I remember back in the good ol’ days when August was still considered part of summer (which meant more time to read. Woo!). Instead, our kids started back to school the very first week. That’s okay, though—I still managed to squeeze in some reading time last month.
My August Book Stack is a mix of YA fiction, parenting, and spiritual formation. None of these books were on my list at the beginning of the year, but somehow they found their way on to my nightstand.
Anyway, let’s get started. Here’s what I read in August!
My August Book Stack
The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett
This book drew me in from the beginning. I loved the characters, the setting, the story, and the suspense. It was different from most of the YA books I read; more grounded in reality… or so it seemed. A few chapters in, things started going sideways and I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into!
Clay Tate is a high school Senior who is trying to hold his family together and run his family’s farm following the sudden, somewhat mysterious death of his father. His desire to be responsible and the precious bond he shares with his spunky younger sister, Noodle, make him endearing from the start.
However, crazy things started happening since right before his dad died, and now Clay finds himself at the center of something big. Between his bizarre dreams, his occasionally-possessed girlfriend, his secret-keeping rival, and his mysterious counselor, poor Clay doesn’t have a chance. Liggett is a master at writing teen horror, for sure! The ending was… unexpected. I mean, parts of it weren’t, but overall, yeah—not what I thought was going to happen.
As a whole, I didn’t love this book, but apparently teen horror is not really my thing. The occult themes throughout the book definitely turned me off. So while I feel it was well written and fans of the author will probably love it, it is not something I would recommend, especially for my teen readers. There are more life-giving ways to spend your time. J
Otherworld by Jason Segel
Okay, this one caught me off guard. Even though I pretty much hate video games, I ended up really enjoying this story! I am on the fence with Science Fiction, but this book is more virtual-reality Sci-Fi, which had a whole different feel. It has some dystopian elements as well, which may be why I liked it so much.
It is written from the perspective of Simon, a high school boy, and the authors really mastered this POV. I felt like I was in the head of a teenage boy (which, as a mom, made me want to have some long conversations with said character, but that’s beside the point)! He is sarcastic, inappropriate, snarky, confident, insecure, lonely, loyal, and a hundred other things all at the same time. After dealing with some drama at school followed by a mysterious accident, Simon finds himself drawn into a race against time to save his best friend’s life in the virtual-reality realm. He thought Otherworld was just a video game, but soon he discovers it is more real than he ever imagined. Is he willing to risk his own life and the lives of others to save Kat? And even if he is, does he really have what it takes?
I was really intrigued by this concept, and enjoyed the book, much to my surprise. There is a lot of bad language and some off-color content, but overall, the plot line had a good message. I definitely don’t recommend this for middle-schoolers. However, an older teen who loves to game might find Otherworld engaging!
The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life by Tony Jones
The Sacred Way is basically the author sharing his experience with various spiritual disciplines through personal experiences from his time on a sabbatical pilgrimage. He makes a theological and Biblical case for each chapter, and then supports it largely with writings from the “desert fathers and mothers” and ancient saints of the faith.
This was another so-so book. There were things I liked about it and things I didn’t. It was informative, but not earth-shattering; enlightening, but not inspiring. The disciplines were not new to me, and neither was the rest of the content. Honestly, “desert saints” wisdom seems to be trending these days, particularly with those leading the deconstruction and progressive movements within the Church. So while I believe they have much to offer us, I also read books like this with a great deal of discernment, and recommend others do the same.
My favorite chapter in this book was the one in which he discusses guided prayer. Again, this concept can go sideways quickly if not applied through the lens of Biblical truth. However, it is also a wonderful tool for helping people encounter God in a meaningful, powerful, and personal way. I have not used this method in a long time, so it was nice to be reminded of it.
Overall, this book introduces readers to foundational elements of spiritual formation in a fairly simple to understand way. However, I think there are other books that better accomplish that purpose without some of the gray areas this book presents.
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas
Okay, this one is my favorite! If you have boys or if you work with boys (teacher, small group leader, coach, etc), I highly recommend this book! I wish I had read it years ago. The authors, both long-time Christian counselors and “boy dads”, do an excellent job of getting to the heart of how to best love our boys.
The first section breaks down the developmental stages boys go through as they grow up. If you are familiar with the stages of child development, this will not be new to you, but the insights will fit like puzzle pieces into your existing framework. If you are not familiar with these stages, you are likely to have some “aha!” moments regarding certain behaviors and attitudes you have witnessed. Don’t skip this section; it is essential to understanding the nature of boys.
The second part dives into how boys are wired. This, too, is so enlightening! This section really helps parents and teachers understand how boys think, how they learn, and how the ways we try to help them often end up hurting them instead. And the last part delves into understanding a boys heart in relationship with others.
Again, I cannot recommend Wild Things strongly enough! Some parenting books inform and instruct, while others inspire. This one does all three. If you want to raise your boys to be strong, godly, well-adjusted men, you need this book in your life!
And that’s my August Book Stack! So I’m curious, friends—have you read anything good lately? What’s on your nightstand?
If you liked this, check out my other recent book stacks: