Knowing, Loving, Serving…
So the World Will Know Christ’s Love

Beware of the person of one book

“Beware of the person of one book!” Thomas Aquinas

Every summer, I publish Pastor Julie’s Summer Reading list, and I invite church folks to read along with me!

Because of this, several of you have asked me what I’m reading during all my “extra” time at home during the Coronavirus.  Ahem…. well, with three toddlers to wrangle, a church to lead virtually, and no parsonage pool to lounge beside (ha ha) I haven’t read EVERY book stacked up on my bedside table.  But…. I have been trying to carve out a little more time for reading, especially at the end of the day instead of zoning out by the TV. And so I thought I’d share three books I’ve enjoyed immensely – and a few that are on my to-read list as well.

  1.  The Grace of Dogs by Andy Root: I will say with confidence that if you’ve ever had a dog in your life, or are a dog lover, this book is for you. This is my theological book recommendation, but it is definitely not your usual book on theology. It is an investigation into the special relationship humans enjoy with dogs over the course of history.  Root does a terrific job of combining investigative research and theological reflections with a deeply personal account of his and his family’s relationships to their dogs. This book made for exceptional bedtime reading!  In fact, what made Root’s book so intriguing to me is that it seemed to cross over three very different genres of books I have enjoyed in the past.  First:  Science journalism – think Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point or Charle’s Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.   Second:  Animal-human stories – think Marly and Me or The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Third:  Accessible theological musings – think Rachel Held Evan’s Inspired or Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World.  (Hey look – you just got six more book recommendations!)

2.  I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I started exploring young adult fiction in my first year of pastoral ministry.  I wanted to be able to relate to what the youth in my churches were reading, and I quickly got hooked. Whether it’s the action-adventure of Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games or a story of surmounting personal challenges like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I absolutely love the way Young Adult Literature explores questions of identity and coming of age.

Now, let me tell you, my most recent YAL read I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson absolutely delivered!  With clever plot development, compassionate characters, and a fearlessness voice, it is a marvelous read!  This book is told through the lives of twins (ya’ll know I love twins!)  Jude and Noah, as they together weather loss, triumph, disappointment, and betrayal. The early years of the story are told from the vantage point of Noah, the later years from Jude’s point of view, and it will have you piecing together various aspects of both timeline and character as you race toward an immensely satisfying (which is not the same as happy!) ending. *Warning* This book is not for the faint of heart. Nelson explores topics as diverse, timely, and painful as sexual assault, identity, and infidelity with equal measures of candor and care, and she does not shy away from colorful language. 

3. Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman: This book found its way to me at just the right time and brought a sense of peace and comfort that I didn’t even realize how desperately I needed until I felt it. I will admit it was a slow starter, but by chapter four I was hooked. It seemed as if I was reading straight from my own personal prayer journal.  At the end of each section, Freeman has questions designed to take you deeper and engage your brain and your heart — and Emily Freeman knows just the right questions to ask at just the right time! I should confess that I am including Freeman’s book even though I am not finished with it yet, as I have been enjoying savoring the reflective chapters and have not felt the pressure to read it straight through the way I would a novel. I have also already ordered her new book, The Next Right Thing, on Amazon!

Sitting on my shelf waiting to be read are:
The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith
The List of Things that Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker

That’s it for now, my friends! What are YOU reading these days?  If you’ve found books you’re in love with, whether something new or an old favorite, please reply to my email with a recommendation. I’d love to start a virtual Bethel Book Club with you!

Thank you… and happy reading!
Pastor Julie


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