Whether you are heading to the beach this month or enjoying the sun at home, August is the perfect time to nestle down with a few good summer reads. These suggestions for spiritually oriented beach books--which include a dark novel about a psychic medium, a new entry in the world of Christian chick-lit, and a tour of American bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah traditions--are all about journeys, the perfect summertime topic, whether it's physical travel or a personal spiritual quest. Grab a copy of one of these books and start your own journey now.

Want more summer reading suggestions?
Find more on page 2 >>

Beyond Black
by Hilary Mantel

In English writer Mantel's newest novel, a psychic medium, her loyal business manager, and her menacing spirit guide combine to provide an entertaining and unusual summer read. Medium Alison is gifted at figuring out what worries her many clients and resolving their fears, but she herself is still haunted by her disturbing childhood. Her manager Colette coddles her every whim, until the demons that visit Alison become too much for her to bear once they move into a new house together. Mantel's novel is at once full of comedy and despair, and offers a unique look at the life of a medium tormented by her gift.
Buy it

The History of Love: A Novel
by Nicole Krauss

Krauss's second novel intertwines two stories: that of Holocaust survivor Leo Gursky, a locksmith still haunted by a pre-war love affair, and that of 14-year-old Alma Singer, a smart and scheming teenager who desperately wants to make her mother happy following the death of her father. Unbeknownst to them, the two are connected by a novel, also called "The History of Love." The novel is seemingly written by Zvi Litvinoff, a Latin American writer who, like Leo, is a native of Poland, but readers find it really has more mysterious origins. The individual depictions of Leo and Alma's lives, and the tale of their journey to find each other make "The History of Love" a powerful novel about love and loss. Buy it

Maps for Lost Lovers
by Nadeem Aslam

In "Maps," the mysterious disappearance of a Muslim couple living together out of wedlock creates a stir in a tight-knit Pakistani community in England. In this gripping novel, Aslam creates a compelling and believable vision of the community and his characters' concerns: struggles of faith, the challenges of intermarriage, feelings of disconnection from home and from the outside culture, and the changing meaning of family in immigrant circles. Buy it

A Month Of Sundays
by Julie Mars

"A Month of Sundays" chronicles author Julie Mars' eight-month experiment with faith following the death of her sister Shirley from pancreatic cancer. An agnostic confused by her sister's embracing of Catholicism on her deathbed, Mars decides to visit a new church every Sunday for 31 weeks in an attempt to discover what appealed to her sister, and to find healing for herself. The result of Mars's mornings at places of worship of all stripes, ranging from a storefront angels church to a church of Religious Science to a Spiritualist church to the Salvation Army is a moving meditation on faith, love, and death.
Buy it

Prayer Is a Place
by Phyllis Tickle

Religion writer Tickle has long charmed readers with her accounts of how faith is lived in America and her collections of fixed-hour prayers. Now she turns her pen to her own experiences as an observer. Tickle takes readers along as she remembers the most important moments of her travels in the religion world. Where this world can often seem scholarly and of interest only to insiders, Tickle's account opens it up to other observers. It's a sharp and interesting look at American religion and the way faith has shaped our culture for the past few decades.
Buy it

  Related Features
  • How to Have a Spiritual Summer
  • Health Tips for Summer Travel
  • More Book Suggestions
  • The Soul Tells A Story
    by Vinita Hampton Wright

    Author Wright is best known for her novels depicting the struggles of living a Christian life in small towns. But in her newest nonfiction work, Wright offers a Christian take on "The Artist's Way," Julia Cameron's landmark book about combining creativity and spirituality. Wright explores the importance of faith in living a creative life, especially a writing life, and offers tips and exercises for harnessing one's spirituality to become a better writer. It's a helpful read for anyone, Christian or not, who wants to use the last month of summer to get his or her creative juices flowing. Buy it

    The Gods Drink Whiskey
    by Stephen T. Asma

    Stephen Asma's account of his travels through Cambodia and Southeast Asia is a candid, funny, and insightful exploration of Theravada Buddhism. Asma encounters a Buddhism very different from what most westerners expect the religion to be, a Buddhism as diverse and multi-faceted as the people that he meets in his travels. His lessons on basic Buddhist concepts are woven together with stories of meeting Christian missionaries, teaching a class of Cambodians about orgasms, and experiencing the remnants of the Khmer Rouge torture chambers. It's an enjoyable read for both the practicing Buddhist and the casual seeker.
    Buy it

    Emily Ever After
    by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt

    This fun beach read has all the trimmings of a typical chick-lit novel: it follows the life of a single young woman in New York as she works in publishing, gets to know the city, gossips with her friends, and meets men. But there's a twist in heroine Emily's version of the Bridget Jones lifestyle: she's a good Christian and must negotiate her new life in the big bad city--including coworkers who mock her beliefs and a boyfriend who keeps trying to get her into bed--while keeping her morals intact. This novel isn't likely to be turned into a Renee Zellweger film anytime soon, but it does offer a refreshing spin on a literature genre often consumed by frivolity. Buy it

    Wedding Goddess
    by Laurie Sue Brockway

    There's no better time than summer to read about weddings, and this quirky guide to "transforming wedding stress into wedding bliss" is likely to entertain spiritually minded brides-to-be and even those not planning their upcoming nuptials. Brockway offers a fun quiz for readers to determine their bridal personality, as well as wedding tips--on everything from finding a dress to choosing bridesmaids--that are a great deal more inspired than the typical advice in bridal magazines. Buy it

    Thirteen and a Day
    by Mark Oppenheimer

    Oppenheimer's whirlwind tour through bar and bat mitzvah celebrations across the country reads like a religious travelogue. His investigation into whether the contemporary bar or bat mitzvah--which often comes with outrageous budgets, themes, and fanfare unrelated to the religious dimension--can possibly have real spiritual significance for the teenagers going through the ritual, is a unique way to read about the diversity of American Jewry. Its geographic diversity also makes for a great travel read, perfect for a summertime trip. Buy it

      Related Features
  • How to Have a Spiritual Summer
  • Health Tips for Summer Travel
  • more from beliefnet and our partners
    Close Ad