A Dozen Books to Inspire You This Summer (Plus a Great Giveaway!)

May 24, 2014 | 45 comments

 Twelve Great Reads for Your Summer

Here are my top picks for inspirational reading this summer. (And don’t miss our four-book Summer Giveaway Bundle! Details below.)

Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha

I can’t stop talking about this book. It’s one of my very favorite faith memoirs. Ever.

I can see how you might think I’m biased; Michelle DeRusha is a dear friend. 🙂 So if you don’t believe me, believe what the Library Journal has to say in its new review of the book.

The Library Journal says Michelle is “reminiscent of Anne Lamott” and calls Spiritual Misfit “one of the most appealing spiritual memoirs of the last several years. … This book deserves readers well beyond church reading groups. It will speak to the lives of many individual seekers within Christianity and without.”

Find “Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith” here.

Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray

I have been a longtime fan of Bonnie’s blog. And now, she tells her story, in this compelling new book. It’s on my nightstand right now.

“How many of us find ourselves exhausted, running on empty with no time for rest, no time for ourselves, no time for God? Bonnie Gray knows exactly what that’s like. On the brink of fulfilling a lifelong dream, Bonnie’s plans suddenly went off script. Her life shattered into a debilitating journey through anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. But as she struggled to make sense of it all, she made an important discovery: we all need spiritual whitespace.”

Find “Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest” here.

The Waiting by Cathy LaGrow (with) Cindy Coloma

I’ve been waiting … to tell you about “The Waiting.” This book. Oh yeah, … this is an unforgettable true story of faith, forgiveness and love.

“In 1928, 16-year-old Minka was on a picnic in the woods when she was assaulted and raped. And suddenly this innocent farm girl—who still thought the stork brought babies—was pregnant. The baby was secretly born, named Betty Jane, and given up for adoption. For decades, Minka wrote letters trying to get news of her

daughter; she kept loving and praying for her, even though she never dared believe they would meet again. Until nearly eighty years later, when Minka whispered her secret, impossible prayer for the first time: Lord, I’d like to see Betty Jane before I die. I promise I won’t bother her or interrupt her life. I just want to lay eyes on her. Unbeknownst to Minka, that very same day, a judge was releasing the sealed adoption records to her 77-year-old daughter. And soon, Minka’s phone would ring. Written by Cathy LaGrow (Minka’s granddaughter), The Waiting brings three generations of this most unusual family together over the course of a century to tell a story of faith that triumphs, forgiveness that sets us free, and love that never forgets.”

For a sneak peek, watch this short story about Minka, which appeared on The TODAY Show.

Find “The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up” here.

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

I have told everyone I know about this book. It’s a book for anyone who is a mom, or anyone who’s had a mom. Which means, it’s a book for all of us! This book has received outstanding reviews, and is a must-read for you this summer.

Lisa-Jo is the social media manager for DaySpring and the community manager of the company’s website, www.incourage.me, an online home for millions of women the world over. And she’s a brilliant writer.

“Surprised by Motherhood is Lisa-Jo’s story of becoming and being a mom, and in the process, discovering that all the “what to expect” and “how to” books in the world can never truly prepare you for the sheer exhilaration, joy, and terrifying love that accompanies motherhood.

Set partly in South Africa and partly in the US (with a slight detour to Ukraine along the way), Surprised by Motherhood is a poignant memoir of one woman’s dawning realization that being a mom isn’t about being perfect—it’s about being present.”

Find “Surprised by Motherhood” here.

Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga

You’ll have to wait a few weeks for this one. But you can preorder or add it to your wish-list on Amazon, for a mid-summer read. I have not read Emily’s book, but will be picking this one up for sure, come July. Emily is a fantastic writer with a soul-stirring message.

“Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.”

Early readers are giving it great reviews. Liz Curtis Higgs calls the book “brilliant and beautiful.”

Add this one to your wish list: “Atlas Girl.” 

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch

This is the story of a woman who said yes, even when it all seemed a bit too crazy — a bit too far out of one’s comfort zone. But this is also the story of a woman who learned how the magic happens when your faithful YES takes you FAR outside of your comfort zone. Because that’s where God does some really amazing work — outside of our “safe” places.

I was inspired, challenged and moved deeply by this book. I have been following Kristen Welch online for years, and this is the shining jewel of her written work. This is a book for any of us who wants to know that her one life matters.

Find “Rhinestone Jesus” here.

Found by Micha Boyett

Oh. This book. I needed this book at a time when life felt crazy. Her words slowed me down, made me pause, and helped me see better. Five stars…

Found is “a story of questions, grace and everyday prayer.” Micha writes: “My first year of motherhood I lost prayer…”

“I lost early mornings of quiet, mornings in my pajamas with a Bible in my lap, mornings when I spoke my mind’s chaos into God’s ear and let the chaos come back ordered, holy sealed. I lost peace. I lost clarity and certitude. My faith was never perfect before my son was born, but somewhere in that first year, somewhere in my distraction and exhaustion, I lost the Spirit-life I had known. I blamed myself.”

Pick up “Found” here.

Join the “Found” community online with the hashtag #foundgrace.

Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming

I love this book. I encountered God on every page. I’m so delighted to tell you that the (in)courage Bloom Book Club is leading a study of this book over here. The study starts May 26.

“Do you ever wonder what your future holds? As ministry leader Jean Fleming began pondering how she could serve God with more purpose, she created Pursue the Intentional Life, a book that will help you discover how God’s promises and instructions contain just what you need for the unknown days ahead.
Whether you are facing the end of something in your life, or embarking on a new beginning, this book will help you live meaningfully and intentionally in the present while preparing well for the future.”

Pursue the Intentional Life is available here.

Beautiful on the Mountain: An Inspiring True Story by Jeannie Light

I haven’t read this book, but am picking it up for my summer reading, based on the high recommendation of a friend whom I trust. This is book, just released this month, and is part of our giveaway, below.

“If you enjoyed the classic novel Christy and the bestselling Mitford series, then you’ll love Beautiful on the Mountain, a real-life tale about serving God in unlikely circumstances. In 1977, Jeannie Light left her fine plantation home amid heartbreak and came to Graves Mill, a tiny hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Alone in an utterly new kind of life, Jeannie was determined to find the courage to make a fresh start. To Jeannie’s surprise, she found herself called upon by her new neighbors to open the old, deteriorated country church, a place that had once united the fractured community of mountain folk. With no training, and no small amount of trepidation, she undertook the task. And as she embarked on an unforeseen series of adventures, from heartbreaking to hilarious, Jeannie would learn more than she ever expected about faith, loving your neighbor, and doing the work that God sets in front of you. Because sometimes, God calls us to go where there is no path . . . and leave a trail.”

Beautiful on the Mountain” is available here.

Parting the Waters by Jeanne Damoff

I first read this book in 2009, and couldn’t put it down. I’m picking it up again this summer. This true story is achingly beautiful — one you won’t want to miss.

“When a tragic drowning accident leaves fifteen-year-old Jacob in a coma, the faith of his family and community is shaken. Medical experts used phrases like persistent vegetative state and said Jacob would never wake up. Without sugar-coating the realities of pain and suffering, Parting the Waters presents the heart-warming, true story of what can happen when a community rallies around one wounded family. While Jacob’s parents struggle to preserve their faith and family, the prayers and innovative efforts of community members result in Jacob’s gradual awakening. Each dramatic milestone in Jacob’s recovery creates a new ripple, touching and changing many lives forever.”

Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness” is available here.

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler

Jennifer Fulwiler is smart, hilarious, and incredibly talented. Her new book just released and is already getting rave reviews. Author Dean Koontz writes: “This heartfelt book is a lovely account of a spiritual journey and a charming memoir. The author’s epiphanies are wonderfully conveyed and will resonate with readers.”

Jennifer was raised in a “happy atheist home,” and converted to Christianity, the religion that she had reviled. “Just when Jennifer had a profound epiphany that gave her the courage to convert, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition-and the only treatment was directly at odds with the doctrines of her new-found faith. Something Other Than God is a poignant, profound and often funny tale of one woman who set out to find the meaning of life and discovered that true happiness sometimes requires losing it all.”

Find “Something Other Than God” here.

Love Idol … by Me 🙂

I’d love for you to consider my book this year. This is my heart’s cry for all of us — that we would know we are already loved and approved by a God who went to unimaginable lengths to prove it. You are preapproved. In Him, you really are enough.

Love Idol is available here.


A Summer Giveaway Bundle

One lucky winner will receive a package of these four books. Another winner will receive an autographed copy of Love Idol, along with an exclusive “PreApproved” necklace designed by Krafty Kash Designs. Simply use the Rafflecopter below to try for a chance to win.  The two winners will be announced on Wednesday morning.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


What’s on your summer reading list? Share your recommendations in the comments.

by | May 24, 2014 | 45 comments


  1. Annette Burke

    Thank you for offering this giveaway bundle!! The winner of these will be blessed beyond measure

  2. Paula Gamble

    Wow! I love how you always share your heart, Jennifer. You are a treasure, friend! And thank you for sharing the inspiration!

    • dukeslee

      Some great reads here, Paula! Have you read Lisa-Jo’s book Surprised by Motherhood? I am thinking you would really enjoy it. It would put a smile on your face, and in your heart. It’s an unforgettable story.

      • Paula Gamble

        Sweet! It’s on audible.com!!! I’m so much better at listening to books than reading them. I’ll listen to it! Thank you, dear friend!

        • Paula Gamble

          And one more thing, I LOVE YOU, Jennifer! I’m so thankful you’re in my life!

  3. Krista Dowdey

    Your entire lists looks wonderful… some are already on my “to read list” but now I need to add a few more 🙂 Thanks!

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for stopping by, Krista.

  4. Michelle DeRusha

    Books, books, books – I love books, and there are some really, really good ones here: Found was awesome; Rhinestone Jesus totally rocked my world; Surprised by Motherhood was one of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long, long time. And Love Idol – cream of the crop, girl! Thanks for including Misfit with such a stellar group of writers and books, Jennifer. I can’t wait to dig into some of the reads you mention here!

    • dukeslee

      Have you thought about Pursue the Intentional Life? I was really touched deeply by that book, and I think partly because of her age and maturity and experience… She brings such a gentle wisdom to the page, and I just slow down to hear what she has to say. Jean Fleming is a gift.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Well, I ditto Spiritual Misfit and Love Idol–brilliant memoirs, both. I have always loved Jean Fleming’s books. She has such wisdom and did long before she reached her seventies. I have read Pursue the Intentional Life– excellent. But my favorite of hers remains Between Walden and the Whirlwind, which was renamed Finding Focus in a Whirlwind World. I’d highly recommend it! Oh, and her book, A Mother’s Heart, is a classic, and I also enjoyed The Homesick Heart: Longing for Spiritual Intimacy. Enjoy!

  5. Becky Keife

    Yah! So many of these are already on my wish list and now you’ve inspired me with several more choices. What fun and inspiration awaits!

    • dukeslee

      I just want a pool and a lounge chair and a book … all summer long! 🙂

  6. Christina

    One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian, The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh, Grace Walk by Steve McVey, and The Language of Letting Go, a classic meditation book by Melody Beattie

    • dukeslee

      One Way Love is on my list. Have you read it, or are you reading it now? What do you think?

  7. bonnierose

    such great books…. I just put three in my shopping cart! thank you! xo

    • dukeslee

      You won’t be disappointed! Happy reading, Bonnie Rose.

  8. michaboyett

    Wow! So grateful Found was included on this list! I had so much fun reading Spiritual Misfit. Michelle DeRusha is hysterical and her story is beautiful. Thanks Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      If Michelle tires of writing, she could start another career in comedy. That woman is funny, not just on paper, but even more so in real life. Love her.

      Your book, Micha? It truly couldn’t have come at a better time. I started reading it not long after my own book came out. And the pages were a respite for my market-weary, promotion-weary soul. I think it was Ann V., who wrote that her breathing slowed down when she read your book. I concur. Thank you for your very good work, not only in the book but out on the Internet. I’ve long enjoyed your words.

  9. jjbbone

    I just read The Ragamuffin Gospel. Excellent.

    • dukeslee

      Agreed. Profoundly important book.

  10. Susan Rinehart Stilwell

    I just returned from a writer’s conference and was checking in with friends. So glad I stopped by here, Jennifer. I can attest to some of your choices!

    • dukeslee

      Wonderful, Susan! Did you have a good time at the conference? Happy reading and writing and post-conference-processing!

  11. Jeannie Cunnion

    I am so excited to read your book! So thankful I found you through Ann Voskamp.

    • dukeslee

      Jeannie! A joy to see your name in the inbox. I’ve seen your book out and about, and I THINK perhaps I first heard of your parenting book through Ann’s blog. A joy to connect with you here. Your book sounds wonderful.

  12. Kris Camealy

    What a fantastic list! I have read some if these–and loved them 😉 Found is up next along with Emily’s book. The Waiting sounds amazing… Thanks for sharing these, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      The Waiting *is* amazing. Did you see the TODAY show story, right before Mother’s Day?

  13. Sandy

    this looks great – thanks for sharing!

  14. Jeanne Damoff

    I’m just quietly amazed to see our story among such beautiful books. Thank you, dear Jennifer, for your generous heart. I love your tireless pursuit of Jesus, and your unfailing gift of encouragement. And I love you. Truly.

  15. Leah Adams

    I’ve read one of the four you are giving away. Would love to read all of the suggested books. I am crazy about books and reading.

  16. Trudy Den Hoed

    Thank you so much, Jennifer, for the booklist and offering a giveaway. I love books! They get me as excited a kid with a new toy. 🙂 These sound like great ones to add to my list! I am presently reading Bonnie’s Finding Spiritual Whitespace. Love it! Also reading Donkeys Still Talk by Virelle Kidder. Next is You Gotta Keep Dancing by Tim Hansel and The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh.

  17. Mary Bonner

    So grateful for this list. Some I’ve read or own and still have to read. Found and Beautiful on the Mountain sounds incredibly interesting. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer!

  18. Bonnie

    Several of these are already on my Amazon wish list, and several more will be added. So many books, so little time!

    Having not read nonfiction in ages, I’m about to tackle Guernsey Literary Society… and What Alice Forgot. And I’m about to re-read The Greatest Words Ever Spoken by Steven K. Scott (all the words of Jesus organized into categories).

  19. Kelly Blackwell

    You know what I found exciting about this list? There were just three books that were already on my list and now you have totally upped my wish list! PS I have so wanted to read your book “Love Idol.” Everything I have read about it seems so spot on with my own life. 🙂 Thanks for this lovely giveaway and for the fabulous list!

  20. Patricia W Hunter

    I’m so happy you included Jeanne Damoff’s beautiful book. I read it several years ago and it remains one of my favorites.

    • Jeanne Damoff

      Thank you, Patricia. xo

  21. Jacque Watkins

    Beautiful list, friend. Love your encouraging and generous heart! xo

  22. Rebecca Presnell

    Wow, so much delightfulness, so little time! One of my goals this year is to SLOW DOWN and read more. This list comes at the perfect time AND has several of the books already on my wish list! Thank you my friend!

  23. Debbie Brainer

    So GREATFUL, and so many to choose from, being FAITHFUL to reading is truly INSPIRATIONAL!! Can’t wait to get started. Thank you ever so much!! <3

  24. Nannette Elkins

    Great list! I plan to take a few with me while traveling. Thanks, Jennifer.

  25. patty

    great list… can’t wait to read several of these!

  26. Susan Hawkins

    Sure wish I could have a chance for the give away, but I don’t do facebook or tweet or any of that – just email 🙁 The books look really really good. I had already purchased Love Idol and Spiritual Misfit just very recently – which I’m looking forward to reading once I finish “You’re Going to be Okay” by Holley Gerth. Recently finished “Everything” by Mary DeMuth, which was an awesome book – moving and challenging and comforting all at once.

  27. Jen Daugherty

    Looks like a wonderful bundle…hope it winds up with the person who really needs to hear what these books have to say!! 🙂

    And now…I have a great list of books to read over the summer. Thanks!



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