Summer Book Recommendations: Fiction

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As we make the most of this summer, let's turn to two well-read members of SGC and see what they recommend for our by-the-pool reads! Here are Monique and Beki's fiction picks: 

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

The author said she got the idea for Station Eleven while walking down the streets of Toronto. For the briefest moment, all of the lights in the city went out and it was, in a word, eerie. What if? Station Eleven takes you into a world 20 years after a flu pandemic has wiped out civilization as we know it. You will encounter several compelling characters, the central being Kirsten, a member of the Traveling Symphony; a troupe of musicians and actors who perform Shakespeare for settlements of survivors along their journey in the hopes of retaining some sort of humanity. The story shifts between before and after the pandemic, and beautifully weaves together the lives of our characters. And of course, with dystopian fiction, there is an element of danger. This is a book I have read more than once and think about often. (M)

Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen

If you are looking for a light, fun, dare I say heart-warming read, then put this on the list.Yes, it is young adult fiction, and yes it has an upside-down baby chick on the cover, but this is definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” kind of book. The story shifts between the perspectives of our two protagonists, Bryce Loski and Juli Baker. These youths have known each other since Bryce moved in across the street from Juli right before the two begin second grade. The reader will then follow them from elementary school through eighth grade. It’s got it all: tree activism, Basket Boys, and chickens. There’s a surprising amount of depth in this short read and Juli Baker worked her way into becoming one of my all-time favorite characters. There’s also a movie, but do yourself the favor and read the book first! (M)

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is not your ordinary monster story. A young boy, Conor--a target for bullies, finds himself in the midst of dealing with his mother’s debilitating illness and his strained relationship with his grandmother, while also being visited by a monster that lives in his backyard. The monster appears mostly in the evening and tells the boy stories, but in the end, the monster wants a story in return from Conor--and it wants the truth. There are humor and heartache mixed together here. Have some tissues handy. I typically read a lot of e-books because they’re more conducive to my reading life, however, try to get a physical copy because the illustrations in this book are gorgeous. (M)

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

Young Rueben has swampy lungs, but that doesn’t stop him from joining his family on a rescue mission.  I don’t want to spoil one ounce of this multi-layered story, because it unfolds so beautifully. Let me tell you it’s set in mid-century small-town Minnesota. There is a crime. There is a chase (on horseback and in an Air Stream trailer). There are mundane moments of pneumonia and winter farm chores, and there are surreal moments of tornadoes and terrifying bad guys. The thread of Rueben’s inability to breathe deeply stretches through the entire book and when you get to the end, you’ll know why it’s important. Also, Swede, Rueben’s sister, who is obsessed with all things cowboy is the best character of the book. Hands down. (B)

Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler

A modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare, or for those of my generation, a retelling of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. This book made me laugh so hard I shook the whole bed and woke up my sleeping husband. More than once. The protagonist Kate Battista is rough around the edges, but she’s not dumb. When her nutty scientist father tries to set her up with his Russian research assistant just so he can get an extended visa, she is not ok with it. What follows is a hilarious, heart-warming, and fast-paced whirl of witty dialogue and dry humor. Anne Tyler is a master of human insight, but she doesn’t take things too seriously. (B)

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

Set in Texas during the years after the Civil War, News of the World follows 71-year-old Captain Kidd and 10-year-old Johanna on a dangerous journey. This book masterfully walks the line of being both plot driven (where will they go next?) and character-driven (how will they feel when they arrive?) It is action-packed and thoughtful at the same time. The bond that forms between the main characters is unique because Johanna has lived through trauma and abduction and she doesn’t play well with others. The Captain, or “Kep-dun” as Johanna calls him, moves from town to town reading newspaper stories to the rugged, complicated people of Texas. This book stirred my heart. (B)

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Monique Hernandez moved from Missouri five years ago and has been going to Sovereign Grace Church ever since. She works at Bethel University and is working on a master's in Strategic Leadership which should conclude, Lord willing, in December. Outside of scholarly pursuits, she is a member of a rock and roll choir called Kith and Kin Chorus, a foodie, and an avid watcher of films. 

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Beki Eikum joined SGC in 2007. She is passionate about books, music, and group communication. She spends most of her time trying to shepherd her two kids in the way they should go. Or just climbing trees with them.