Whether I’m lounging by the pool, passing time on a road trip, or winding down before bed, I usually have a book in my hand. Though I’d consider myself an avid reader, I’m also a picky one. I won’t tolerate snooze-fests. I want a book that keeps me entertained and wanting to read more — whether fiction or nonfiction. But I’m not just an empty-calorie reader; I love books that inspire me or teach me while telling a gripping story.
If you’re looking for summer reading ideas this year, below are my top recommendations, broken down by category:
(Links below are affiliate links. That means if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Many of these, however, should be available at your local library.)
I didn’t want to put these down until I find out what happens next, and in both cases, I rushed to buy the next ones in the trilogy. Both of these books by Joel Rosenberg tackle ISIS and radical Islam by weaving together a Hollywood-worthy plot.
The Twelfth Imam by Joel C. Rosenberg
In The Twelfth Imam, the main character is an operative for the CIA trying to stop an attack on America. Although it started out a little slower than I prefer, it picked up pretty quick and I read each book in this trilogy one right after the other. I joked with a friend that I needed to get finished because I kept dreaming I was a CIA operative in Iran.
The Third Target by Joel C. Rosenberg
In The Third Target, a New York Times journalist finds himself tracking down the Islāmic radical leader responsible for widespread chemical weapons attacks in the Middle East. Like in the Twelfth Imam series, I couldn’t wait to read the next two books in the trilogy, and this one had me hooked in the beginning.
Fiction with a Purpose
My favorite fiction is one that entertains while teaching me a lesson or two.
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
In Dear Mr. Knightley, an anonymous benefactor supplies funds to help a former foster child through college. Though the description may not capture your attention, trust me. It keep me engaged to the end — and the end is one of the best ones I’ve ever read. I didn’t want it to end.
Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin
Lynn Austin weaves beautiful character stories from real events in the Bible. In the first book of The Chronicles of the Kings series, you’ll learn about the life of King Hezekiah and never look at this time in the life of Israel the same again.
Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar
In this fictionalized retelling of the woman Rahab from the Bible, everything about the real woman remains true. But through this book, you’ll see what she might have gone through, risking her life to help the enemy Israel, and how hard it was to acclimate to becoming an Israelite. We see what her life might have looked like and how she became one of the few women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus.
Fiction isn’t the only genre that I can’t put down. Some non-fiction books do this very well. Both of these kept me up way past my bedtime.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
If you read one book from this list, read Just Mercy. It’s the true story of a man who started a nonprofit organization to legally represent death row inmates he believes were not guilty. It shines a light on injustices specifically about race and poverty in our nation, in our lifetime. As a lifelong conservative, this book opened my eyes to areas I was blind to before, and it makes me think of some things much differently now.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
The autobiography of a Muslim man whose Christian friend spent years pointing him to Jesus, I learned more about Islāmic culture and religion in this book than in any other source. But more than that, the story of this man and how his friend used unconventional methods to “love him to Jesus” kept me reading into the night.
I’ve become a big fan of memoirs lately. I’m fascinated by the real lives of people and what they’ve gone through in their journey.
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Although I enjoy Fixer Upper, I’m not a die-hard fan. But, I like Chip and Joanna and I LOVED this book. Rarely do I not want a book to end and this was one of them. It had me laughing and crying, and most of all, I loved getting an inside peek into this couple’s life. (Did you know Chip went to jail once? You wouldn’t believe why.)
Love Does by Bob Goff
An easy read, Love Does seems more like a book of compiled devotionals. Though I found it a little lagging in the middle, the beginning chapters had me laughing my head off, and the ending chapters moved me deeply — especially when he told the story of the man who invented Starbucks VIA.
Sometimes I enjoy an old-fashioned mystery, but these picks mix faith into the storyline in a seamless, encouraging way.
The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clarke and Leslie Gould
I did not expect to LOVE this book, but I did. I tend to avoid romance novels, and what intrigued me about this book was that the plot was NOT about romance. Yeah, there’s a little in there but it’s a sub-theme. I couldn’t put the book down because every chapter dripped clues to the larger mystery. I read it on a road trip last year and was thankful I had many hours to devour it.
Submerged by Dani Pettrey
As a crime-drama fan (my family knows about my Tuesday night date nights with NCIS and Thursday nights with the Blacklist), I loved this murder-mystery. Like the Amish Midwife, romance was thrown in but it wasn’t the focal theme. The book ended with me wanting to read the rest of this series.
If you want a long read that you can either relax with for hours or drink a few sips at a time, these will keep you interested until the end but not make you lose sleep. Neither of these books are in the Christian genre, but I’m pretty prudish about the content I’ll consume in a book. I’d say both options would get a PG-13 rating for adult themes. I came away from both of these moved deeply. Because the subjects deal with slavery and the Holocaust, you might follow them up with a lighter read when you’re done.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
After seeing so many rave about this book, and enjoying Civil War-themed books in the past, I gave it a try. Though I wasn’t sure exactly where it was going — it ended up being more of a fictionalized memoir — I walked away heartbroken at what African-American people went through during the 1800s.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
A fan of all things World War II, I found this story about two French sisters during German-occupied France heart-moving. Like with the Kitchen House, I wasn’t sure where it was going, but the ending left me full. This is a brilliantly written story that will make me never look at World War II the same again.
For the past year I’ve enjoyed audiobooks when I’m driving, cleaning house, and gardening. I’ll also stick one ear bud in while the kids are swimming and listen to a book while watching them. These were my favorites from the past year, but if you’re not into audiobooks, they are excellent choices to read in book form as well.
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
I’ve always wanted to read the story of Corrie ten Boom, whose family harbored Jews during World War II, and who endured a German prison for her crimes. I wasn’t expecting most of the book to talk about their lives before Germany invaded their homeland, but it ended up making what they went through all the more moving. Powerful book.
The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken
After hearing so many rave about this book-turned-movie, I decided to listen. The narrator was terrific, and I learned so much about the persecuted church around the world. This book certainly made me think, but it kept my attention as well.
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Recently made into a movie, The Case for Christ chronicles a skeptic journalist’s quest to disprove Christianity at its core. But what he finds is not evidence against Jesus and the Bible but for it. This is a perfect book for one questioning Christianity and for those of us who have a hard time answering some of the harder questions about what we believe.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
We’re not in Narnia anymore. This classic by C.S. Lewis include “letters” written by a fictional demon, instructing his nephew on how to tempt and lure people away from God. Although written in the 1940s, I was amazed at how much seemed to apply to today. This is one I highly recommend as an audiobook. The narrator in his English accent is excellent.
Those are my top 17 recommendations for summer reading in 2017. Have you read any of these? What did you think?
But, since I’ve read all of these, I need some recommendations for myself! What books would you suggest?