Remember how cranky I was last summer? Not pretty. After much whining—mostly internal, but maybe a bit more external than I’m proud of—I realized I associate summer with reading!

If we are not intentional, the busyness of life can drift us from who we want to be. You feel these currents too. So together, this summer we said, “Let’s read. Let’s aim higher together than we might have alone.”

Summer Reading Challenge is OVER

Well, how did it go? Remember, in The Summer Reading Challenge the goal was to read seven books between June 1 and August 19th. You enter for one of the five $10 Amazon gift cards by leaving a comment on this post. Even if you didn’t read seven, still share what you read! This isn’t really a contest so much as a chance to share and a chance to see how many books we read collectively.

I’m going to put the categories here if you want to cut and paste them into the comments. Also feel free to just list books, whatever works for you.

  1. A book related to professional development (can be loosely interpreted).
  1. A book that helps you understand part of history better.
  1. A book placed in a country you’re not familiar with OR about a country you’re not familiar with.
  1. A YA book.
  1. A book recommended by a friend.
  1. A graphic novel.
  1. A book you’ve been meaning to read.
  1. A book published more than 100 years ago.
  1. A book recommended by a teenager.
  1. A biography.
  1. A play.
  1. A memoir.
  1. A book by someone you might not spiritually agree with.
  1. A book that won an award.
  1. A book you read years ago and have meant to reread.


I love seeing what other people are reading! Here is my list:

  1. A book related to professional development (can be loosely interpreted): Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It by Steven Pressfield. His strength is writing about the writing process and how he developed as an author. Big takeaway for me: Concept is external, theme is internal, both needed in good writing. (AND you can tell we are friends if one of the first books I list has a curse word in it. Not what I would normally say, but I am not going to let one letter get in the way of reading a book worth reading.)
  • A Sacred Voice Is Calling: Personal Vocation And Social Conscience by John Neafsey. This was recommend by a friend and I noted in the notebook I record books in “I will read other books they recommended.” Reading this will help you tune into the small voice that competes with louder messages of culture. If you’re drawn to Parker Palmer’s writing, I think you would enjoy this.
  1. A book that helps you understand part of history better—Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More, Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. Hannah was a contemporary and friend of William Wilberforce and, in terms of influence, his equal. A top read from this summer. (My friend Jean McClure emailed this recommendation to me.)
  1. A book placed in a country you’re not familiar with OR about a country you’re not familiar with.
  1. YA book.
  1. A book recommended by a friend—my first one in the category was recommend by a podcaster I listen to. Feels like a friend, right? Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’ve mentioned this book before. Going to be one of my top picks of 2016. Get it. Read it.
  • Family friend Jackie sent The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George to Mom. While this isn’t what it is about, what I found endearing is how to protagonist Jean Perdue would prescribe books to help with what ailed a customer. Sweet summer read.
  • Right Ho, Jeeves by PD Wodehouse. Kay Bruner recommend this for Velvet Ashes’ June book. If you want to laugh out loud, this is your book. Kay shared that Wodehouse would hang each page on the wall and if he didn’t laugh, he reworked it.
  1. A graphic novel—A book group I’m in this summer read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. Unfortunately I got The Complete Persepolis from the library and didn’t realize there was a difference! I would recommend the first half in which Satrapi share her childhood in Iran as a girl. The second half of her memoir is her experience in Europe. I had to keep reminding myself that I was enjoying the graphic novel part of the reading experience, it was Satrapi herself I wasn’t so keen on. My friend Lisa mailed me another graphic memoir related to the Olympics!
  1. A book you’ve been meaning to read.
  1. A book published more than 100 years ago—After enjoy both Sherlock and Elementary on TV, I have now read one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books!  Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles was much more readable than I anticipated. If you haven’t read any of his, try it.
  1. A book recommended by a teenager.
  1. biography—A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness. This was the July book for the Velvet Ashes book club. Lilias was a gifted 19th century artist who was called by God to serve in Algeria. Does one develop a talent that could lead to world renown or follow a life of service? She chose service and ended up implementing methods decades ahead of her time. So much we can learn from those who have gone before us in life.
  1. play.
  1. memoir: Late to the party, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I appreciate that Rubin advocates for small changes in your current life instead of a radical overhaul.
  1. A book by someone you might not spiritually agree with—How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living by Rob Bell. Okay, the truth is, I don’t disagree with Rob so much as I do other people; but I didn’t have a category this one fit in :). If you want to try out a Rob Bell book, skip the Zim-Zum love one (see I’m not even linking to it), but this one, this is worth a read. Creating a life worth living is fits with life in the messy middle.
  1. A book that won an award.
  1. A book you read years ago and have meant to reread—I wouldn’t say I’ve been meaning to reread City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo Caldwell, but I did read it several years ago and reread it for Velvet Ashes August book. I think of all the books I read this summer, this was the most beautifully written. It is a novel that reads like a memoir. It hit me especially hard.

You can see I didn’t read in every category and I’m drawn to non-fiction more than fiction. Also, it turns out, if you recommend a book to me, I’m fairly likely to read it. I come back to this not being a contest, if you read four books and that was your goal, great! I just find that I’m more likely to accomplish my goals if I tell people what they are.

I can’t wait to see what you’ve been reading. I’ll pick winners next Tuesday so you have time this weekend to leave a comment.

Thank you for joining in!


P.S. I have a little something up my sleeve for us in September :).



Leave A Comment

  1. Shelley Kiser August 19, 2016 at 7:40 am - Reply

    A book related to professional development (can be loosely interpreted): I read Lucy Calkins writers workshop. It’s a textbook/curriculum book for teaching children how to be writers from the very beginning.

    A book that helps you understand part of history better: One child, the story of China’s most Radical Experiment.

    A book placed in a country you’re not familiar with OR about a country you’re not familiar with: A long way gone, memories of a child solider. This one was super tough to read, but it definitely gave me understanding I didn’t have before.

    A YA book. Under a Painted Sky is a book about a Chinese girl and an African American girl who runaway during the gold rush time in CA. It was a good read, and had a happy ending.

    A book recommended by a friend: A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter

    A book published more than 100 years ago: Jane Eyre Oh my goodness such a wonderful story. I can’t believe it took me so long to try and read it!

    A memoir: All But Normal: Life on Victory Road. This book really helped me see grace and the Father in a much different way. It’s the story of a woman who had a traumatic brain injury and it really changed her personality and life.

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      Amy August 19, 2016 at 8:37 am - Reply

      Oh I’ve got “One Child” on my to-read list. You recommend it? LOVE seeing the variety of what you read :)!!

      • shelley August 19, 2016 at 6:50 pm - Reply

        YES! It One Child was a great book! It has lots in it that I didn’t know even though I had read many, many books about China.

  2. Bess August 19, 2016 at 8:12 am - Reply

    I didn’t get to all the books I wanted to read, but here are the ones I did read and ENJOYED!!
    1. A Spirituality of Listening by Keith R. Anderson
    2. Finding myself in Britain by Amy Boucher Pye
    3. Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage by Hansen and Haas
    4. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (my favorite)
    5. Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd
    The graphic novel I planned to read I had to put down. It was way too graphic for me. I didn’t get to repeat the read on David Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself. I keep that on the list and will read the entire trilogy again soon.
    Thanks for the challenge. I loved being a part!

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      Amy August 19, 2016 at 8:29 am - Reply

      Bess, so fun to see what your read! I also enjoyed “Finding Myself” and need to reread “Divine Conspiracy” — I read it years ago and remember how good it was (though the content is fuzzy, thus the need for a reread :). Thanks for joining in!

  3. Mabel Pirner August 19, 2016 at 9:08 am - Reply

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for doing this reading challenge, I liked it for the same reason I love being in the book club, I read books I was meaning to read and books that I wouldn’t pick up on my own, but I enjoy very much.

    1. Professional Development (VERY loosely interpreted) I chose The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I saw this more as a help me feel happier about work and life in general rather than a memoir like you had.

    2. A YA Book: Cinder by Marissa Mayer – This had been on my to be read list for a while and now I am glad I have read it.

    3. A book recommended by a friend: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – my girlfriend said it left her shivering even days after she read it. I thought it was good and Karin Slaughter is an author I have been wanting to read so I was glad she recommended it.

    4.Graphic Novel: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – Since I am in book club with you I am sure you are not surprised by this one. :o) I have to say I am glad I only read the first part and not the whole story.

    5. A book published more than 100 years ago: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – I am so glad our book club picked this one because I have been wanting to read one of his books for a long time! I am with you – much more readable than I thought it would be.

    6. A memoir: Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan – very interesting book, at times a little dry, but she does a good job of relating all the medical facts around her illness and how it has been severely misdiagnosed for years.

    7. A book that won an award: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh – I have to be honest it won the All About Romance Reader Award for best paranormal romance – not an award that is known by everyone, but it is an award! :o)

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      Amy August 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      Mabel!! So fun to feel like we were chatting as you wrote your list. And I LOVE the award — aren’t there just some of the most interesting/quirky awards out there :)!

  4. Emily Smith August 19, 2016 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (Award)
    2. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson (History)
    3. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (100+ years old)
    4. Shackleton by Nick Bertozzi (Graphic novel)
    5. Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy (Friend recommendation)
    6. Dangerous by Shannon Hale (YA Book)
    7. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony (Unfamiliar country)

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      Amy August 19, 2016 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      From your very good promoting this summer, I want to read Symphony for the City and The Elephant Whispering. I also think history in a graphic novel is brilliant!

  5. Elizabeth Smith August 19, 2016 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    I wish I could read as much as my daughters do during the summer. :-) But at least I got these read:
    1. History: “Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmistri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad” (M.T. Anderson) Fabulous! And TRAGIC.

    2. A YA book: “The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place” (E.L. Konigsberg). Everyone should read YA fiction. The blessing of great writing (in a book like this), with the warm fuzzy of finishing a book sooner than happens with a book, say, about Russian history. :-)
    3. A book recommended by a friend: “God Up Close” (Doug McIntosh). On meditating on scripture. Great concept; not a great book.
    4. A graphic novel: “Persepolis” (Marjane Satrapi). Same book group as Mabel and Amy. Same comment on this one.
    5. A book published more than 100 years ago: “Hound of the Bakservilles” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) Glad for the nudge from a book group to get ones like this done. :-)
    6. A book recommended by a teenager: “The Elephant Whisperer” (Lawrence Anthony) Interesting.
    7. A memoir: “Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons” (Christie Purifoy) Lyrical. Contemplative. A delightful read.

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      Amy August 22, 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      Amen!!! I miss the days of laying the backyard and reading for hours!!!

    • Kathleen Towner August 23, 2016 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      I heard M.T Anderson speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing in April of this year at Calvin College. He is very entertaining! I would definitely seek out his other books. PS – The Festival of Faith and Writing is terrific. Check the website at Calvin College. Next Festival – April 2018.

  6. Christy J August 19, 2016 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I didn’t actually see this reading challenge until late in July, but I think that the books I read cover lots of the different categories even though some of it is overlapping, so I’m going to share my list anyway.

    1. Obsessed by Ted Dekker (A book recommended by a friend) I read this one on the long flight from Ghana to the US and it entertained me quite well. A good suspenseful read.

    2. The Thief’s Daughter by Jeff Wheeler (A book you’ve been meaning to read) I count this in this category because this book is part of a series and I had been waiting for it to be released. I enjoy Wheeler’s fantasy writing. It is well written and I always look forward to finding out how the story is going to play out.

    3. Candide by Voltaire (A book published more than 100 years ago and A book by someone you might not spiritually agree with) I really did not enjoy this book and definitely disagreed with a lot of it. I am trying to read more of the classic literature that I haven’t read, but this one was sadly not worth it.

    4. The Lake House by Kate Morton (A book that won an award–this book was on the New York Times bestseller list, does that count as an award?) I really loved this book. It had such a great mixture of mystery and drama and character development. I enjoyed the changing time periods and seeing how everything connected in the end. A great read!

    5. The Accidental Life of Greg Millar by Aimee Alexander (A book related to professional development) This is a loose interpretation of professional development, but I didn’t know what other category to put this in. It is a fiction book about someone with bipolar disorder, and reading it really helped me understand more about people who have this disorder. So since I’m a teacher, perhaps I will one day have a student who might have it and then this book would have helped me. :) Anyway, it was interesting for me to read this book.

    6. Dune by Frank Herbert (A book that won an award–several in fact and A book you’ve been meaning to read) My favorite read of the summer. I always have been intrigued by science fiction, but struggle to find well written science fiction. This one definitely fits that criteria. It is super long, but I enjoyed it all. Such an elaborate world he created, with many levels of thought involved in the read.

    7. To My Children’s Children by Sindiwe Magona ( A memoir) Such a remarkable story of perseverance in difficult times. Her story of growing up in South Africa gave me so much admiration for those who come out of extreme poverty and rise up to succeed. It also made me wrestle with my role in the part of Africa that I live in now and how to reconcile my relative great wealth in the midst of extreme poverty.

    8. I Am Radar by Reif Larsen (A book that helps you understand part of history better and A book placed in a country you’re not familiar with) I did not know what I was getting into when I started this book. It is a crazy mixture of fiction, philosophy, physics, history, and a bunch of other stuff including puppetry. It is extremely fascinating, and I’ve learned a lot about places like Cambodia, Norway, and Yugoslavia and some of the major historical events in those countries. The overarching story is really interesting. I can’t even begin to describe what the book is about, but I am really glad I read it.

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      Amy August 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      I do love how “award winning” can be interpreted in a variety of ways :). I’ve heard of “To my children’s children” and have wanted to read it, this may be the final nudge i needed. AND the last book you listed sounds so interesting! I can see why it might be hard to give a good summary :)! But I’m intrigued!!

  7. Kathleen Towner August 20, 2016 at 6:45 am - Reply

    Okay I accepted the Summer 2016 Reading Challenge by Amy Young, I read 7 books (and 2 more that don’t fit in any of the categories but I read them this summer). 1) Professional development – The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (I’m not working, so why not be HAPPY!) 2) Understanding part of history better – American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Joseph Ellis 3) placed in a country you’re not familiar with – The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (about India and the author liked my review on 4) a YA book – This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijamp (#5 on the New York Times Book Review Young Adult Best Seller List) 5) Book recommended by a friend – The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (recommended by my FFW friend – Barb Wardius) 6) A biography – ouisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas – Louisa Adams is our only First Lady not born in the USA 7) a book by someone you might not spiritually agree with – Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World by Dennis Covington – I have to admit, I don’t totally disagree with Dennis Covington, but I don’t think I’ll be going to Syria anytime soon for my own spiritual growth. It was a good summer reading challenge. Kept me on my toes! Well, kept my nose in a book which makes me HAPPY!

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      Amy August 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      Me too! Nose in book, that is :). Several on your list have me wanting to read them!!!!

      • Kathleen Towner August 23, 2016 at 8:33 pm - Reply

        THANKS for the gift card!!!! Heck, you know I would read books even without the incentive of a prize! It was still fun to push myself to read books outside of my default zone. Maybe someday, I’ll read the same books that Phil is reading. mmmh, probably not!

  8. Sarah August 21, 2016 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    While I set out to read more new categories of books this summer, I’m pretty sure I still stayed within my normal niche. Oh well! I had LOTS of travel this summer, so LOTS of time to read!
    1. The Middle School Classroom: RX for Success (Professional)
    2. Serafina and the Black Cloak (Recommended by a friend)–So good, if you like fantasy!
    3. The Lake House (A book I’ve been meaning to read)–Really, really enjoyed this one, lots of twists and turns
    4. The Nightingale( history)–SO GOOD! Loved looking at WWII through the eyes of two sisters in France
    5. Once Upon an Expat (unfamiliar countries!)–Lots of funny stories about life as an expat.
    6. The Fixer (YA book)–SO GOOD! Goodreads described this as Veronica Mars meets Scandal. Definitely kept me turning pages until the end! But beware, part of a series and only the 1st and 2nd books are out yet.
    7. Romeo and Juliet (Graphic Novel and more than 100 years old)–I had to read this because I teach it. Graphic novel makes it a little more interesting for my students.
    Really enjoying seeing everyone else’s choices. Adding lots more books to my “to read” list.

    • Sarah August 21, 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      Oh, I forgot, I also read a memoir, Grace, Gold, and Glory by Gabrielle Douglas. It was interesting to read about her journey to the gold medal in London.

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      Amy August 22, 2016 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      Ha!! Me too! I thought by making this challenge, I might break out of my habits. I did, to a certain point, but I”m realizing I might need to do something to REALLY push me out :). BUT, I like them for a reason, so, oh well! I’ve just requested “The Fixer” from the library and will let you know how it goes!!

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