I love summer. I love the feeling of warm – yes, even humid – air on my skin. I love the sounds of summer – crickets and cicadas and all the surprising creatures in my neighborhood that call to each other in the evening. And most of all I love summer reading. Iced tea and a hammock are the necessary accompaniments, and far from being a guilty pleasure, summer reading is one of the simple gifts of summer. So enjoy it while you can.
Here are two recommendations for your summer reading list, and ones that come from genres I would usually not consider. One, a mystery, is William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace. As the title implies, ordinary lives in an ordinary time and place trying to deal with an extraordinary set of circumstances, as any of us might be called to do. I especially appreciated that every single character was fully drawn in a way that allowed us to know the good and bad in each. An unexpected ending (but perfect, in my estimation) lets us see even the killer through compassionate eyes. Like all of life, there really aren’t any clear lines of black and white. Ordinary life can be complicated.
My second recommendation is The Humans by Matt Haig. Clad in a science fiction exterior – something I would never normally look at twice – it is a novel that probes what it means to be human through the eyes of an alien. And it is ordinary things that become the strongest pull on the alien narrator. Peanut butter sandwiches and friendship and poetry. He came to earth seeing only flaws and fallacies and remained because he realized no amount of rational thought could replace the beauty of love. As with Ordinary Grace, ordinary life is messy, scary, precious and wonderful all at the same time.
There is a hymn being sung at St. Alban’s this Sunday, #9 in The Hymnal 1982. The text marvels at the wonders of “the common things of earth… the purple pageantry of dawning and of dying days, the royal robes of autumn moors, the golden gates of spring, the velvet of soft summer nights, “ and then suggests that because of these many ordinary gifts, we are now called “to give and give and give again, what God hath given thee; to spend thyself nor count the cost; to serve right gloriously the God who gave all worlds that are, and all that are to be.”
See where the ordinary pleasure of summer reading might lead!