8 books to read before summer ends
those who know me well know that i am a voracious reader. i have been for as long as i can remember. my love of reading is what drew me to writing in the first place–the ability to change hearts, minds, and souls with your words is a magical thing–and what inspires me, day after day, to put words on “paper” (be that here on this blog, on an instagram caption, or on a piece i’ve been commissioned to write). picking up a book is, by far, the cheapest and easiest way to escape. it’s a way to go back in time. to live a life that’s not your own. to get out of your own head. really, there’s nothing better.
i do most of my reading when i travel (i’ve been known to fly through 4 books on a 2-week vacation), when i’m commuting (hello, subway), or when i’m in bed or in the bath. i’m a member of two book clubs–one of which tends toward more feminist-y non-fiction (we love roxanne gay), and another that tends toward literary fiction with a few classics thrown in–both of which meet monthly. that means even when i’m not reading something i’ve selected on my own, i’ve always got a book or two on me.
a couple of years ago, i switched to a kindle (though i still buy hardcover/paperbacks from time to time when i can!), and it made a world of difference, especially when i was commuting via bus/subway twice a day (about a year and a half ago, i got a citibike membership, so i’m not on public transit nearly as much as i used to be). i don’t go anywhere without my kindle, and it’s saved me many a time whilst i wait for a delayed friend or a tinder date gone wrong.
i’ve long shared book recommendations with my friends and family, but i thought it might be fun to share them here as well. if you guys respond well to this feature, i’d love to do a monthly roundup of what i’m reading–but for now, we’ll start with the basics: what to read before summer ends (and after!). below are 7 books i read over the last two months, and one eternal favorite: middlesex by jeffrey eugenides, a book i will recommend over and over to anyone and everyone. it’s home to my favorite line of prose ever written, it’s a story that stole my heart, and it’s a book i’ve reread many a time. i’d recommend any and all of these as a summer read, but they’ll work just as well into fall, if you can’t manage to squeeze them in before september starts.
you think it, i’ll say it by curtis sittenfeld. i love sittenfeld’s writing, which sneaks up on you in the best of ways. her prose isn’t overly complicated, but her characters are always rich and fulfilling–you don’t just feel like you know them, you feel like you are them, even when their daily lives are oh so far removed from yours. her latest release is a collection of short stories, all of which are studies on the overarching theme of modern feminism. i loved this book, and wished it had gone on forever.
educated by tara westover. tara westover grew up in the mountains of idaho amongst troubled, survivalist parents who believed the government was the enemy, education was unnecessary, and family was all that mattered. at the age of 17, she taught herself enough math and science to take the ACT, and applied to college at BYU. she went on to earn degrees from harvard and cambridge, and wrote this memoir about her (insane) childhood. fans of the glass castle will love this book, which, although entirely mind-bogglingly true, reads like fiction. i recommended it to multiple people this summer, all of whom loved it as much as i did.
tell me lies by carola lovering. this book came up on my amazon recommendations, and honestly, i went for it because i liked the cover. boy am i glad i did! i flew through this on my plane ride to SF, and found it to be the perfect summer read: light, but substantial. it’s the story of a girl who loses herself in a college relationship, and ultimately, digs herself out of it (but not before traveling to some very dark places alongside her abusive partner). the prose wasn’t anything legendary, but the characters felt familiar–like taking a walk down memory lane to my college years.
florida by lauren groff. lauren groff’s fates and furies was one of my favorite books of 2015, and i’ve been eagerly awaiting her next book ever since i put that one down. florida is a collection of short stories, all centered around–you guessed it–the state of florida. the stories span centuries, towns, and characters, but florida–a place of muggy unpredictability–remains a constant, more a person than a place. groff has an incredible gift for running the gamut of human emotion in her work, and this collection shows that this talent isn’t limited to 400 page stories of a marriage gone wrong, but rather, can be contained in a mere 15 pages or so, and still leap off the page.
a million junes by emily henry. this book. oh, this book. i am a huge fan of YA literature (did you know most of the people that read it are not YAs at all, but mid 30-somethings like me?), and this book was no exception. it’s a story of two star-crossed lovers; a modern reimagining of romeo and juliet with a twist: the lovers are haunted by a century-old curse, and the ghosts that come with it. henry’s writing is achingly beautiful at times, and her characters feel like the real thing. i cried whilst reading the ending on the F train (how many times have i cried on a crowded subway train whilst reading? SO MANY). i hope they make this into a movie (i bet they will).
the female persuasion by meg wolitzer. people called this book “equal parts cotton candy and red meat, in the best way” and i was instantly sold. i’m a big fan of wolitzer’s work (one of my book clubs read the interestings a few years ago and i loved it), and while i liked her latest, i didn’t love it. on paper, it’s a story of a meek college freshman, greer, who meets a bold feminist icon, faith frank, and falls in love with her, in a sense: she sees in faith what she wants to be when she grows up. the book follows greer as she graduates, moves to new york (but of course), and gets a job at faith’s startup. it’s a musing on modern feminism, and while it champions women as mentors, friends, and role models, it didn’t touch me deep down in my soul like so many other books have.
middlesex by jeffrey eugenides. ask me what you should read literally any day of the week, any week of the year, any year ever, and i will tell you, middlesex, hands down. it is my most favorite book in the whole wide world, and a stunning example of what literature can and should be: a story that spans continents and decades, that takes us from 1920s greece to 1960s detroit, from a tiny boat where two cousins fall in love to a high school where callie stephanides, born a hermaphrodite, realizes she might not be a girl at all. eugenides’ first novel, the virgin suicides, was a beautiful homage to teenage desire, and in some ways, middlesex is no different. it’s much longer, and oh so much more complicated, but it’s a proper work of literary art. savor every line, and take the ride. i promise it’s worth it.
i’ll be gone in the dark by michelle mcnamara. michelle mcnamara passed away in her sleep before she could finish this searing, gut-wrenching true crime story about a serial killer who terrorized the state of california back in the 1970s. the book was finished, and published posthumously, by michelle’s husband, patton oswalt (yes, that patton oswalt) and her fellow true crime junkie and researcher friends, and it is a marvel. it reads like a novel, and while horrifying, i never found it so scary that i couldn’t sleep. if you liked gone girl, you will love this book. it stayed with me long after i finished it.
and there you have it, folks. 8 books i think you should read before summer ends (though i won’t blame you if a reading list this long carries you far into fall).