Summer Reading List

Here’s an opportunity for us to make those recommendations to Spec Faith readers for their summer reading list, especially about the books we’ve most recently read.
on Jun 24, 2019 · 11 comments

Time to talk BOOKS. What’s in your wallet, I mean in your summer to-be-read list?

I know some commented that the books nominated for a particular award looked intriguing and they planned on adding them to their book list immediately. I love hearing that. One of the best parts of contests is that the books that make the finals cut get more exposure. Many people who would not have otherwise heard about the books, now know that there’s a new title out there worth exploring.

Besides contest nominations, though, I think one of the strongest influences on my book-reading choices (and I think others, too. I sort of remember running a poll about this some years ago) are recommendations from friends. If someone I know and respect tells me the book is good, I am much more likely to read it than not.

But then there are the recommendations—we call them endorsements—by various people willing to have their words printed in the books themselves, for potential buyers to consider. I wonder how effective those are. If I were to judge from my own experience, I’d say, endorsements matter. I have two writing instruction books in ebook, the first with a nice list of endorsements and the second without any. Guess which book sold better? Of course, that’s only one example, and the price difference might have had as much to do with sales as the endorsements.

I do wonder, though, when people shop on line and look inside a book, do they turn to the opening pages of the novel or do they take time to look at endorsements?

In the past, I know endorsements could sell me or could turn me away from a book. Now? I don’t know if they are as visible and therefore if they have as much influence.

What does have influence is reviews by readers, at Goodreads, Amazon, B&N,, the Lorehaven magazine, and other places where readers give input. While some people hate the one or two star reviews, I often seek them out. Maybe not first, but after I’ve read a glowing review or two, I want to know what those brave enough to say they didn’t care for a book had to say about it.

Some times the reasons are bogus. The reviewer didn’t actually read the whole book but decided a bad review was still OK to give. Or the reader was turned off because they disagreed with the character’s choices—never mind that the back cover copy clearly tells you what the character is up against and what they will aim at. When I get to that point, I think, this reviewer just convinced me he’s not a careful or discerning reader, so why should I care about his opinion.

Apart from those reviews, the two- and even three-star reviews can give some insight about what worked and what didn’t work in a book. So I find those helpful. Not as helpful as a friend putting a book in front of me and saying, you HAVE to read this book. But still helpful.

All this to say, here’s an opportunity for us to make those recommendations to Spec Faith readers for their summer reading list, especially about the books we’ve most recently read.

Are they speculative? I know I don’t read exclusively in the speculative genre. I don’t read exclusively in the Christian books category, though I have done so much more since I became a writer.

The problem I have, as I may have mentioned before, is that I act as a judge in a number of contests, so if I told you what I’m reading and what I’d recommend, I’d have to gag you until the winner announcements came out. For instance, last year I judged the delightful YA fantasy, Escape to Vindor by Emily Golus, but of course at the time I could tell no one. As it happens, it won last year’s Selah award in the YA Fiction category.

The point is, I pretty much can’t pass along my recommendations, at least not right now, but summer is such a good time to have a book handy on a Sunday afternoon or when heading off for vacation or to that annual visit to the relatives. They’re good also when you can’t get away and need a break from the grind. Books introduce us to new places and to new friends.

So tell us what you’re reading, what you’d recommend to others for their summer book list. Tell us the books you like and why you think others should read them too. FYI, we have a Facebook page too, so you can leave a comment either here or there. We’re counting on you!

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. My reading list is “whatever I pick up and that seems interesting once I start reading.” Horribly unhelpful for the discussion, I know. But I’m trying to read more instead of playing games, because it helps motivate me to be more productive, and I’ve had more writing projects this year than ever before, so I feel a bit drained. Lately, I picked up an old Star Wars book. The writing is so dense and surprisingly artsy-fartsy that I’ve ended up skipping a lot of description and shooting straight for the dialogue, but it’s really well-written description that I’m skipping, and the story is great. So overall, I’m very much enjoying it. I just kind-of want more cheap, popcorn entertainment because my brain is already split by juggling complicated writing assignments.

    Also have been reading a biography on Tolkien here and there, books on theology, books on writing, some Ursula K. Le Guin, and contemporaries here and there from the Little Free Libraries near us, though most of those end up extraordinarily boring. I also just started reading The Secret Garden and Little House on the Prairie, both of which are much more enjoyable than I expected.

    • I understand, Brennan. Sometimes we just need some fluff because we’re too taxed. Sounds like you’re doing a lot of reading. I just finished a MG that I’m judging (not speculative) and I’m dying to give my review. But that will have to wait. I’m interested in the Tolkien biography. I wanted to see the movie based on his life, but it didn’t stay in our area long, so I missed it.

      And don’t worry about being “unhelpful.” Can any part of a discussion about books be unhelpful? Thanks for your input!


  2. Well, Wings of Fire by Tui T Sutherland started a new arc in the series recently, so I have the first two books in that arc. I’ve read one, which is fairly decent. The next one in that arc will probably be on my reading list. I’d also like to try eating through some of the books that I’ve accumulated over the last couple years and haven’t gotten around to yet, like the first couple books in the Summer King Chronicles by Jess E Owen.

    There’s a lot of non fiction books I’d like to read soon too, though. Like some books by John Beebe and Linda Berens that have to do with personality type stuff. I might also try to get some books on typography that way I can step up my game when it comes to designing text for book covers and whatnot.

    When it comes to endorsements…most books tend to have them, at least if they’re traditionally published, and of course publishers are only going to put complimentary endorsements on the book. They can make a book look nice, and if an author I know about liked the book, then that’s kind of cool. BUT, it won’t make me buy the book. So many books seem to have glowing endorsements, which makes them feel like meaningless decoration by now.

    Reviews matter more, though there’s still been a lot of times when I’ve loved a story or a book only to see a lot of negative reviews and opinions about it later. Other times, there’s been books that have been very popular and well loved but ended up being disappointing or boring for me. So…even if reviews have some bearing on my decisions, it tends not to make or break my book purchases. Though I like to read them to understand how different people think and react to certain stories (so basically, market research)

    I usually put more weight on reviews when it comes to buying non fiction stuff, or physical products, since in some ways that’s less subjective. Like, if most people say that the product broke after the first month then it’s probably true. But, if most people say that the Star Wars Prequels are trash I might still like those movies anyway.

    • You make a good point, Autumn. Fiction can pretty subjective. I might like a character who is cheerful and determined, but someone who likes lots of angst, hates that character. And plot. I get so tired of the superhero saving the day after the colossal battle with super villain. Honestly, some movies are just so predictable–oh, here comes the dark night of the soul. Oh, a bad thing just happened, but wait for it, a worse thing is about to happen next. Really, I wish the movies were not so formulaic. And books are getting just about as bad.

      I’ll have to check out those first two authors you mentioned. I’m not familiar with them.


      • Yeah, definitely. I’ve been sticking with webcomics and anime a lot just because of that. Purple Hyacinth just got picked up as an official Line Webtoon comic, so that’s certainly on my list of stories to read. If you want a good story revolving around people with superpowers, though, check out Unordinary. it starts out a bit meh, but gets really good. And there’s already a lot of chapters up, so it’s good for binge reading:

        Wings of Fire Legends: Darkstalker is the best in the WoF series(in my opinion. Though a lot of people at least seem to think it’s pretty awesome even if it isn’t their favorite.) And it’s kind of a prequel to the whole thing, so you could probably start there if you liked.

      • Ticia says:

        Actual reviews are also helpful to verify if a book is what you’re looking for. I picked up a fairy tale retelling once, and it gave me a creepy vibe, and so I went to Good Reads and my bad feelings were verified: lots of rape, abuse to women, and other stuff I knew I couldn’t handle.

        Of course the back copy was full of rave reviews saying, “Edgy!” “Feminist take on Snow White!” “Dark and Gritty.” That was part of my clue to put it down. Sometimes those words can mean an interesting take, but too often for me it’s going to be darker than what I enjoy reading.

        • True. And in that way even bad reviews can be good for a book. Like, one reader can leave a bad review complaining about an aspect of the story they dislike, but another reader may come along later and be like ‘Oh, that’s actually exactly what I’m looking for in a book!’ and buy it.

  3. notleia says:

    Because an adaptation of Gaiman’s and Sir PTerry (OMg I love that nickname) Good Omens has made news lately, I decided I need to read more PTerry. Except everybody already has Good Omens out, so I’m reading his YA Tiffany Aching series, which are much more manageable mouthfuls anyway. If I end up being a sour old woman with more time than money, I want to be one like Granny Weatherwax.

  4. Jill says:

    I’m currently reading Five Million Watts by Fenton Wood, Honor Flight by PA Piatt and Into the Deep by Abigail Rine Favale. The first two are spec fic, and I loved both authors’ debuts and expect I’ll love these too when I’m done. So far, so good. Fun stuff to read. The third is a spiritual memoir. Very good so far.

  5. Ticia says:

    I always found the recommendations on the back matter annoying because in traditionally published books it so often replaced a short summary to let me know a general idea of what the book was about. So, more often than not I didn’t buy the book.

    Review by fellow readers made me more likely to read the book.

    Planned to read this summer:
    Book Thief to discuss with my daughter
    Chimera- YA fantasy by a friend’s son
    sequels to Orphan’s Song once I buy them
    reread Dresden Files with the short stories in chronological order
    Good Omens- to potentially read with all of my kids and then watch the TV show
    I think there are a couple more books generically on my to read pile at my house, that I need to sort through.
    Also, I think the final book in the Stoker/Holmes series is coming out in August, so that….

What do you think?