Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My 2015 SUMMER Reading List

Summertime means fewer meetings, tons of pool days, and plenty of travel time spent on planes, trains and automobiles…..which means a LOT more time to read. I love good books and summertime usually gives me enough downtime to knock several books off my “hope to read” list.  Few things paint a better picture of summer than a beat up, sunscreen stained, sandy book laying on a beach towel. Add in an umbrella drink and you have the makings of a PERFECT lazy summer day.

A lot of bloggers and websites that I follow have created a list of summer reading books that they have read and recommend.  I do things a bit differently. Last summer, I created a list of books I wanted to read and shared it on my blog. I am doing the same thing this year, making my own summer reading list - so please know that I can't sign off on whether or not these books are great. This is just a little personal blog and these are just books that sounded interesting to me -- so I make no promises about the quality of any of these books! I hope to do reviews of my favorites as the summer progresses, but I am not a critic or an English teacher, so take my opinions with a grain of salt please :)

I made a fairly long list so I have options….that way I am free to read whatever tickles my fancy that day, so long as I force myself to read a few nonfiction books before summer’s end, not just fun stuff. (I actually like a lot of nonfiction, but summer makes me want to only read the "fun stuff" all day!

This year’s list is a lot longer than last year’s (25 compared to 15) – and my goal is to read at least 15 (and hopefully 20) of the 25!! Here are some guidelines for my summer reading challenge:
  1.    My “SUMMER” (for reading purposes) started mid May and ends one week after Labor Day, Sept. 14th when we return from France. 
  2.  My goal is to read at least 15 books before Fall. Last year, I successfully read 9 books (plus a few others that weren't on the list -- I got distracted!) The list is longer than last year’s list for SEVERAL reasons – (1) I researched more books I want to read; (2) we have access to a pool so I have more lazy Saturdays planned; (3) I have more time because I am not job searching (which I was still doing last May)OR starting a new job (which I was doing July and August last year); (4) longer commute allowing for more reading; (5) more travelling allowing for more reading time; and (6) By the time I actually had time to start this list, I had already finished 3 books and started on another so I only felt it fair to give myself a larger requirement than last year.
  3.   I can pick what I want to read, but I must read at least 1 book from each category (well, and obviously ALL books from the “Book Club” category).

So, here’s what’s on my 2015 summer reading list:

Book Club Books 
AKA, Required Reading

The Stranger by Harlan Coben
This year, I joined a book club through the Jr. League. We read bestsellers which means we have read a variety of books - mystery, nonfiction, chick lit, etc. Fun and challenging books.  The book club is low key with no great attendance expectations and you are welcome to show up even if you haven't finished the book -- which was how I showed up last month, halfway through with this book! However, the first half had already grabbed my attention as it was suspenseful and actually, thought provoking, causing you to think about how even in happy suburban America, we all have secrets. (spoiler: I quickly finished the book the following week, so this is a summer reading book already crossed off my list!)

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (and *possibly* the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend)
This is another book club choice.  We voted to read a "beach read" or "chick lit" best seller for the month of June as many of us were travelling. This book is a fun read about incredibly rich Asian families and their secret lives and what happens when the son of one of these families (living in NYC) brings his American raised Chinese girlfriend home for the summer. You think old money southerners or NYC socialites can be snotty? These girls make Americans look tame. So far, I am enjoying this light funny easy to read book, so I may dive into the sequel when it comes out.

Home and Marriage
These are both categories that I am sure I could use some help!

The 7 principles for making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
A blogger I read included this book on one of her old reading lists. At first I thought, boring, but then I realized that besides our small group marriage study book this winter, I haven't read many marriage books since we were engaged.  I want to always be investing in our relationship and feel this book could help me think about different ways to strengthen our bond.

Eight Twenty Eight by Larissa and Ian Murphy
I am sure you have all read about Ian and Larissa. I love this couple.  My heart breaks that their story is so rough, but I am so grateful that God is using their challenges to tell His story. I want to love like she loves. I want to trust like he trusts. There is so much to learn about marriage and life, in general, from this sweet couple.

A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman
I loved Nesting Place last year. Read and reread it - and let it inspire me in decorating our apartment.  I would love some new "home" inspiration and I love the idea of doing a few crafts. This book gets amazing reviews and I am excited to dive in (and maybe even get my hands busy with a project!)

Southern Fiction
This Mississippi girl needs to read at least a couple southern books this 
summer to remind her heart of home.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
My husband is from the Natchez area, full of antebellum homes and charming southern streets right by the Mississippi River.  So, I am eager to dive into this thrilling mystery set in a town so dear to our hearts. (This is a repeat from last summer's list and I hope to check it of this summer)

The Right Thing by Amy Conner
This was also on my list last summer- but I never read it.  It's a coming of age story set in Jackson, MS.  I "came of age" in Jackson, MS (and later small town MS as well) so I should be able to relate! I love good southern fiction, but especially books that remind me of Mississippi.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
I must admit, I had not heard of this book, but it was already downloaded on the family Kindle account. A little research revealed that this dark southern mystery, set in Louisiana, has received praise from Kathryn Stockett, author of one of my favorites, "The Help". Since the book is already paid for and on my Kindle -- and is very highly praised, I felt this would be a perfect addition to my list!

French Reads
I've got Paris on my mind, so I wanted to read a few French themed books this summer.

Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
This is also a repeat from last year's list and hopefully, this summer, I have a little more motivation to read this book since I will be making a Parisian get away in a few short months. Amazon described this book as "a deliciously funny, offbeat, and irreverent look at the city of lights, cheese, chocolate, and other confections." Sounds entertaining and yummy!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This seems to be the book everyone is talking about - and I have been dying to read it. The story follows a young Parisian girl who moves to St. Malo, France during WW2. Her path collides with a young German boy who lives in occupied France at the time. That's about all I know about the book but if so many people loved it so much, it must be good.  We are visiting Paris and Normandy in September, so I feel this will be a good book to get me ready for the trip.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is another highly acclaimed WW2 story set in France, but this book follows two sisters' relationship, challenges and courage.  I am eager to read this book which focuses on WW2 from a female perspective.

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
This book involves a Sotheby's furniture specialist, an old Parisian apartment abandoned during WW2 and the stories of two different women from two different times. 

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan 
This is pure chic lit, but at least it's British Chick Lit, so does that make me a little more high brow? A romance involving a chocolate shop and set in Paris-- seems like a perfect beach read!

General Fiction

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This is a story of a non royal girl at Oxford who fall is in love with the future King of England....sound familiar??? 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
This was a #1 NYT bestseller by Liane Moriarty, author of "What Alice Forgot" - one of my favorite books that I read last year.  Moriarty's works are both funny and a little dark - definitely causing you to think about things in a different way while you laugh. 

The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
 This, along with "All the Light We Cannot See", is one of the books that everyone seems to be talking about these days.  Apparently, it's a dark thriller about a alcoholic woman who watches a couple she passes on her train route and then becomes entangled in their murder investigation. It's the new "Gone Girl" and people love it or hate it - I hope I love it!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
A friend recommended this book and it sounds intriguing and sweet! From what I can tell, it's a book about a scientist who creates a scientific plan to find his wife and weed out non-matches. Rosie comes along and is not "wife material" but he is drawn to her (and her own quest to find her biological father).  He soon learns that love can't be discovered through a scientific plan.

Paper Towns by John Green
I am not usually a young adult fiction reading, but I really loved reading John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" last summer so I decided to give his newest teen fiction book a shot. Plus, this is soon to be movie so I thought it would be great to read the book before seeing it on the big screen.

The Life Intended by Kristen Harmel
 This novel is about a young widow planning to walk down the aisle for a second time, but she is still haunted by dreams of her first husband. In her dreams, he leads her down a path that she could never have imagined.  This book is about fear of moving forward with life and letting go of the past - and who can't relate to that fear?

Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
Two years ago, I was new to DC and not working yet. I went on a run while Dave was at work and I locked myself out. Luckily, I had my cell phone and 10 dollars stuck in my pocket (meant for picking up coffee on the way back) so I went to Barnes and Noble, ordered lunch and read one of their books all afternoon!  The book ("Summer People") was by author Elin Hildebrand and is a beach read, but a bit more intense than your normal breezy chick lit. I have wanted to read another one of her books since then - so when I saw another blogger recommend this book, I decided that I should try it out!

Religious Reads

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Quireshi
This is a book recommended by several members of our small group.  It is about a devout Muslim who discovers Christianity. I know so little about Islam - and although I am certain this book just skims the surface of the religion, I feel it will start to give me an understanding of the Muslim faith.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
Last year, I read "Bread and Wine" as part of my summer reading list. Then, this spring, I read one of Shauna's other books, "Bittersweet" which I adored - one of those books that I read at the exact right moment.  Shauna writes in a unique way -- her chapters are meant to be read individually, but grouped together, you can tell the overall theme and story for that part of her life. You can tell how she grew as she wrote her book - and you grow with her. You can relate to each chapter because she so eloquently and correctly identifies feelings we all experience.  So, I am reading another one of her books, "Cold Tangerines" about the joys and extraordinary moments of everyday life.  Summertime - with its long hot days, afternoons by the pool, cookouts and travel plans - seems to be the perfect time to read about celebrating everyday moments.

Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life
Not be be whiny, but I feel like one of those people whose life never goes quite as planned. For those of you whose life turned out pretty much like you hoped, then you probably don't relate - but I suspect most people feel a bit like I do: like sometimes no matter what you do, things fall apart or turn out differently than you wanted! Sometimes, these frustrations are redeemed. Sometimes the change in life's plans turns out to be better than I could have hoped.  I feel like this book will be one I relate to so much -- a book I cry and laugh and murmur "amen" throughout each chapter.


The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner
 This book is about women finding time to pursue their passions.  I actually feel I have more free time than I have in years. I am out of school. I am not "job searching" and although my job is challenging, it only occasionally requires late nights. Plus, my social calendar is a bit less full than my single days. However, sometimes I feel I waste my time and that I don't know my passions.  People love and recommend this book, so I hope it encourages me to be more intentional with my time.  Best to learn that now, before kids and a house make my "me time" even less!

11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative by Dr. Paul Kengor
I love Reagan and I really enjoy politics -- ironically enough, I don't always enjoy political books. I think it's because I spent 3 years reading law books and now live in a place where politics is a huge topic of convo at every event. But, this book (from last year's list) seems practical, and clarifies what "being a Reagan conservative" really includes. 

**If you made it to the end of this long list, congrats!! Let me know if you have read any of these books and think I should move them to the top of my list. Also, what are you all reading this summer? **