Summer. It’s time to unwind in the porch swing to the soothing rhythm of a ceiling fan.

Time to listen to the roar of ocean waves while you relax beneath an umbrella.

And it’s time to get gloriously lost in a really good book.

Since whatever we put into our minds eventually comes out—either in our thoughts, beliefs, or actions—it’s important to read uplifting, useful and positive books.

So, what are you reading this summer?

I have a few suggestions. Some of these books are new and some are very old—but reading and rereading them encourages me. Wisdom is written in their pages in unique, creative ways.

So, to lift your soul, put a smile on your face, plant hope in your heart, to challenge you to learn, grow and take risks, here are a few recommendations for summer reading by category:

Uplifting Fiction

Thorn in My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs (Lowlands of Scotland Series #1)

Liz Curtis Higgs writes some of the best Christian novels I’ve ever read. The Lowlands of Scotland Series is delightful.

Synopsis: Leana and Rose McBride both yearn to catch the eye of the same handsome man, yet only one sister will be his bride.

A thorny love triangle emerges, plagued by lies and deception, jealousy and desire, hidden secrets and broken promises. Brimming with passion and drama, Thorn in My Heart brings the past to vibrant life, revealing spiritual truths that transcend time and penetrate the deepest places of the heart.



The Sender by Kevin Elko

A powerful novel to encourage anyone who is fighting cancer or really, any difficult circumstance. I read this touching book while I waited in a lobby for my car to be repaired, just boo-hooing (and a bit embarrassed). Written by Kevin Elko, it’s packed with great advice for life.

Synopsis: Charlie Cristo is not only battling an aggressive cancer, but also years of bitterness and disappointment. Then anonymous, encouraging letters start arriving at the hospital from a source known only as The Sender.

Lift your spirits. Work the process. Help others. What will you do with The Sender’s advice?

Based on actual letters sent to Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano during his cancer treatment, The Sender blends creative storytelling and inspiration to communicate a powerful message of endurance and strength.

Beneath the Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

I could not put this book down! This novel, based on a true story, has a wonderful message about faith and courage. It is action-packed, yet it touches both your mind and your heart.

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, the bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.

Synopsis: Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


I haven’t gotten a chance to read this one yet, but it’s on my list.

Synopsis: People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. If there was an award for “Most Charming Book of the Year,” this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down.

Sounds like my kind of book!



Encouraging Nonfiction

Seeking a Familiar Face: by May Patterson

Have you ever felt distant from God? Me, too.

And this left me feeling pretty empty inside. Thankfully, I learned to how to overcome this emptiness by seeking after God. I don’t want anyone to neglect their inner life like I did, so I wrote this book to inspire you to draw nearer to God than ever before.

Synopsis: The closer we are to God, the more meaningful our life will be. It doesn’t matter if you are already seeking Him or just getting started, my book will encourage you to go a little farther toward locking hearts with God. It’s filled with stories, new ideas, fresh hope and humor.

My book has questions at the end of each chapter, so you can read and discuss it with a friend or a group.


Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

This book was life-changing for me! Even though I read this bestseller 15 years ago, I still refer to it and will always keep it on my shelf. If you haven’t read it yet, well…just do it. You can thank me later.

Synopsis: If you’ve ever wondered: Can I set limits and still be a loving person? How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? Why do I feel guilty when I consider setting boundaries?

Unpacking the 10 laws of boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend give biblically based answers to these and other tough questions, and show you how to set healthy boundaries with your spouse, children, friends, coworkers, and even with yourself.


Fully Alive by Ken Davis

I’m reading this one right now and I can’t put it down. Ken writes as well as he speaks—which is saying a lot. I just graduated from his SCORRE speaker training intensive and after spending 3 days with Ken, well, he rocks.

While this book has a wonderful, challenging message about living fully alive, it’s also hilarious and filled with adventure.

Synopsis: St Ireneaus said, “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” That’s exactly how you were wired to live. Yet sadness, depression and apathy often characterize our lives. We survive but not thrive. This book leads from monotony to adventure. From boring mediocrity to thrilling risk. Give it a try!



Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter

This book took me away on a great adventure! Edited by my editor and friend, Traci Mullins, it shined a light on a part of the world I didn’t know much about.

Synopsis: In Wherever the River Runs, Kelly Minter invites us on a jungle adventure down a river teeming with piranhas, caymans, a beautiful people, and God’s presence. Her engaging narrative pulls back the curtain on one of the most captivating places on earth as well as on parts of the gospel we may be able to recite, but have never fully believed.

For anyone feeling complacent in their faith, Kelly’s story of the forgotten people of the Amazon is sure to inspire.


Desperate for Hope by Bruce Martin

Written by my award-wining friend, Bruce Martin, Desperate for Hope systematically dismantles common misconceptions about God that hold us back, especially during times of suffering. Using the story of Job and his own story, Bruce writes to give readers the hope that, even though we face storms in our lives, God loves us and will sustain us. One of my counselor friends even gives this book to her clients to help them find peace in suffering.

Synopsis: A unique and compassionate take on the age-old question of suffering, this book is for anyone who has experienced life-shattering pain.






Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Okay, while this isn’t a light summer beach read, it was a life changing book for me.

Synopsis: Frankl, a psychiatrist and survivor of Aushwitz, discovered that man’s primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. This discovery kept him alive while others perished all around him.

This memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Man’s Search for Meaning is listed among the ten most influential books in America.



Writing & Speaking

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Natalie Goldberg’s inspiring book on writing will make you smile. She introduces the concept of practicing timed writings in this book (and even gives you a handy list of topics), which has really helped me learn how to overcome writer’s block.

Natalie encourages writers to listen, use powerful verbs and to capture first thoughts on paper. This book was first published in 1986, and is still used as a textbook in many writing classes today.




Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis

I’ve read a lot of great books on speaking, but this is the best one—by far. But it’s not only for speaking; it changed the way I write. Last year, the editor of my book asked me, “What happened? These last chapters are stellar.” It’s because I learned about the SCORRE method of focusing communication, which Ken explains in this book.

This month, I graduated from the SCORRE speaker training intensive. Ken was my personal coach! I highly recommend this book and any of Ken’s seminars.




Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo

If you ever dreamed of giving a TED talk or even enjoy listening to TED talks, then you will like this book!

Carmine Gallo takes you behind the scenes and explains why TED talks are so powerful. He assures you that public speaking is about preparation, not talent (which I find pretty encouraging). Talk like TED outlines the steps to delivering an engaging, meaningful talk that will bless others.





Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Building a StoryBrand teaches readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.

Whether you are the director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a lead singer of a rock band, or just a simple writer like me, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.

Donald also has a great StoryBrand podcast that I listen to every week.



Speak Up with Confidence by Carol Kent

I actually took a class on this book with Carol in California and she was marvelous!

Carol Kent is hilariously funny and heartbreakingly transparent. Her book is a practical guide to public speaking and includes do-and-don’t-do tips, fear busters, and confidence builders; plus, many useful guidelines for speakers and group leaders.





So what are you reading this summer? Bless other readers (and me) by recommending clean, well-written, helpful books of all kinds in the comments section below.