Summer Book Review Roundup

So. I had a baby, summer happened, and I fell behind on book reviews. But not behind on reading! I'm actually far ahead of my reading goal for 2018 . . . which is ironic since I purposely planned to read less this year.  

The bad news is that I've been less than impressed with some of my book choices in recent months, mostly because I loosened my grip on my deep reading plans while I was in the newborn haze. Not every book I've read this summer deserves a full review. Instead, we're going with a star rating and a one-sentence review to keep things quick while I take us through every book I read from May through August. 


May

This month found me with a weeks-old baby, deep in the throes of sleep deprivation. My reading this month was driven by ebooks I'd purchased on sale for easy one-handed reading while nursing a baby, and much-awaited library books that finally came in. 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Deep reading category: Outstanding writing

Star rating: 5 stars

"Unrepentant aristocrat" Alexander Rostov is sentenced to a life of house arrest in 1922, and readers are given the delightful treat of following his life in the ever-changing Metropol hotel. I'm already breaking my one-sentence rule so I can tell you that this book is amazing and you won't regret reading it.

The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch

Deep reading category: Teaches me something specific

Star rating: 4 stars

A short read that lays out practical (if somewhat aspirational) suggestions for parents looking to manage their family's technology use; I especially appreciated the Christian perspective.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

Deep reading category: None

Star rating: 1 star

Predictable and fluffy, this book didn't nearly live up to the hype and actually made me feel dumber than I was when I started it. 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Deep reading category: Outstanding writing

Star rating: 5 stars

Backman once again hits it out of the park with a well-written novel that had me laughing and crying—often on the same page—thanks to an endearing title character that reminds me of my husband.

June

June was marked by my return to work after maternity leave and a serious decrease in reading. As per usual, it took me a while to find my new work rhythm after adding another tiny person to the family. The two books I read this month took me week to get through, and I owe the fact that I read anything at all to library holds coming in.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Deep reading category: Outstanding writing

Star rating: 4 stars

The second in a trilogy, Us Against You made an impressive follow-up to Beartown, though it isn't my favorite of Backman's work.

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Deep reading category: Outstanding writing

Star rating: 4.5 stars

That Kind of Mother is a literary novel that's not too weighty, even though it tackles issues like racism; I was especially impressed by how well the male author captured the reality of early motherhood.

July

This month came with a trip to the cabin that resulted in tons of extra reading time. I enjoyed the new reading pace, but I let my choices skew too far toward nonfiction for summer.

Rumors of Water by L. L. Barkat

Deep reading category: Outstanding writing

Star rating: 5 stars

These essays on creativity and motherhood were given to me by my podcast cohost,  and she was absolutely right about how much I'd love them.

The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile

Deep reading category: Teaches me something specific

Star rating: 5 stars

I carried on in my personality framework obsession with this book, which applies the wisdom of the Enneagram to relationships, interactions, and communication with others. 

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Deep reading category: None

Star rating: 2 stars

I have respect for this memoir about a father and daughter battling cancer at the same time, but the writing and the author's personality weren't my cup of tea.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

Deep reading category: Teaches me something specific

Star rating: 5 stars

Time-tracking expert Laura Vanderkam is back with an excellent read on being mindful with your time, being present to your own life, and avoiding the trap of feeling busy even when you're not.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Deep reading category: None

Star rating: 3 stars

The first in a dystopian YA series, this novel is like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games—nothing groundbreaking, but a good summer read that has me interested enough to return to the sequel someday.

August

August started off with a plague upon our house (hand, foot, and mouth virus) that set me back on work and other projects all month long. I let my incoming library holds dictate my reading habits yet again, mostly because I didn't have time to be more intentional with my choices without letting my library books go overdue or unread.

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

Deep reading category: None

Star rating: 4 stars

I took issue with some of the writing and pacing, but overall I gleaned some timely lessons from this memoir by a Catholic blogger who balances her six kids with her writing and radio career.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

Deep reading category: Outstanding writing

Star rating: 4 stars

The pacing was slow at times, but it's impossible to overstate how gorgeous the writing is in this incredibly well-crafted novel about the members of a string quartet.

I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

Deep reading category: None

Star rating: 4 stars

This collection of essays spoke right to my book-loving heart, from confessing literary sins (purposely keeping library books past their due date because you just HAVE to finish them, anyone?) to the magic of the right book finding you at the right time. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

Deep reading category: Teaches me something specific

Star rating: 3 stars

The content of this Christian book was pretty good on a topic that's not discussed often enough, but it was a classic case of the wrong book at the wrong time (as evidenced by the three months it took me to read it).


I'm dissatisfied with my reading life lately—I haven't quite been reading what I want to. My goal is to read only four- and five-star books. Idealistic? Maybe. I didn't fall too far short of that this summer, but the handful of not-great books were SO not-great that I feel like they dragged down my overall perception of my summer reading choices.

As I head into fall, I want to be more intentional with the books I pick up so I can make the most of my reading time. Maybe I'll even take a library hiatus so I can work through the backlog of books I own and haven't read yet.

In the meantime, stop by the comments and tell me the best book you've read this summer!