8 Books for Summer Reading
Written by
Lauren Wise
October 2017
Written by
Lauren Wise
October 2017

Not a Poster Child by Francine Falk-Allen

Polio is back in the news. Almost forgotten for decades in the US, it has been brought back into the spotlight by the anti-vaxxer movement―but for millions around the world, especially those who have residual or late effects of polio, this virus has never been old news.

Francine Falk-Allen was only three years old when she contracted polio and nearly temporarily lost the ability to stand and walk. Here, she tells the story of how a toddler learned grown-up lessons too soon; a schoolgirl tried her best to be a “normie,” on into young adulthood; and a woman finally found her balance, physically and spiritually. In lucid, dryly humorous prose, she also explores how her disability has affected her choices in living a fulfilling (and amusing) life in every area―relationships, career, religion (or not), athleticism, artistic expression, and aging, to name a few. A clear-eyed examination of living with a handicap, Not a Poster Child is one woman’s story of finding her way to a balanced life―one with a little snarkiness and a lot of joy.

Beyond Jesus by Patricia A. Pearce

Enlightening, revelatory, and bold, Beyond Jesus is a compelling account of a remarkable spiritual journey. In the crucible of grief following a friend’s death, Presbyterian pastor Patricia Pearce resolved to discover a dimension of existence she sensed was present beneath her ordinary perception. She soon found herself in a vortex of revelatory dreams, synchronicities, energy openings, and insights that shattered her worldview, exposed a unified Reality of Love, and unveiled the illusory nature of the ego and the world it has created―and, faced with these discoveries, she struggled to remain in a religion that she now realized had been shaped by the very ego consciousness Jesus had transcended and urged others to abandon.

Tracing Pearce’s spiritual journey―including her experiences with the Quichua Indians in the Andes of Ecuador, where she worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer; her time at the federal prison, where she served time for nonviolent civil disobedience; and her eventual departure from the ministry―Beyond Jesus reveals how our political and religious institutions are an outward manifestation of the inner beliefs we hold about who we are, and that beneath the layers of dogma about Jesus lies a key to our spiritual evolution and the astonishing possibility it holds for the future.

Montana Rhapsody by Susanna Solomon

Laura Fisher, pole dancer extraordinaire, has just moved to Great Falls, Montana to start over. When she takes to the stage for the very first time, she has no idea that her evening will end with her fighting off three men intent on taking her virtue, taking a leap out of a second story window, and a wild ride in a convertible to the small town of Fort Benton. The next day, with the thugs still chasing her, Laura embarks on a three-day canoe camping trip with E.B., a man she’s just met―despite the fact that she doesn’t even know how to swim.

Out on the river, Laura encounters swarms of mosquitoes, a broken and leaking canoe, hail the size of golf balls, and an evil man named Tucker Claymore. Meanwhile, E.B. ,a broken-hearted farmer, becomes sick and is chased by a granny with a gun, among other misadventures. Along the way, Laura and E.B. meet a number of characters, including Campbell Carr, a businessman from New York who is on the river to mend fences with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Francine―a girl who knows better than to believe anything Dad says―and Daisy, Campbell’s mistress, whom he has also invited and plans to introduce to his daughter.

Montana Rhapsody is a romp through the wilderness with these five disparate characters, all of whom want something―and all of whom are challenged in ways they never expected by their time on the river.

Artist Portrait Project by Jennifer G. Spencer

After five years’ absence from San Diego’s art community, Jennifer G. Spencer returned and began to photograph the artists she became acquainted with during her thirteen-year stint as an executive director of a visual arts organization―a project that became a ten-year journey. In The Artist Portrait Project, Spencer reveals the results of her adventure in portraiture after her retirement, and shares how this endeavor enlightened and shaped her opinion of these fifty artists and her art community. Engaging and visually stunning, The Artist Portrait Project is a book about self-discovery and the persistence of the creative spirit.

The Business of Being by Laurie Buchanan, PhD

This book isn’t just about being in business; it’s about the business of being. But when you stop to think about it, each of us is like a small business. Successful business owners implement strategies that improve their prospects for success. Similarly, as human beings, it serves us well to implement guiding principles that inspire us to live our purpose and reach our goals.

The rich ganache filling that flows through the center of this book is the story of La Mandarine Bleue, a delicious depiction of how nine individuals used twelve steps of a business plan to find their vocation and undergo a transformation (with some French recipes thrown in for good measure).

From a business plan and metrics to mission and goals with everything between―investors, clients and customers, marketing strategies, and goodwill development―this book clearly maps how to create personal transformation at the intersection of business and spirituality. Merging the language of business and self-help, The Business of Being will teach you how to enhance “profitability”―body, mind, and spirit.

Awaken by Denese Shelton

Sierra is a successful real estate agent living a comfortable life. But she has a secret so painful that she has erected emotional walls around her heart that block anyone from getting close.

Then the dreams begin. In one, Sierra is running from the sound of dogs barking and men chasing her in the darkness; in another, she’s in a field, lashes coming down on her back; in many, she is a woman of faith named Dorothy, fighting for civil rights. Sierra tries to ignore the dreams and continue with life as usual―but the more she disregards them , the longer and deeper she sleeps, and soon the long nights begin to affect her work and sanity. Finally, she seeks the help she needs.

The more she works to understand the nature of and reason for her dreams, the more freedom Sierra feels in her own life. Doors to relationships with other people open. She meets a client that could be the love of her life. And soon, she has a decision to make: she can be who she has always been, living in fear; or she can be Dorothy, allow the dreams to show her who she really is, reconnect with God, and fill the void in her spirit.

Winter's Graces by Susan Avery Stewart, PhD

Filled with unexpected good news about growing older, Winter’s Graces highlights eleven qualities that ripen with age―including audacious authenticity, creative ingenuity, necessary fierceness, self-transcending generosity, and a growing capacity to savor life and to ride its ups and downs with humor and grace.

Decades of research have established that the catastrophic conditions often associated with late life, such as severe dementia and debilitating frailty, are the exception, not the rule. Still, the mistaken idea that aging equals devastating decline persists, causing enormous and unnecessary suffering, especially for women. Drawing on decades of experience as a psychology professor and psychotherapist, Susan Stewart, PhD, weaves together inspiring folk stories that illustrate the graces of winter and recent research that validates them, along with a wealth of user-friendly tools and practices for amplifying these graces and bringing them to life. Written primarily for female baby boomers seeking good news about growing older, Winter’s Graces offers adults of all ages a compelling vision of aging that celebrates its many gifts, acknowledges its challenges, and reveals how the last season of life can be the most fulfilling of all.

Hoosier Hysteria by Meri Henriqus Vahl

Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm is brewing.

An intriguing cast of characters inhabits Meri’s new and often troubled world: Katherine “Pixie” Gates, Meri’s charming and quirky roommate; Rose, brilliant and sarcastic fellow New Yorker; Daniel, a tough radical with a tender heart; folk singer Derek Stone, Meri’s heartthrob crush; and Shennandoah Waters, a white coed who only dates black men or exotic foreigners, much to her ultra-conservative parents’ horror.

Over the course of Meri’s first year at college, tragedy strikes twice: John Kennedy is assassinated, and a young, black IU basketball player is castrated and thrown into a ditch―murdered for dating a white coed. And finally, that year’s commencement ceremonies bring an infamous symbol of white supremacy to campus, endangering anyone who dared to protest―thrusting Meri into the middle of violent and escalating racial tensions. Vivid and compelling, Hoosier Hysteria is a timely story of prejudice and political unrest that, today more than ever before, must be told.

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