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Shop Good Book Club | My Perfect Summer of Reading

If you've been around Shop Good for any amount of time, you've seen some book lists. You've probably also seen a few books appear over, and over, and over. 😂

Here is my summer reading post from 2016, and I still stand by it!

I would love to add more to the mix now in 2018, but I have a few problems on the recommendation front:

1) I read a LOT of memoirs, so the proportion of fiction reading I do is low, and my ability to recommend good ones — even less!
2) The novels I've read this year were mostly weird (Lincoln in the Bardo, The Handmaid's Tale), average (The Immortalists, The Nest), or too wrong-seasonal to recommend for summer! (Beartown, Still Life).

So, what is left?  

Wholehearted, Fiction, Summer-y (New) Recommends:

A River Runs Through It (novella) — Norman Maclean and/or The River Why — David James Duncan


No, I am (mostly) kidding. Both of these books are, indeed, about fly fishing (a subject in which I have zero experience and little interest). But neither are really about fly fishing; A River Runs Through It is a modern American classic: a reflection on family and relationship and affection and competition and lost opportunities to say how we feel about the people we love. The River Why is also about family, but more about self-discovery and the human soul. It's not as good, in my opinion, as Duncan's novel The Brothers K; but, that one is super long, and you have to get through the painfully boring beginning (detailing the dad watching baseball on TV). It requires a bit more dedication.

Other fiction options:


This is How It Always Is — Laurie Frankel

A family novel that elicits empathy for families making sense of unchartered territory.

The Dry — Jane Harper

This mystery (the first of a series around the same investigative agent) is well-written and glowingly reviewed as a best-of-2017 book. It's a thriller that isn't gory and isn't based on gross violence against women. Mystery isn't really "my genre", so it's not a top pick of mine, but if you enjoy this type of book, I can see that it is a standout and will not likely disappoint.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen — Lucy Knisley

A graphic novel about growing up & food. I want a copy of this to just keep on our kitchen table at all times!

Robinson Crusoe — Daniel Defoe

Still haven't read this classic gem? Me, neither. But, it's my hubby's favourite novel and on my TBR list for the summer.

The Trumpet of the Swan — E.B. White

This book is so precious! It is a perfect read-aloud with kids, or to enjoy on your own. I adore a non-romantic love story, and this tale of a boy & his swan BFF is just so sweet.




Educated — Tara Westover

This memoir — of a childhood devoid of education — merits the hype (and not just because of the beautiful cover artwork. It has been compared to The Glass Castle (in my personal top 3 best books ever), though it reminds me more of Hillbilly Elegy than anything.

Everybody, Always and/or Love Lives Here — Bob Goff,  Maria Goff

I went through a bigtime Goff binge this spring, and both of them (husband & wife) are so winsome and inspiring, it is tough not to be drawn in (and want MORE). Bob is about BIG: big parades (on their street on New Year's Day with thousands of balloons), big global impact (starting schools in Uganda & other countries with need), big personality, big circle of friends & acquaintances. 

"Sweet Maria" (as her husband calls her) is the one running, well, everything, while Bob is out making friends. I love her perspective, which is essentially: you don't have to go across the world to do something meaningful... just go across the street. Her reflections on raising her children (now adults) and a life full of love & hospitality & neighbours is like a deep breath of mountain air. I loved it.

Present Over Perfect — Shauna Niequist

Like the Goffs' books, Shauna's is Christian-based, but very generally accessible to all audiences. I had read her previous book, Bread & Wine, and I enjoyed it; however, I found her over-the-top entertaining and constant hospitality & socializing to seem... well, impractical. And, exhausting. This is the book I needed to read: an acknowledgement that MORE is not, in fact, the answer to life. Her exploration of slow, saying no, and margin in her life was refreshing.


The Rules do Not Apply — Ariel Levy

This memoir is from a way different lifespace & worldview: I appreciated so much her wrestling with her own selfishness with regards to topics like career, relationships, & fertility. What is a life when all the markers of a "successful" life all fall apart? And what about when the demise is all a result of your own selfish, stupidity?

Nevertheless — Alec Baldwin

Not life-changing or anything, but worth it for the audio, read by the author.

Barking to the Choir — Gregory Boyle (Father G)

"Service is where we begin, yet it remains the hallway that leads to the ballroom. The ballroom is the place of exquisite mutuality. At Homeboy Industries, I'm the the "Great Healer" and that homeboy over there is in need of my precious healing. Truth be told, we are all in need of healing; we are all a cry for help."

Talk on kinship... for such a time as this.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 — Annie Spence

THIS BOOK IS THE FUNNIEST EVER. If you love reading and like a laugh and aren't offended by swears: this book is for you. I listened on audio and the narration was fantastic.



Read by the pool and no one will notice your tears:

When Breath Becomes Air — Paul Kalanithi

Many books explore death & grief; this book is about dying, from a first-person eyewitness. That sounds grim, but this is such a beautiful, little book, the kind that I want to buy dozens of copies and distribute them to everyone I know. But no doubt, you will weep, particularly at the epilogue.

Another excellent book in this same realm is On Living by Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain. Or, for a more data-based approach to grief (with plenty of helpful advice on how to care for the bereaved): Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant.


My perfect summer of reading:

I would start off with Present Over Perfect to set the stage that rest is good and missing the fireworks or having friends over with sticky floors is ok. Then, I would pick up The Dry for a quick & suspenseful read to make me feel like summer vacation is really happening. Dear Fahrenheit 451 would be in my earbuds on walks around the neighbourhood or while I drive to the beach. The River Why would come out when I am into the reading groove and mid-summer, with mental space for some depth.

For a break, I'd blast through Robinson Crusoe for something speedy & fun, then read When Breath Becomes Air over two sittings late into the warm evenings. {And here is where I could use another novel reco.}

I would round out the summer reading Educated as a reminder that going back to school IS ACTUALLY THE BEST THING for them and for me. And, if there is time left — or after dropping off the kids for their first day of kindergarten or college — I would simmer in Love Lives Here, a book so full of rich, familial beauty and #lifegoals.

What books would be in your perfect summer of reading? Share below or email me

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