Summer Reading

My Eclectic & Excellent Book Suggestions!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

bookhammockreading“A book is a soulish thing. It is physical — dots of ink and paper from old trees — and yet it feeds our minds and moves our wills. We read with our bodies; with our wills we choose to have our thoughts guided by the words of another person. Books connect us with ourselves and with others — and perhaps with God.” (John Ortberg in “Soul Keeping”)  

Good writers are always good readers. So, yeah, I’m reading as much as I can during these summer months, and I hope you are too! This week I thought I would share some of my eclectic and excellent book suggestions from what I’ve read this month. Perhaps you will find something you like! And please leave a comment with your own summer reading recommendations!

bookbenson“Dancing On The Head of a Pen” is one of my most favorite author’s latest work – Robert Benson shares both practically and poetically about the life of a writer and how he writes. Of course it was all I could do not to devour it in one sitting, but I managed to stretch out the wisdom. You might enjoy this quote I shared on a photo recently…bensonwriterquote booktoddIf you are missing watching Downton Abbey, then why not try Charles Todd’s mysteries which are set in post World War I England (author is a mother/son writing team). I read the entire Ian Rutledge series and now I’m working on the Bess Crawford series, recently “A Question of Honor.” She is a nurse during the Great War and gets into all kinds of mischief. (Think “Lady Mary” in a nurse’s uniform…)


Enjoying a picnic with Christy Award winners (my friends) Christa Parrish (and son Noah) and Tessa Afshar

Speaking of fiction, I was totally enthralled with my friend Christa Parrish’s latest novel “Stones for Bread” – which just received a Christy Award for contemporary fiction. Christa is a master at the lyrical understatement of presenting broken people who slowly find their path through grace and mercy and a tender touch from God and His people. bookstonesLiesl makes bread in Vermont and makes big decisions in her heart. I was so stunned with beauty after reading this book that I just had to sit and ponder. And weep. Then I had to eat some bread and butter. Then I had to order five signed gift copies… bookplatform

Another ‘must read’ for authors (when Lael Arrington and Karen Porter tell you to read a book, you do it!) is Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” which gives the complete ‘scoop’ on how to be an author and speaker in the 21st century. I admit, I was greatly enlightened …..and totally overwhelmed. But I am slowly checking things off my long ‘to do’ list in order to move forward as an author/speaker. booklistening

My pastor/seminary professor/author friend in New Zealand, Dr. Lynne Baab’s new book is all about “The Power of Listening” something I need. I was especially grateful it includes a section on how to listen to God through spiritual practices. And the “Toolbox” which gives practical application and explanation of listening styles and opportunities, is simply invaluable for any of us in ministry, or in life for that matter.

bookfieldOf course, speaking of Christy Award winners, I definitely re-read friend/author Tessa Afshar’s new release “In the Field of Grace” (a truly beautiful story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz) since reading a manuscript for critique is very different from reading the finished novel. (She won this year’s Christy for biblical romance for “Harvest of Gold”) And I was thrilled to moderate her book launch this month as 200+ readers celebrated yet another well-researched, theologically sound, historic biblical romance. You will savor this amazing story which changed the course of history. (I’m off on retreat with Tessa tomorrow as she writes her 5th novel, and I write — well — I write something….) bookbunn

And one more Christy Award winner from last month, Davis Bunn. I pretty much read everything he writes too and just finished his novel “Gold of Kings” (2010) which included mystery and some really great biblical archeological insight as well. bookleon

Yes, I love good detective fiction have been slowly working my way from #1 (at the library) through Donna Leon’s series set in contemporary Venice, Italy with Commissario Guido Brunetti. This summer I just finished book #22 “The Golden Egg” and still thoroughly enjoy the nuances and clever plot and characters she weaves. bookwetzel

My friend Sarah Wetzel’s new memoir is called “Growing Down” which I savored because of her sharing so many ‘literary friends’ influence as well as vulnerably chronicling her own life as a missionary, mom of four, and fellow traveler on this journey of learning to live in grace.

And this book by friend/author and recent Roaring Lambs Award winner Allison Bottke is “A Young Woman’s Guide to Setting Boundaries” just arrived in the mail and I haven’t read it all, but she talks honestly about hard things to teens: bookalaison“… I ran away from home as a teen, quit school, and married my boyfriend who beat me, raped me, and almost killed me. I got divorced and became a mother, got my GED, had an abortion, gained 100 pounds, discovered diet pills, attended cosmetology school, and subsequently gave up on myself, on love, and on God – all before I turned 18. Trust me, I’m not your typical advice-offering adult…” As a high school teacher, I know there is a great need for this book. booksoulkeeping

Don’t worry! I continue to read a lot of devotional work as well. Arriving on my doorstep this week is John Ortberg’s new “Soul Keeping – Caring for the Most Important Part of You” so I will let you know what I think after I read it. He is the current pastor of the church where I served as missions pastor – Menlo Park Presbyterian, California.

Let me close these musings with another quote from Robert Benson on what he gains from reading good books:  “I turn to these writers and their pages again and again. They are my teachers… They remind me to pay attention to the stories of my life so that in the telling of them I might help others recall the stories of their lives… They push me to tell the truth, the hard truth about my life, as someone may be dying to hear it. To tell the old stories when the time comes but make them come alive. To not be so busy being an artiste that I forget to be a person and a friend.” (Robert Benson in “Dancing on the Head of a Pen”)

What are YOU reading this summer? I’d love to hear…bookpoolkingandprince

 under the mercy, Cindy

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ as I post them. Thanks!
©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
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4 Responses to Summer Reading

  1. Jane Rattray says:

    What book taught you to be a speed reader!?! I am impressed with ALL of these reviews and can’t decide where to start. I read “1776” by Davis McCullough this summer and was humbled by the reminder of the perseverance,loyalty and faith needed to create our great country. I have also become mesmerized by the story of Lady Jane Grey’s life. I read a juvenile biography, “the World of Lady Jane Grey” and am planning to dig deeper into her life story, maybe a historical novel in the works. As hard as it is to believe I have never read the complete series of The Chronicles of Narnia so I started Prince Caspian today and am committed to reading every word of every book. Might take me awhile, though, as I plan to write down quotes and insights so really copying the whole book:)

  2. jeannedoyon says:

    Hi Cindy, I have just finished (and loved) Tessa Afshar’s newest book, In the Field of Grace. I’m reading, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope and am so touched by its truth that I struggle to get back to reading it because it is hard.
    This summer I’m also digging into the reading/study of the Book of Ruth. I also ordered My Life in France by Julia Child which I look forward to reading based on the wonderful reviews.

  3. Jane, thanks for your suggestions. I love David McCullough’s epic books as well. So great to learn history from an excellent writer. And did you ever see that old movie about Lady Jane Grey – it came out in the ’70s I think. So glad you are reading Narnia, but I definitely think you should start with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I just finished it on recorded books and loved the recording so much I bought and sent one to my bff in Chicago. We have both read Narnia a zillion times but it never grows old. See you in October!

  4. Jeanne, I’m glad you liked Tessa’s “In The Field of Grace” and that you are doing a personal study on Ruth. Last night I was able to read/edit the first chapter of her upcoming novel and it will be a winner as well. I’ve never read Julia Child, but I enjoyed the movie, does that count? (I’m not a great cook). So glad you continue to read and grow. Hope to see you soon…

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