what i read

This has been my summer of reading novels. I decided to just read for the fun of it this summer. I have so much book research I’ve been doing and the summer has been so heavy, filled with sorrow in so many ways for so much of the world, that I flat out ran for the escape route in my reading habits. And I loved every single second of it.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes :: Thanks to a recommendation from Shauna Niequist (who never steers me wrong on novels), I decided to pick up my first Jojo Moyes novel. And then I disappeared for 24-hours while I devoured it. DEVOURED. This book was devastating. It was definitely my favourite of hers – the heroine of the novel and her family were so dear. And the questions it brought up and the conversations it sparked were so interesting. It was a runner-up for my favourite novel of the year so far, for sure.

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes – Loved it. Another one I couldn’t put down. Such a fascinating dual story. So rare that I love both stories in a dual-story novel but this one worked beautifully. Fascinating period of history, too.

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes – and the last Jojo Moyes novel I read was a hard one. I struggle with infidelity as a plot point to cheer for and so I appreciated the juxtaposition of an affair to “root for” and one to despise but even so, it was fascinating and un-put-down-able, too. Needless to say, I just did two-day shipping for her latest novel.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty :: I have loved Liane Morarity’s novels since “What Alice Forgot” (still one of my favourite novels to recommend to women in the tired thirties with me.) This was probably my favourite of hers since that one – and that’s saying something. Such a great story. The characters were beautiful and real and flawed, I love each one of them and actually missed them when the novel was over.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner :: I’ve liked some of this author’s novels but others….well, not so much. This one was a quick read but fascinating. Exploring the pull of prescription meds as addiction through the lens of an over-committed mom-blogger, you read it and think you know a million women that this could happen to. And the ending was so satisfying.

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles :: I loved Sara Miles’ last book Take This Bread so much that my expectations were probably too high. But it’s a good book, really interesting. I always end up feeling a bit left out when people write about God as present mostly in cities – after all, I live in a small town in western Canada. But it was fascinating.

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright :: Book research! And so worthwhile.

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus by Brennan Manning :: A re-read from years ago. It’s Brennan at a bit more raw and angry and I still love it. You can see his processes actually happening as you read through his work.

My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman :: Beautiful and devastating, a slow read but so good.

what i’m reading now

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce :: You know me and British novels….

The Complete Book of Baby Names :: BIG SMILE

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James :: I love novels about Jane Austen, they’re my guilty pleasure. She wrote a good one a few years ago and so when I saw she had a new one out, I snapped it in.

Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright :: More book research and more perfection.

television worth watching

Besides the obvious….

My Big Family Renovation on HGTV :: Jen Hatmaker is a dear friend and I cannot tell you how tickled I am to be watching her show on the television! It just started in Canada, it’s on Thursday nights at 7 Pacific on HGTV.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyessey :: I’m slowly working my way through this show and it is blowing my mind. Absolutely stunning. I never figured I’d be someone who was enraptured by astrophysics but DAMN this is good.

Good news! Downtown Abbey starts on September 21 in the UK (and for those of us who can watch UK shows). Here’s the trailer for the new season. All I know is that Anna and Bates better CATCH A BREAK.

movies worth seeing

I have not watched anything but kid movies at home all summer long. And I’m not even sorry about it.

music worth hearing

The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger :: This gal comes out of the Bethel movement but it’s less anthemic and more introspective. Really enjoying it.

Lullaby Hymns by Katy Kinard :: I grabbed this one for one of the tinies who likes to listen to music while drifting off to sleep. But I’ve fallen in love with it – just good old hymns done beautifully. The subtitle is “for the weary soul” and that has been so true. When my soul is weary, these are the songs I want to hear.

Waiting for Mr. Darcy instrumentals from Jane Austen movies – my favourite music for writing! And only $3.99 – probably because the titles are a bit mixed up for the music but whatevs. It’s good listening.

little things i’m enjoying

San Pellegrino limonata Italian sodas

I’ve kicked almost all of my other teas to the curb for Lady Jane Grey tea – it’s like a version of Earl Grey but much lighter with citrus undertones. So perfect in the mornings.

Roast beef dinners and mashed potatoes.

Knitting up this little owl tea cosy

And introducing my fall knitting project: right here, folks.

So, friends, what about you?

What’s on your nightstand? What television show or movie or music has captured your imagination? 

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  • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

    Sarah Bessey, I maintain that you and I are supposed to be friends. I also discovered JoJo Moyes this summer and was blown away, expecting something quick and possibly trite, and getting instead literature. I’d really like to send you the ARC of my new book, which is not religious in the least nor possibly literature–but I’d like to send it to you. Can you send your post address to mbbkbb@gmail.com? (You can look me up on Amazon–I”m real.)

    • My email address and contact info is all on the Contact page – have at it!

  • Elaina Wilkinson Esty

    Outlander! You must read Outlander. Then read the rest of the books in the series. Then read them all again. Only at this point can you watch the television show. But seriously, Outlander.

    • You know, I did read Outlander but didn’t LOVE it. I was so sure I would but then I kind of crapped out on the series. Maybe I should give it another go?

      • Elaina Wilkinson Esty

        Also, if you read scifi/fantasy, I love Robert Jordan’s wheel of Time series. 13 books, 800+ pages each (I like big books and I cannot lie)

  • Tammy Klassen

    Only movie I saw this summer was amazing. The Hundred Foot Journey.

    • I was wondering about that one! I love Helen Mirren so thought it looked good.

  • I LOVED The Girl You Left Behind! So good! Listened to it on audiobook. I’m a big lover of Lady Grey tea too.

    Book-wise I’m reading “Cutting for Stone” right now and really loving it. The writing is exceptional. Another favorite was “The Language of Flowers.” I’m watching the show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” which is simply delightful! Helps making the pile of laundry folding much more enjoyable.

  • It was a summer chock filled with books. The easy to read kind …


    Feet up on the back porch, iced tea in hand, I loved every last page.

  • So I’m gonna go to the library immediately. See you in a month. x 🙂

  • Reading “Soul Care” by John Ortberg right now. So far, very good. (-:


  • I read Me Before You and The Girl You Left Behind this summer, too. Not sure if I’ll attempt The Last Letter based on your review! And I am now going to request What Alice Forgot from the library because everyone I know has read it except me! The nerve! 😉 And also the Jennifer Weiner book. The last one I read from her was Then Came You, and I really did not like it. I love her older stuff, though, so maybe I’ll give All Fall Down a try.

  • Ashley

    I discovered Call the Midwife this summer and am excited to finish season 3, since season 4 starts in a few months. Charming plot with beautiful writing, music, and hilarious nuns. What is there not to love?

    I also read Me Before You after seeing Shauna Niequist’s recommendation and LOVED IT! Orphan Train was another favorite novel this summer. Thanks for the book suggestions.

  • Julie D

    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is my book of the summer- beautifully written, and heartbreaking. If you like ‘Call the Midwife’, then Jennifer Worth’ s books which inspired the series are an absolute must-read. X

    • Yes, I loved the Call the MIdwife books! Read them last year after becoming obsessed with the show and LOVED them.

  • I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. There was just something charming about it.

  • Kelly McGuffie

    If Me Before You was runner-up for favorite/favourite novel of the year, what is the winner (so far, obviously)?

    • It was What Alice Forgot. Just a good story, you know? Un-put-down-able.

  • Melissa McCurdy

    What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty is fabulous.

  • Aimee

    Yay for a new season of Downton!

  • Sara

    I love it when you post favorite reads! It keeps me busy for weeks, and I’m always impressed with your recommendations! Love to you and your family- Trait and I are so excited for you! xoxo

  • Bekah Harmon

    Yay. More book suggestions from you. The last one helped me discover Magic for Marigold, which was a delightful, though not my favorite LM Montgomery book (I love the Emily books best).
    As much of my summer was full of moving, getting married, and adjustment to those changes, my reading list is tiny. I did just finish Speak, it was a can’t put it down book. I also managed Farewell to Mars which was thought provoking, and a strange little Christian fiction book called Letter Perfect, which I liked more than I’d want to admit. Now I’ve got Prodigal God and Night Watch on my current pile. They are both books from my husbands list of twelve. We traded books and it’s been mostly great, though in am not a fan of The Screwtape Letters.

    As for movies, it appears you didn’t miss much. I’m not sure much awesome came out this summer. Maybe the best thing I did watch was the tv show Legend of Korra season 1. It’s no Avatar, but it was better than Noah and Monuments Men.

    • Yeah, I didn’t love the Screwtape Letters either. It was kind of similar to one my husband had me read with that same swap called The Gravedigger’s File. Not a fan.

      • Erin

        I’m wasn’t wild about the Screwtape Letters either, but The Great Divorce was mind blowing. Totally upended how I thought about heaven and hell.

  • Elspeth Birdsall

    Have you read Call the Midwife? Great books plus television series. Wonderful attention to detail! And I love Miranda Hart as Chummy! I discovered, with you and several others, JoJo Moyes this summer. I absolutely love the heroine with the funky sense of style in Me Before You. Now I need to read the others that you read! Adore Liane Moriarty! Now I know why I enjoy your writing style so much and run to read whatever you have written! I sincerely hope that Jesus Feminist will be joined by other books…

    • Yes, I LOVED those books. The tv series is one of my top top top favourites. Me and my mum are obsessed. And I’m also a convert of Miranda Hart’s sitcom, too. (And yes, working on Book 2 – slowly, but surely…)

  • The Hollow Ground, by Natalie S Harnett. I read books in 2-4 days, and I’m on month 3 with this title – it’s that intense. A powerful and sad book.

    • Wow – that sounds intense. Will check it out – thanks!

      • Alena Belleque

        Definitely intense. It’s a very sad book, but compelling. I’d almost rather not finish it, but want to know how everything turns out for the family it follows, especially the daughter.

  • Ashley Magers

    I also read Big Little Lies this summer (last week actually) and also loved it! I agree with you that I missed the characters once the novel ended! It looks like I’ll have to check out Jojo Moyes after my last semester of grad school ends in December! Thanks for the other recommendations, too! I’m always looking for new music, etc 🙂

    • If you like Liane Moriarty, you’ll love Jojo Moyes. Get grad school done first though! 😉

  • I devour everything British and classic, whether TV or books. 🙂

  • I loved Me Before You, and now I’m thinking I need to order all the rest of her books! Can’t wait for Downton. I’m one of the Americans who cheats and watches online (yay!). Currently reading a lot of Bill Bryson. Just finished Brennan Manning’s ‘Ruthless Trust’. Also working through Jennie Allen’s ‘Restless’ which is perfect for this stage of my life (so much change!).

  • I discovered JoJo Moyes this summer too! I read, “One Plus One” primarily because the heroine is a housekeeper and so am I. I loved it. It took a little bit to get in to, but once I did I was hooked!

  • Shara Cameron

    My first Jojo Moyes book which I read many years ago was The Ship of Brides, still my favourite (must give it a reread actually). Love your knitting projects. I am also pregnant with baby no 4 across the world in Australia, I am wondering if I can crochet this in my remaining 10 weeks: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/retro-baby-pram-cot-blanket and we must get onto the Baby Name book, still haven’t got a list!

  • Leanne

    I’m reading N.T. Wright too. Finished “Simply Jesus” a little while ago and now I’m reading his heavy tome on resurrection (having skipped the first two in the series) and I’m on a break from that for the moment. Work is too heavy for heavy reading at the minute.

  • I read this post earlier, but didn’t comment. Business sucks. Anywho, I just finished listening to Me Before You last week. Such a good book. I voluntarily cleaned the boys’ room (big gross job), did tons of laundry & dishes because I didn’t mind doing all the things while listening to it. I kept wanting it to go a different way, but it definitely made me think about the broader theme of the book. (Trying to avoid spoiling here.) Am now going to hop over to audible and get The Girl You Left Behind.
    Do you ever read Kate Morton? She’s my favorite. There’s almost always a huge English manor house somehow involved in her stories. Delish!