12 Books You Must Read This Summer That You’re Going To Be Unhealthily Obsessed With
And so it will always be true, the best books to read this summer will mostly go quick and fast. That’s how summer reads are: They’re books you can consume as day turns from searing white heat to purple dusk. They’re books you read hard and fast, pages crinkling from the damp of your hand. You read them in great gulps, looking for more. Winter is great for reading. But, as a lead up to the great Literary Importance of the books of autumn, all heavy tomes written by important men, summer books are lighter fare. Just because a book is called a “beach read” that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Just because a book is long doesn’t mean it’s good.
The books on this list are written by women. There is nary a book by a man on this list, not because of a hidden agenda to only read women as a half-baked attempt towards feminism, but because these happen to be the kind of books I reach for during the summer. Truth be told, I’d reach for these books any time of year because reading as many books as possible is a vital part of being a well-rounded human being with depth, but the way the world works means that these books are published in the summer! Also, there’s one not-new book in this list; new books aren’t everything, read some old shit, stay sharp. Here are some lovely books to read and enjoy and share this summer.
How to Be a Person in the World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life by Heather Havrilesky
The piquant, beautiful, vital Ask Polly started as a column on internet curio cabinet The Awl before finding a home on The Cut, but the kind of advice that Heather Havrilesky slings is way too important to live hidden away in browser tabs. Like a more profane, less precious Dear Sugar, Havrilesky’s advice is strident just where it needs to be, without sacrificing empathy. It is the kind of book you should keep on your bedside table to turn to in times of duress or when you just need someone with a little more sense to tell you how it is and what it looks like and how it should be. Buy on Amazon.
I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir by Nadja Spiegelman
Nadja Spiegelman is the daughter of Art Spiegelman, the author of the MAUS series of graphic novels and Francoise Mouly, art director at The New Yorker. Her memoir, written at the tender age of 29, focuses on her mother, her mother’s mother and the way our lives are often unwitting facsimiles of the lives our family lived. Spiegelman takes on the onerous task of picking at the narrative threads of her mother’s adolescence and unravelling it to find the truth. The result is this memoir, which is a beautiful thing. A word to the wise: your inclination will be to read this as fast as possible, but take your time. The language and the story both deserve your patience. Buy on Amazon.
In the 1970s, idealistic youth with a sour taste in their mouth from an unnecessary war and the buttoned-up constraints of their parents’ generation and went back to the land, in a movement that laid the groundwork for just about everything in our modern lifestyle. Daloz was born to two back-t0-the-landers and her careful documentation of the movement manages to be both respectful and critical. Keep this book close by for those moments when you think about giving it all up and moving to a goat farm in Montana. Buy on Amazon.
Sweetbitter: A novel by Stephane Danler
In her engrossing debut, Stephane Danler perfectly captures the grubby mix of desperation and ecstasy that every person who moves to New York when they are young and idealistic and full of hope. Tess is a 22-year-old upstart who flings herself into the world of professional serving at a very famous restaurant in New York. This sounds like the trappings for a very bad CBS sitcom, but trust me, the book is so much better. Buy on Amazon.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
It is criminal that it took Lindy West this long to write a book, but the wait was definitely worth it. As any dedicated reader of the internet is surely aware, Lindy West is a writer with bylines splashed all over your favorite lunchtime blogs like Jezebel, Cosmopolitan and Vulture, bringing her trademark wit and gimlet-eyed approach to life to a variety of subjects including feminism, fatness, and the scourge of trolls. The essays within this slim volume are short, imminently readable and made me cry in public. It’s a worthy investment. Buy on Amazon.
Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire by Judith Thurman
Judith Thurman has been writing for The New Yorker since 1987, covering fashion and culture with the breadth of knowledge required to give these topics their due. This collection frees her essays and reportage from behind the paywall and gathers them into one lovely, easy-to-read package that is perfect for the beach, the subway, the train, getting highlights, or a family dinner in which you really don’t want to talk to anyone after you’re done eating. To whet your appetite, try her canonical profile of Rei Kuwakubo and chase that with this profile of Guo Pei, the bonkers-brilliant woman behind Rihanna’s 2015 Met Gala dress. Buy on Amazon.
Homegoing: A novel by Yaa Gyasi
This debut novel from Yaa Gyasi traces the story of Effia and Esi, two Ghanian half-sisters born in 18th-century Ghana, and follows the very different trajectory their lives take. Told through discrete chapters that function as independent character studies and short stories of their own, Homegoing is a fantastic debut from a very promising young writer. Buy on Amazon.
Action: A Book about Sex by Amy Rose Spiegel
Rookie editor Amy Rose Spiegel has done you the very nice favor of writing the only book anyone interested in sex, bodies, consent and the special acrobatics that occur when two like-minded individuals meet somewhere and decide to mash bods for pleasure. The book is about sex. It’s for people who are having sex, who want to have sex, who think about sex and who are interested in having better and different and more sex. This book should be taught in sex ed classes around the nation and is a treasure. Buy on Amazon.
Behold the Dreamers: A Novel by Imbolo Mbue
You know what’s boring? Reading Great Big American Novels about the 2008 recession from the point of view of white people! You know what’s not boring? Imbolo Mbue’s sprawling epic tale of a Cameroonian immigrant couple living in Harlem whose lives are also upended by the recession! Imagine that! The recession affected more than just the people in The Big Short! Read this book and get yourself some knowledge. Buy on Amazon.
The After Party: A Novel by Anton DiSclafani
Joan Fortier and Cece Buchanan are as thick as thieves in 1950s Houston, where oil is king and money is everywhere. One of these women is the bad seed while the other is slavishly devoted to her, falling on her sword to save her friend time and time again. DiSclafani writes the hell out of the interior lives of women and the sticky trap of their friendships, like a less self-serious Elena Ferrante (fight me!) I read this book in one sitting, as mindless as eating jellybeans by the fistful and I enjoyed every minute of it. Buy on Amazon.
You Will Know Me: A Novel by Megan Abbott
Get on the Megan Abbott train immediately. Her latest centers around teen gymnasts and is full of the kind of stuff Abbott-heads(Eh? Maybe?) crave: teen girls being cruel to each other; parents with dark secrets; murder; fierce competition. Also, gymnastics! Read it during commercial breaks as you watch Simone Biles tumble her way to gold in Rio. Buy on Amazon.
The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline
If you liked Gone Girl and tolerated Girl On A Train and wish that there were more crime-y, psychologically twisted books about women doing Very Bad Things, snatch this buzzy debut which reads like a dreamy, hazy retelling of Helter Skelter. Buy on Amazon.