Summer 2017 Reading List

When you’re signed off work for 6 weeks in the middle of summer (however abstract a term that is in Northern Ireland!) you really need to find something to do.  I have always loved reading and find a special kind of comfort in reading when going through difficult or uncertain times: my choices here reflect this. It’s like the authors are in your living room, teaching you what they know like older brothers and sisters. Making you laugh with their stories, and lulling you into peace with their reassuring voices. They’ve been here: so can you be.


I made it through 20 books during my down-time. (Yes, I am frustrated that number is not divisible by 6.) My top 5 are highlighted below, followed by the rest. Only one would I not recommend. Read on to find out which!

1. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a s***** first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

3. In The Shelter by Padraig O’Tuama

“To greet sorrow today does not mean that sorrow will be there tomorrow. Happiness comes too, and grief, and tiredness, disappointment, surprise and energy. Chaos and fulfilment will be named as well as delight and despair. This is the truth of being here, wherever here is today. It may not be permanent but it is here. I will probably leave here, and I will probably return. To deny here is to harrow the heart. Hello to here.”

4. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

“Sometimes the most holy thing we can do is to be still. To sit down and twirl the fork and eat the pasta we’re given.”

5. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

“Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck. It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more. I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”

Other reads (in no particular order):

Travelling Mercies – Anne Lamott

The insightful story of Lamott’s spiritual journey.

Cranky Beautiful Faith – Nadia Bolz Weber

A gorgeous collection of stories and reflections on faith in the real world.

Soul Bare – various

A collection of essays on the authors’ most poignant moments.

For the Love – Jen Hatmaker

Thoughtful and challenging. Hatmaker will have you laughing one minute and bawling your eyes out the next.

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi

Anyone seeking to understand feminism – or seeking to help other understand it – should read this and pass it on.

Scary Close – Don Miller 

A compelling tale of learning to be vulnerable and seen.

The Active Life – Parker J Palmer

I’m a Palmer fan: this is a fascinating reflection on the overlap between contemplative and active life.

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed 

An agony aunt shares some of her most complex and profound correspondence.

Bossypants – Tina Fey 

Read this in one bath sitting. Enough said.

My name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Sad, interesting, easy-to-read.

Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

A thoughtful and practical guide to accepting imperfection and allowing it to teach us to grow.

Jesus Feminist – Sarah Bessey

The story of Bessey’s own path into believing in equality of the sexes and why it has become an intrinsic part of her faith.

Big Magic – Liz Gilbert 

I was a fan of the podcast. The book, not so much.

Interrupted – Jen Hatmaker

Essential read for anyone seeking to understand how the Church can exist outside of its own four walls.

The Enneagram in Love and Work – Helen Palmer 

A helpful guide on how each number behaves in love and work, and how you can relate to them in both contexts. Great for anyone with colleagues or friends. So, most of us.

I’d love to hear about what you have been reading recently. Please send me your recommendations! I’ve just finished Bob Goff’s Love Does this week: another one I’d recommend! 

PS: I don’t know why I hadn’t explored this before, but Amazon’s used books section is INCREDIBLE. Just FYI. And local friends, let me know if you’d like to borrow any of the above titles!

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4 responses to “Summer 2017 Reading List

  1. Ah it seems we have a similar taste in reading material. I’ve got lots of overlap, at least in my podcasts. Have you read Rachel Held Evans’ – Searching for Sunday? It was excellent and came just at the right time for me.
    I didn’t make it all the way through Option B because I got tired of all the stats used to back up widely accepted points.

    Which book would you recommend for the most jaded, clinging-on-by-her-fingernails, person of faith? Asking for a friend 👀

    • Hi Ali,

      I loved Searching for Sunday. Faith Unravelled is also great. I particularly love RHE’s appearances on the Liturgists’ podcast.

      That’s a tough question. From the list above, Traveling Mercies was fascinating and full of “me toos”. Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd was probably the most helpful book for me in that regard last year. I also know Mike McHargue’s Finding God in the Waves brought lots of people comfort (he’s coming to Dublin in October!) Will continue to think…xx

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