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The Best Books I Read This Summer

Last updated on December 30, 2023

My summer reading consisted mostly of books from my seminary list of assignments. I haven’t counted, but I think I had upward of twenty books that I either read all of or parts of for my two classes. Plus all the videos and writing that went with said readings.

I can honestly say the amount of reading this quarter put my reading skills to the test! I had every intention of completing the Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge this year, but I sorely underestimated the amount of reading I would have for my classes. Rookie mistake!

However, I want to share five of the best books I read this summer that I think would be good for anyone to read (and they’ll work for the Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge, too). I may not have been able to stick with the categories of reading this year due to the books being assigned for school, but I can tell you that I now have some pretty great categories brewing for the 2023 Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge!

Anyway, at the time of this writing, I’m at 39 of 52 books for the year. Not too shabby! Now here are the books I recommend from my summer reading list.

The 5 Best Books I Read This Summer

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Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton

I’m starting off with a book I haven’t actually read all of yet. However, the chapter on discernment is worth the cost of the entire book, so I’m adding it to the top of this list. I plan to finish this book slowly, reading and re-reading it to let it sink in. This was my favorite book from my summer seminary work.

Sacred Rhythms covers seven key spiritual disciplines that are less about discipline and more about practice. This book is practical, modern, and from a woman’s point of view. (I’ve found that most spiritual discipline books are written by men, so it was a big breath of fresh air to hear from a woman on this topic.)

This book would make a great one to walk through with a friend or read alone. But I’m thinking you’re going to want to discuss it as you go. I read a lot of it aloud to my husband.

Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge Categories: Christian living or Worship

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

I said Sacred Rhythms was my favorite, but this one might actually be. Can I call it a tie? I’m going to call it a tie.

This is a book I will read over and over and over again. The Sabbath isn’t very long, but it is profound. Abraham Joshua Heschel argues that Judaism is the religion of time where it extracts its meaning not from material things or in space, but in the sanctity of time and the eternity it beckons. I think every single Christian should read this book. Truly.

If you struggle to embrace rest, then this is a book that could help unlock some of the mysteries of sabbath rest for you. This isn’t just something for those who practice Judaism. It’s for everyone. Plus it is beautifully written. I couldn’t put it down.

Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge Categories: Christian living, worship, boundaries, time management, for the season you’re in

Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood by Patrick Reyes

Admittedly I threw this book across the room a few times. It wasn’t until I was two-thirds of the way through it that something clicked, and I can honestly say I will never be the same.

I don’t know if this is the case for everyone with this book, but his thesis that everyone’s first calling is the call to life moved me somewhere deep inside. This book helped me to cement why I’m in seminary, but it also exposed to me a culture and context very much removed from my own.

This is another book to read if you’re looking for resources to expand your thinking regarding racism, colonialism, and prejudice.

Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge Categories: Christian living, by an author whose ethnicity is different than yours, about community, on sacrifice, about a current social issue, about suffering

Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary L. McBride

When I make the list later this year, this one will probably make the “best books I read all year” one. This is such a practical and compassionate perspective on what it means to live in a body.

I love how this book looks at both our individual and collective communal need for healing and embodied living. This is truly a holistic approach to a connected and embodied life.

Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge Categories: on identity, on mental health, womanhood (even though it’s not just for women)

Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue by Edwin H. Friedman

I’m going to be honest. I was exposed to a lot of psychological constructs and practices during my class On Being Human. A lot of them flew over my head, but the concept of family systems didn’t.

This concept sunk in deep for me because it’s (in my opinion) the missing link in our churches. Not being able to understand that we are part of a family system made up of many family systems is one of the reasons for so much conflict.

Generation to Generation is written specifically for church pastors/clergy, but I think we could all benefit from it. At the very least, I wish every pastor would read it, or at least be familiar with the concepts taught in a family systems approach to counseling (it’s different than family therapy, by the way).

This is more of a textbook read, and a bit of a commitment, however, I think if we can grasp the concept of the church as a family system and learn to relate within than construct, we’d truly resolve so many of our problems.

Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge Categories: Christian living, friendship or parenting, about leadership

This truly only scratches the surface of what I read this summer, but I think those are the best ones.

What do you think? Do you think you’ll add any to your stack of books to read?

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