Top 5 Friday: Leisure Summer Reading


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June 10, 2022
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Summer is in full swing, and if you’re like us, you have a stack of books—or you’re hoping to get to the library to retrieve a stack of books—to enjoy this summer for leisure reading. Our in All Things editorial board has a few recommendations for an author and genre to read this summer.


Erin’s Recommendation
Genre: Young Adult
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan  (author pictured)

I love reading YA fiction, and Pam Munoz Ryan has written a couple of my favorites, including Echo and Esperanza Rising. Ryan is an author for everyone, not just young adults or kids, but they’ll love her books too. Ryan’s attention to cultural and historical details is impeccable and her storylines are inspirational and moving.

Donald’s Recommendation
Genre: Fantasy
Author: Will Wight (author pictured)

Every now and then I’ll take a chance on a self-published author on kindle for a cheap and cheerful sort of fantasy book. I did this with Will Wight back when he wrote his first series, and I have been stuck with him ever since. He’s remarkably prolific, cranking out a new book every few months, and he’s completed two series so far (those are also worth checking out). His prose is catchy and action-oriented, and I find I devour his books almost the day they come out. This latest series is the author’s riff on a few Chinese styles involving magic, martial arts, and a progressive self-cultivation where the main character grows in strength through adversity in each volume. The main protagonist, Lindon, starts in a world where he is looked down upon as an invalid, and through friendships, suffering, and hard work, he progresses through the volumes toward a destiny beyond his world. It’s creative, fun, and I’ve found it makes me want to hit the gym harder each time I read one.

Justin’s Recommendation
Genre: Fantasy
Author: Susanna Clarke (author pictured)

Clarke is best known for her Hugo Award winning Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but at over a thousand pages, it’s heavy lifting. It’s better to start with her more recent book Piranesi – a story about a man who lives in a cavernous house with an ocean inside. But things are not what they seem! It’s been a long time since I’ve been so mesmerized by a book. This book allows us to feel a more primal form of participation with the natural world, while also turning into a thriller along the way. The first 30 pages or so is a bit slow and meditative, but it held me with its gorgeous prose. When the book takes off, however, I simply could not put it down.

Ruth’s Recommendation
Genre: Murder Mystery
Author: Louise Penny (author pictured)

A couple summers ago, a friend recommended reading Canadian fiction writer, Louise Penny. I’m so glad she did. I’ve been enjoying this ongoing series that follows Inspector Gamache, his team, and some quaint villagers in Three Pines, Quebec. Events delve into fascinating webs of lies or painful experiences, but amidst the vices, virtue prevails, and beauty emerges within this small community.

Sarah’s Recommendation
Genre: Beach Read
Author: Elin Hilderbrand (author pictured)

Every summer, I return to the same author: Elin Hilderbrand. Whether I’m sitting in the bow of our boat or catching some rays on my deck, I have one of Hilderbrand’s books sitting somewhere nearby. Her books are known for their summery, beachy vibe, which is exactly what I’m looking for on a sunny day. Hilderbrand has written 28 novels, is a graduate of the famous University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and, as of this summer, will retire from writing to become a book influencer (whatever that is!). Aptly called “the Queen of Summer,” Hilderbrand loves to write novels based in Nantucket, where she’s lived for years and spent her childhood summers. I’ve never been to Nantucket, but having read at least 15 of Hilderbrand’s novels, I feel like I know the restaurants, beaches, and towns well.

If you’re looking for a starting point with Hilderbrand’s books, a couple titles stand out to me. The Blue Bistro pairs suspense and romance with lovely descriptions of the Blue Bistro and its delicious food. Silver Girl tells the story of a woman who, after her husband cheats investors out of their fortunes, retreats to Nantucket with a friend to heal and find the strength to forgive—while also reconnecting with a lost love.

Hilderbrand is not without her controversies, and her books are filled with adult content. Still, if you’re looking for a beach read that’s well-written and at times thought-provoking, you might check her work out.


This summer In All Things is light-heartedly including recommendations, tips, and joys that we would love to share with you, readers, in the format of Top Five Fridays, switching up our themes each week. Share a comment if there is a “Top 5” topic you’d like us to explore.

About the Authors
  • Ruth (Van Essen) Clark has called Minnesota, California, Nebraska, and Iowa "home." She enjoys good conversations around cups of coffee or plates of food, games, cooking, gardening, international cuisine, and great stories found in books and films. She currently resides in Sioux Center, Iowa, with her husband and three children, adjunct teaches in the Core program, and serves as the Andreas Center Coordinator at Dordt.  

  • Donald Roth serves as Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Co-Director of the Kuyper Honors Program, and Director of the Master of Public Administration Program at Dordt University.

  • Sarah Moss serves as Director of Marketing and Communication and Voice Magazine Editor at Dordt University.

  • Justin Ariel Bailey works at the intersection of Christian theology, culture, and ministry. Having served as a pastor in a number of diverse settings, his research seeks to bridge gaps between church and academy, and the formational spaces where they overlap. He is the author of the book Reimagining Apologetics (IVP Academic, 2020) and the forthcoming volume Interpreting Your World (Baker Academic, 2022). He serves as associate professor of Theology at Dordt University and is the host of the In All Things podcast. 

  • Erin Olson serves as Professor of Social Work as well as the director of the MSW program at Dordt University. She also enjoys her many other job descriptors of mom, wife, licensed clinical social worker, and dog-owner, which keep her active and connected to community!

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