“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”
– Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle: A Memoir
Between the resuming of jobs, back-to-school activities, and two family birthdays in September, summer break seems to be a distant memory. It was time well-spent with family, as well as days engrossed in memoirs and middle school literature, historical fiction and religious texts. I didn’t set out to read books along one particular idea this past season, but it seemed as if an overarching theme tied them together: understanding.
It’s possible that a divine force placed these works in my hands. Or perhaps I subconsciously chose books along that line. After all, a character in one of my favorite classics To Kill a Mockingbird states, “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.” Whatever the case, the words and encouragement by these authors have bound to my heart and breathed life into my soul.
According to the calendar, summer officially ends this Saturday. So it seems the perfect time to reflect on stories that shaped my sense of understanding during the past few months. Read on for my treasured summer picks…
Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People
By Bob Goff (2018)
Simply put, this book helped me understand the need to broaden my concept of community. To embrace the people already in my life and to explore the opportunities in places I’m planted. It has challenged me to love others better and build trust within my circle of relationships. How does this happen? Spend time with people. Get to know their stories. Be gentle and accepting and genuine. Sounds simple in theory, but harder to put into practice.
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
By Barbara Brown Taylor (2009)
This is the second memoir I’ve read by Taylor, and her experiences continue to strengthen my commitment to simple practices that fill my emotional bucket and nourish my soul. She first introduced me to the concept of paying attention to sacred moments among the mundane of everyday life. Thanks to her writing, I have a more heightened awareness to the mystery of faith as well as the uniqueness of my own spiritual journey. “No one’s spiritual practice is exactly like anyone else’s,” she states. “Life meets each of us where we need to be met, leading us to the doors with our names on them.”
There is so much beauty in learning from the stories of others, and the following works of fiction each did their part to deepen my perspective. The characters were complex. Their experiences exemplified how to embrace the dark and the light without losing hope. These works inspired me to look for the beauty in the midst of life’s messes, echoing the meaningful words of writer Glennon Doyle, “The brutal doesn’t break us because the beautiful sustains us.”
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir By Jennifer Ryan (2017)
Beautiful Ruins By Jess Walter (2012)
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry By Fredrik Backman (2013)
Being understanding was one of the main reasons I started this blog. Over two years ago, I carefully crafted the “About Me” page to include a phrase about listening to and learning from the perspective of others. I so appreciate the wisdom I gain from books, and I equally value the feedback I’ve received from readers.
Thank you to all who have read and commented and provided encouragement during the past couple years. As always, I would love to hear about the words and literature that are making an impact in your life!