According to every blog, podcast, vlog… summer is THE SEASON for recommendations. Not themed recommendations, like Christmas or Easter, but just general recommendations. For some reason, probably the longer days, we feel like there is more time to indulge in slow activities. Suddenly there is time for reading those books you’ve been piling up; listening to the podcasts that have been waiting for you; and having spontaneous dance parties.
Because all three of those activities are highly, highly, highly recommended at Finding Chaya, obviously I wanted to jump on this band wagon. (And let’s not lie, it’s a nice, easy, fun blog post to write.) My sister, Steph, and one of my closest friends, Annabel, have also volunteered a few of their top listening and reading recommendations, from new musicals to listen to through to dealing with hefty issues through YA fiction.
- Blessed Be Your Name by Beth and Matt Redman – some books stay with you forever. This is one of them. My only warning is that this book will completely turn around how you see a song many people think is overplayed/overdone. It might take all of summer to fully digest it.
- A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester – If you love food and/or hospitality, this is the book for you. Once again, a book that opens up life in a way that I had not considered it before. In a society dominated by lifestyle diets and coffee shop dates, it is an invitation to rediscover what food and hospitality were meant for. (In my opinion, I would either read just Blessed Be Your Name or A Meal with Jesus. Both deserve your full attention and time to fully absorb everything in it, including how it applies to your life.)
- Friends Food Family by Sasha Wilkins– Sasha Wilkins writes some of the best recipes. If I was the kind of person who hosted summer gatherings (I don’t do parties – too much effort 🤷🏻♀️), or had the space, 75% of the food would come from this book. Sasha clearly loves summer and so many of her recipes are made for hot, sunny days.
- Old Fashioned by Rene Gutteridge and Rik Swartzwelder – this one is a great, great, great choice is you are after some light romance or a love story this summer. However, it definitely isn’t your usual love story as this one deals with some hefty topics around relationships between men and women, and about where God fits into the picture. Whatever your “love life” looks like, this will make you laugh, tear up, and ultimately learn a lot about real, Biblical love.
- Oswald: Return of a King by Edoardo Albert – Typically, I went and bought the second in a series! (Going to be looking for number 1 t at the Keswick Convention this year) If you like historical fiction, this is definitely a good summer choice. It’s gripping without being a hard read. My favourite bit was the inclusion of Aidan and his relationship with Oswald. A fantastic way to introduce heroes of the British Church, who we aren’t always aware of.
- Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – This is Steph’s favourite book for every season, which she recommends to everyone. It’s a story about how race divides a nation but the “races” are reversed. So whites/noughts are the “lower race” while blacks/crosses occupy the privileged positions. It’s a really interesting story as it questions a lot of prejudices that are in our society now and makes you realise how damaging it can be. So 100% would recommend noughts and crosses.
- Watership Down by Richard Adams – According to Annabel, “This is not just a book about bunny rabbits. It’s a book of adventure, about overcoming dangers and learning to adapt. It teaches so much about the different strength and merits of individuals, showing the need for humour, for strength, for cunning, for speed, and how each and every one is important in many different ways. It is also an incredible insight into the stunning natural world on our doorstep, set in the glorious British summertime.”
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Annabel’s second recommendation is for anyone who loves fantasy but doesn’t want to get deep into whole series when on holiday. She tore through this stand-alone novel in a few days while camping in the Lake District, and hasn’t stopped recommending it since. The setting is vivid, the characters compelling, the magic system and plot intriguing and the folklore woven in is pure and utter magic.
- The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – If you do want to get stuck into an entire series this summer, this sci-fi fairytale retelling is a joy to read. Cinder and Cress (Cinderella and Rapunzel) are Annabel’s favourites. The series is fantastic at showing the different strengths of each character, from cyber savvy spies to defiant engineers.
- Hollyn – This music is infectious. I can’t get enough of Love With Your Life and Hola is just addictive. I swear this is what summer sounds like, especially accompanied with a barbecue and an ice cold drink.
- Ellie Holcomb – Basically any of her songs. If you are feeling unloved or down, listen to You Are Loved. Questioning what is going on in your life – He Will. Just want something to encourage you and lift your spirits while chilling? Just pick one of her songs.
- Ellie Goulding, Still Falling For You – Yes, I know it’s a specific song and a few years old but it’s so good. Yes, this song makes me well up but it’s just too good. Equal parts makes you want to sing and sway/dance AND just sit back taking in the music, probably with a glass of something cold in your hand.
- The Princess and the Frog Soundtrack – We all love a bit of Disney but the Louisiana vibe from this soundtrack is perfect for summer. When I’m Human will have you on your feet dancing AND singing while Ma Belle Evangeline will have you and your mates swaying with your arms round each others shoulders.
- Descendants 1 and 2 Soundtracks – Don’t judge me but I do love these two Disney Channel Original Movies. Maybe it’s the redemption storyline… more likely it is the catchy songs that are strung together with a semi-believable storyline. If you want to liven up a road trip, putting on Did I Mention is a sure way to have anyone joining in. For those in the throes of a summer romance, If Only or You and Me will pour your feelings into Disney-magic. And for getting rid of excess energy, a random kitchen dance party to It’s Going Down is just the ticket!
- Jonas Brothers, Sucker – Steph’s first pick is an unexpected crowd pleaser. Apparently, it’s the perfect song for putting you in a chilled out summer mood due to it’s upbeat tempo without losing the nice and chilled vibe.
- Demi Lovato, Sober – Steph loves this song cos of how different it is and how honest Demi is being about her battle with addiction; it’s a really raw honest song about truths.
- Little Mix, Woman Like Me – According to Steph, this is “just such a sassy number that leaves any woman feeling empowered and ready to take on the world.”
- The Legally Blonde Soundtrack – Steph is in the midst of choreographing for a local production of Legally Blonde: the Musical so she’s a little obsessed with this soundtrack right now. She says “It’s such a fun upbeat soundtrack and has something for everyone on it and it even has a song called Positive so it can’t help but put you in a good mood.”
- Christina Perri, Head or Heart – Annabel described this album with one word, “Fantastic”.
- One Republic, Native – Annabel’s second recommendation for summer. It’s perfect for summer runs, particularly if you’re going off road.
- David Tennant does a podcast with… (especially the episodes with Whoopi Goldberg or Catherine Tate) – So the language isn’t always the greatest on these (read: a little swearing) but for the most part they are a really entertaining listen. I learnt a lot about diversity in sci-fi and how it motivated Whoopi Goldberg to keep knocking on doors until she got a specific role. Catherine Tate talking to David Tennant is just hilarious and so British. If you need a good laugh and/or something to provoke you to think differently, this is the ideal podcast.
- The Bible Binge – This is the road trip podcast to listen to! It really is ideal for binging though you might find yourself pausing it to discuss it if you’re travelling with a friend. Knox and Jamie do a great job at using pop culture to help explain the Bible, casting contemporary actors as key characters and being honest as they discuss the stories. The recent series on Shady Ladies of the Bible definitely made me think differently about Jezebel.
- Flower Mound Women’s Bible Study – Jen Wilkins is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to creating great Bible studies. If you’re on holiday and don’t want to take all your quiet time supplies with you (because it is never just a Bible), try this podcast series. Jen takes a book of the Bible and literally goes through it line by line to see what it says AND how it applies to life for women today. This means she doesn’t miss out the awkward bits or ones that make us go all squirly inside. One episode/study session will give you thoughts to chew on throughout the day.
Now it’s your turn. What are your top summer recommendations? Let me know what you would have included on your list in the comments below.