So today I was chatting with my friend Shannan and discovered her favorite childhood food was “Bologna Boats” (you’ll have to ask her). Mine is hot dogs cut in half, fried up and served between two slices of toast. It’s funny what seems totally normal until you try and explain it to someone else.

And don’t even get us started on our “comfort desserts” — I give you: “Jello water”, “sugar on white bread sandwiches” and “sliced guavas and milk.” How we grew up with any teeth left in our heads at all is a TOTAL MYSTERY to me.

But our conversation started because we were actually talking books.

I love books.

I mean crazy love. I’m that person who SAVES ALL HER BOOKS and re-reads them. Often. Books have been my friends and I’ve shipped them all over the world with me.

Shannan was asking for summer reading recommendations and after I’d talked for nearly 8 minutes straight I thought to myself, “Hmmmm, apparently I have a lot of big feelings about books. Maybe I should write a post about it?”

So, this is my list of current favorite books. I’ve recently read all of these. I love them. I own most of them. I give them as gifts and try to peer pressure people into reading them.

I am a shameless book hustler.

May these bring you book joy this summer. And feel free to share your own favorites in the comments. I am always on the look out for a new author I can binge read.

Yes, I am 40 years old and I regularly stay up into the wee hours to binge read authors – my favorite thing is discovering an entire series just waiting for me to catch up on.

Summer Reading List from Lisa-Jo Baker

OK here we go – my favorite (mostly fiction) books at the moment:
These are all linked to Amazon so you can just click on the image and snag ’em. And yup, they’re my affiliate links. To books I adore. You’re welcome. Also, most of them should be available at your local library as well.

Dad Is Fat
OK you guys, I discovered Jim Gaffigan on Netflix and literally laughed so much I couldn’t breathe and I had to get my friends to pause the show so I could exhale. It was painful. It was brilliant. And the book is the same.

If you have kids – you need this book. Jim is our people. He’s like the cheerleader and mascot for our people, i.e. parents.

He perfectly describes bedtime as a “reverse hostage situation.” Need I say more?

Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel
I’m basically a crazy groupie when it comes to how much I love this book. I have tried to convince you all to read it. I shall continue trying because it’s just that good. Money Saving Mom just gone done reading it and she admitted how RIGHT I was.

It’s written entirely in the format of letters from a foster girl named Sam to her benefactor whose foundation is sponsoring her grad program in journalism. It’s a tender and heart-breakingly beautiful look inside the effects of foster care on kids and the adults they grow up into as well as the most gorgeous hat-tip to Jane Austen – because Sam is obsessed with Austen.

Of course there’s also a love story. Just trust me and read this one.

Attachments: A Novel
Another love story told through letters – or in this case, emails. It’s unexpected. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s main female character writes movie reviews for a living (one of my DREAM jobs).

It’s a beautiful story about falling in love with who someone is and not what they look like. It’s a love BEFORE first sight story. I re-read it when I’m feeling sad and it’s better than chocolate for a pick-me-up.

It also has some occasional strong language (if I remember correctly). So head’s up there. But the story line of the lonely I.T. guy who falls in love with the girl whose email he has to vet? It’s a gem.

Mitford Series Complete Series Set, Volumes 1-9
You guys, the Mitford Series! Please tell me you’ve read this!
I discovered it last summer when a reader suggested in on my Facebook page. 

These are the books that I read when I need to detox from social media. When I feel the paranoia about platform size creeping in. When I need the reminder that we are called to go deep in relationship, not wide. Father Tim is the priest at the same parish for almost his entire adult life. He invests his whole self in a small community of less than 100. And the reward is so dear, so powerful, so transformative – it’s a reminder of what great love comes from small, daily, faithfulness.

Listen it took me a while to get into the first book. But by the second I wanted to move to Mitford. Period. The end.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love
I’m not gonna sugar coat it – this book is a very hard read. I pretty much cried non-stop from cover to cover. Many of you may have followed the story when it first unfolded online. Anna is a blogger and so when her son, Jack, (it’s so excruciating because I also have a Jack) went out to play in the rain one day when he was 12 and never came home, she shared the story with us all.

I admit I’ve been terrified of reading this book. I’ve ignored it for years. But then I met Anna recently and she lives only about 15 minutes from my house. And her introduction caught me off guard. She says, “this isn’t a scary book. It’s a book about a loving relationship between a mother and her boy.”

Read when you’re emotionally ready. But do read it if you can. It cracked my heart open several more sizes when it comes to loving my kids. And it made me want to be much braver when it comes to loving people well who are walking through grief. This book is a rare gift and a testimony to a God who does indeed prove that with Him, nothing is impossible.

The Relatives Came
They tell me this is a children’s book. Don’t believe it for a second. 
Because all the best books speak to both kids and grown ups.
I think it’s the pilgrim in me that spends most of her life homesick that loves this book so much. The idea of having so much family over there isn’t room for them all to fit in the beds and they spill out onto mattresses on the floor.
Deidra Riggs gave me this book several years ago when we were still crammed into our teeny tiny rental house and we had family visiting and all the kids were sleeping on the floor. She quoted me back to me – “Big hospitality is a matter of the heart and not the architecture.”

I read this book now ever summer when relative time rolls around.

It’s a book about making room for other people in our lives. And at a time when the world can seem chaotic and angry, I think it’s always a good time to remind ourselves that inviting people IN – in every way that matters – is what it’s all about.

The Amelia Peabody Series
We were living in Ukraine when a friend sent me the first two books in this series. I was hooked and it was terrible because I couldn’t buy the rest in Kyiv and had to wait for Amazon to deliver.

Meet Amelia Peabody – intrepid archeologist in the days when women didn’t venture from home, let alone into tombs and pyramids. It’s the BEST kind of fun. Watch this delightful spinster fall in love and watch as her whole brood ends up getting knee deep in mystery, intrigue and romance.

I own every single book (paper and not even kindle!) and re-read them often.

Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax
Speaking of intrepid women, this is my other great series love. Mrs Pollifax is a widow from New Jersey who has always dreamed of joining the CIA. Which, by accident, she does. 

If that isn’t enough right there to get you to buy it (or order it from your library) I don’t know what is. She’s pure delight with a backbone of steal as she globe trots her way through one mystery after another. Just writing it down gives me a hankering to go and re-read a couple of these treats.

Dick Francis Horse Racing Series
I started reading these when I was 15 or 16 – knicking them off my mom’s book shelf. Over the years I’ve collected almost the entire series. They even showed up in English-language book stores in Ukraine.

Murder, mystery and mayhem always set against the horse racing industry. Dick Francis was a Queen’s jockey in real life and once he retired he spent the next 4 decades or so writing stories set in the intriguing landscape of the horse world.

They’re fast-paced and a thrilling read. I rejoice every time I find one I haven’t read yet. They definitely have a violent streak and occasional strong language – so readers beware. But I’m a PG-13 girl and I love these. Sir Francis (yes, he was also knighted) sadly passed away a few years ago and now his son is carrying on the name and the legacy of writing. They’re a winning bet (see what I did there!)

The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Aged 37 3/4
Oh this is a LONG TIME, life time favorite. Another one I was introduced to by my mom. Adrian Plass is a compilation really of everything we love and everything that drives us crazy about Christianity today. He is funny and lovable and gets it terribly wrong and sometimes surprisingly right.

He is you and me. And he will help us laugh at ourselves. I adore this book and YES I have an original copy SIGNED by Adrian when he and his wife were touring South Africa. This makes me insanely happy. Except for the fact that I think it’s still currently in the possession of a friend I loaned it to in the State Department who is right now posted to Finland.

But for real, if you need to remember to laugh again even and maybe especially while in the middle of all the serious parts of faith, this is exactly what the Doctor ordered.

OK, whew.

Now – hit me with your favorite summer reads. I need some new authors to crush on. Please and thank you.

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