Two things happen when I’m going through a tough time: I want to read books I can relate to in the midst of my struggle, and I want to read books that have absolutely nothing to do with my struggle.
Immersion and avoidance.
So here’s what I read in August:
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
Mogel is a Jewish child therapist and family counselor who wants us to raise self-reliant children and gives such good ideas and information. Even without the religious background of why, this book is chock-full of wise advice and practical ways to raise kids who will eventually be on their own. If we want the best for our children, we need to raise them with that end in mind. Mogel provides us with a guide on how to do that well.
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
As we all know, I love a good romance YA novel. This book is the third and final story in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. Lara Jean is a high school senior trying to juggle college applications while still planning a future with her high school sweetheart. It’s cheesy but fun. I will say, this series is pretty clean in terms of YA novels. The main character chooses not to have sex with her boyfriend and that’s not the normal choice for teenagers in fiction; it’s addressed in the story and I think parents would be safe in recommending this to their kids. (They’re turning the first book into a movie–so read it before the movie comes out!)
The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd
GAG. Don’t read this book please. It’s a waste of time. The cover, layout, and inside photography are absolutely beautiful so you’re going to be drawn to this collection of essays on motherhood by random people who write on the internet. But don’t be fooled. The writing isn’t good, and it feels forced. I quit halfway through because I’m afraid bad writing is contagious.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
I downloaded this audio book for a week I was spending a lot of time driving for work and needed something high-interest and beach read-ish to listen to. The Vacationers did not disappoint. It centers around a couple whose marriage is crumbling due to infidelity and they take one last family vacation because it was already planned before everything came crashing down. The couple’s kids are older, one is graduating high school and one is in his late twenties living in another state, and everyone travels to the beautiful Italian countryside to spend a few weeks. The relationships, the betrayal, all of it felt hard and wonderful. This book is enjoyable and I related to it in more ways than I imagined I would. Good summer read.
Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
This is good. Very good. If you wrestle with faith, grew up churched but feel weird about it now, find it difficult to connect Jesus to what his church does, or just wonder about what you’ve been taught–this is the book for you. Reading Held Evans was challenging. I felt her echo things I’ve struggled with. Sometimes I agreed with her thoughts and biblical interpretation and sometimes I did not. But her heart–and her love of Jesus after pushing hard against things that felt off about her faith–is beautiful to read. I highly recommend this book to get you thinking.
A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite
This book was an impulse download from my public library. A memoir about a woman who was married to a textbook psychopath, Waite tells the story of meeting, marrying, and having a baby with a man who seemed perfect but then a switch is flipped and he’s gone in an instant. As things start to unravel, she realizes the lies she’s been fed her entire relationship and the manipulation she’s been under from the beginning. You won’t be able to put this one down; it’s a shocking train wreck you can’t turn away from. I will mention, Waite isn’t that great of a writer, but it’s easily ignored when her story is so compelling. As the book ends, you can see there isn’t much resolution–it feels she’s still currently living this mess, still healing, and she just rushed a book out before she could complete the story–and that’s kind of annoying, but it’s still worth a read.
That’s it for August. What did you read last month?
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emily elling says
I really liked the Vacationers as well.
Also read this month: Born a Crime, I’ll Give you the Sun, and The Alice Network.
I read The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin on a return flight home from Iowa (long layover in Chicago). Ugly crying at the end. The movie is due to come out in the next few weeks starring Kate Winslet. Love her. I also tried to read Your Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst (I pronounce this Turquoise in my head), but struggled halfway and put it down.
Not this summer, earlier this year, I read the Lara Jean books because you originally reviewed the first one in your weekend reads column. As a middle school teacher I love a good YA book.
But this summer I discovered “I’ve got sand in all the wrong places” by mother/daughter duo Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. I thought it was was the first of three but really it’s maybe four of six or seven. I laughed out loud because they are truly quite funny and relatable. (I also cried.) And I imagine they would fit nicely into my friend circle. Now I have to go back and read from the beginning and then continue on. And maybe read Lisa’s crime fiction … as long as it’s not too scary.
I read John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies last month and really enjoyed it. It was about a serious subject: living as a closeted gay man in ultra-conservative Ireland, but it was also quite witty and snarky. My other favorite recent read was the YA novel Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner. Also serious. (High school boy sends text to 3 best friends who are in a car together, driver texts back, wrecks car, killing everyone instantly.) And incredibly heartbreaking (cue me sobbing by the pool on my girls’ trip). And also real and funny.