Summer 2017 – What I’m Reading

Well, I can’t believe it but we’re already into the 5th week of summer – I hope it’s been a great one, so far, for all of you.  If you’re a reader, what have you been reading this summer?  I’ve had my reading wish list put together since late spring and thought I’d share it with you today.  Here it is:

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult ~ The main character, Sage Singer, is a baker.  She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death.  When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship.  Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shame­ful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor.  If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family.  In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths to which we will go in order to keep the past from dictating the future.

(This is the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve read.  Most of her books are highly rated [on Amazon] and I can see why, if the quality and writing style are similar to The Storyteller.  My husband and I are listening to the Amazon Audible version and are quite enjoying it, even though many of the holocaust details are descriptive and so awful to listen to.  There are five different voices for the five main characters in this book, which we like.  We haven’t finished it yet, but so far I would definitely recommend this book.)

*UPDATE 7-31-17* We’ve finished the book.  I liked most of the story really well, but I didn’t like that there were some unnecessary sexual scenes, and I didn’t like the last 45 minutes AT ALL.  The ending was a real disappointment for both of us.  I’ve changed my mind about wanting to read anything else by this author.

Let It Go: A True Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness by Chris Williams ~ On a cold February night in 2007, a devoted father of four and a seventeen-year-old drunk driver both received life sentences.  In one violent, devastating instant, both faced a drastically different—and uncertain—future.  But as Chris Williams sat in his demolished vehicle, staring at the car that had just caused the death of his wife, his unborn baby, his nine-year-old daughter, and his eleven-year-old son, he committed to do something extraordinary: he would forgive.

That decision launched Chris on a journey toward healing that affected his family and friends, the young man who caused the accident, and an entire community—a community that would face another deadly tragedy just a few days later.

Chris’s message of forgiveness is an empowering invitation to all who have suffered, however unjustly, to lay down their burdens and let it go.

Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism by Mark Levin ~ (From #1 New York Times bestselling author and radio host Mark R. Levin comes a searing plea for a return to America’s most sacred values.)

In Rediscovering Americanism, Mark R. Levin revisits the founders’ warnings about the perils of overreach by the federal government and concludes that the men who created our country would be outraged and disappointed to see where we’ve ended up.

Levin returns to the impassioned question he’s explored in each of his bestselling books: How do we save our exceptional country?  Because our values are in such a precarious state, he argues that a restoration to the essential truths on which our country was founded has never been more urgent.  Understanding these principles, in Levin’s words, can “serve as the antidote to tyrannical regimes and governments.”  Rediscovering Americanism is not an exercise in nostalgia, but an appeal to his fellow citizens to reverse course.

This essential book brings Levin’s celebrated, sophisticated analysis to the troubling question of America’s future, and reminds us what we must restore for the sake of our children and our children’s children.

The Endless Steppe by Esther HautzigExiled to Siberia.  In June 1941, the Rudomin family is arrested by the Russians.  They are “capitalists — enemies of the people.”  Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars.  Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia.

For five years, Ester and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields and working in the mines, struggling for enough food and clothing to stay alive.  Only the strength of family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.

(I’ve wanted to read this book for a long, long time.  I’m going to actually do it this summer!:))

The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes ~ It’s difficult today to imagine how America survived the Great Depression. Only through the stories of the common people who struggled during that era can we really understand how the nation endured.  These are the people at the heart of Amity Shlaes’s insightful and inspiring history of one of the most crucial events of the twentieth century.

In The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes, one of the nation’s most respected economic commentators, offers a striking reinterpretation of the Great Depression.  Rejecting the old emphasis on the New Deal, she turns to the neglected and moving stories of individual Americans, and shows how through brave leadership they helped establish the steadfast character we developed as a nation.

Shlaes also traces the mounting agony of the New Dealers themselves as they discovered their errors.  She shows how both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt failed to understand the prosperity of the 1920s and heaped massive burdens on the country that more than offset the benefit of New Deal programs.  The real question about the Depression, she argues, is not whether Roosevelt ended it with World War II.  It is why the Depression lasted so long.  From 1929 to 1940, federal intervention helped to make the Depression great—in part by forgetting the men and women who sought to help one another.

Authoritative, original, and utterly engrossing, The Forgotten Man offers an entirely new look at one of the most important periods in our history.  Only when we know this history can we understand the strength of American character today.

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis ~ What would cause an eighteen-year-old old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends, and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person but didn’t know any of the language?  A passion to make a difference.

Katie Davis left over Christmas break her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out.  She found herself so moved by the people and children of Uganda that she knew her calling was to return and care for them.  She has given up a relatively comfortable life—at a young age—to care for the less fortunate of this world.  She was so moved by the need she witnessed, she’s centered her life around meeting that need.  Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting 13 children in Uganda, and she completely trusts God for daily provision for her and her family.

Despite the rough conditions in which Katie lives, she has found a life of service to God to be one of great joy. Katie’s children bring constant delight and help her help others by welcoming whoever comes to their door. As the challenges grow, so does Katie’s faith and her certainty that what she’s doing in Uganda, one person at a time, will have far-reaching rewards. It isn’t the life she planned, but it is the life she loves.

(I read this book several years ago and was so deeply touched and uplifted by it that I’m wanting to re-read it this summer.  I’ll post a review of it when I’ve finished reading it.)

Nobody’s Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle ~ There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself.  Real friendship requires effort.  It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard.  It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt.  It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off.  Nobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments.

The Boy Who Met Jesus by Immaculee Ilibagiza ~ It’s the greatest story never told: that of a boy who met Jesus and dared to ask Him all the questions that have consumed mankind since the dawn of time.  His name was Segatashya.  He was a shepherd born into a penniless and illiterate pagan family in the most remote region of Rwanda.  He never attended school, never saw a bible, and never set foot in a church.  Then one summer day in 1982 while the 15-year-old was resting beneath a shade tree, Jesus Christ paid him a visit.  Jesus asked the startled young man if he’d be willing to go on a mission to remind mankind how to live a life that leads to heaven.  Segatashya accepted the assignment on one condition: that Jesus answer all his questions – and all the questions of those he met on his travels – about faith, religion, the purpose of life, and the nature of heaven and hell.  Jesus agreed to the boy’s terms, and Segatashya set off on what would become one of the most miraculous journeys in modern history.

Although he was often accused of being a charlatan and beaten as a result, Segatashya’s innocent heart and powerful spiritual wisdom quickly won over even the most cynical of critics.  Soon, this teenage boy who had never learned to read or write was discussing theology with leading biblical scholars and advising pastors and priests of all denominations.  He became so famous in Rwanda that the Catholic Church investigated his story. The doctors and psychiatrists who examined Segatashya all agreed that they were witnessing a miracle.  His words and simple truths converted thousands of hearts and souls wherever he went.

Before his death during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Segatashya continued his travels and conversations with Jesus for eight years, asking Him what we all want to know: Why were we created?  Why must we suffer?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  When will the world end?  Is there life after death?  How do we get to Heaven?  The answers to these and many other momentous, life-changing questions are revealed in this riveting book, which is the first full account of Segatashya’s remarkable life story.

Written with grace, passion, and loving humor by Immaculee Ilibagiza, Segatashya’s close friend and a survivor of the Rwandan holocaust herself, this truly inspirational work is certain to move you in profound ways.  No matter what your faith or religious beliefs, Segatashya’s words will bring you comfort and joy, and prepare your heart for this life and for life everlasting.

(The author of this book, Immaculee Ilibagiza, wrote Left to Tell, an inspiring account of how she developed a personal relationship with God while in hiding during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  See my review for that book here.)

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin ~  “Of all the elements of a happy life, my home is the most important.”   And for this reason, Gretchen Rubin decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on her home.

And what did she want from her home?  A place that calmed her, and energized her.  A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks.  Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.

With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives.

(I’m looking forward to reading this book this summer.  I hope it’s as refreshing and interesting as The Happiness Project [click here to read my review].)

Have you read any of these books?  What books would you recommend?

More book reviews:
The Boys in the Boat
My 2015 Summer Reading List


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