Summer Reads.

Books are often what bind us (no pun intended). 

"Oh, you read that book? I love that book!" .... "You really need to read this book!" .... "I'm reading that book, too! What part are you at? Oh, I love that part!"

It's a shared experience only found on pages that someone spent months, years, pouring over. 

Books are what challenge us. They can introduce new ideas, shape current thoughts, and voice what we felt but didn't know how to put into words. They take us on adventures, introduce us to new friends, become our friends.

There's this quote I love by Xi Chuan (whoever that is): 

"The lofty bookshelves sag under thousands of sleeping souls. Silence, hopeful - Everytime I open a book, a soul is awakened."

(What even - I mean, such beautiful words!) But the idea that a book is like a soul - each one is special and unique, having something different to say than the next. 

Summertime is always a favorite season; every since I was a little girl, I would take joy in staying up past midnight reading. I would tell myself, "Just one more chapter." But that chapter would hook me in, and then it would 2 a.m. and I had finished the book. 

Here are some of my reads for summer that I've enjoyed so far:

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Water From My Heart, by Charles Martin: Charles Martin is probably my favorite contemporary author. Every time he slays me with his words, his metaphors, his characters. You can't put him in a genre box - though Martin's a Christian, this is not a purely Christian book. There's some romance, but again, not purely. People call it Inspirational Fiction, whatever that means. With almost all of his novels, his main character goes on a personal journey, often involving facing his past. This time is no different, following Charlie Finn, a drug-runner in Miami. I don't want to give any spoilers, but this is Charles Martin at his best. If you need any more convincing, read the reviews on Amazon - Martin has a way of speaking to the heart. 

Keep A Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot: In middle school, I read Through Gates of Splendor, Elliot's account of her time in Ecuador as well as the murder of her husband and four other missionaries. I was gifted this book as a graduation present, and only really started reading it this summer. In my mind, Elliot was just the wife of the missionary who was murdered. She died recently, but reading this book reminds me of how incredible her faith was. This book reads somewhat like a devotional, with chapters 1-3 pages long. She shares the journey she's experienced in keeping a peaceful, surrendering heart.

Scary Close, by Donald Miller: When I say this is a book about relationships, everyone's thoughts go to dating/marriage. But this book is so much more than a dating relationship book - it's about how you relate to friends, family, co-workers, whoever. Miller shares what he's learned about himself and relationships over the past few years. I think every person who reads this book (myself included) comes away learning about themselves and challenged to inspect the way they relate to others. 

If You Find This Letter, by Hannah Brencher: Hannah's memoir charts her journey from college to first year post-graduation as she discovers God and her now career, writing love letters to people all over the world. Doesn't mean her life was/is pretty - most times it felt pretty messy and lonely - but I love the fact that 4 (ish) years later she can write a book describing the impact that season had on her. In some ways, I found myself relating to Hannah: a love for words, a hard season, loneliness. I think more than anything, this book was a reminder that God is using my hard season for something so great I can't wrap my head around it. 

Relevant Magazine, Issue 76, July/August 2015: I feel like I should be paid to represent Relevant considering how much I talk about them. (Only $1 a month to subscribe! Get it!) The most recent issue was one of the best, covering ISIS, Joy Williams, abuse in the Church, and the Bachelorette. I mean, where else where you find all those stories in one place? But seriously, if you can get your hands on one (check out Barnes and Noble), I promise you will find yourself being more informed on the culture and the events of our world today, as well as being introduced to new innovations and thoughts.

Any recommendations for what to read for my last month of summer (Yikes)?