The Frisky’s Summer Reading Guide

Summer is here, and it is reading season, if you listen to the magazines and the listicles and the internet. Yes, reading is great in the summer, but guess what? It’s great all the time. You don’t need to be sweating miserably on a patch of grass with no shade to enjoy the many splendors of reading books. Books go great with central air, the beach, your bed, the subway, an airplane, the train, the stairs in front of your apartment, sitting on the floor waiting for your friends before the matinee showing of “Jurassic Park,” in line at Chipotle, and ignoring that girl from college you see on your way to work but definitely don’t want to talk to. Books are magic.

So, read these books because it’s summer and people are yelling at you from all corners to READ READ READ because you won’t have time in the fall. Or, read these books because you like enriching your mind, learning new things and flexing in group settings. Here are some books that we like to read, for very specific situations.

Relieve Your Childhood, Whether It Was Awesome Or Shitty


In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume: Obviously, you know Judy Blume for her young adult books like Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie and Blubber, but did you know she also sometimes writes fiction for adults? Summer Sisters was her first novel for growns, and I loved it, so I’m super psyched to pick up a copy of her latest, In the Unlikely Event, which I’ve heard is fabulous. The novel is about a woman who return to her hometown for the commemoration of a series of plane crashes that occurred there when she was 15 years old, flashing back to the early days of airline travel in the 1950s. – Amelia

Animal Farm by George Orwell: OK, perhaps this is off the mark. My childhood was not exactly like this except for the popularity contests that did exist in elementary – high school. But it is one of the first “grown up” novels I read as a young girl that made me go “WHOA.” I suppose this is to relive your awakening – to relive that moment in your childhood when you first realised you were a “profound” person. Throw in some Lord of the Flies for good measure while you’re at it. – Katrin

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith: I feel fairly certain that A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is a perfect book. It was written for adults, but reads like the best kind of period fiction throwback YA, with the same feeling you get from revisiting the Little House On The Prairie series. It’s comforting. Let the story of Francie Nolan and her turn of the century Irish-German family living in Brooklyn warm your heart Or, just be glad that you live in a world where there is a cure for TB. Either way, it’s a really good read. I revisit it every year. – Megan

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous: Oh my god, I can’t be the only one who remembers this. It was this “diary” of a teenage girl who got into all the drugs and ruined her life and whatnot. It turned out to be a giant hoax, but when I was in 6th grade I thought it was totally for real. I kind of want to go back and read it now to see exactly how dumb I was for buying it. – Robyn

Travel To A Place That Is Way Better Than Your House


The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson: This lovely debut is about the notion of home, sisterhood and family, about the ties that keep us together and the things that drive us apart. It’s way less cliché than this description, trust me. Phaedra and Dionne are two sisters, sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados one summer, shielded from the quiet prison of their mother’s moods. The plot is a basic coming of age story, but the descriptions of Barbados in contrast to their Brooklyn home are evocative and beautiful, and the writing is deft and sure-footed. I read it in a weekend. – Megan

NW by Zadie Smith: In this novel, Smith takes you to the still gritty parts of modern London. An urban exploration of race, class jumping and belonging, she writes in the Northwest London dialect which physically places you there. – Katrin

Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut: This book takes place (duh) on the Galápagos Islands at humanity’s end. It’s as sad/funny as you’d imagine a Vonnegut novel would be and manages to detail some of the cool and very unique biology you can see on the Islands. – Rebecca

Now Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty: Now, you may have seen the Bette Davis movie based on this book (Oh my god, if you haven’t, you definitely need to), but it’s worth a read even if you have. It’s the story of a woman suffering from depression and feeling like an “old maid” (because this was way back in the day), whose shrink encourages her to go on a cruise and be a new, more glamorous lady. It’s all kinds of sappy and romantic, and you will almost definitely cry at the end. – Robyn

Impress Your Book Club With How Erudite You Are

Madame Bovary (The Norton Critical Edition) by Gustave Flaubert: I have three editions of this novel because this is one of my favorites in the world. This particular edition is wonderful because it has about a million well-researched footnotes that are actually helpful and at times surprising and funny. In addition, there are several critical essays included, which are written by famous scholars who will make you feel smart. Pretend you are in college again and make sure everyone knows you can do more at book club than chug all of the wine. — Katrin

A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin: I mean, again, go ahead and read Infinite Jest. But I also recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s A Team of Rivals, probably the best and most complete biography of Abraham Lincoln available, also an absolute beast length-wise but completely fascinating. – Rebecca

Gender Trouble by Judith Butler: The last few years have seen a lot of progress when it comes to public discourse surrounding issues of gender, from the attention paid to trans coming out stories like Caitlyn Jenner’s, to the critical acclaim surrounding Amazon’s “Transparent,” to Miley Cyrus and Ruby Rose’s openness about their gender fluidity. And so what better time to finally read philosopher Judith Butler’s 1990 seminal work, Gender Trouble, which is credited with establishing the the idea of gender performativity and is a must-read for anyone interested in non-binary identity issues. – Amelia

Read Only One Author All Summer


Elena Ferrante: Read her Neapolitan Trilogy which will take you through the summer, and then her fourth book (making it not a trilogy anymore) is going to be released in September so you can keep going. – Katrin

David Foster Wallace: Personally, I’m working through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest right now, which will probably take me literally the entire summer (I am a third of the way through the book and a third of the way through the summer). But, if you happen to be a particularly fast and astute reader, you could add his essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, both of which demonstrate his non-fictional prowess, and if you really want to challenge yourself you can add in his final novel and the followup to Infinite JestThe Pale King. – Rebecca

Raymond Chandler: Read all the Raymond Chandler. It’s never not good. As a general sucker for mysteries and film noir-type stuff, he’s always kind of been my jam. Plus after a while you start thinking of yourself as some kind of 1940’s femme fatale type lady, which is always a plus. – Robyn

Food Network Is Boring, Read These Instead


Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin: Colwin writes simple, relatable prose out how to cook food like a normal person — with care, with love, with heart. Her book Home Cooking has acquired a cult status, but for good reason. She makes the kind of food that’s easy, delicious, simple and easy. It’s food for the anti-Pinterest, anti-food porn set. The sequel, More Home Cooking is just as lovely as the first, and since both books are so short, you can read them each in a sitting while eating, say, a juicy peach dipped in ricotta. Perfect summer books, but perfect anytime books, as well. — Megan

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky: This is a beautiful book about my favorite food additive. – Katrin

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese: This book is about her experiment with scratch-making all of her food. It’s got a ton of great recipes, but it’ll also give you solid advice about what’s worth buying and what’s worth cooking/baking yourself, in terms of flavor, quality, time, expense, and effort. – Rebecca

Classics That You’ve Been Lying About For Years


The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin: If you haven’t read any Ursula K. LeGuin yet, please read The Dispossessed, one of her greatest novels. It’s about the advantages and pitfalls of capitalism and anarchism, set in the distant future on another planet and its moon. – Rebecca

Ulysses by James Joyce: Just try it! I have tried about 6 times throughout my lifetime without being able to finish, and so at this point I have told everyone that i have read it. – Katrin

The Recognitions by William Gaddis: When I was a pretentious undergrad, I toted around The Recognitions by William Gaddis for an entire semester. Maybe now is the time that I read it for real? -- Megan

If You Missed The Boat On These Faves, It’s Not Too Late


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Beyonce-endorsed author details a Nigerian woman’s transition from life in her home country to life in her adopted America, the concept of Blackness and the concept of womanhood. It truly deserved all the praise it got and is alternately funny and heartbreaking and witty and poignant and extremely fun to read. – Rebecca

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: This novel got a hefty amount of praise (I mean, it won the Pulitzer) as well as a hefty amount of criticism, but it is overall a really great caper through drug use, the art world, and friendship. It’s lengthy but extremely entertaining. – Rebecca

The Turner House by Angela Fluorny: Reading books about other people’s fucked up families is a nice way to distract yourself from your own. The family in Angela Fluorny’s The Turner House isn’t fucked up per se, but they are haunted. Specifically, by a haint that the eldest son, Cha-Cha, hasn’t been able to shake. As the eldest of a tribe of 13 siblings in and around Detroit, Cha-Cha and his siblings are trying to save their family house while also grappling with the vagaries of adulthood. It covers dark topics, but doesn’t mire itself in the darkness. Impressive debut. – Megan

Ugly Cry On The Subway:

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas: If you appreciate sprawling family sagas about tight-knit people slowly unravelling over 700+ pages, then Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves hits literally every single nail on the head. The story of a small family grasping for the American dream and watching their ascent through the middle class has a whopper of an ending that you see coming. That doesn’t make it any better. Megan


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: This is a story about a Chinese American family living in the 1970s in a small town in Ohio. When their middle daughter drowns, the family is forced to face themselves in ways that almost break them apart. Bring some tissues on the train unless you are ready to use the hem of your dress. It is going to get ugly. – Katrin