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12 Books for Summer Reading 2021

12 Books for Summer Reading 2021

Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep

By Tish Harrison Warren
Reviewed by Robert J. Keeley

“In the middle of the night, covered in blood in an emergency room, I was praying.” Tish Harrison Warren got my attention right away with the opening sentence of her new book.

Warren uses the Compline, the Anglican prayer at the close of day, as a framework for musing about those who weep, those who watch, and those who work in the night. She works her way through the prayer one phrase at a time, drawing our attention to those who need prayer and to those who work in God’s kingdom on our behalf. Her winsome writing style is a wonderful combination of the practical and the mystical. This is a book to be savored. (InterVarsity Press)

The Sound the Sun Makes

By Buck Storm
Review by Trevor Denning

Suspended from his job, the usually happy-go-lucky Early Pines is depressed. Since his old friend Gomez Gomez died, Pines hasn’t been the same. Now Pines, the best police detective in Paradise, Arizona, is just sitting on his back porch listening to the sound the sun makes as it scrapes across the sky. While Buck Storm’s yarn-spinning skills are as delightful as ever in this sequel to The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez, one can’t help missing the cast of characters in the previous novel. The Sound the Sun Makes rolls along at the same easy pace fans expect, even with the change of location, before building to a crazy crescendo of biblical proportions. Never harsh and never preachy, this sequel is laugh-out-loud funny and encouraging in all the right ways. (Kregel)

The Sum of Us

by Heather McGhee
Reviewed by Andrew Zwart

Racism has a cost for everyone, not just people of color. Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us examines the problem of why Americans can’t seem to have “nice stuff,” the “stuff” here ranging from universal health care to affordable college tuition. She shows how, over and over, we buy into a “zero-sum” story, the false narrative that any program that might help African Americans must by definition come at a cost to white people. But in truth these same programs would provide just as much (or more) benefit for white people. For me, the best parts of this book offer a vision of hope made concrete—a vision in which reckoning with injustice leads not to mutual distrust, but to mutual flourishing. (Penguin Random House)

See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love

By Valarie Kaur
Reviewed by Jenny deGroot

As a Sikh child, Valarie Kaur experienced racism, but nothing that prepared her for the hatred that intensified overnight after 9/11. She and her community became targets, alongside Muslims, of hate crimes. When her uncle was shot dead as he was watering flowers outside of his small business, Kaur knew she had to turn her grief to good or it would destroy her. Both a memoir and a manifesto, See No Stranger tells vivid stories and presents the urgent challenge to love the “other.” Kaur reaches out to leaders of all kinds of faith communities, including Christian ones, believing that much of our fear of the “other” is rooted in our fear of each other’s religious convictions. A must-read in this time of great need for understanding and love for the “other.” (One World)

This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers

Written by K.J. Ramsey
Reviewed by Kristyn DeNooyer

Sometimes hope does not mean healing. For those who navigate chronic pain, persistent grief, ongoing mental illness, or other forms of suffering that stay, K.J. Ramsey details a gentle, acutely honest conviction: where sorrow lives, grace makes a home. Ramsey knows suffering—deeply. But being acquainted with suffering does not mean she is unacquainted with grace. Suffering might stay, but so does Jesus. Drawing on her experience as a professional therapist, Ramsey explores neuroscience alongside contemplative practices, highlights the creative, intricate complexities of our minds and bodies, and speaks to wholeness, belovedness, and belonging with a God who also knows deep suffering. (Zondervan)

Something’s Not Right: Decoding the Hidden Tactics of Abuse and Freeing Yourself from Its Power

By Wade Mullen
Reviewed by Mary Li Ma

Why do churches often mishandle clergy abuse? Why does it always take so long for victims of such abuse to recover? How can survivors of clergy abuse gain more clarity on what they have been through and then reclaim their voices against abuse? Based on his own experience as a pastor and his research of numerous case studies of clergy abuse, Wade Mullen offers a deeply personal and pastoral book on how to detect abusive systems. Understanding what happened is the first step toward true healing. This book includes 20 pages of key resources for survivors coming out of all kinds of situations. It can serve as a resource guide for individuals and for trauma healing groups. (Tyndale)

Under the Magnolias

By T.I. Lowe
Reviewed by Ann Byle

Austin Foster is still a child herself when her mother dies giving birth to a second set of twins. As the oldest daughter, Austin must keep the family together and care for her father, a man devastated by his wife’s death and swaying on the precipice of mental collapse. Enter Vance Cumberland, son of the town scion and destined for greatness, who falls for Austin and doggedly pursues her via friendship and love. Austin, however, keeps him at arm’s length as the years pass and her father worsens. When life finally becomes too hard for Austin to go it alone any longer, she comes to realize that love takes many forms, and those who are thought of as outcasts have beautiful souls and truly know the meaning of love. (Tyndale)

A Long Road on a Short Day

By Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney
Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

Newbery Honor-winning author Gary Schmidt finished what his late wife started: the winsome chapter book A Long Road on a Short Day. It’s a family story from Elizabeth Stickney (Anne Schmidt), who belonged to an old family in New Portland Hill, Maine. She had sent this children’s story to her agent before succumbing to cancer in 2013. Stickney’s agent invited Gary Schmidt to revise it. A Long Road takes readers on a tour to bygone times of farm life and the give-and-take a community makes when folks depend on each other. Eugene Yelchin’s illustrations warm the snowy-white pages (Breaking Stalin’s Nose). Here is a quaint, quiet story for kids ages 8-10 (Clarion Books).

Brenda: Seven Years in the Life of a Child

By Sylvia Boomsma
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema 

On March 30, 1996, along a dusty road in Trujillo, Honduras, an energetic 5-year-old girl named Brenda ran into the path of an oncoming truck and suffered severe, disfiguring craniofacial injuries, but no brain damage. In February 1997, Sylvia Boomsma’s family heard about Brenda from a doctor who had learned of her situation on a mission trip to Trujillo. Boomsma’s inspiring, engaging memoir—one rooted in her Christian faith and by turns excruciatingly painful and laugh-out-loud funny—tells how Brenda arrived in the U.S. as a foster child, endured more than 50 surgeries, and was adopted into Boomsma’s family at the request of Brenda’s impoverished mother, who had no means to care for her daughter’s medical needs. (Newman Springs Publishing)

Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom

By Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

The extraordinary story of how enslaved Henry Brown, with the help of friends on the Underground Railroad, mailed himself in a large box from the South to freedom in the North has been told numerous times, but author Carole Boston Weatherford narrates the amazing tale in a unique way. In an author note, she writes, “Reflecting the cubic structure of a box, the number six figures prominently in this book’s text. All but one of the book’s poems are sixains, having six lines.” Recommended for children 10 and older, this poignant collection of poems, which speak of Henry’s faith in God and longing for justice, is immensely relevant today in a world where so many people face discrimination, oppression, and slavery and where God continues to call his people to set others free. (Penguin Random House)

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl

by Rina Singh, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In many places of the world, the birth of a boy is celebrated but the birth of a girl is mourned because she will cost her parents a dowry and become the property of her husband when she marries. Such was the case in the small village of Piplantri, India, where Sundar Paliwal was born. When his daughter died of dehydration, Sundar mourned deeply, then decided to plant some trees in her memory, leading to an idea: “Every girl born in the village will be welcomed with the planting of 111 trees.” Based on a true story, 111 Trees is a testimony to how just one person seeking what is just and good can bring transformation and renewal. (Kids Can Press) 

The Nature of Fragile Things

By Susan Meissner
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema  

Sophie Whalen, a young woman who immigrated from 1900s Ireland to New York City, finds shelter in a tenement and ekes out a meager living. She is so desperate to leave her destitute circumstances that she answers an ad for a mail-order bride, which also mentions the need for a mother for a 5-year-old girl, Kat. Sophie travels by train to San Francisco and marries Martin Hocking the same day she arrives. The evening before an earthquake rocks San Francisco, Sophie answers a knock at her door and encounters a young, pregnant woman. When the earthquake shatters the city, Sophie, Kat, and the young stranger set out on a dangerous, demanding journey in search of new beginnings and create a most unlikely family. (Berkley)


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