As I write this, we’re currently in the so-called dog days of summer – typically the hottest, most unbearable days of the year. In the United States, dog days began July 3 and will end Aug. 11, and with my 10-day forecast showing an awful lot of 100-plus degree days, I’d say this year’s dog days are no joke.
So I thought, besides the pool, what’s the best way to spend a day the Weather Bug app labels “very hot” with an overly bright sun and cactus? On the couch with a book obviously. But which book should you read? I’m here to give a few (potentially) lesser-known recommendations I’ve read over the last year through the network of writers I’m getting to know online. Some of these authors are people I’ve developed relationships with; others have come upon recommendation, but all are books I’d probably not be aware of if not for Twitter.
First up, “Ragged: Spiritual Disciplines for the Spiritually Exhausted” by Gretchen Ronnevik. As you may have noticed, I’ve felt increasingly exhausted over the last year or two, even referring to myself as a “dried out shell” a few times in this very column, so when “Ragged” was published, the title alone made the book seem just for me. The pages of this book are soaked with the reminder that “when we mistake spiritual disciples for to-dos, time slots on our schedule, or Instagram-able moments, we miss the benefits of Christ’s continual and constant work for us.” The book reminds the reader that “spiritual disciplines have less to do with what we bring before God and more about who Christ is for us, not only as the author but also as the perfector of our faith,” and in a season when my own limits have been glaringly obvious, “Ragged” was a timely refreshment.
Moving along a similar theme of limitation, Ashley Hales wrote a book called “Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much.” While I don’t consider Hillsboro a suburb by any stretch, “Finding Holy in the Suburbs” was still applicable. Like reviewer Tish Harrison Warren wrote: “This book isn’t just about the suburbs; it is about a woman who finds herself in a place she would not have chosen and seeks to learn what the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus bring to bear on her own home…in this moment in history.” As I read, I underlined, even noting at one point or another, “I get this.”
Another book I just “got” is “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. This was a book recommended to me in my desire to learn more about HSPs both for my sake and for those close to me. While some of the suggested exercises weren’t my cup of tea, overall the content helped me feel not quite so odd and stop thinking about sensitivity as a negative trait.
While I didn’t do all the suggested activities in Emilie Wapnick’s book “How to be Everything: A Guide for those who (still) don’t know what they want to be when they Grow Up,” I did find the content interesting. This book was recommended to me after I tweeted that I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I like many different things, and this book gave an overarching label to apply: “multipotentialite” which by Wapnick’s definition is “someone with many interests and creative pursuits.” It wasn’t a stretch to find something to relate to within the pages.
“The Bully, The Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander” by Barbara Coloroso was also relatable and came to me upon recommendation for learning more about the impact of bullying. I’ve written before about my own experience with bullying in my column called “Bullying has Severe Consequences” (Feb. 19, 2019). That particular piece took a raw look into my own story of bullying and the lasting consequences; this book helped me add the wisdom and knowledge of a professional into my experience. The not-so-innocent bystander concept was intriguing and something I haven’t heard much discussion about. This is a book I’d recommend widely. Another title in my to-be-read stack is also on the topic of bullying and called “The Bullied Brain: Heal your Scars and Restore your Health” by Jennifer Fraser, Ph.D.
On a similar track as Coloroso’s book on bullying, Wade Mullen’s debut book “Something’s Not Right: Decoding the Hidden Tactics of Abuse and Freeing Yourself from its Power” tackles abuse within adult relationships and/or institutions. Mullen is a professor, researcher and advocate and his book helps expose strategies and patterns abusers use to control and coerce victims all while gaining power and covering up wrongdoings.
Shifting to the poetic expression of life, of pain, of joy, I’m recommending books by both Evan Welcher and Rachel Welcher – married, capable poets and writers in their own rights. Evan’s poetry books include “Advent: A Thread in the Night” and “Nightscapes” and Rachel’s poetry book is called “Two Funerals, Then Easter.” Rachel also has a debut non-fiction book called “Talking Back to Purity Culture.” It’s one on my to-read list.
Other authors I’m looking forward to reading – but haven’t yet – are Ruth Buchanan, Douglas Bursch, Lore Ferguson Wilbert, Allen Arnold, Taylor Schumann, Fleming Rutledge, Mokoto Fujimura and Diane Langberg. The team of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, which I’ve read before, have co-authored another title called “Jesus and Gender: Living as Sisters and Brothers in Christ” that I’m itching to read.
Are you intrigued? I hope so. Let me know if you pick up any of these titles while you beat the heat. I’m always game for a book-fueled discussion. Happy reading!
Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing, visit her blog, www.malindajust.com, or find her on social media @MalindaDJust.