Chances are you did not witness an elaborate display of fireworks over the Independence Day weekend, but maybe you were able to engage in some sort of celebration, even as we continue to deal with this blasted pandemic.

And as the summer heat sets in and you try to stay cool while also continuing to keep your distance (and when you are not keeping your distance, please, if only to appease those of us in the vulnerable population, wear a mask), I’m happy to provide you with my summer reading list.

Some of these might even be suitable for a beach or dock if you’re lucky enough to make your way to one of those. If not, inside in the air conditioning or outside on your shaded porch with your favorite beverage will be fine, too.

With no further adieu, here are three non-fiction and three fiction recommendations:

  • "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson. Nothing could be more appropriate for this moment in time than this first-person account of a young Black Harvard-educated lawyer who moved to Alabama in the 1980s and took on an often biased and discriminatory judicial system. If you saw the movie, you were likely riveted by Stevenson’s fight to get his client, Walter McMillan, off death row for a murder he did not commit. While that story is a central part of the book, you’ll also enjoy learning about others for whom Stevenson, and the non-profit organization he founded, have advocated. 
  • "Liturgy of the Ordinary" by Tish Harrison Warren. An Anglican priest narrates the habits and practices of one day, from making her bed to brushing her teach, explaining how even the most mundane activity can have spiritual meaning.  Thought provoking but extremely readable, this one challenged me to not only live my faith daily, but minute by minute. 
  • "All Things Reconsidered" by Know McCoy. McCoy is the co-host of two pop culture podcasts, one of which hypothetically inserts current actors into Bible stories to play the main characters. In his first book, "The Wondering Years," he explored the ways pop culture can inform faith, and how asking hard questions can in fact strengthen that faith. In "All Things Reconsidered," he goes deeper with some of those questions and, as the title suggests, reconsiders some long held assumptions. You might not agree with some of McCoy’s conclusions, but hang in there with him and you’re likely to get hooked by his dry wit, if not his captivating writing style. You might even reconsider some things yourself.
  • "Nothing to See Here" by Kevin Wilson. This one popped up as a recommendation on my electronic reader, so I added it to my library holds, knowing very little about it. About 20 pages in, I almost decided it was too girlish for me (no offense to female readers, and stay with me here) – the story of a couple of female boarding school roommates who reunite later in life. But it didn’t take long to get into the heart of the story, with one of the roommates having married a U.S. Senator (from Tennessee, no less, with an estate home in Franklin) with a past, including ten-year-old girl-boy twins from a previous marriage who spontaneously combust during stressful situations. You read that correctly – they catch on fire!  And once I got past that fantastic theme, I found it to be a page turner. If you can buy in, you might enjoy this one too. The storyline moves at a fast clip, and the theme of friendship and what is important in life might give you something to think about.
  • "Camino Winds" by John Grisham. I long ago stopped apologizing for reading Grisham’s books. I’m a sucker for all of them. His loyal readers will remember the setting and some of the characters from Camino Island, but "Camino Winds" falls more into the mystery genre than Grisham’s usual legal thrillers. After a devastating hurricane hits the island, it is soon discovered that one of the storm’s supposed victims was murdered. With usual twists and turns, this will keep your interest in typical “whodunnit” – and Grisham – fashion. 
  • "In the Fulness of Time" by Jeff High. This is the fourth in the Watervalley series, all of which are set in a fictional rural Tennessee town near Nashville. (The author is also from Tennessee). The main character is a young male doctor, Luke Bradford, who graduates from Vanderbilt Medical School and goes to work in Watervalley as its sole family practice doc in exchange for having his student loans paid. If you ever saw the TV show Northern Exposure, think of it, inserting southern characters in place of the the Native American and Eskimo ones, who are just as quirky and endearing. This most recent volume is just as charming as the others, with Dr. Bradford navigating small town doctoring while weighing the “what ifs” of a supposedly more exciting career. Unfortunately, I do have one complaint about this one. For whatever reason, the author seems to have self-published this time and it is, sadly, full of typographical errors. It is hoped this will be corrected in future printings. But whatever you do, don’t let that deter you. If you read the previous three, you will want to read this one. And if you have not read any in this series, I recommend you go back to the first one, "More Things in Heaven and Earth," and read all four in order. I don’t think you will regret it.

I’ll add my usual disclaimer that I would not expect all of you to enjoy all of these, but I hope something might be appropriate to add to your TBR (“To Be Read”) list. And as always, I’m also open to your recommendations.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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