Blog/Culture

The 10 Books You Should Read (or Recommend) this Summer!

Growing up, I was always enamored by a good story. Whether it was a journey to unknown worlds or a walk with my favorite historical character, there was just something so brilliant and beautiful about the world of reading. Somewhere down the line, though, I lost my way with this pastime. It was noticeable. My stress levels were higher, my attention span was a hot mess, and I felt just a lack of connection to so many things.

According to a Sussex study done in 2009, reading can reduce stress levels by 68%. Want that again!? Reading can reduce stress levels by 68%! Ahh, don’t you already feel better just hearing that? Even better, these researchers went on to conclude that “reading a … book works better and faster than listening to music, going for a walk or sitting down with a cup of tea to calm frazzled nerves.”**

This blog is not a scientific paper, so I can’t say with confidence reading was the antithesis to my stress. Still, these University of Sussex findings are absolutely no surprise to me. It was only when I decided to prioritize the beauty of a good book back into my life that I noticed my stress levels changing.

If you were to exercise one new habit this summer, I’d HIGHLY suggest the habit of reading. With all the chaos in our world today, the gift of reading can be a source of refreshment you didn’t even know was an option.

In honor of dropping this fact nugget on you, here is a list of some highly recommended books — covering a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, and Catholic titles — for both you and the teens you serve.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Genre: Nonfiction
Recommended Age: 16+

Quick Synopsis: Through engaging anecdotes and well-researched evidence, Cal Newport explores the negatives of our modern digital platforms and offers an effective antidote to curbing the addictive habits of social media consumption.

Why You Should Read It: I can say with confidence that this book has changed my life. I detailed my journey with my own detox here and continue to promote this book as not only effective, helpful, and informative but also incredibly well-written and engaging.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Genre: Memoir
Recommended Age: 17+

Quick Synopsis: “Just Mercy” follows Bryan Stevenson throughout his life, his law career, and his incredible non-profit work defending innocent death row inmates in the deep south.

Why You Should Read It: Bryan tells his story with a clear and admirable magnanimity, and the lessons he shares cut to the heart of what it means to be human. His work is a living, breathing example of God’s mercy and compassion lived out in the world today. As an added bonus: There is a YA version of this book available as well as a movie adaptation — which is brilliant.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

All Along You Were Blooming by Morgan Harper Nicols

Genre: Poetry
Recommended Age: 15+

Quick Synopsis: Beautifully illustrated poetry that speaks to the struggles and insecurities of life while also looking toward the boundless living that can happen even in the hardest of seasons through the grace of God.

Why You Should Read It: Everyone needs a good pep talk every once in a while. Morgan Harper Nicols’ writing is so transparent and moving, and this short book honestly feels like a warm hug. “All Along You Were Blooming” is a great option for an adult or teen who isn’t a big reader but willing to be moved by words, nonetheless.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Genre: Fiction
Recommended Age: 17+

Quick Synopsis: When Mia and her daughter Pearl move into the Shaker Heights community, they quickly hit it off with the Richardson family, who seems perfect in every sense of the word. But, soon, secrets start to unravel, and assumptions begin to fly, and it will all come at a devastating cost.

Why You Should Read It: I’m a big fan of character-driven literature that simultaneously makes you feel and think. Celeste Ng’s ability to weave in the issues surrounding race and class disparities through some very frustrating, yet oddly likable characters is truly an outstanding accomplishment. I was genuinely moved by this story, and would recommend it best read in a small group/ book club setting. It is the perfect starting point for the hard conversations we, as Christians, need to have about the unjust systems in our society. As an added bonus: Hulu has recently released a miniseries adaptation of this book that was very well done.

Please note, there are some sensitivity warnings with this book (language, drug, and alcohol use, self-harm, depression, gaslighting, and infant loss — both miscarriage and abortion). Proceed with caution before recommending it to anyone younger than 17.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

Anxious People by Frederick Backman

Genre: Fiction
Recommended Age: 17+

Quick Synopsis: When a cast of quirky characters finds themselves in the midst of a hostage situation during a routine apartment tour, anything can go awry. But, over the course of a long day and some unlikely friendships, lessons are learned that will soon prove to be invaluable.

Why You Should Read It: Told with great humor and tender wisdom, “Anxious People” is a heartfelt and entertaining story all the way through. As one of my all-time favorite authors, Frederick Backman is a master storyteller with a gift for creating such quirky, yet deeply human characters and then weaving them into intricate and unique plotlines. What I love most about this book was its honest reflection on humanity. We are all flawed but worthy of love. And, sometimes, it just takes a good “shake-up” of our perceptions to recognize we are all truly not so different from one another.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Recommended Age: 14+

Quick Synopsis: When Ethan Harper is sent to Alabama to live with his aunt and uncle for the summer, he doesn’t quite realize what is in store for him. Having spent most of his life away from the deep south, this 1951 summer for biracial Ethan is unlike any other before. Thankfully, Juniper comes along and soon becomes Ethan’s free-spirited confidant. Together, they take on a summer unlike any other.

Why You Should Read It: I don’t believe that “one size fits all” with stories, as oftentimes, one person’s experience of a story can be the complete opposite of someone else’s. But, this book would be on my required reading list for anyone with a brain and a heart. “The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones” is a tender and warm yet fierce and compelling story about the beauty of friendship and the healing power of joy and compassion. I loved every moment of this one and fell head over heels for Ethan and Juniper’s characters. We could all use a Juniper or two in our lives.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Genre: Middle-Level Fiction
Recommended Age: 12+

Quick Synopsis: The Vanderbeeker Family lives in an old brownstone in the heart of New York City. When the kids of the family find out that their landlord is planning on canceling their lease, they do everything they can to win him over and get their house back.

Why You Should Read It: I really love middle-level novels as they usually touch on hard topics in such a tender and compassionate way. This book is exactly what I love about this genre; it explores tough moments in life with an incredibly sweet and tender-hearted narrative. The Vanderbeekers are a family who truly loves and looks out for one another and accepts each other’s quirks as their own. In a world that consistently devalues the importance of the nuclear family, I’m awed by this story that uplifts and upholds the beauty of the family and the ways in which we are called to love those closest to us.

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

Fable by Adrienne Young

Genre: YA Fantasy Fiction
Recommended Age: 13+

Quick Synopsis: For 17-year-old Fable, a life of adventure and uncertainty is nothing new. She is a gem dredger and lives from trade to trade, not knowing exactly where she will end up next. When she decides she wants to reclaim a spot next to her father — the most powerful trader in the Narrows — it is all she can do to keep from losing herself along the way.

Why You Should Read It: I absolutely love strong feminine characters in literature. Fable is one of the best. She is self-aware, vulnerable, courageous, and confident. And, her story — although told in fictional worlds — is inspiring. On top of it all, the love story that develops throughout this story is incredibly tender. Modern-day YA fiction doesn’t often leave room for mystery with romances, and it can be difficult to find (and recommend) a book that shows the sweet nuances of a blossoming relationship, Fable does, and I can’t recommend it enough!

Link to Goodreads Synopsis and Reviews.

Weird Catholic Things by Life Teen

Genre: Church History
Recommended Age: 13+

Quick Synopsis: The Catholic faith is beautiful. From the magnificent cathedrals to the elaborate celebrations, the many prayer devotions to the lives of the saints, the Church is full of sensible traditions. But there is another realm of the Church that is, well, kind of weird. “Weird Catholic Things” offers insight into elements of the faith that may seem less than logical. From throat blessings to exorcisms, relics to Marian apparitions, this book dives deep into all of the weird Catholic things.

Why You Should Read It: This book is informational in a fun way! It offers an interactive approach to weird Catholic things. Hence, it is great for individual or group use and can be used as a conversation starter for a small group gathering or a gift for a teen who desires an explanation for everything.

Link to Synopsis and Life Teen Store.

The Consecration to St. Joseph by Fr. Don Calloway

Genre: Devotional
Recommended Age: 15+

Quick Synopsis: Rooted in the consecration preparation method created by St. Louis de Montfort, “The Consecration to St. Joseph” is a “do it yourself” retreat with the ultimate goal of entrusting yourself to the paternal care and intercession of St. Joseph.

Why You Should Read It: As it is the Year of St. Joseph in the Church, it is a perfect opportunity to learn more about St. Joseph and the specific ways we can grow in our understanding of him and his fatherhood. This consecration is truly unique and richly compiled. You can choose to make a consecration at the end or simply use it as an opportunity to learn more about St. Joseph. Either way, it is 33 days of getting to know the earthly father of Jesus — one of our greatest intercessors in heaven — a little better.

Link to Synopsis and Endorsements.

If none of these recommendations satisfy your reading desires, here are a few more lists to pull from.
10 Summer Must Reads
The 10 Books You Should Read Before Heading Back to School

Either way, with whatever summer literature you end up choosing, happy reading!

** CITATION: Chiles, Andy. “Reading Can Help Reduce Stress, According to University of Sussex Research.” The Argus, The Argus, 30 Mar. 2009, www.theargus.co.uk/news/4245076.reading-can-help-reduce-stress-according-to-university-of-sussex-research/.


Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

About the Author

Rachel Penate

I am a Wisconsin girl at heart who has a slight obsession with the band Switchfoot. When I was little I dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but instead found myself studying Education. Currently I reside in the great, yet terribly hot state of Arizona and am neither a figure skater or teacher - I joyfully serve the Church as Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Life Teen. When I'm not typing away at my desk, I'm spending time with my family, working out, or relaxing with my nose buried in a book.

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