Every year, I get excited about summer. Sure, it’s great to go on vacation, swim and eat lots of fresh strawberries, but what really gets me excited is summer reading. I love that libraries have summer reading programs that are for readers of all ages. I pour over lists titled “Best Summer Books,” “Ultimate Summer Reading Guide” and “Beach Reads.”
John Wesley instructed preachers to “Spend all the morning, or at least five hours in twenty-four, in reading the most useful books, and that regularly and constantly.” He cautioned against those who said they only read the Bible by reminding them that Paul read beyond Scriptures and encouraged others to do so as well. Wesley understood the power of books. Books help us experience the world through someone else’s eyes. We can travel without ever leaving our homes. Jesus used stories (parables) to teach, and there is much to be learned from the stories of others.
Here are my suggestions for summer reading as well as some of the books I plan to read this summer. Please comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with your suggestions and what you think of the books once you’ve read them. Happy reading!
Barbara’s Summer Reading Guide
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
No list of my book suggestions would be complete without Harry Potter. I have lost track of how many times I have read these books. There is great wisdom to be found in the story of a young wizard and his friends. I believe that this series is the Christian allegory for our time.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This was the best book I read in 2017. It was life-changing. Thomas tells the story of Starr, an African-American teenager who witnesses her friend being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. Starr has to live in the aftermath in both her upscale private school and her gang-riddled neighborhood. A movie adaptation of the book will be released in theaters in October of 2018. (Warning: This book has graphic language and violence. It is rated Young Adult, but there are very mature themes.)
The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver’s story of a family of missionaries to the Belgian Congo in 1959 was a difficult but important read for me. Kingsolver shows the traps that we as the Church can fall into when sharing the Good News.
Opening To God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer– David Benner
I read this book for my Spiritual Life and Leadership class last fall. I enjoyed Benner’s discussion about prayer. Each chapter has sections to help you put the various forms of prayer into practice. This could be easily transformed into a group study.
Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living by Ruben P. Job
I love this little book so much that I have given it as a gift more than once. Job, a UMC bishop, takes John Wesley’s General Rules and explains and expands them for use today. This is also a good choice for a small group to read together.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
Palmer’s book was assigned to a class I took this spring. We were learning about transitions, and this book spoke to my soul. Each chapter is a stand-alone essay about finding your purpose and vocation. Palmer shares his own struggles and journey to find his place in the world.
Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century (Religion in North America) edited by William L. Andrews
Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw and Julia Foote were black female preachers in the late 1800s. Their personal notes and memoirs are compiled together in this book. Their stories inspire me to go where God has called me.
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
The title says it all. Jacobs spent a year trying to follow all the rules in the Bible. Along the way, he also visited varied religious communities to discover how they live out their interpretation of the Bible. I read this several years ago, and the stories have stuck with me.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ by Rachel Held Evans
Held Evans was inspired by A.J. Jacobs (book above) to live as a Biblical woman for a year. Her experience was quite different from Jacobs’ experience, but just as powerful, interesting and humorous.
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
Worth’s memoirs of working as a midwife in London’s East End are the inspiration for the BBC drama of the same name. The TV show and the book inspired my ministry goals. (Warning: There are graphic stories about pregnancy, infant loss and hardships of living in post-WWII London.)
WHAT I’LL BE READING THIS SUMMER
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Harrison is a gifted artist who specializes in drawing African-American girls and women. She took her drawings from Black History Month Twitter posts and added biographies for each woman. I have skimmed this book and looked at all the beautiful portraits, but I will be sitting down to read it in full this summer. Great for all ages.
Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne by Wilda C. Gafney
Dr. Gafney was my professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite. I have had this book sitting on my shelf since Christmas, and I am excited to finally have the time to read it.
Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places by Kaitlin B. Curtice
Curtice is a Native American Christian who writes and speaks from her experience in both worlds and the blending of them together. I follow her on Twitter, and her posts are always insightful. I am looking forward to reading her debut book.