The pleasures and adventures of summer reading (5 books I recommend to you)

This is what I've done so far this summer:

  • Lived through tragedy and thwarted love
  • Discovered (again) that sticking with difficult things is often very rewarding
  • Grappled with ethical, religious and legal issues with a high court judge
  • Embarked on a quest for freedom and women's rights
  • Learnt how to deal with rejection in a more constructive way
  • Journeyed through drug addiction, divorce, miscarriage and healing

And I've done all this while sitting in a deckchair in the sun. Or snuggled under a duvet. Or reclined on a well-upholstered sofa.

Well, I say that it was me. Actually, only one of those things was really me. The others I experienced through the pleasure and adventure of summer reading.

I've been taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge that I created for you, my lovely reader. And, I wanted to share where this challenge had taken me so far.

Want to know how you can go on these adventures too? Keep reading…

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk KiddI've always loved historical fiction, and books about times gone by. I love being swept up in the lives and times of people totally different to myself.

This is the story of Sarah Grimke, a daughter of a plantation owner who lived in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1800s and her slave, Handful (or Hetty).

From a very young age Sarah knew in the very centre of her being that slavery was wrong. She did what she could to fight against it, trying to set Handful free when she was presented to Sarah as an eleventh birthday gift. However, she was stuck in a society based on slavery and was punished for her progressive ideas.

Sarah also loved to learn but she was banned from her father's library and encouraged to find a husband who she could build a family with. This didn't come off.

The book goes on to describe how Sarah broke free of her family and her home town to become one of America's first leading abolitionists and proponent of women's rights.

It's a true story.

This book will haunt your imagination and your dreams. It also makes you ask many more questions than it answers. I spent the whole novel asking myself how people could be so cruel to other people, and how they could relegate a whole race to a lower tier of humanity. I just couldn't get my head around it. However, in the interview with the author at the end she asks:

“Maybe the real question is what evil hides in plain sight today?”

It's an excellent question and one we should all keep in mind as we watch the news and go about our daily lives.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's a compelling read and an incredible true story.

Order The Invention of Wings today from Amazon.co.uk.

Can't wait to get stuck into The Invention of Wings by @SueMonkKidd. Thanks for the recommendation @LucyCParsons Click To Tweet

Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas HardyI must admit that this one was a struggle. I've read Hardy before. I studied his poetry for my A-Level English and have read Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, all of which I enjoyed. However, it was really hard for me to get into this one.

What was so difficult about it?

The language was so old-fashioned and the vocabulary was really flowery. The sentences were long and there was a lot of description.

Also, I always read in bed at night and I was reading this before the school summer holidays so the ONLY time I got to read was just before going to sleep.

These things added together meant that I read only about 70 pages in over a week. I was worried about this slow rate of reading – I was never going to finish the summer reading challenge if I read at this pace.

I was on the verge of giving up. However, one Saturday I decided to sit down for half an hour in the day time and have a really concerted attempt at getting into the book. This did the trick and from then onwards I began to enjoy it.

Tragedy and thwarted love

The story is that of Bathsheba Everdene and the men who wish to marry her. It is set in the English countryside in the late 1800s with farming as the backdrop to all the action.

The first suitor we meet is Gabriel Oak. He has just set up as sheep farmer and he and Bathsheba are on a fairly equal footing. He sees her one day and quickly falls for her and not long afterwards he proposes. She refuses.

Bathsheba then inherits a farm while Gabriel's luck turns sour – he loses his entire flock of sheep when they are chased into a pit by a dog. His farming ambitions end.

Somehow he ends up working as a shepherd, for Bathsheba, on her new farm. He knows that he will never be her equal but can't give up his love for her.

The second suitor is Farmer Boldwood. He's a confirmed batchelor who farms next door to Bathsheba. He had never before thought of marriage until Bathsheba sent him a valentine as a joke. From that day on he becomes violently infatuated with her. She doesn't love him and regrets the valentine and despite her refusals he continues to try to persuade her to marry him.

The final suitor is Sergeant Troy. He's a dashing solider who quickly wins Bathsheba's heart.

You'll have to read the book to see if they get to live happily ever after – I'll just tell you this. The path of love never did run smooth….

Should I read it?

That depends. I'm really pleased that I persevered and showed myself that often it is worth carrying on with difficult things.

It's a classic so if you're thinking of reading English Literature at University or just want to be a well rounded person then I'd read it. However, if you struggle with fancy old-fashioned language I'd advise you to find a less difficult pre-1900 classic instead.

Order Far From the Madding Crowd today from Amazon.

I'm going to read Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd. Thanks for the recommendation @LucyCParsons Click To Tweet

The Children Act – Ian McEwan

The Children Act, Ian McEwanOne of the things I love most about reading is being taken right inside the mind of a type of person who you'd never usually meet, let alone get to know intimately.

In The Children Act you are taken into the mind of Fiona Maye, a high-court judge in the family division, as she struggles with a marriage in trouble and makes important decisions about other people's lives.

Life or death?

The chief case that features in the book is that of Adam. He's a seventeen year old Jehovah's witness who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. His religion dictates that he can't be given a blood transfusion, a vital part of the treatment for leukaemia. Adam and his parents are refusing treatment so the hospital urgently takes the case to court where Fiona has to decide whether to make the boy have treatment, against his religious wishes, or let him die.

Should I read it?

Yes. This book is so intricately observed. It takes you to the point where the law, religion and ethics collide. It's a particularly good book if you want to study law or enter the legal profession as it sheds so much light on the human beings involved in all legal cases. It's also quite short and relatively easy to read (unlike the Hardy) so it's a good one to get read quickly.

Buy The Children Act today.

The Children Act (published by @JonathanCape) sounds fascinating. Thanks for the recommendation @LucyCParsons Click To Tweet

Yoga For Life – Colleen Saidman Yee

Yoga For Life, Colleen Saidman YeeI first heard about this book from Marie Forleo. It was then recommended to me by another friend, Anne Page.

I have been practicing yoga on and off for nearly ten years now. The amazing stories that Colleen told in her interview with Marie, coupled with my drive to improve my physical fitness this year made me buy this book.

I devoured it.

I read it while on holiday in a French caravan and it took me less than four days to read.

The book is split into themed sections through which Colleen tells her life story. She shares her drug addiction, the highs and lows of her modelling career, her time spent working with Mother Theresa in Calcutta, her divorces, miscarriage, childbirth and bereavement. She has lived an extraordinary life and it is a privilege to be able to learn from it. After each section there is a yoga sequence, illustrated with photographs. I have tried the ones called ‘Roots' and ‘Confidence' and loved both.

This is an inspiring and uplifting book that any girl, woman or man should read (even if they're not interested in yoga).

Order your copy of Yoga for Life today.

I'm going to read #YogaForLife by @ColleenSaidman. Thanks for the recommendation @LucyCParsons #summerreadingchallenge Click To Tweet

Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible – Jia Jiang

Rejection Proof, Jia JiangEver since I started blogging a fear of rejection has hampered me.

I love doing the writing and interacting with you, my reader. But, there's lots of advice out there about how to grow your blog and it's all about networking, guest posting on other blogs and emailing people out of the blue to tell them about your blog posts.

This is all stuff I find myself virtually unable to do because of fear of rejection. I have done it once or twice and people are either genuinely nice (I even met up with Sarah Newton) or just ignore you. But, the fear paralyses me from taking action on almost a daily basis.

Then, I was listening to Chalene Johnson's podcast ‘Build Your Tribe' when I heard about this guy, Jia Jiang, and his 100 days of rejection project. He had conquered his fear of rejection by purposefully trying to get rejected for outlandish requests every day for 100 days.

I was intrigued but also puzzled by this idea.

I did a quick google search and found the blog where he shared his rejection attempts. I also discovered he had written a book about the project. I bought the book.

From a silly stunt to a deep and meaningful exploration

To be honest, I thought the whole idea sounded like a bit of a silly stunt. I was also doubtful about how his experiences could help me with my own fear of rejection. But, a few pages into the book I realised that Jia Jiang had reflected deeply on his rejection experiences and broken down what he had learned into lessons that are easy for everyone to learn from.

Each chapter ends with a summary of the key lessons Jia learned through his rejection journey, explained in a way that is helpful and actionable to everyone.

This quote really resonated with me:

“In the end, what we really need is not acceptance from others but acceptance from ourselves. In fact, being comfortable with who we are should be a prerequisite – not the results – of seeking others' approval. We should all have the knowledge that who we are is good enough to get a yes from ourselves.”

Again, I'd highly recommend you read this book. Particularly if you're at a time in your life when you're applying for jobs and university. I hope you get the things you apply for, but if you don't, this book will give you a way to face rejection constructively. It might also give you the courage to stretch your goals a bit and apply for things you thought were beyond you.

Order your copy of Rejection Proof today.

I'm going to beat #rejection with the help of @JiaJiang. Thanks for recommending the book @LucyCParsons. #summerreadingchallenge Click To Tweet

Reflections on The Summer Reading Challenge

I've read more widely this summer than I probably would have done if I hadn't created the Summer Reading Challenge. I certainly wouldn't have read Far From the Madding Crowd and I probably wouldn't have read Rejection Proof. 

I've also been more determined and focused in my reading. I was so tempted to give up Far From the Madding Crowd but felt that I couldn't because it would set a bad example. I proved to myself (again) that difficult things are worth doing – so it's worth persevering.

I still have one book to read in the Summer Reading Challenge. I need to read a book that will further my passion or my goals. I still haven't picked one out, but if you follow me on instagram (@lifemoreextraordinary) you'll get to hear what I chose…

What have you been reading?

Now I've shared with you my progress with the Summer Reading Challenge I'd love to hear what you've been reading this summer.

Leave a comment below telling me about about the best book you've read this summer and why you'd recommend it. Or, share with me how The Summer Reading Challenge has changed the way you read this summer.

And, don't forget to share these summer reading recommendations with your friends.

The links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and buy the book I will get a small amount of money. 

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