Summer Reading 2021

School starts for my son tomorrow – senior year already? – which means summer is over for us even though technically summer lasts another six weeks. Also, it’s #NationalBookLoversDay, so it seems like a good time to share all the books I’ve read this summer. Since I’ve read a stack, I’ll list them in star order from 5 stars down to 1.

Book titles link to Amazon for more info + easy purchasing. Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This was so chock-full of interesting research and encouragement that I need to buy the book and read it with my eyes and mark it up and quote from it and share it with everyone.

Reclaiming Rest: The Promise of Sabbath, Solitude, and Stillness in a Restless World by Kate H Rademacher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I toted this delicious book along on our month-long road trip. It’s a timely bit of serendipity that this book on rest and Dave’s pastoral sabbatical coincide.

You’d think that it’d be easy to rest during a month “off” from regular life, but daily challenges persist. Reclaiming Rest has nudged me to put my phone down, look up, be here now, stop hurrying to the next whatever, and rest.

Kate’s story of learning to rest, to keep sabbath in practical and theologically-informed ways, compels me to consider how I can thoughtfully and actually implement a healthier rhythm in my own life.

The Guncle by Steven Rowley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful story about a middle aged bachelor, semi-retired from a successful acting career, who finds himself care-taking his niece and nephew for a summer. Yes, the premise has been done before, and yes, this one is different. Made us laugh out loud and tear up on occasion. One chapter was so perfect I had to turn it off just to reflect on the writing.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trigger warning: suicide attempt. Overly depressing to start, somewhat predictable though an interesting journey, and ultimately life affirming.

Breathless by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautifully imperfect coming of age story, about love and the loss of love and the significance of love anyway, filled with poignant one liners:

Don’t lose today. As in don’t hide behind yesterday or hold back from tomorrow.
There’s beauty in every story. And there’s a story in everything.
Feel this. Feel every last terrible, uncomfortable, overwhelming part of it. You have to feel it to get to the other side.

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book, though it’s outside my typical genre, and then I almost gave up on it. It took too long to get moving, and some of the major plot points were too science-y complicated. Also, the two FBI and DHS guys were too similar for too long. Eventually it got where it was going but I don’t know if I’d read another book in the series, as much as I did like the spunky main character.

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three teenagers, who live in different homes with different circumstances, discover they are biological siblings. Sad and believable stories. I wondered occasionally whether, given their backgrounds, they would be able to share compassion as portrayed, but I think the point is that really good kids sometimes have really messed up lives for no fault of their own. Satisfying ending.

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two women separated by so much in life – money, background, family relationships – and also so similar. This book offers some sharp societal critiques and it’s also entertaining. I didn’t especially like any of the characters, but the writing was good enough that I could understand their motivations even when I couldn’t relate at all. Also that much of it is set in Tahoe, a place we have visited often, makes it even more fun.

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trigger warning: rape. For a chick lit beach read, this book contains a lot of substance. I enjoyed reading it even when it felt uncomfortable. It’s timely, dealing with women’s issues from several different perspectives. However it needed another editorial pass as it occasionally got repetitive and some conversations felt belabored (Daisy’s whining during her first in-person meeting with Diana was over the top). And then the ending felt rushed. We knew what was coming, but I wanted a more as they hashed out the emotions surrounding the situation.

Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Entertaining chick lit focused on a family that finds itself enmeshed in the college admissions scandal.

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Maybe the whole point of love is to make more of itself.”

I went into this one with high expectations, since The Sun is Also a Star is so so so good. This book is sweet, but doesn’t compare. Still, Evie’s journey of learning to appreciate love in different forms at different times, learning that love begets love begets love even when love proves difficult or ends untimely, is worthwhile.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not my genre, I listened to this book with my husband and son on our road trip. Weir got carried away with himself and his super smart science brain and forgot to edit carefully for the non-science reader who likes sci fi but doesn’t care about every single possible experiment. He made us all laugh, however, which completely surprised me.

Back in the Burbs by Tracy Wolff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book could have been better with a little less self-pity, drinking, & mentions of her lady parts. Still, it also made me laugh out loud.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

We listened to this on Audible while driving from Idaho to California, through the boring sage brush landscape of Nevada. If we had another option, we would have ditched this one. I love fairy tales, but not this one. The author got carried away with the story and didn’t pay attention to details. For example, characters related fairy tales, but the tales could have been more fully woven into the story. Also, certain characters and their relationships weren’t fleshed out. An unnecessarily gruesome turn toward the end make my stomach churn. We won’t bother with the rest of the series.

View all my reviews

Cover image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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