Photos taken in Hampstead Heath. Follow me on Instagram @shellymillerwriter for more photos.

Springtime in London is a season of repentance. Of asking forgiveness for all the terrible things you said about her during winter. When London blooms, the beauty brings you to your knees, inhaling the sweet smell of jasmine.

London opens to you like a novel itself…. It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, door, passage, door. Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand. ~Anna Quindlen

During winter, friendships unfold in pubs and cafe’s over tea and coffee but in springtime, they burst open with laughter under ancient trees. I know an important connection is made when random conversations about the weather suddenly turn toward books. Even better is the discovery of a love and appreciation for the same titles and authors. I no longer take that little serendipity for granted.

As an expat in London, I walk into bookstores and admire the Edwardian architecture but peruse rows of books like a deer wide-eyed in the high beams. I don’t recognize most of the authors. As someone who reads one book a week and finds bookshops a guilty pleasure, can I tell you how weird this conundrum feels?

I’m learning that a well written story transcends cultural and socioeconomic boundaries that threaten to divide us. Storytelling brings people together through our shared humanity. That’s why the Bible is still a best seller.

Because I follow my father’s DNA and generally fall asleep shortly after I sit down for prime time, I’ve started reading Christian non-fiction alongside the Daily Lectionary after I awaken. Fiction during the transition after the end of a work day and before cooking dinner for my family. Sabbath has become a respite for reading big chunks of content when paragraphs are all I can manage during the week.

While London springtime is the muse inspiring new pieces of writing, I’m sharing a stack of books that have influenced the way I see the world lately. I’ll admit, most of these titles were referred to me by Americans but I’m still on the hunt for European authors I can recommend to you.

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson — Somehow I missed this delicious read when it was published in 2003 but my British friend Helen is trustworthy when it comes to page turners. This one does not disappoint. Set in the badlands of northern Ontario, Lawson writes with vivid details that remind me of what it is like to be a child raising herself and making incorrect judgments about the people who influence her inner world.

Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom — This haunting book includes suspense, love, tragedy, and the terrible realities of racism. There were times I wondered if redemption was ever going to happen and nearly put the book down. But because Grissom paints a tale that identifies with the pain for our humanity, I was driven to know how it would end. This is not a feel good book but a novel that asks for compassion and empathy.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson — I signed up to hear Marilynne lecture earlier this month and borrowed this book from a friend in the Cotswolds. A story about the unlikely marriage between a homeless girl and a minister. It is thought-provoking, spiritual, and smart. Like CS Lewis, her writing makes me feel like I need to discuss it with someone afterward. I had the same impression when I heard her speak to a room of academics. Her award winning Gilead is on my stack for April.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown — This book, like all her previously published titles, is a life changing read. If you’ve ever failed (which means this book is for everyone!) and long to know how to get back in the game or understand why you struggle with moving forward, Brown’s research and wisdom is eye opening and transformative. Highly recommended.

Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley — Admittedly, I received this book as a gift during a conference three years ago and finally read it. And God’s timing is perfect. Sentences are underlined in nearly every chapter and pages of notes in my journal reveal how her writing sparks layers of thought. Leanna writes with a healthy balance of humor and vulnerability about a tender release from self-condemnation. It’s a beautiful story of being set free to be yourself.

As we begin the month we celebrate resurrection through Easter, this free printable April calendar with daily prompts and quotes from the fourth chapter in Rhythms of Rest is my gift to you, my dear reader. I pray that as you make space for rest, this download will become a daily reminder of how much you are loved.

For more book recommendations, listen to my conversation with Author, Susie Davis in her podcast Dear Daughters. Susie and I met at the conference where I received Breathing Room in a gift bag. And we connected like old friends when we began talking books. Prepare to hear us giggle often.

What are you reading that you love? And if you are using the calendar, tell us how it is helping you rest. Share in the comments.