Love from the Lake

photoWe’re in full swing here, happily settled in at our favorite blue house.  Flip flops, ponytail, no makeup. Messy house, towels on the porch railing. The floors in the house are sandy and our cheeks are pink, and we need to get to the grocery store just desperately, out of everything but Cheerios, but who cares?

We’re at the lake, and tomorrow we can get berries and morning cake from the farmers market. We’re at the lake, where even our fancy outfits involve sandy feet, absolutely all of our plans are subject to change according to weather or whim, and everywhere you turn you run into an old friend or a familiar face.

Our friends who come visit tease us about all of this–Do you work for the tourism board? Are you related to every single person in this tiny town? Do you ever go anywhere that requires driving in a car? Do you ever shower? 

We’ve hosted Chicago friends and Grand Rapids friends and Kalamazoo friends. We’ve gone for bike rides and boat rides and last minute trips to the beach. We’ve picked the last strawberries, tiny and sweet, and the first blueberries, purple and tart. We’ve eaten what seems like a thousand popsicles on the porch, and Mac’s official summer outfit is nothing but a diaper. (Is there anything cuter than a toddler is nothing but a diaper? There is not.)

We celebrated my grandparents’ 83rd birthdays with a big family dinner at my parents’ cottage. We went to dear family friends’ annual pig roast and watched South Haven’s 4th of July parade. Last night we took the boat up to Saugatuck to see the fireworks there, the boys in jammies, fresh from the bath, so wiggly and excited to be up late and going to sleep on the boat instead of in their beds.

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You know that I’m very intentionally limiting my work time in this season, and I think it’s safe to say I’ve transitioned from work mode to lake living pretty comprehensively.

Exhibit A: My editor came to town on a cool Monday morning. Instead of having breakfast at a restaurant like normal professional people do, we met at my favorite coffee shop for dark, almost bitter almond milk lattes (my favorite!) and pastries, and we spread towels on the empty beach.

And Exhibit B: I had a work conference call, kind of an important one, and so I brought my boys down to my parents’ cottage—they have a landline, and my parents were happy for a little kid time. I tried to sound serious and attentive on the call while my dad and my brother circled the cottage a thousand times on a dirtbike and Vespa, one kid riding happily with each of them, squealing with delight. That’s exactly how professional my life is these days, and that’s okay by me.

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I have a long-standing love affair with reading on the porch after the kids are in bed, light fading, but lately we’ve been falling into bed, too tired for the porch and the book.  I’m hoping to spend some quality time with that porch in coming weeks, so I’d love your best summer reading recommendations. Anything you’ve loved?

I did read one book so far: Elin Hilderbrand’s newest, Beautiful Day, and it’s a summer-perfect book. I love her beach-y Nantucket-y books, and this one is no exception. My editor just recommended Where’d You Go, Bernadette, so that’s next on my list, but I’d love your recommendations—any favorite summer books? Any must-reads?





42 thoughts on “Love from the Lake

  1. I love seeing you relax Shauna. I know how hard you work!

    Carolyn mentioned, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” on her FB page. I read it. Laughed my head off and embarassed myself in a coffee shop.

    It took me a few chapters to get the gist of the book. I had to make a list of the intial characters to keep them straight. But it’s a good poke at how seriously we all take ourselves.

  2. I just finished The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It was a really lovely, touching read. It was a quick read, mainly because once I started I didn’t want to stop. But that’s what vacation is for, right?

  3. Thanks for the book recommendations! Just requested both from my local library. And I just finished “The Midwife of Hope River” by Patricia Harman – loved it. Beginning “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” right now, but having trouble getting into it with all the summer activities. Loved your post, it made me want to get on a plane to see my folks and put my toes in some sand. :)

  4. Two of my favorites from last summer’s reading: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. I love a happy ending.

  5. It all sounds perfect, perfect, perfect!

    I just read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Olive Kitteridge and loved both. I’m usually a non-fiction girl, but during the summer, I love to read fiction on the back patio with a glass of chardonnay after the boys are in bed. That, to me, is the quintessential summer evening.

  6. Agree with a previous post…..loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I recommend it to everyone who loves fiction.

  7. Yes, yes, and yes- you have some good comments here already. Gift from the Sea, Where’d You Go Bernadette and Language of Flowers are all fantastic. Enjoy your porch time!

  8. Hmm! I was going to say Gift from the Sea, too! Your post reminded me of it :) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet seems more like an autumn/ winter book to me, but maybe that’s because I read it on rainy days.

  9. Just devoured The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls (Glass Castle and Half-broke Horses) and it did not disappoint!

  10. Ha! I was totally about to say Cold Tangerines!!! Because I just finished re-reading it and loved it as much as the first time, and then I was like, ‘oh – wait. She wrote that. Try again.’…. reading this post made me miss living in Michigan. There’s just no place like it.

  11. Your summer sounds dreamy. I’m about to finish Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It’s sort of an anti-summer read being that it’s set in Alaska, but I like reading about endless snowy wilderness when it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s a beautiful story. The book I recommend to everyone these days is Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Such a jewel of a book.

  12. In NH we are just as fond as our water & coastlines be it the Atlantic toward which we sprawl 17 miles or the numerous lakes on of which was made famous in On Golden Pond but you make me want to visit that area!
    I would recommend the book Danny Boy, a debut for a NH author. It’s a coming of age memoir we can all in some way relate to no matter where or when we grew up. Their are pieces of universal childhood in it I am sure you will enjoy, especially usefull as you raise your won 2 sons. Find it here:

    Enjoy your time in the blue house. I am reading Bread & Wine.

  13. Good grief! Forgive the typos. I was not familiar with this white on black format for commenting and my mistypes were not easily apparent to me.

  14. I just finished ‘Where’d Ya Go Bernadette’ and it was great! My sister in law recommended it last August and it promptly went on my “to be read” list. Just recently I had a day at the beach and started in. It was really great & funny and I finished later the same night after the kids were put to bed!

  15. Loving the book lists. Endorsing the Book Thief – took me a while to get into it then I came back to it and couldn’t put it down. City of Light by Lauren Belfer was an amazing read – think the era of “Meet me in St Louis’ and the electrification debate. This is not the Life I ordered – 50 ways to keep you head above water when life keeps dragging you down is a different take on the Bitter-sweet theme with a huge range of life experiences. M J Ryan The Power of Patience – how to slow the rush and enjoy more happiness, success and peace of mind every day would be a gift for every family . Gordon MacDonald the resilient life – you can move ahead no matter what is another inspiring read.

    If you like WW2 stories I loved Enemies of the Heart by Rebecca Dean (four decades of American/English Jewish families) and the Thoenes book of the same period was a good read while the history was fresh and the Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer

    I don’t usually spend the time to send a list but it’s a thank you for Bittersweet and the people you have blessed with your sharing and encouraging – thank you. Am enjoying Bread and Wind are recommending it to those who will get even more out of it but Bittersweet will likely always be my favourite because of my life experiences and the validations in that story. Thanks again.

  16. One of my top favorite reads is West With the Night by Beryl Markham. It’s one of the most beautifully written books and tells a fabulous story of another time and another place. It’s a true story, but so full of mystery and adventure one wonders how it all could have happened. And yet it did. I always come back to this one.

  17. Summer has always been a magical time to read for me, a time for going to the library and heaping my arms full.

    Here are my two cents for some lovely summer reads:

    10 Girls to Watch – it’s a story about a journalism graduate who gets a job researching the winners of a magazine contest (10 girls to watch) going back decades. It was fascinating, and appealed to the part of me that likes to discover primary sources and talk to people with stories.

    The Penderwicks Series – these are kid-lit, but could there be anything better than timeless writing, about four sisters and their delightful adventures? There are currently three of these and all are wonderful and surprising.

    The Light Between Oceans – a historical novel about a lighthousekeeper and his wife and a decision they make which changes several lives without their knowing it. It’s hauntingly beautiful, and tightly written, and though I read it last year, I still think about it often.

  18. I absolutely loved “Bread and Wine,” so thank you for that. I just finished Khaled Hosseini’s most recent novel, “And the Mountains Echoed.” He is an amazing storyteller and his writing is gorgeous. For a breezier read, Lauren Graham’s “Someday, Someday, Maybe” is a good choice. Cute, funny and very entertaining.

  19. Ha! I’m recommending Bread & Wine to everyone. But I think you’ve read that. :) Did you ever read A Severe Mercy? Not even sure if it’s in print anymore. But the love story is a favorite. Have a BLAST today, Shauna!

  20. Just finished (literally 5.5 minutes ago) still points north. Leigh Newman is a truth teller like you, Shauna. It is a fantastic book that had me laughing, crying and feeling every emotion in between!

  21. I’d recommend Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris and Citadel by Kate Mosse. Both British authors but both set in France. I was fortunate enough to hear Kate Mosse speak last week, incredibly she said she does 4 years historical research before she starts her books. I’d also recommend The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry that other paople have mentioned.

  22. I’m reading My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares … it’s a very fun, beach-y read! Enjoy South Haven. Summers in Michigan are the BEST!

  23. I have been giving out “Bread and Wine” as birthday gifts and summer read book! :)

    Two of my favorites are by Marisa de la Santos, “Love walked in” and “Belong to me”. Her writing is stunning. I love the characters – I wished the coffee shop was real and I could go! Think you would enjoy them! (I have her third on my list for this summer.)

    1. Had to reply…Love Walked In is one of my all time favorite books. Such gorgeous writing and a compelling story. HIghly recommend!

  24. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is fabulous! Two of my favorites are Love Walked In and Belong to Me. I just finished the 2nd Devil Wears Prada which is a good vacation read. I love YA so Hunger Games, Divergent, and Delirium are all great.

  25. Thanks for a beautiful Fourth of July post. Very American and what we all crave! The beauty of simple joys! I recently listed some of my favorite reads citing your three on scribblingbeautifulgrace and happy to have new suggestions from your readers. Loved The House At Tyneford by Natasha Solomons; also a good beach read. WWII story from interesting perspective. Very touching and romantic as well.
    Have a beautiful carefree summer!

  26. I’m actually reading a few books that you listed in the back of bread and wine. When I saw that list I was so excited. I love your writing and have enjoyed the recommended ones that I have gotten to. Thanks for including that list!

  27. Hi-
    Your summer plans sound lovely. Some older favorites –
    Corelli’s Mandolin
    Year of Wonders-Geraldine Brooks
    Just finished The Burgess Brothers-Elizabeth Strout
    Happy reading on the porch : )

  28. We are renting a cottage is South Haven this week right by the pier ~ near where the picture of your feet, coffee and pastries was taken :).
    What is the name of the coffee shop where you got these goodies? I am going to start your newest book this week. Also on my list is Me before You by Jojo Moyes.

  29. After reading all these lovely recommendations I have to chime in and suggest all of you check out She Reads where we select one book a month and feature the author all month long. We also offer guest posts and reviews, roundups of similar themed books, etc. for those of us who devour much more than one novel a month. I hope you all will visit with us and join the community of readers we are building. I think you’ll find some wonderful books to add to your TBR pile there!

  30. My book club just read Me Before You, so good. And Language of Flowers is what we are reading next. Where’d you go Bernadette was recommended to me by a few people. I just finished What Happened To Sophie Wilder and I couldn’t put it down. You might like Eat and Run which I also just finished, a memoir by an Ultra Marathoner Scott Jurek who won a ton of races all on a plant based diet. I loved reading it.

    I just mentioned Bread and Wine on my food blog and will try to make it my first giveaway, as soon as I figure out how to do a give away :) So happy to discover your books and blog!

  31. I have to thank you for your FANTASTIC book recommendations at the back of Bread & Wine! (One of my favorite books of the year, by the way). I can’t believe I never knew about Ruth Reichl’s books before now! I’ve devoured Comfort Me With Apples, Tender At the Bone and am now reading Garlic & Sapphires – SO, SO GOOD! I also want to read Everlast Meal by Tamar Adler. Also on the summer list is An Altar In The World by Barbara Brown Taylor. I’m currently reading and loving The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – it’s nonfiction, but it reads like fiction. Plan on reading Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron, Where’d You Go Bernadette, and the new memoir Blue Plate Special by Kate Christiansen. I so love to read in the summer – hope you find some wonderful reads! :)

  32. My book club just finished reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and you must check it out. Great summer read (I read it while at the beach myself) or anytime of the year. One of my favorites so far this year, behind Bread and Wine, of course!

  33. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova. Made me sob ( in a good way) A beautiful story about unconditional love. Couldn’t put it down.

  34. I just finished bittersweet- a friend gave it to me over a year ago and, for no apparent reason, it sat on my bookshelf all that time. I now know why- I began reading it a few weeks ago and ended up having a miscarriage last week. Your words, open honesty and encouragement could not have come at a better time. I am so thankful that God brought this book into my hands at just the right time. I also read bread & wine earlier this year and absolutely love it!

    A few favorites I have read this year:
    What Alice Forgot
    Eleanor & Park
    Divergent & Insurgent

    All quick reads- perfect for the summer!

  35. Well, lately I’ve been recommending anything by Shauna Niequist as good summer reading. But since you’ve probably already read all of her books…. I would recommend The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri), Lit: A Memoir (Mary Karr), Ready Player One (Ernest Kline), and I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb). Thanks for sharing your wisdom in your writing, and for talking up the beauty of Michigan life — as a GR resident, I couldn’t agree more :).

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