For those who are summertime readers (at the beach? poolside? back yard?), I thought I'd take a midsummer moment to share what I'm reading these days. At any given time I've usually got several books I'm in the midst of. In no particular order, here's what I'm reading right now (clicking on the titles will take you to the Amazon.com listings, in most cases for the Kindle version):
- Letters to a Young Artist (Anna Deavere Smith). Fans of The West Wing, the hit TV drama of a few years back, might remember Smith as the actress who played National Security Advisor Dr. Nancy McNally on the show. What I didn't know until recently is that Smith is also an author and playwright. I only recently discovered this book, but it was published in 2006. Structured in the form of “letters” to a fictional young artist, Deavere addresses a broad spectrum of issues faced by creatives of all types, from identity and confidence to mental and physical health to dealing with both fame and failure. I'm midway through and finding much that inspires me as a writer and human being.
- Unravel Me (Tahereh Mafi). This is the second book in Mafi's dystopian YA “Shatter Me” series, focused on Juliette, a teen girl whose touch kills. Mafi creates a fascinating future world in which rebels with unique “talents” are planning a revolution against the totalitarian regime that keeps the masses in abject poverty. A pretty typical dystopian scenario, but I find the characters in this one interesting and Mafi's style intriguing. If you like dystopian YA, start with Shatter Me, the first book in the series.
- A Broken Kind of Beautiful (Katie Ganshert). I've just started reading this story, which has come highly recommended by many writers and readers whose opinions I respect. This is the story of a model whose career seems to be on its way downhill and a former fashion photographer who appears to have a guilty secret. I've just started this one, and so far, I'm liking what I've read.
- Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg). Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. In this book she addresses the barriers–both external and, more important, internal–that keep women from achieving true equality in terms of leadership and power in the workplace and the world at large. I'm not sure I agree with all of Sandberg's positions or analysis, but the book is well written, well argued, and thought-provoking. I encourage both women and men to read this book and think deeply about the issues she discusses.
In addition, I have to recommend a couple of books I've recently finished:
- Burning Sky (Lori Benton). Benton's debut novel won multiple Christy awards, and I can see why. Well drawn, compelling characters fighting to overcome nearly impossible obstacles drew me from one chapter to the next long after I should've been asleep. Set in late 18th century America, this is the story of a woman just returned from more than a decade of captivity with the Mohawks. Carrying with her an overwhelming grief she can barely acknowledge, she comes home to find her parents gone and her family homestead confiscated by the government. Few people are happy to see her return. I highly recommend this novel.
- When I Fall in Love (Susan May Warren). What can I say? I've yet to read one of Warren's novels that I didn't love. She has a gift for telling stories that draw you in with real, believable characters and engaging plots. The endings are sigh-worthy, but without beating you over the head with the gospel, she leaves you thinking for days. In this case, a reluctant traveler and a hopeless hockey star meet and fall in love in Hawaii, but struggle to keep what they've found when they return to the “real world.” Loved it.
- Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers). I just re-read this for the umpteenth time and found it just as engrossing and inspiring as the first however-many times I read it. This probably is my favorite novel of all time. The story–a retelling of the biblical tale of the prophet Hosea and his faithless prostitute wife–is set in gold rush California, and beautifully depicts God's relentless, loving pursuit of his faithless people. You can't miss the allegory, yet Rivers tells the story so skillfully you don't feel the least bit preached at. You simply become immersed in the lives of Michael Hosea and his flawed, wounded, desperate bride. Love, love, love this book. If you haven't read it, you should. If you've read it before, you should read it again.
What about you? What are you reading this summer? Anything you recommend I add to my list?