was losing my mind a bit (it’s been a stressful summer), the culprit was most likely Sophie’s podcast that she does with her friend Melanie Shankle.

I reviewed this book back in May, but my love for Sophie (AKA Boo Mama) has grown exponentially simply from listening to the Big Boo Cast podcast. They are absolutely hilarious Southern women who shamelessly talk for hours about their favorite tailgate dips and sales at Nordstrom Rack. It’s as if you’re eavesdropping on a phone conversation, and it’s just so much fun. Caution: It is, in no shape or form, a fascinating podcast. But I’m learning that podcasts are more about the storytellers than the stories.

All that to say, this is another plug to read Sophie’s book!

And now, for the grand finale…

index4For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Part of me thinks that this blurb isn’t doing For the Love justice, but I’d hate to ruin this book for those who haven’t read it by giving a full recap. Let me just say this: Jen Hatmaker understands what it means to live out the gospel more than any other Christian writer I’ve read. No joke. She gets it and she makes me want to get it too.

For the Love is a collection of essays that beg the reader to accept grace and live in freedom. She balances hilarious humor and deep truths effortlessly, and I found myself laughing loudly during one chapter and sobbing the next. I can’t recommend any book higher than this one. I’d offer to lend you mine, but I’m terrified I wouldn’t get it back. And I’m also embarrassed by the “HAHAs” I wrote in the margins.


I’m sure everyone is dying to know what’s next on my to-read list.

I think I’m going to backpedal and read Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines. This is her first book, but I devoured her other two and know that I will love this one as well.

Also, I’m excited to start Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I’m falling head over heels in love with writing words, so I can’t wait to see what this book stirs up inside me.

OH AND I won a book in a blog giveaway (shout out to Life with Truth who is so incredibly generous)!!!! I’ve been dying to read Emily Freeman’s new book, Simply Tuesday, but I couldn’t justify buying another book. And then I won one! Hallelujah. When this comes in the mail, I’ll start it immediately. It seems like a game-changer when it comes to savoring life in the small moments.

What books do y’all recommend?!

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10 thoughts on “I Read Books This Summer

  1. Sarah Katherine Oliphant says:

    I’m listening to the Big Boo Cast podcast right now while I work! It is too funny! It also makes me want to move back to the south yesterday. I miss my people! Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll have to pick up her book too!

  2. sydnijackson says:

    Aww! I’m so glad you won Lauren’s giveaway 🙂 I might have to read For The Love. I normally read classics or more sciencey non-fiction, but I’ve read her blog a few times and I love her personality! Thanks for the rec 🙂

  3. Julie Pizzino says:

    Holly, I just discovered your blog via a friend who posted your article about the recent loss of our two young friends. It was excellent.) Oh, do read Simply Tuesday. I served on Emily’s launch team so read the book in June (providentially, while in Rwanda and Uganda). So many takeaways in that little gem!

    • Hey Julie! I’m glad you found the blog (and that you read the post on My Big Jesus–I’m so thankful people read it and found comfort in it!). I cannot wait to get started on Simply Tuesday–it’s being sent to me now and I’m refusing to start any book until it gets here 😉

  4. Leslie Littlefield says:

    Holly – Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the King series (5 books) is amazing. Might want to look these up too!

  5. I’m totally with you on the Karen Kingsbury thing…not a fan! Also, don’t read Adopted for Life in public, unless you want people to see you ugly cry…such a good read! my all time favorite books are the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Forgotten Garden and I can’t recommend them enough! Thanks for sharing your recent reads, I’m excited to add some of them to my list 🙂

    • Hey Amanda! So true about Adopted For Life. I am a hot mess while reading it…woof. I’ve never heard of those books but I am totally going to read them! They both look right up my alley–I’m all about some good historical fiction. Thank you for the recommendations!

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