Summer Reading List

What’s in your to-be-read (TBR) pile? Mine is teetering way past the point of reason, and has overflowed onto a small bookshelf beside my chair, plus a few piles on the floor, to say nothing of those waiting in my Kindle. Time is rushing on, so I’m guessing that I won’t be able to finish all 200+ books before the end of summer. However, I thought I’d pause and offer a few of my old favorites for your summer reading pleasure.

In keeping with the idea of making summer different and special for your whole family (see Why You (Probably) Need a Summer Break), my reading suggestions focus on books for life, rather than just for homeschooling. We are not one-dimensional creatures, so it’s important to feed soul and spirit as well as the mind. Widening your reading circle is one way to become a more interesting teacher, and if you include a variety of resources, you’re likely to also become a better thinker and writer. Plus, if you have some of these interesting books in your home, they will be ready for your students when the time is right.

This is an eclectic collection; your love list may vary. When possible I’ve linked to the exact edition I own (affiliate links, of course — see footer for complete disclosure), but some of these are out of print and best found through libraries and used bookstores. I have deliberately not included the literary classics, because I think you all know that I believe them to be necessary. You can see the classics I recommend at the Everyday Education site.

For a closer walk with the Lord

Huffington Post’s list of “Spiritual Classics: 25 Books Every Christian Should Read” includes several from my favorites shelf, and others I haven’t read. The list is in my least-favorite format — a slide show that reveals one book at a time, but the list is decent, so that partially makes up for the annoying format. If you’ve not read any of the books on this list, you may want to start with these:

  • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis: One of my all-time favorites
  • Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence: This brief, beautiful book was written by a monk in the 16th century, but its pages overflow with a gentle love for God that can inspire Christians today.
  • I’m reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis right now. Its brief segments, often a half-page or less, make it usable as a daily reading, and most of the advice so far is thought-provoking and applicable to any member of the Christian family.

Home, garden, and more

Tasha Tudor’s Garden is my favorite garden book. It offers a beautifully photographed journey through the artist’s year.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture is a classic guide to planning a holistic permaculture landscape. Even if you can’t implement much of it, it’s a fascinating read.

The photographs and floor plans in Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home by Sarah Susanka inspire me to think differently about the spaces in our home, and to consider how I might design a small home for retirement.

Have you heard about the tiny house movement? The Tiny House Design & Construction Guide offers detailed instructions for how to build your own fully functional home in an unbelievably small number of square feet.

The Straw Bale House by Athena Swentzell Steen: Although I will probably never have a straw bale house, I enjoy thinking outside the box. I like this book so well that when my original copy went missing, I actually bought another.

Diana Phipps’s Affordable Splendor: An Ingenious Guide to Decorating Elegantly, Inexpensively, and Doing Most of It Yourself by Diana Phipps: It’s not entirely the fault of this book that I decorate on the fly, but it was definitely influential. It’s of of the two on this page that I don’t own, and I am always on the lookout for a used copy.

Sisters on the Fly: Caravans, Campfires, and Tales from the Road by Irene Rawlings: I’ve always loved old trailers–my grandfather had one he used for a study spot, and sometimes when I had sleepovers, he’d let us stay in it. Needless to say, I’d love to have one now!

Making things

Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Color for Needlepoint & Knitting by Kaffe Fassett: I love this colorful feast for the eyes. Most of Fassett’s other books are similarly inspiring.

Visual Dance: Creating Spectacular Quilts by Joen Wolfram: If you need to learn more about color theory and quilt designing, you’re likely to enjoy this book.

Kaleidoscopes and Quilts by Paula Nadelstern

Fabled Flowers: Innovative Quilt Patterns Inspired by Japanese Sashiko and Origami Traditions

Amazing Crochet Lace: New Fashions Inspired by Old-Fashioned Lace by Doris Chan

Crochet That Fits: Shaped Fashions Without Increases or Decreases by Mary Jane Hall

Adorable Crochet for Babies and Toddlers: 22 Projects to Make for Babies from Birth to Two Years by Leslie Stanfield

Knitting in America: Patterns, Profiles, & Stories of America’s Leading Artisans by Melanie Falick: I found this book at the library and enjoyed reading it before I ever learned to knit. I still enjoy browsing it for inspiration.

Written Letters: 33 Alphabets for Calligraphers by Jacquline Svarin: This entirely handwritten book features many beautiful alphabets, along with the history of each hand.

Using Calligraphy: A Workbook of Alphabets, Projects, and Techniques by Margaret Shepherd: I referred to this practical guide many times as I was beginning my calligraphy business.

How to Make Books: Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book by Esther K. Smith: This book is packed with delightful ideas for creating books. From an eight-page book made from one sheet of paper, to highly-detailed multi-part books, it can spark an entirely new hobby.



The Diet by Jehan Georges Vibert, late 19th century

The Diet by Jehan Georges Vibert, late 19th century

A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider: It’s not quite a modern Joy of Cooking (another favorite), but it’s a splendid reference for learning how to cook and eat well.

The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: I love good, crusty bread, but could never justify the time it took to make it. Nor could I justify paying $5 a loaf at Whole Foods, when I knew the ingredients were super-cheap. This book changed everything, though. In literally five foolproof, hands-on minutes at a time, we can have fresh, delicious bread anytime we want it. No kneading, no fussing. This is a wonderful resource!

The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey: I was already eating healthily when I found this book, but The Happiness Diet explains the science behind how food can help you look and feel better.

Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross: I like to cook, but sometimes I’d rather spend my time another way. This cookbook was a faithful companion when I had a collection of teen boys still at home.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan: This was another book I listened to and then purchased. Pollan’s journey of discovery is more than just an interesting story; it’s an answer to the question of what has happened

The Supper of the Lamb A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon: This classic offers a few good recipes tucked into a narrative on the meaning of cooking, love, and life. It’s definitely more than just a cookbook.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin: A quiet, sweet book that reflects on cooking as an act of love, among other things. There’s an equally good sequel, More Home Cooking.

Interesting biographies and memoirs

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell: A fascinating look at an incredible family during WWII. One of my all-time favorite modern biographies.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas: Another biography of a compelling WWII figure.

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living by Helen and Scott Nearing: The fascinating story of a couple who decided to live simply

Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour: The popular writer of western novels tells the story of his own patchwork, world-wide education. It was one of the first glimpses I had of a lifestyle of learning in action.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Old fiction favorites (just a few; you may enjoy other books by these authors as well)

G. K. Chesterton: The Father Brown Mysteries

E. Phillips Oppenheim: The Great Impersonation; The Fortunate Wayfarer; Ask Miss Mott

Mary Roberts Rinehart: Any of her mysteries; Bab, A Sub-Deb; Tish

Gene Stratton Porter: Laddie; Freckles; A Girl of the Limberlost

Eleanor H. Porter: Miss Billy; Just David

Thinking outside the box

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford. This book was recommended to me by several people, and I finally purchased the Kindle version. About halfway through, I bought the paper version for myself, and one for one of our boys. It’s profoundly thought-provoking.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin: I listened to this on a long car trip, then bought the paper book to share with family. Salatin is wise, opinionated, and funny.

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century is a classic that is likely to change the way you look at money forever.

Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas . . . (really long subtitle) by Rod Dreher: If you don’t fit neatly into a single political party, you might be a crunchy con. Or you may just find them infuriating. Whichever it is, this book has seen more than one reading in our home.

Every man should periodically be compelled to listen to opinions which are infuriating to him.
To hear nothing but what is pleasing to one is to make a pillow of the mind.

–St. John Ervine

Other reading lists:

Books Boys Like: To help your boys read 1000 good books before they tackle the 100 great books (John Senior’s suggestion in The Death of Christian Culture), here is a list of boy favorites. This list was begun by a friend, and we just keep adding to it. We welcome your submissions to both this list and the next one.

Historical Fiction for Young Readers: Organized by historical period, this list might serve as a jumping-off point for history studies.

My collection of reading lists on

Now that the dog days of summer are upon us, there are few things more delightful than settling down with a tall glass of fresh lemonade and a great book. I hope you’ll find some new favorites in one of these lists!

3 Responses

  1. SarahD says:

    Freddy books by Walter R. Brooks

    This non-twaddle series hooked my reluctant reader, a 9 year old boy, on reading. It helped increase his fluency while adding a little hilarity to his life. 🙂

  2. SarahD says:

    I meant for the Freddy suggestion to be added to the books boys love list if you would like. Sorry, didn’t clarify that.

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