I don’t know why, but I always associate summer with reading. Not that I don’t read during the entire year, but summer is always about “fun” reads, reading books that I’m really excited about. I think this comes from my middle and high school, even college days, where I had two or three summer months completely free. Libraries and bookstores were (and still are) some of my favorite summer haunts. There was a summer not too long ago where I spent at least one afternoon a week at Borders browsing through their buy 2 get 1 free paperbacks.
Over the last few years, I’ve slowly transitioned to reading on my Kindle. I got it as a graduation gift in 2011 from my sister and I used it mostly for “cheap” books – ones that were trade paperbacks or mass market, ones that I didn’t necessarily care about displaying on my bookshelves. Then last summer, I upgraded to a Kindle Paperwhite. Now I’m hooked on e-book reading. I still like hardcopy for some things, especially for school books or books that I’m using as references to my writing, but for everything else, I love the ease of downloading it on my Kindle.
That said, I’m something of a book
hoarder collector. I love seeing all of my books so neatly arranged on my two 4×4 Expedit bookshelves from IKEA. But there comes a point when collecting books just isn’t practical. There is no extra room in my apartment for more shelves and no more shelf space for more books, so going digital was bound to happen eventually. E-books have done nothing to ease up on my collecting tendencies. I have a lot (and I mean a lot) of books downloaded to my Kindle that I haven’t read yet. So this summer, I am working my way through and picking titles I already have downloaded.
These are my top ten books I hope to read this summer:
1. You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body by Peggy Shinner
This one is a must-read for me because it’s written by one of the instructors in my MFA program. She also happens to be taking me on as a thesis advisee. I know this will be invaluable to me as I write my thesis because I so admire Peggy’s thoughtful prose and view of what nonfiction can be. You can read an interview with Peggy about the book here and check out her website here.
2. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Well, unless you’ve been under a rock the last few days, you’ve surely heard about the second season of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. I watched the first season last summer on a whim and went through the second season in less than two days. This is the book it’s based on and I am really excited to read this one.
3. Days of Destruction Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco
I was introduced to this book by a professor back in January of 2013. He had us read an excerpt and this book has been on my “to-read” list since. It’s a hybrid, collaboration piece with reporting by Chris Hedges and illustrations by Joe Sacco. It’s a hard hitter though, dealing with American sacrifice zones – places that have been sacrificed in the name of profit and progress.
4. The Madwoman in the Volvo by Sandra Tsing Loh
Sandra Tsing Loh is one of my favorite writers. She isn’t for everyone; she’s very acerbic and tell-it-like-it-is, and for that I admire her. This is her memoir of middle age, which I’m sure will be a great mix of hilarious and poignant observations.
5. The Fever by Megan Abbott
I first heard about this book when I read an interview with David Sedaris. He said that this was on his “beach reads” list and because I love David Sedaris and he has good taste in books, I checked it out. The book is billed as part mystery/thriller, part literary fiction, so it instantly appealed to me.
6. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
I stumbled upon this book while browsing blindly on Amazon and instantly downloaded it after reading the description. It’s about creativity, art, money, and friendships and seemed like a timely read.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I know. I know. How have I not read this classic? I made it through middle school, high school, college, and even graduate school without ever being assigned this novel. It’s finally being released as an e-book this summer and I’ve already preordered it. I’m looking forward to checking this classic off my reading list.
8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I downloaded this book back in December and still haven’t gotten around to it. I have heard such wonderful things about both the story and the writing, so I’m looking forward to digging into this Pulitzer winner.
9. Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
I’m a few years late on this one, I know. I loved Mindy Kaling on The Office. She is astute and hilarious and I know this book will have me falling down laughing.
10. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
This one is a nonfiction thriller, true crime I guess it’s called. It takes place right here in Chicago, right here in my neighborhood, and deals with the 1893 World’s Fair and H.H. Holmes, the country’s first serial killer.
Honorable Mentions (that I hope I have time to read):
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I’ve read this before, but in light of Angelou’s passing I want to read this again. Her story and her spirit are so inspiring and help remind me why I keep working at this crazy thing called writing.
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates
I have been a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates since I was in high school. It’s true, I did discover her after watching a Lifetime movie based around one of her books and then seeing that one of her books was an Oprah book club pick. But still. The woman can tell a story and I’m looking forward to taking on her latest novel about family, war, and damaged psyches.
Those are my picks for summer reading. What books are on your must-read list this summer?