A Summer of Books

A Summer of Books

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been in love with books. These days, that’s a long distance.

7789548562_f6c6774fa4_oBeing blessed with a mother who read to us, my little sister and I grew up hearing Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden, the Bobbsey Twins, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm as we drifted off to sleep smelling of Johnson’s Baby Powder in our shorty pajamas. It was an idyllic childhood.

The memory is still vivid of the three of us walking to the Coral Gables Library, holding hands as we crossed Tamiami Trail, to check out our books. The coolness of the stone building on a hot Miami summer day, the tall arched windows with bright Florida light pouring in that caught the dance of dust motes – it was a magical place. We left happy, our arms full of treasured volumes we carted home.

As summer sneaks in, these memories prompt me to do a summer read-a-thon. Turning 70 has been a milestone for me. Shocked that I can no longer categorize myself as “middle-aged,” which in itself is a hateful moniker, I have to admit I’m in the last trimester of my life. While I don’t feel frightened or threatened at all by that knowledge, I do want to be intentional in how I live out these last years.

“Give attention to reading…” 1 Timothy 4:13


How and Why to Read a Book

We read for many reasons. If you only read for entertainment, these four suggestions might not fit you. I admit it baffles me when someone says, “Oh, I read that book,” but can’t tell me anything about it or what they learned from it. These are four tips for getting the most benefit from your reading this summer.

  1. Read good books. While I’ve discovered books by accident, by far the books I read come highly recommended by others. I especially pay attention to suggestions from readers who are thinkers, leaders, writers.
  2. Mark your books. “Be a footprint-leaver rather than a preservationist” says Steve Leveen in Writing in Books. With no shame at all, I’m proud to say I abuse my books. They become dog-eared relics of my journey, and the notes I write in the back remind me of many phrases of beauty or gifts of wisdom they bequeathed to me.
  3. Don’t feel obligated to finish the book. I don’t have time anymore for a book I don’t like by the third chapter. This is mostly true of fiction. Once the book passes the three chapter test and I’m engaged in the story, I read to the end.  I hardly ever read all of a non-fiction book, however. Rare is the author of this genre that can hold my attention all the way through. Usually, there are two or three great truths that I ingest and the rest doesn’t mesh with where I am. I give you permission to do the same. There’s no honor in plodding through till the end when nothing is resonating.
  4. Leaders and Writers are readers – “Leaders read and readers lead,” quotes Michael Hyatt in a recent podcast on how to read a non-fiction book. If you are in either position, the level of your influence will be directly related to how much you read.

I can’t tell you how often I leave my desk and go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and look with longing at the chairs on the deck and the lake beyond.

I wish I could take a whole day to sit out there and read!

A week ago, the day after my seventieth birthday, that sentence became a tripwire for me. I’d said it more than once, but this time it nearly slammed me to the ground.

When am I going to feel I have time for that? What’s stopping me from doing it now?

IMG_1259And that’s how my Summer Read-A-Thon was born. I already had a pile of books I wanted to read to enrich my memoir-writing class experience, and I happened upon a few reading lists of some people I greatly admire, and decided to just do it. To do.it.now.

Here’s the plan and the list:

from Memorial Day to Labor Day 2013, I commit to read 20 books. These are my choices (not necessarily a recommended reading list for you) – just what I want to read. I posted the idea on FaceBook and a few brave souls signed up. I challenge you to join us. You can comment on this blog or tag me on Facebook or Twitter. Read three books if you can’t do twenty. But read something. You owe it to yourself. I’d also love to know your top five favorite books (already read and cherished), if you’d like to share.

At the end of the season, we’ll report back to each other on the experience and pass on the best of the best. Are you in?



The Liar’s Club – Mary Karr

Leaving the Saints – How I left the Mormons and found my faith. Martha Beck

50 Days of Solitude – Doris Grumbach

Searching for God Knows What – Donald Miller

In An Instant – Lee & Bob Woodruff

Lit – Mary Karr


The King Raven Series – Stephen Lawhead:


Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (can’t believe I’ve never read it)

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Kate Douglas Wiggin

And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

(One more I haven’t chosen yet)

Books on Writing
Inventing the Truth – The Art and Craft of Memoir – William Zinsser

How I Write – the secret life of authors – Dan Crowe

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

Beauty Will Save the World – Gregory Wolfe

God’s Favorite Place on Earth – Frank Viola

Addiction and Grace – Gerald May






  1. Again, your blog notes were great! I took your idea of reading to heart and already made a pile of books to read when I can. I finally read THE PRODIGAL GOD by Timothy Keller, which was popular a few years ago. I believe it is a ‘must read’ for every person who chooses to grow in Christ. I just started THE MASS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS by Mike Aquilina. It takes us back to the theology of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria and the like as we discover the very beginnings of the celebration of Holy Communion. And, of course, every season I read a fluffy book like THE SUMMER BOOK by Susan Branch. It is filled with fun recipes and notes on hospitality for all those visitors who might drop in for a weekend or a week. So, thanks for offering the readathon challenge!

  2. OOPS! I forgot the best book ever! A couple months ago my brother sent me a copy of the book he wrote that is hysterical: about his driving adventures in a small Lotus car. I am sure he was not laughing at the time. It’s a great book even for those who have no clue about driving sports cars over thousands of miles. ROAD TRIP! Chasing Blue Skies on Roads that Go Forever by Ross Robbins. I highly recommend this. You can purchase this on Amazon.com.

  3. Cathee, I just realized reading your blog that I totally missed your 70th birthday! Happy belated birthday! I don’t think of you as 70….like Fran almost three years ago and my friend Tim this past February. Now, just today Kelly turned 70! You all look way too young to be 70!!! Really! Please know that I think of you so very often, you have been a light in my life and I will never ever forget you even though we barely see one another. I will be spending 6 – 7 weeks at Higgins Lake this summer but I will look forward to seeing you in late September to celebrate YOU & BOB!. Love, Kate xoxoxoxo

  4. P.S. I didn’t know that message would be posted to everyone. Sorry bout that. xoxo

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