Beach Reads for When the Collar Comes Off

Post Author: YCWI Board Members

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere! For many of us, that means we can look forward to some vacation time in the next few months (in between Vacation Bible School, fall planning, and of course, attending YCWI’s annual conference.) It also means hopefully having a bit more time to read.

We asked the members of YCWI’s board what they enjoy reading in those moments when the collar comes off. Here are some of their recommendations.

Kelly Boubel Shriver: I recently finished reading The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel (best sci-fi/fantasy novel). Jemisin is the first black author, and first woman of color, to win the Hugo for Best Novel, which is both unbelievable (it’s 2017!) and an enormous victory. The Fifth Season is the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy and follows three characters (all women, another rarity for sci-fi) who can control the seismic powers of the earth as they navigate the beginnings of an apocalyptic natural disaster. It’s totally engrossing, beautifully written, and provides prescient commentary on race relations in times of crisis. Pick it up! I promise, even if you’re not normally a sci-fi/fantasy reader, it’s well worth your time.

Also, You’re Doing a Great Job: 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting by Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn would be a great book for the parent of busy, constantly-needing-supervision kiddos at the beach. It’s a totally encouraging, normalizing look at parenting and how we’re all doing a pretty good job at a really hard thing. Each of the 100 ways is broken down into a few paragraphs, so it’s very easy to read in 30-second segments between finding the sand shovel, refereeing the fight over the lemonade juice box, and making sure the toddler doesn’t step on a jellyfish.

Sarah Ross: I’ve been on a bit of a short story kick lately, reading Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and re-reading an old favorite, Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie. Alexie is one of the few authors who can make me laugh out loud and also make me cry, occasionally in the same story. Lahiri’s writing was new to me, but her tales of ordinary people also packed an emotional punch. Both Alexie (a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Native American) and Lahiri (a London-born Indian-American immigrant) have unique and complex views on the American experience, and they find beauty and power in the lives of everyday people.

Sarah Moore: I’m finally reading Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The Hulu drama isn’t available here in the UK, but some of the discussion I’ve seen has inspired me to grab the second-hand paperback I got years ago off the shelf and to start to read. [Update: The Handmaid’s Tale is now available in the U.K. on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings.] Although it’s now over 30 years old, I’m finding it to be a sobering read. It has enough glimpses of modern America in it to be recognizable and consequently terrifying. I would be really interested to hear a Syrian refugee’s perspective on this book.

Molly F. James: American Nations by Colin Woodard is a fascinating look at the history of North America. It posits that we are really 11 nations, which cross current national boundaries. It provided me with a fuller picture of American history and some helpful historical context for our current political situation.

Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu is a look at the challenges of being a working professional and a mom and how to confront the expectations that women should do it all. It is honest and funny. While I am not sure I will adopt all her techniques, it got me thinking creatively about how to do things differently. And I so appreciated knowing I am not the only one.

Jo Kershaw: I’ve recently discovered Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series of detective novels, in which the hero, a free man of color in 1830s New Orleans, gets drawn into solving crimes after bereavement ends his life as a professional musician in France. A fascinating and vividly described depiction of the place and time, along with memorable characters and intriguing plots, makes the novels thoroughly absorbing. They also have lots to say about race, grief, fear, surviving trauma, moral choices, doubt, and faith. A cast of engaging recurring characters from the various communities Ben interacts with help make this a series I look forward to exploring further this summer.

Erica Schemper: I’m reading Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dale Evans. A friend and I pulled together a group of about 12 women our age who are all facing some career decisions in the next few years, and we are reading it together using an online Facebook group. The book is based on a course the authors teach at Stanford focused on applying the principles of design thinking to how we construct our lives and vocations. I am not normally a fan of the self-help genre, and I’m pretty skeptical about Silicon Valley having the answers to life’s problems, but this book is really resonating with me, and I suspect it’s going to be something that truly shapes the direction of my life as I head into my 40s.

Emily M. Brown: I’ve been enjoying things that land somewhere between memoir, essays, and humor recently. Two I’d recommend, both by ranty internet personalities, are Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West and I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi. Lindy West is a noted feminist writer and fat acceptance activist who has written for The Stranger and Jezebel. I particularly commend to readers her incredible essay about the time one of her cruelest trolls contacted her to repent and make amends. Luvvie Ajayi is a Nigerian-American writer who uses her biting wit to challenge us to “do better” on topics ranging from the mundane to the profound.

I’m also finishing up book two of Congressman John Lewis’s March trilogy. It’s a first-hand account of the Civil Rights Movement in graphic novel (i.e. comic book) form. It’s approachable if you’re new to graphic novels or not well-versed in the Civil Rights Movement, but there’s also a lot of artistic and historical depth. And it is a good cultural moment for these books, especially given recent attempts to vilify and discredit Representative Lewis. Don’t miss it.

Diana Carroll: I’ve been a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels for a long time, but the Tiffany Aching sequence he wrote for young adults has really grabbed me this year. Although Pratchett himself was an atheist, his books about Tiffany’s experiences as a young witch in training speak to the realities of pastoral ministry on so many levels. Just as Tiffany discovers that many people only see “the pointy hat” rather than the person wearing it, so I’ve found that I am often viewed very differently (and even not recognized by my own church members!) when my collar comes off. The later books delve more and more into these themes, but for maximum enjoyment, I recommend starting with The Wee Free Men and reading all five in order.

The Board of Young Clergy Women International is made up of 21 fabulous women from a variety of denominations. Board members currently include women living in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. You can learn more about them here.

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