10 Fun Summer Reads: Great, Enjoyable Non-Fiction

Here are some books that are truly fun, really good reads, fantastic for your Summer reading pleasures. Today, we offer a nice list of some nonfiction books, sale-priced at 20% off.  Tomorrow I’ll add to the fun with 10 enjoyable novels.   Don’t miss the opportunities these warmer, longer days provide to slow down a bit, pray some, and read a bit. Enjoy fiction and non-fiction, upbeat, memorable writing, taking pleasure in this God-given gift of spending time with enjoyable books. 

ddh.jpgDrop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection  A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster) $26.00  SALE PRICE $20.80 He starts off in the intro making me laugh right out loud by the end of the first page, but I was primed, because the full-color inside endpapers themselves made me laugh right out loud; twice, seeing the front and the back.  He explains that this is the third leg of a journey.  He improved his mind, or at least tried to, in The Know it All (a tremendous book about reading Encyclopedia Britannica) and then worked on his spirit in the justly famous Year of Living Biblically (an all time favorite–you have to read it!) and now he is going to work on his body.  Yep, it is one of those kind, like his others, and you will learn so much along the way about the human body, your health and well-being, and be completely entertained.  In what one review called a “riotous, madcap book” you will explore the absurd stuff some people try, discover which health fads really do make sense (chew your food!) and the sublime of science of well-being, including various complimentary medicine type practices.  You’ll enjoy the story and glean a whole lot of practical health practices–maybe even some inspiration.  Dr. Oz even endorses it!  By the way, he’s fearless in what he shares and you will cringe. And laugh.  Maybe cry. 

Here is what Mary Roach (Bonk and Packing for Mars) wrote:   

A.J. Jacobs is very, very bad for your health. He will keep you up reading til 2 a.m., disturbing your circadian rhythms, making you sleep through breakfast and overeat at lunch. He is delicious. He’s habit-forming. He will give you infectious titters and terminal glee. Don’t let that stop you. Indulge.

WIld-by-Cheryl-Strayed-A-Trail-of-Tears_articleimage.jpgWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail  Cheryl Strayed (Knopf) $25.95 SALE PRICE $20.75  I was telling everybody who would listen about this new book when I was only a quarter ways through; as you most likely know, dear Oprah W. started up her book club again, just because (as she tells it) she needed to talk to people about this story!  I swear I was big on this before Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 (thank you very much.) Wild is an epic story of grief and (really) bad choices, adventure and drama, sex and longing, wilderness within and without as the author tries in great solitude found in the stunning great Western outdoors, to find herself as she hikes the more rugged and lesser-known hiking trail that was created the same time as the East Coast Appalachian Trail.  She treks with a huge pack and some great books through the Mojave Desert and over some snow-packed mountains and some stunning landscapes. She meets people along the way, presses her own physical abilities, copes with the inner landscape, and survives to tell us in thrilling, smart prose.  A breathtaking adventure story, to be sure, and a moving memoir of a woman trying to come to terms with her loss and confusion and the grand search for life’s meaning. There is a lot on the internet with Ms Strayed; start here.

fly-fishing.jpgFly-Fishing, The Sacred Art: Casting a Fly as a Spiritual Practice  Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer and Rev. Michael Attas  (Skylight Paths) $16.99  SALE PRICE $13.55   Forget the jokes about a Rabbi and minister going into a bar; here they go out to streams, explaining the allure and spiritual potential, in fly fishing.  Beautiful, interesting, informative, with describing things from tie flying to enjoying the flowing streams to working on river conservation. I have only fished with flies a few times, but I enjoyed dipping in to this book and found myself recalling my grandfathers who were both stellar fishermen.  Nice!

Tfragrance of g.gifhe Fragrance of God  Vigen Guroian (Eerdmans) $13.00  SALE PRICE $10.40  Rich, elegant, economical prose that is beautiful to read.  The topic: God’s faithfulness to save his cosmos, the beauty of the Earth, sensuousness redeemed by way of gardening.  This lovely little hand-sized book is about digging in the dirt (literally) but also about the dirt of our lives, the ups and downs, and how to thoughtfully navigate this wondrous journey towards Paradise.  Just lovely, and truly beautiful!  As an Orthodox Christian, by the way, he plants his lavish (renowned) garden in ways that flowers bloom in the colors of the liturgical calendar.

digging in.jpgDigging In: Tending to Life in Your Own Backyard  Robert Benson (Waterbrook) $12.99  SALE PRICE $10.40  I’ve celebrated this book before — maybe each summer, come to think of it— and am happy to suggest it again.  Although most all of Robert’s gorgeously concise books are perfect summer reads, this is a favorite.  Digging In is about his backyard work, his joy in landscaping, and how he and his wife fell in love with their neighborhood.  Highly recommended!   But so are his others.  I’ll skip the heavier ones about prayer and contemplation, but remind you of these upbeat ones: The Game (Tarcher; $12.95) is a very elegant must-read if you are a baseball fan, maybe more-so if you’re not; A Good Neighbor: Benedict’s Guide to Community (Paraclete; $14.99) is about loving well those God gives to us. A Good Life: Benedict’s Guide to Everyday Joy (Paraclete; $13.95) is a short, sweet and quite practical introduction to Benedictine spirituality and lifestyle. Home by Another Way: Notes from the Caribbean (Waterbrook; $13.99) offers great vacationy insight about our pace of life, about beauty and a sense of place, about family rituals and, yep, the beautiful Caribbean people and beaches.  Great, meaningful fun for armchair travelers.  Sheer delight and abundant wisdom in all of these. Help us spread the word about this wonderful author. Enjoy!

second-nature-gardeners-education-michael-pollan-paperback-cover-art.jpgSecond Nature:
A Gardener’s Education
  Michael Pollen (Grove) $15.00  SALE PRICE $12.00  Noel Perrin in USA Today called this “one of the most distinguished gardening books of our time.”  It is a true joy to read, if you like serious cultural analysis, social history, botany, horticulture, and want to travel along a green path of intellectual stimulation, ruminating on all manner of natural stuff.   This really is a learned but glorious reflection on so many aspects of gardening that you will be delighted to learn more than you could imagine. You surely know of Michael Pollan from the prestigious foodie book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and his numerous public appearance and natural eating columns.  This manifesto about our relationship with nature ought to be better known.

dall.pngDallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, and Ex-Con, and an Unlikely Friendship  Ted Kluck & Dallas Jahncke (Bethany Publishing House) $14.99 SALE PRICE $11.99   Here is what I wrote about this when I suggested it at our very cool Father’s Day post:  This is an fine book in a great genre—like a “buddy movie” sort of, and fun for any guy.  This tells of a solid Christian fellow discipling a messed up, druggie, ex-con. But, wait, this relationship isn’t all that simple—the ex-con teaches the Christian guy a bunch: it is not a “how to mentor” guidebook or a one-sided inspiration tale.  It is the narrative of a friendship, a messy and funny biography of this crazy dream of fixing up an old car and learning of God’s great grace through it all.  This is story which is ore profound perhaps even than it wants to be. (“At the risk of embarrassing these nitty-gritty guys, this is ultimately a story about love,” writes Justin Taylor.)  Kluck is a good writer (whose stuff has been seen in the ESPN magazine.)  Dallas and the Spitfire really is a wild tale, profoundly informed by good theology, and a true love for that old Triumph Spitfire. 

when women were birds close up.jpgWhen Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice  Terry Tempest Williams (FSG) $23.00  SALE PRICE $18.40  You may recall how we have raved about Refuge, the memoir Ms Williams wrote after leaving her large, Utah, Mormon clan, and taking up her calling to speak truth to power, particularly around environmental concerns.  We were deeply moved by her unusual book about mosaics, the protection of threatened prairie-dogs and the genocide in Rwanda, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.  Here in this new one she ruminates profoundly on how an author–how anyone, really–finds a voice, in 54 short chapters exploring the mystery of her mother’s saved journals intentionally left to her—journals which were all blank. This very creatively-written book may not be for everyone as it is demanding, thoughtful literature, but it will be one of the talked about books of the year.  Anne Lamott says of the writing of Williams that it is “brilliant, meditative, and full of surprises, wisdom, and wonder. She’s one of those writers who changes people’s lives by encouraging attention and a slow, patient, awakening.”  You will be blown away by this if you enjoy very artfully crafted, passionately charged reflections with environmental and feminist themes.  By the way, I featured the close-up picture, above, to show the lovely, white, embossed cover.  Very handsomely done.

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son
Anne Lamott and Sam Lamott (Riverhead Books)  $26.95 SALE PRICE $21.55some assembly required.jpg 
Again, we announced this earlier, when it very first came out a few months ago, but it seems quite right to share it here, again, as a fun summer read. What an enjoyable book, a great memoir of Anne’s 19-year old son’s (unexpected) baby and his admittedly complicated relationship with the baby’s mother.  You may recall Sam as a baby from her break-out book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and now he is all grown up, studying at a local community college. Sam chimes in a bit and it is poignant to read about this year in their life amidst hardship, chaos, laughter and some God-given traveling mercies.  Her’s is a bohemian and eccentric crew and she has a remarkable gift for being able to turn a phrase, and to build a paragraph that is at once touching, insightful, and drop-dead funny.

mondays with my p.jpgMondays with My Old Pastor  Jose Luis Navajo (Nelson) $15.99  SALE PRICE $12.79  A pastor verging on serious burn-out decides to get together each Monday with his old friend and mentor to reflect on his life and faith, wondering why he is so emotionally drained and spiritually dry—think of format and the power of the story Tuesdays With Morrie.  This Spanish pastor tells the story of their meetings quite beautifully, with such Biblical wisdom, that although it is a true memoir, and mostly a book designed to help your basic Christian living, finding faith in hard times (and in the process of aging) it so well written and translated and so very enjoyable, I wanted to list it here. Just look at the cover!  One good customer of ours, a quite literate pastor, himself, reported that as soon as he finished it, he immediately started it all over again.  Very nicely done—a great way to refresh your faith during the dog days of summer.

As I said, these are just 10 good non-fiction recommendations that feature fine writing and engaging styles.  Tomorrow, we’ll post 10 good fiction recommendations, novels that are fun and sometimes funny, uplifting, pleasurable for summer reads.

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