Growing up, I was the kid who couldn’t wait to get the summer reading list.

I would pour over the options and drool over the possibilities. Some years I didn’t get choices, just 2-4 required books. Most of the time, they weren’t ones I would have picked out on my own. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge to read books I wouldn’t typically read.

Each new cover filled me with excitement for all the untapped possibilities waiting on its pages.

Of course the excitement didn’t always reach the back cover. The Old Man and the Sea made me want to hurl the book across the room and gave me an ill opinion of that year’s teacher. In my defense, I think eighth grade’s a bit early for Hemingway. I really should read it again. My opinion would likely be quite different now.

Other books stuck with me. I was reminded of this last week when I jabbered on for a while about summer reading during my Facebook LIVE Book Club. Two jump out in my memory:

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

Hunt’s book was required for my seventh grade English class. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember my parents had a hard time finding the book. Looking back, I find it shocking that the library didn’t have it; but, whatever the circumstances, it took most of the summer and a lot of calling and traveling to find a copy. (This was pre-Amazon, of course.) I got it just in time to read it before the first day of school.

Imagine my disappointment when I entered class on the first day, bright and shiny and ready to discuss the hard-earned book in my hands, only to discover no one else had parents as diligent as mine. Since no one else got the book, the teacher drew a figurative line through the title and we focused on other books instead. For an over-achiever like me, this was a hard pill to swallow. I didn’t even get extra credit!

Eric Liddell by Catherine Swift

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympic runner and missionary to China. The movie Chariots of Fire was based on his life. HIs parents had been missionaries, and Eric knew from an early age he was called to be a missionary as well. However, as Eric explains to his sister in the movie version (which is a little different from real life, by the way), God also gave him the ability to run—fast.

He spent several years running his heart out and preaching to groups of people who would stick around to hear him share the Gospel. He earned a spot on Great Britain’s Olympic team for the 1924 games in Paris. When they released the heat schedules, though, Eric firmly said he wouldn’t run because his race was slated for Sunday. His commitment to his understanding of God’s commands—resting on the Sabbath day—caused quite a stir. Many people couldn’t understand what the big deal was. Others were angry with him. How dare he disappoint his country! Eric remained stalwart in his choice. Thankfully, a teammate offered to switch races with him. Eric ran a distance he hadn’t trained for … and brought home the gold.

Reading about his resolve and commitment left an indelible mark on me as a child. I think of him often when I’m faced with a choice—to take the easier route or to make a few ripples for a cause.

Summer Reading Challenge

These were just the first two required summer reading books that popped to my mind. I’m sure you have some as well. What do you remember about summer reading? Do you have fond memories or horrible ones? Please share away in the comments! We want to laugh—or cringe—with you.

What about this summer? Would you like a Summer Reading Challenge now?

You’re in luck! I’ve got one just for you, plus a couple bonus options for my fellow over-achievers.

It’s pretty simple. You only need to read three books between now and Labor Day (or whenever you consider the end of summer)! For my extra credit friends, I’ve got two bonuses.

Joy's Summer Reading Challenge.


Let me hear if you’re hopping on my Summer Reading Challenge and tell me what you’re planning to read. Then let me know how it goes and which reads were keepers and which may be more “meh.”

Growing up, I was the kid who couldn't wait to get the summer reading list. I would pour over the options and drool over the possibilities.

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