It was a good summer for reading. With the help of audiobooks, I read about 25 books this summer. I’m able to do this because I “read” while I’m driving, folding clothes, walking my dog, etc. If you don’t use Libby or Hoopla or another app for borrowing digital books and audiobooks, you’re seriously missing out. These apps make it easy to read books from the library without actually going to the library, which is good since hardly any of them are open right now. I still read paper books, but audiobooks and my Kindle have revolutionized my reading. And I’ve said it before, but a reading me is a much happier me. So, here are some of the books I’d like to recommend from the summer. All of the titles are links to buy the book on Amazon. Or try to get them from one of the apps I mentioned before. Happy reading!
On a Journey
This pairing is super fun for me because both of these books are written by friends of mine. Don’t think for a minute that’s the only reason I’m recommending them. Both of these books are wonderful. I can’t count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading Turtles in the Road by Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea. In this adorable romance, Piper Cope is humiliated to be moving in with her sister after her fiancé breaks off their engagement. A turtle in the road sends her crashing into the ditch and into a small town that feels like it could be a home. You will love this book. Likewise, I was so excited when my friend Janine Rosche’s debut novel, This Wandering Heart came out. It was even better than I imagined. Kiera Knudsen is also on a journey. Like a superhero, she’s a teacher and secretly a famous travel blogger called Kat Wanderful in her spare time. When Kiera’s first love Robbie Matthews wanders back into her life, she has to decide if it’s time to put down some roots. You’ll love this book which is the first in a series of three. (Book 2 comes out in October!)
In Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey, Annie Cassedy isn’t ashamed to be waiting for her own Tom Hanks (not Tom himself, but the characters he plays in all of her favorite romantic comedies). This book has about a million references to all of my favorite rom coms and, to top it off, it takes place in Columbus. I haven’t read the other book in this series, Not Like the Movies, but I plan to. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is also an adorable romance but from the perspective of a man -which is a fun twist. I recommend listening to his book because the narrator's little quarks are so endearing on audio.
In this uncertain time, I’ve found nonfiction is keeping my attention a little better than some fiction. Even though I live in Ohio, I didn’t know much about the shootings at Kent State. Deborah Wiles' book, Kent State was interesting because it was presented by four voices: a protestor, a Guardsmen, a townie, and a student. It was a quick read that I think will stick with me for a long time. I loved The Pioneers by David McCullough. So much of it takes place in Ohio and I loved the appearances of some of my favorite characters from Hamilton including Washington, LaFayette, Burr, and Hamilton himself. Even if you’re not a huge fan of histories, I think you’ll find that these two books are really interesting.
In a Courtroom
I love courtroom dramas and I’ve always been a fan of John Grisham. However, The Guardians felt a little different from some of his other books. It reminded me of the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It easy to root for Cullen Post, an Episcopal minister and lawyer, who defends wrongly convicted prisoners. In contrast, I didn’t know who to root for in Defending Jacob by William Landay. But that didn’t make it easy to put down. Don’t start this book if you have any other responsibilities for a day or so because it’s what you’ll do until you finish it. The mini-series on Apple TV+ is also excellent.
Black Lives Matter
Many excellent book recommendations surfaced from the BLM movement. White Fragility by Robin Diangelo was just as convicting as it was important. It’s the kind of book I want to read every year or so because, as a white woman, it’s easy to become complacent and therefore complicit. I think everyone should read this book. Period. All American Boys, by Reynolds and Kiely, is the perfect companion piece to White fragility. This YA novel highlights the injustice people of color face every day. I recommend reading this book with your teen if you have one. It will spark important discussions that may lead to real change if you allow it to.
Speaking of reading with kids, The Littlest Big Foot by Jennifer Weiner and Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me are both coming of age middle grade novels with a fantasy element. If you know me, you know I read a lot of middle grade fiction because the book series I’m writing is for that age group. Neither of these books take place in a complete fantasy world, but they have elements of fantasy, so they’re great for a young reader who likes more realistic books. I loved both of them.
The Dust Bowl
I was explaining The Dust Bowl to my son which lead us to checking out some books about it. I loved Children of the Dust Bowl, the True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (Say that 10 times fast) by Jerry Stanley. It sounds like it would be sad, but it was actually a story of resilience that made me realize that no matter how weird things are for us right now, we have it pretty good. I was inspirited to re-read The Grapes of Wrath by by John Steinbeck afterward and found that I enjoyed it much more than I did as summer reading before entering college my freshman year. I’m pretty sure I put it off until the last minute. It’s a painful, but inspiring story. No wonder it’s a classic.
I’ve always heard about this or that book being a “Christy Award Winner” never quite knowing why the award was called that. Well, it’s after the book Christy, by Catherine Marshall which many people probably remember from the TV show from the 90’s. Based on true events, Christy is the story of a young teacher who moves to Appalachia to start a school. As an aspiring writer of Christian Historical Fiction, Christy is a standard we should all aspire to. Without leaving Appalachia, you should also read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Like Christy, it’s about educating those without access to school. In this case, they are packhorse librarians bringing books to those living in the mountains and the courage and grit it took to do so.
As a teacher and parent, I love books that center around schools. The first one I read this summer was The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger. It’s about a school district in Colorado that’s opening a gifted school for the top 1% of students in three counties and the crazy things a handful of families do to make sure their kids are included. It was intriguing and also tough because as much as I didn’t want to relate to these entitled parents, I could see myself in some of their desires and actions. The second school story could have also been included in the BLM recommendations. Katie Ganshert's No One Ever Asked is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Based on true events, this book is about two school districts -one rich and white and one poor and mostly black. The poor district loses it’s accreditation and students are given the opportunity to open enroll in the rich one. It was easy to understand and empathize with all of the characters in the book because these issues aren’t as cut and dried as we’d like to believe they are. I think everyone should read this book.
I hope you had a good summer of reading too. If not, here’s to reading in the fall. These books will keep and I hope you get a chance to read some of them.