Normally, I publish a summer reading guide for folks looking to stock up on good books (and eBooks) before heading out of town on a proper summer vacation. But in lieu of August in Amalfi, week-long rentals in Nantucket, and that Big Sur road trip you’ve been planning since 2019, there’s still much reading to be done, people. In fact, I would argue that there’s even more time to be settling in at home with a good book and a destination that lives purely in your imagination.
I recently joined GoodReads, and you can follow me there if you wish to have an of the moment glimpse into what I’m reading, and the comprehensive list of what I’ve read this year. But what I’m bringing you here is a carefully curated list of a small slice of my book shelf that I’ve really enjoyed of late. The fact that they’ve mainly been enjoyed in bed, on my couch, on the subway (safely, of course), and on a park bench by the East River makes them no less enjoyable than if they had been devoured on a beach in some exotic locale. I’ve also included my own personal reading list for the rest of the summer, so you can follow along, too.
As always, reach out to me and share what you’ve read, what you thought of it, and your own personal recs as well. I’m always looking for a new book rec and a fresh take, pandemic or not. Happy reading.
What I’ve Recently Read
We Learn Nothing – My first experience reading Tim Kreider, and certainly not my last. This book of essays by a cartoonist who was previously unknown to me struck what one could only call the perfect note. It exists at the nexus of laugh out loud humor, personal storytelling that sings with authenticity, and deeply felt insights about human beings. I found myself being led along during his essays by his wit and insanity of the situations he got himself into throughout his life, only to come to the conclusion of each essay and be gifted with a wildly insightful nugget about people, about relationships, about how we hurt each other, how we relate, and how we all keep going back for more. Read and share this book.
Untamed – For the full review of this book, head to my Instagram post fully devoted to it here. That’s how much I loved this book. And that wasn’t because Glennon Doyle was telling me things that felt new, foreign, and revelatory to me. It was because she was putting out there into the universe that which I already knew to be true. When Glennon speaks about living a brave and untamed life (“We can do hard things” “You’re a goddamned cheetah”), I feel such an intrinsic connection to that message. It’s so easy for us, especially as women, to mold to and for those around us, to exist seemingly to provide comfort, to nurture and nourish everyone but ourselves. Untamed was an incredible reminder to keep making the brave choices. To stop downplaying ourselves and apologizing for making those choices. To never abandon ourselves and hope that it all turns out ok. Living was never meant to be easy, but as the author wisely reminds us, that means we’re doing it right. Feeling everything deeply even, and especially, when it’s hard. What a message.
Pride and Prejudice – I must say up top, this book recommendation is in no way a hot take. It’s one of the most popular and beloved books of all time. But up until my recent rereading, it was not anywhere near the top of my list. I attribute this to the fact that I took a class on Jane Austen in college, in which we read every single one of her books in a single semester. There was something deeply work horse-esque in that reading experience, and it put a bad taste in my mouth forevermore when it comes to Miss Austen and her work. Fast forward to June. I pulled my college copy of P&P off of my shelf and decided to give it another try via a leisurely, no-pressure reread. Well, I could not have had a more different experience. I absolutely raced through it, not because a textual analysis was due at week’s end, but because it was so darn engrossing. The character development is stunning, and the humor, wit, and sassiness of the dialogue and descriptions feels startlingly modern. I now relish the thought of rereading this book for many years to come.
Empty – I have never had an eating disorder myself, but largely feel that to be a woman in our society is to, at least some point in our lives, have disordered thoughts around eating and around our bodies. This book does an incredible job delving into the author’s decades-long personal history with binge eating, with restricting, and with generally being consumed with thoughts about food, about her weight, and about how her body is perceived by those around her. I think that this is an incredibly brave book, and also a powerful look into the minds of women and how our cultural preoccupation with thinness and body image has hurt so very many women.
All About Love – I initially picked up this book as a recommendation from a friend, as research for a project that I’m working on. What I came away with absolute awe and love for what Bell Hooks has written, and so clearly felt deeply herself. The book is comprised of fourteen sections that deal with a different element of love, from honesty to mutuality to romance to values. You can barely see the author’s words anymore because I highlighted, underlined, and notes so much in the margins. Much in the way that Untamed (see above) touched something in me because I saw much of myself in it, so did All About Love – I felt as though Bell Hooks was speaking directly to, and for, me, and reading my mind and my heart in the process.
The Obstacle Is The Way – I had never heard of the concept of “stoicism” until I was lent this sliver of a Ryan Holiday book. It appealed to me initially because of its wealth of Latin references, a language which I studied for 7 years in my youth. What I ended up coming away from it with was a renewed faith in, and understanding of, turning our obstacles into opportunities. There could be no more relevant time, I believe, to be reading this book than during a pandemic, and it gave me a fresh perspective on the power that I have, in all moments, over my thoughts and actions.
Peace Is Every Step – I read this book for the first time in college (are you sending a trend with me plumbing the depths of my bookshelves during COVID without the library at my disposal?) as part of a Buddhism seminar. It is a tiny paperback, full of short lessons from a Buddhist teacher. I picked it back up this summer, and have been reading a single lesson every day, normally in the afternoons, as a way of taking a mindful moment in the midst of work. It’s become one of the most cherished parts of my day. There is no one who will not benefit from this simple and beautiful book.
What I’m Reading Next
Astrophysics For People In a Hurry – But, what really is a black hole? This question and many others in the realm of astrophysics is explained to laypeople such as myself in this short but jam-packed read on the mysteries of space and time.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem – I mean, who doesn’t love some Joan Didion? The Year of Magical Thinking is still my favorite of her books, but I don’t know if I can definitively say that without having read STB, her first work of nonfiction. If I can’t head to California this summer, at the very least I can travel there with my mind to the 60s.
The War of Art – I was recently lent this book, and it is sitting on my bookshelf patiently awaiting my attention. It’s a tiny book, albeit a powerful one, about the creative process and how to best and most efficiently create with reckless abandon.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – I first heard about this novel from the mother of the groom at a wedding that I attended at the very beginning of March, pre-COVID. It’s written in letter form, from a son to his mother, a Vietnamese immigrant. I don’t know much more other than that it is supposed to be strikingly beautiful and raw, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Much in the vein of Sapiens, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, I am so very excited to get a major history lesson from this lauded author and New York Times writer. It conquers history, science, the universe… you know, the small stuff. And the fact that it apparently does so with a dose of humor makes it all the more appealing to me.