Let’s be realistic about our summer reading goals.

Editor’s note: In mid May we’re chomping at the bit to cast ourselves headlong into the amber glow of summer. Our plans are as long as the days themselves—the trips to take, the yard work to do, the books to read. “Yes, I will really do it this year,” we tell ourselves. “I will stick to my goals, do all the things, read all the books.” Then the second week of June rolls around, and all ambition has been lost.

This summer, keep things simple. Deep down, you really do want to read something worthwhile this summer. That’s why our summer 2017 reading list is limited to one book recommendation per contributor. Options are terrible and debilitating, and summer is much too short to feel guilty about that to-read list that you never got to. So, consider a book (or two) from the ones below and let’s actually do some reading this summer.

Stephanie Carney: Elisabeth Elliot spent her first year as a missionary in Ecuador ministering to the Colorado Indians (before marrying Jim Elliot). In These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge?, Elisabeth shares her experiences, questions, struggles and how her faith grew from immense hardship.

In the preface (written 40 years later), she states: “Nearly every time I have told [the story] and tried to explain what I think God wanted to teach me in it of absolute commitment and trust, someone has asked, ‘but why did God let it happen?’ Someday they and I will be satisfied with His answer. Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”

I have not read this book since I was in college, but its impact was lasting. I consider Elisabeth Elliot a mentor, the most influential author I read while gaining my footing in faith during my college years. I read so many books during this time, but I specifically remember this book. I remember reading it in my dorm room, curled up on the end of my bed next to the window with afternoon sun streaming in. This summer I’m reading it to my kids—I hope they begin to gather stories that will instruct their faith journey. But also, I want to remember what impacted me as a young woman; I want to see how far God has brought me. Re-reading is invaluable—I’ve passed through many life seasons since this time and I believe God has something new to show me.

Nathan Hrouda: I’m currently reading Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im. This book was recommended to me by many other church planters as I’ve begun thinking about church planting, and the authors cover the many different reasons and ways for church planting. It breaks down why church planting is important, bad reasons for planting churches and then the different methods and models that have been used to plant churches. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, so I think he offers a wealth of experience and wisdom. I’m looking forward to sifting through it and landing on some key principles that I can take away from it.

Mitch Majeski: This summer, I will be reading To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City by my friend Eric Swanson. In some of the biggest (and most progressive) cities in America, the evangelical church is convening a party to seek the welfare of the city in which they dwell (Jeremiah 29:4-7). The party includes collaborative partnerships with other churches, business, nonprofits and city government. The collective impact of that partnership is moving the needle on the health of communities and the reputation of Jesus and his followers. Without a central leader and often times completely on their own, these movements are popping up all over the country. In fact, so clear is this movement of God, that Eric and other missions experts are beginning to say that cities are the new 10/40 window.

Trevor Sides: I grew up on the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. My brothers and I would flip straight to the comics section of the local newspaper every morning to see what trouble Calvin and his stuffed tiger had gotten themselves into. By high school, we had accumulated all of the books and collections.

Calvin’s existence was a thoroughly tangible one. He got dirty playing in the woods. He rode his wagon down steeply graded hills. He made highly complex scientific contraptions out of cardboard boxes. He could travel through space at a moment’s notice or turn into a pterodactyl at the slightest hint of inspiration.

Calvin could imagine other worlds because he was physically present in the real one. He was not distracted by devices and screens. Yes, he often had a short attention span when it came to his homework, but that was more a result of desire than distraction. Calvin did not need augmented or virtual reality to make his world more fun or meaningful or enchanting.

I think I’ve lost some of this basic ability to be human. To be a child. To play. To exist without the mediation of screens or WiFi. So that’s why I’m reading Andy Crouch’s latest book, The Tech-Wise Family. I’m hoping to find practical insight on how to recover my humanity so that I can lead my family into a life of flourishing; so that I can raise a boy who sees infinite possibility in a trickle of water and promptly cancels all other appointments for the afternoon.

Trisha Swift: I am interested in reading many books this summer, but one I am planning on making time to read is Unholy Trinity by Matt Walsh. I follow Matt’s blog, and although I don’t agree with everything he says, he speaks a good deal of truth into the modern political and social spheres. He tackles the difficult issues that many bloggers shy away from. In his first book, he addresses the “trinity” of life, marriage and gender, and how the left’s redefinition of these three things has led us down an uncertain path. I respect Matt’s opinions and also how diligently he researches and forms those opinions, so I am interested to see what he has to say about these issues (once I buy the book, of course).

Tina Wilson: A few months ago I found one of the books on my Goodreads list, Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs, at the library. I only had time to read the first four chapters but that was enough for me to put the book on my to-buy list. It’s one of those books I want to read slowly, a chapter here and there, when I feel the need to be encouraged to look for the loveliness all around me.

My hope is to read bits and pieces of this book over the next few months and spend the summer on a scavenger hunt for lovely—looking for simple but meaningful experiences that turn an ordinary day into something extraordinary. Sometimes I might invite my kids to come along and share with me where they find lovely. I imagine that this could make for some intriguing adventures and help me gain greater insight into what connects with their hearts. I’m hopeful that my husband and I will find some unique date night suggestions in the book. And as I read it, I’m hoping to be reminded of the lovely that can be found in inviting a friend or neighbor to share an evening walk, or in getting up early to enjoy the sunrise from my front porch.

If a little encouragement to stop and look for the loveliness around you in the midst of a busy summer sounds like something you’d enjoy and benefit from, check it out from the library or get a copy of your own. Maybe I’ll see you somewhere around town looking for lovely.