5 Inspirational Books to Read This Summer

5 Inspirational Books to Read This Summer

There’s something so quintessential about having a good book (or several) to read during the summer months. From plane rides to road trips, trips to the beach or lake, picnics in the park, or simply sitting on the porch in the afternoon, reading is the perfect pastime for those sweet, slow summer days.

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that I tend to make my book list for the year in January (here’s what I plan to read in 2018, in case you’re curious). The list may change as I go through the year and pick up books on sale here and there or come across a newly-released book that I want to read, but I like to begin the year with a list of books (one per month) already picked out.

8 Inspirational Reads for Worship Leaders and Planners

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr. Seuss

There’s a lot of truth in that statement. And the exciting thing is, we are never done learning. There are always new ideas, new processes, new perspectives to discover, explore, and seek to understand.

Reading is a great way to escape, unwind, and rest, but it’s also a useful way to learn, grow, and find inspiration. In our work as musicians and teachers, directors and coordinators, worship leaders and planners, this is extremely important.

A few years ago, I shared a few book recommendations for church musicians - choir directors, children’s choir directors, organists and accompanists, and others. Today, I’m sharing a book list for worship leaders - those of you involved in planning, leading, and facilitating worship services (traditional, contemporary, and everything in between). 

2017 Book List

2017 Book List

One of my favorite things about this time of year is reading everyone's book lists. I love seeing what other people are reading, hearing about new releases, and connecting with others over shared interests.

Over the past few years, I've built a little time for reading into my daily routine (usually in the evening as we wind down from the day).

As I've shared before, I like to have variety in what I read, so I tend to choose books that cover all of these categories:


Here are the books I plan to read (or re-read) this year:

2016 Book List

2016 Book List

Over the past few years, and particularly in the last few months, I’ve really come to love reading. One of my goals for December was to make time for reading every day - I’m proud to say I made that happen! It’s a habit I plan to continue in the New Year.

Reading has become something I look forward during the day - a time to be quiet, rest, and be re-filled. I enjoy reading books that inspire and encourage me to live a life of faith, books that challenge me and make me think, books that teach me something new about managing money, running a business, or being creative. 

I try to balance my reading list by choosing books that fall into these five categories:


Simply Tuesday

Simply Tuesday

The world tells us to hustle and work hard, make it happen, strive for bigger and better. But have you ever stopped to think about what your soul is telling you? It's an interesting thought, isn't it.

That still, small voice inside often says things like, "Wait" and "Slow down" or "Breathe." Because "the soul and the schedule don't follow the same rules" (Emily P. Freeman). Sometimes, we just need to be still. Sometimes, we need to not only remember our smallness, but celebrate it.

Books for Church Musicians

Books for Church Musicians

Church musicians, in my opinion, have the dual role of making/teaching music and encouraging faith formation within a community. It can be challenging to negotiate these two roles, but I believe ministry is just that - balancing and negotiating, challenging and encouraging, building up and bringing together.

It's not just a job. It's something we pour our hearts into.

Today, I'm sharing a few books to add to your bookshelf (or share with a church musician you know!). Many of these are practical, encouraging reads written by church musicians, for church musicians. What could be better?

2015 Book List

2015 Book List

"She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live." - Annie Dillard

I haven't always been a reader, but for the past few years, I've tried to be more intentional about reading for pleasure, fulfillment, inspiration, well-being, knowledge, and rest. I've read books about love and faith; balance, leadership, and goal-setting; living, giving, and relationships. Each one has taught me something new about myself, my priorities, and the person I want to become.

This year, I hope to read at least six new books, chosen from the list below. Are any of these on your list? Are there any books you'd recommend as must-reads? Follow along with my reading adventures at #ashleydanyewreads!

The City and the Sea


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I'm reading Emily Freeman's A Million Little Ways right now - so many good words and such a fresh perspective on life and living and grace and art. Created in the image of God, we are called to serve and give and create in a multitude of ways - ways that reflect His glory. The journey to discovering these callings is a personal one and as I read Emily's account of her story, I see pieces of my own journey.

"My life is the city but my soul is the sea."

These words practically jumped off the page when I read them.

We've all had those moments when life feels adventurous and exciting. We thrive on the hustle and bustle of those around us and we feel as if we're on top of the world. Life is big and grand like the intimidating lines and finely-crafted architectural detail of the early skyscrapers, built a century ago and still standing majestically along Main Street. There in the distance - our name in lights.

And then there are those days when we want to hide. When we drive to a place where no one will find us because stepping into the warm rays of sunlight that hit our front steps and facing the world seems too much to bear. Instead of attention and a desire to be noticed, to be known, we long for security, for peace, for stillness. Our souls long for refreshment and solitude.

Rochester is a mid-size city.

We say it's just the right size for us: lots of arts and culture; small restaurants with a cozy, neighborhood feel; and you can get anywhere in about 20 minutes. I've grown used to the refrigerated delivery trucks parked outside on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the street sweeper, the beeping of the bus as it pauses mid-route at the stop around the corner. There's something comforting about it all - life being lived around you, people coming and going, a sense of community.

But then there are those moments when city life stops for a moment. There's a lull in the traffic on East Avenue. The only other person out walking is far in the distance. The only sounds are those of the birds happily chirping in the nearby crabapple and the wind gently nudging its branches.

I love these moments.

Instinctively, I take in a deep breath. I notice the pool blue sky, the white petals of the dogwood falling along my path, the fluffy peonies larger than the size of my hand. And then I remember that though my life is the city much of the time, my soul is the sea.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

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With the recent holiday weekend and a long car ride on either side, I finally finished reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker (please be impressed that I stuck with this bit of pleasure reading throughout the spring semester). The book chronicles the author's seven month experiment: seven categories (food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress) stripped down to seven essentials for a month.  Seven food items.  Seven articles of clothing.  Seven items to give away each day.  Seven forms of media to do without.  Seven ways to reduce waste and become more environmentally responsible.  Seven places to spend money.  Seven prayers a day to remind us to pause, give thanks, reflect, and focus on what matters.

My heart has been challenged by this "mutiny against excess" - our lives are so full, so busy and yet we strive for more.  We live with more than we need and yet we buy more.  We value our abundant wardrobes, earthly possessions, and excessive lifestyle spending habits.  Consumerism and the need for more has become part of our societal identity.  Whatever happened to that life of simplicity, abandon, and giving that Jesus talked about?  It's easy to lose sight of what we really need in our lives versus the things we want.

Where are our priorities in life?  What do we value?  Do our spending habits reflect this?  Are we responsible with the things we've been given?  Do we freely give away what we don't need or do we feel the need to hold onto it?  Have we ignored opportunities to help those in need?

If you're looking for a witty, easy-to-read book that will challenge you to live a more fulfilling life, I encourage you to read 7!

Have you read this book?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Read More: The Go-Giver

The Go-Giver

Over the holidays, I read a book, digital cover to digital cover in just two sittings.  If you know me, you know this is by far the fastest I have every read a book.  I started it on our plane ride out to Utah (read more about our trip here) and finished it on our way back home. 

"The Go-Giver" by Bob Burg and John David Mann is a simple story about a powerful business strategy: giving.  The story shares five "Laws of Stratospheric Success," all relating back to these key ideas: add value, serve others, give of yourself, and make an impact. I loved the entrepreneurial spirit in this book and it's positive message about giving. 

Here are a few of my notes: