2011 Summer Reading List

In June I accomplished one of my “reading” goals.  I had never read the Harry Potter books, I know, shame on me.  My children thought I was a bad mother so I had to redeem myself.  I started back in October and I am proud to announce that I did it – I read all of them.  I loved them but I have to admit I was a little Harry Pottered out!  I also watched all the movies so that I would be ready for the final one that came out this summer.

So I was ready for a little different genre of book.  Today I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading this summer.  Most of the books are fun and light reading – the perfect summer read.

I’d love to hear what you have been reading this summer.

Disclaimer: I enjoy a “clean read”  Every once in a while I read a book that is what I would rate a PG -13 read.  If you have a particular standard for your reading I encourage to use one of the websites available that rate a book based on it’s content similar to a movie rating.

Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.  I have read all of her other books and thoroughly enjoy them!  Her books usually involve food and a little bit of magic.

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith.  Another fun addition to the Ladies Detective Agency Series.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith.  The latest addition to the series.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  One of my favorite genres is historical fiction or fiction based on history.  This book is about Ernest Hemingway and his Paris years with his first wife Hadley.  In the 1920’s Paris was the place to be for many writers and artists and it was fun to read about them.  Hemingway led a rather tragic life and the story is full of heartbreak.  If you read it, go see Midnight in Paris afterwards – you’ll enjoy it a lot more.  Personally I love a story set in Paris.

Viola In The Spotlight by Adriana Trigiani.  This is actually a Young Adult book but I have read everything by Adriana Trigiani so thought I should read this too.  A sweet,  simple and quick read. Check out some of Adriana’s other books!

The Element by Ken Robinson.  I had to throw in a few non-fiction books this summer.  Really liked this one – all about when people are able to bring together their natural talent with their passion, what they love to do and then make a living and a life out of it!  Lots of examples of real life people who were able to do just that and how our education system does not encourage people to find their Element.  It was a thought provoking book.  Everyone should have the opportunity to discover their Element.

The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  Another non-fiction and a very quick read.  Anyone in business, sales or customer service should read this book or anyone who deals with people – that’s all of us!

In the book Joe learns that changing his focus from getting to giving—putting others’ interests first and continually adding value to their lives—ultimately leads to unexpected returns.

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel.  Probably my least favorite read from the summer so far.  I was of course attracted to the book because of the name.  It is a story of two girls and their lives growing up.  They form a recipe club and share recipes with each other.  The book is a series of letters with a recipe at the end of each letter.  With all the amazing books out there to read not sure I would recommend this one but I read it so it’s on the list.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See.  This is the sequel to Shanghai Girls which I read and really enjoyed.  If you haven’t read Shanghai Girls read it first. Lisa also wrote  Snowflower and the Secret Fan – a book I loved.  Dreams of Joy has to do with the amazing love of a mother, romantic love and a devotion and love to your country.   I learned a lot about Chinese history that I didn’t know also.

A Year on Lady Bug Farm by Donna Hall. I just finished this book and it was a delight to read.  I think I read it in a couple of days.  This book was recommended by a cousin and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Three women and life long friends sell their homes and purchase a run down mansion.  Of course everything goes wrong but they really learn how strong the bonds of friendship can be and who their friends really are.  There are a couple of sequels and I’m ordering them from the library today.  It almost made me want to run away to the Shenandoah Valley and buy a fixer upper!  Anyone want to join me?

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Another non-fiction.  I have been enjoying this book over the last several months.  I read a few pages each morning during my little morning devotional time.  The Happiness Project is a memoir that covers a year of searching for, studying and researching happiness and how to be happier.   Thinking about starting my own Happiness Project!

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  One of my summer goals was to read C.S. Lewis.  On the recommendation of my son and a few others The Great Divorce was my first choice.  I enjoyed it a lot and next on my C.S. Lewis list is The Screwtape Letters.  The Great Divorce takes a  look at Heaven and Hell, and presents the very compelling idea that people will go to Hell, not because they are forced to, but because they simply won’t tolerate Heaven.  C.S. Lewis always leaves you with lots to think about.

What am I reading right now?  Eiffel’s Tower by Jill Jonnes.  I have a love affair with anything to do with Paris so I couldn’t resist reading all about the history of and the building of the Eiffel Tower which was built for the 1889 World’s Fair.  I am only  several chapters into it but thoroughly enjoying it.  If you read  White Devil in the City and enjoyed it, you’ll like Eiffel’s Tower too.

So that’s what has been keeping me busy this summer.  I’d love to hear what some of your favorite reads have been this summer!  Leave a comment and let me know.  Happy reading!



Leigh Anne
Hi – I’m Leigh Anne! I have been a homebased mom for 30 years since my first baby boy was born! I love working with women and helping to inspire them to achieve their goals and dreams while still maintaining motherhood and family as their number one priority. I blog about everything I enjoy – creating treats and meals in my kitchen, spending time in my garden, entertaining and party planning, reading, self improvement and tips and ideas on style and fashion.
Leigh Anne
Leigh Anne

Latest posts by Leigh Anne (see all)


  1. says

    I finished reading The Help a few days ago. So many people have been talking about it; I decided to just read it myself. I thought it very good.

    I read Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum novel – sorry, I totally don’t remember the title, I think it was book 17. I consider these books pure bublle gum reading. No nutritional value whatsoever, but always good for a laugh.

    I am almost through Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants. Interesting book, but not necessarily a favorite. It is better than many of his though and definitely more along the lines of Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. I prefer a long book over a short one every time I have a choice.

    I’m reading a slew of books for a class I’m teaching this fall as well. Of them all, Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider is a current favorite.

    I also love sci fi/fantasy so there are several of those too. I’d keeping listing them, but I really need to get moving on dinner. I’m pretty sure the grill is hot by now. :) Have a great night!

    (I love all the book recommendations. I’m making a list now. )

  2. marti says

    Leigh Anne,
    I always enjoy your book recommendations! I also just finished The Help this week as our book club is going to see the movie together after reading the book. Two of us went to see Snow Flower and the Secret Fan last week as it was a book we read in the club. It was an interesting interpretation, with modern Chinese lives mixed in. I like it.
    I’ve wondered if you’ve seen the movie Sarah’s Key, as you recommended the book so highly.
    Last month our club read The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler and then saw the movie on a member’s big screen.

    • says

      I have been an Anne Tyler fan for years and I think I have read everything she has written. My first Anne Tyler book was The Accidental Tourist – it’s probably been 20 years. I should read it again. Didn’t know there was a movie.

  3. Kelly says

    I’ve been devouring books this summer as well… I too like a “clean” – so I was grateful for a few titles to go to the library to find.

    I discovered Gene Stratton-Porter this summer – she is an Indiana author who died in the 1920s. She is a believer and one who loves nature in a rightly ordered way – as a gift from God, our Father. I’ve read a few books of hers, but my favorites were The Keeper of the Bees, The Harvester, A Daughter of the Land and The Girl of the Limberlost (but you really need to read Freckles before the last one for continuity’s sake).

    I’ve read 2 of Kate Morton’s books – the Forgotten Garden and the Distant Hours. The Distant Hours was a little too gothic for me, but I really liked the first.

    Nancy Turner’s trilogy on the fictional diaries of Sarah Agnes Prine, a woman in the Arizona territories, was terrific… These is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt and the Star Garden were all very good. I found myself reading the end of Star Garden very slowly… not wanting the enjoyment to end. I hope Ms. Turner continues the story of Sarah!

    I enjoyed reading The Help this year, but I think my favorite book of the year by far was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. Devoured it – couldn’t put it down!

    Happy Reading! Please post more books to share ~ it can be difficult to find books that don’t offend. What I loved about Stratton-Porter is that she manages to still pull the heart strings but leaves the smutty stuff out.

  4. Kylene says

    Hi! I was glad to see what you’ve been reading this summer as I’m also an avid reader. Are you on Goodreads? I love that website because I can read reviews from friends who have read books I am interested in. Sometimes it helps me to steer clear of books that look and sound clean or good and are far from it!

    I’ve been enjoying my summer reading, despite running into a few flops. I read The Help for the second time, which is just a wonderful book. If you want to see the movie, I beg of you to please read the book first!

    I also enjoyed Sarah’s Key, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (a fun mystery with an eccentric 11 year old MC). I would have to say that my favorites, so far have been the Joy Luck Club and The Guernsay Literary and Potato Peel Society. I LOVED and completely DEVOURED both of those books and just couldn’t put them down.

    Happy summer reading!

    • says

      Kylene, We have similar reading taste – I have read all of the ones you mentioned and enjoyed them I am on Goodreads – invite me to be your friend.

  5. says

    You really have to read “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, also the author of “Seabiscuit”. But I’ll warn you, you really shouldn’t start it if you have to get anything else done that week because you won’t be able to stop reading it! It’s about a famous olympic runner who was drafter in WWII and became a POW in a Japanese camp…fascinating and humbling story.

  6. Dawn says

    I just finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Hunger Games, and Catching Fire. The Hunger Game series is very quick, Dragon Tattoo is over 600 pages. Next on my list is Cutting for Stone.

  7. Dawn says

    Have you read Room? Or The Pioneer Woman’s book ? (Black Heels to Tractor Wheels–A Love Story ) I have both. Room was really good!

  8. Courtney says

    I love Diane Mott Davidson. She has a series of books that involve around a caterer. Each book is a mystery and there are recipes throughout the books of what Goldy is making as she takes you on her adventures. It is a great, clean read and there are 16 books in the series. I would HIGHLY recommend them.

  9. Kathryn says

    I just finished reading “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simpson for book club tonight. It’s set in England and the story of friendship and love of two older adults, as well as traditions. I’ve started our next read which is non fiction, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Sloots which is the story of Henrietta Lacks, who scientists know as HeLa. She was a poor black woman who died from cervical cancer. Her cells, taken without her knowledge at John Hopkins in 195, became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family has never received any money for the use of her cells. I find Sloots, who is a scientific journalist, to be an engaging writer and can’t put the book down.

  10. says

    I loved the peach keeper also! it was a great book. i have read a few more of these but will have to look into a couple. I want to read recipe club but have heard its not worth it, you confirmed it again!

  11. Jill says

    I have just finished a great book! It is titled Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I liked this book like I liked the Help. She is also the author of Sea Biscuit….Maybe you saw that movie? Unbroken is about WWII fighter pilots, POW’s in Japan and is a historically based book. The read was wonderful!

  12. says

    Thank you so much for posting this! Good variety! I am adding ‘The Paris Wife’ and ‘The Element’ to my reading queue, based on your reviews!

    This summer, I read Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins’ as a companion book to Lewis’ ‘The Great Divorce’. Both are books about heaven and hell and track somewhat similarly but with enough difference to make it a thought-provoking read. ‘Screwtape Letters’ is also one that leaves a person re-examining everyday choices and thought patters. It is one of my favorites of Lewis’ writing. Frank Peretti’s book ‘This Present Darkness’ has a similar feel, if you have ever read that. I have both and you are welcome to borrow them.

    At the recommendation of my middle son, I also read ‘Compelled By Love’ by Heidi Baker. She and her husband Roland are missionaries in Mozambique. This chronicles some of their experiences working within deep poverty, hopeless illness and amidst seemingly dangerous circumstances. My son described reading it as a book that he started highlighting favorite insights and references. However, he soon found himself highlighting just about the entire book, so he gave up highlighting. It’s that thought provoking! It would definitely go hand-in-hand with your compassionate heart and thoughts on with working with lepers.

  13. Kristi says

    I have A Year on Ladybug Farm on my list now!

    I have been reading every book of Mary Kay Andrews this summer it seems! So far I have read Blue Christmas, Hissy Fit, Savannah Breeze and Litty Bitty Lies. I have enjoyed all of them so far! I have two more on my nightstand waiting for me to finish Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I’ll let you know how it is!

      • Kristi says

        If you haven’t already read her, Sandra Dallas writes some really great books. My favorite is “New Mercies” but there has only been one that I didn’t care for and it was probably just the mood I was in when I started it. :) I’ll have to try it again!

  14. Ellen says

    Leigh Anne, I always look forward to your yearly list of books you have read. Getting a list mid -year is such a treat! I just finished, upon your recommendation, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts and enjoyed it very much. I have been reading a huge book, A. Lincoln, and needed a break, but I think I still am in “break mode” so I will pick another one of your suggestions.

    My husband just finished Unbroken and loved it. That is on my list, as well.

    Happy Reading!

    • says

      I enjoyed A. Lincoln but it was a tough read….I like the idea of taking break…that is what I should have done with “The Brothers Karamozov” that I read back in Feb. It was good but I’m still in Break mode…reading teen fiction :) ie…”When you Reach Me”, “The Lost Hero” “Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment” :)

  15. says

    Thanks for the great book suggestions. I read the “These Is My Words” series, and like the others that read them I also enjoyed them. I’m currently reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, which I’m also liking. The other book I finished this summer is “The Name of This Book is Secret”. I read with my kiddos for our family book club. It was a cute youth book. I have a couple more books in that series to catch up on.

  16. Merri says

    I’ll echo what others have said as I’ve read several that are mentioned: The Help, Unbroken, Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society and These is My Words were all excellent. The first two are MUST READS! The man “Unbroken” is based on was at my church this spring. Amazing story!

  17. says

    I have bookmarked each of your book review posts and have enjoyed those books that I have read based on your recommendation. I have a similar “PG” taste in books and appreciate having others pass along books that are worthy of my time.
    Many of the books mentioned in previous comments have been on my night stand and rather than repeating titles I would have to recommend a book that I just read this past week while away with my family on vacation. Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. He is a fellow Portlander which added interest for me, but the book is surprisingly introspective while being completely entertaining. A book I would also say your children would enjoy as they enter their adult stage of life…

  18. Nicolle Nascimento says

    Leigh Ann,
    I am sure you have already read this one but if not it is a must read. The Help–it is such a great book, historical fiction about the hired help down in Missippi during the 50-60’s. It is written very well, you will enjoy every page. Movie comes out tomorrow.

  19. Danielle T says

    I have read: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, Matched by Ally Condie and loved both of them. Moon Over Manifest won the Newbery Award. It is a jr adult book and easy to read. I just took both of those books along with The Help to a friend who has been put on bed rest. I just bought Half Broken Horses by Jeannett Walls – I will let you know if it is any good. I had Dreams of Joy in my cart at Costco and put it back – guess I better go back and buy it. Thanks for the suggestions .

  20. rere says

    i don’t read many books but my son bought one at a thrift store and brought it home. the book is “the kite runner”, i could not put that book down. my husband saw me devouring the book, so when i was finished he picked it up. and do you know what – he couldn’t put it down – it’s that good!

  21. Jessica says

    I love to read historical fiction ~ we have similar taste in books. I have read all of Lisa See’s books and Kate Morton’s. They are some of my favorites. Have also read The Paris Wife and loved it, and saw Midnight in Paris. My favorite books lately are The 13th Tale and Madame Tussuad (Michelle Moran). It is set during the French Revolution. Oh, and Sarah’s Key is another good one. I, also, love books set in Paris and books set in England.

  22. says

    I love to read. Love, Love, Love it and so appreciate when you post about what you are reading. However, can’t imagine ever feeling “Harry Pottered out” :) I devoured them back to back like you and was sad when I read the last page. This summer though I have been reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” “Maximum Ride – The Angel Experiment”, “When You Reach Me”, “The Lost Hero”, “The Throne of Fire”, “The Four Seasons of Marriage”, and a few others that I can’t remember at this moment :)

  23. ashley says

    I’m curious what websites you use for book ratings/recommendations? You mentioned sites like those that rate movies, but do you have a few that you use?!

    • says

      One I like is GoodReads. You can find your friends who are on it and share books plus read about books and get recommendations. If you sign up (it’s free) you will have to invite me to be your friend. That way we can see what each other is reading.


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