It’s not a surprise that I’m a big reader and lover of stories! The phrase “summer reading” brings back happy memories for me!
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking about the anxiety you felt when receiving the form your teachers created with a required reading list for summer break. I hated that, too. But for me, summer reading brings back memories of going to the library, getting my “reading map” and checking off a space every couple hundred pages I read, all for the hope of getting me personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut!! (who remembers that?!) Each summer growing up, I would go to my local library and sit in the aisles, my back against the shelves, deciding what books I wanted to take home with me.
in the summer or not, I would read in the pool, on road trips in the car, on the airplane, at my grandparent’s house, etc Books and stories have weaved their way into the my own personal narrative so much so that when I look back on events in my life, I remember “oh yeah, I was reading that Rahl Dahl book that Christmas.” They’re pretty special.
ANYWAYS. I know we are all staying home much more than we usually would, so I wanted to create a little guide and offer some suggestions of books you could pick up from your local library or from your local bookstore (or Amazon if you MUST) 😉 These suggestions range in books that are light and fun, romantic, historically based, and some heavy hitters than might make you feel all the feels. I hope you enjoy and be sure to tell me what books you’re reading from this list!
Let’s start with some books that are light and fun! I discovered the author, Katherine Center, this year. Her brightly colored and similar-in-style book covers caught my eye (yes, I often judge a book by its cover – sue me!) These two books are beautiful stories that might make you tear up, but they’re also light and fun with a touch of romance. “Things You Save in a Fire” follows Cassie Hanwell, a female fire fighter, strong, courageous and a little bull headed, as she is asked to make a big sacrifice in her life that changes her in multiple ways. This books does deal with sexual assault. The details are not graphic nor is the description of the actions, but I did want to include that warning. In light of all the changes Cassie goes through, she is asked to face healing and forgiveness and the possibility of letting someone in. I finished this, as well as “How to Walk Away” in a couple of days!
“How to Walk Away” also follows a female lead through some unexpected and unprecedented changes in her life. Everything she’s worked toward and hoped for is taken away after a tragic accident. She is forced to reexamine her life and who she let’s into it in a major way. This book also deals with forgiveness and healing and, fun fact, the plots of these two books are linked in a cool way! You’re going to have to read them to find out how!
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is another light and quick summer read for ya! If you recall, this book is also on my Favorite Books of 2019 list that I put out at the beginning of this year (check it out for even more suggestions). This book is for fans of Almost Famous with interest in band culture of the 60s and 70s. It follows a fictional band, their ups and downs and surrounds the unpredictable and evocative lead singer, Daisy Jones and how her actions affect all the band members. Reading this, I felt like I was following a real band (and had to look up to confirm they were actually fictitious). This book is full of drama, love, rock and roll culture and really good lyrics! I highly recommend if you need a quick, fun read!
The next two books are historical fictions based in the time of WWII. Both follow strong female leads (can you tell that’s a favorite trope of mine?) and their roles within the war. “The Alice Network “ by Kate Quinn is told with dual story lines that eventually converge. They follow a female spy and all the sacrifices she had to make to share intel against the enemies, and a woman, after the war, fighting against her traditional family to discover some secrets they would rather leave unturned.
If you’ve talked to me at all about my reading life, you’ve probably heard me mention “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah. If you haven’t heard of it yet, where ya been?! Only joking, it’s fine, you can read it now 😉 This story ALSO follows female spies living in Nazi occupied France during WWII. The story alternates between a pair of sisters and their different roles during the war, the sacrifices they have to make for their families and the incredible gains they make for those fighting for good. This story will hook you and miiiight make you cry but it’ll be worth it. It’s an incredibly story and I highly recommend picking this up.
“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid was the perfect combination of a fun read with a poignant, necessary and relevant message to our time. This story follows two women, one white affluent blogger and mom named Alix and her nanny, 20-something Emira, a Black woman in the midst of figuring out life post college and simply trying to get a job with good healthcare! After a big event one night, Emira is confronted by the police while with Alix’s daughter at health food store in a mostly white neighborhood. The police accuse Emira of kidnapping Alix’s daughter and the choices and events that follow lead both women down a path that intersects in some crazy and unexpected ways. This books looks at both systemic and individual ways that racism still plagues this country and all the nuances in between. I highly recommend it and recommend picking this book up, or any of these books, from Black-owned bookstore. I chose Semi-Colon Bookstore in Chicago! You can order on their website and they’ll ship directly to you!
This next novel is a story about families. “Ask Again, Yes” follows two families, their dysfunction and how the choices they make affect each other, some more drastically than others. Connection and love blossoms between two children in the two different families and they’re forced to reconcile with the ways in which their families have hurt each other, and whether or not their relationship can overcome them. This is a moving story and when you find out why the book is named what is is, I promise you, you’ll be moved to tears.
The next two books are non fiction. If you know me and my reading style, you know this is a little outside my norm, but I totally do not regret picking up these stories. Quite the opposite, as they were both 5/5 stars for me! These books also made their way into my hands because I knew I needed to start infiltrating more books by women of color onto my bookshelves. Immersing yourself in a story of someone that’s different than you is NEVER a bad thing, in fact, it’s such a rich way to get to know people whose lives and cultural identities are different than your.
“Know My Name” by Chanel Miller is definitely a heavy hitter. If you didn’t already know, Chanel was the unnamed “Emily Doe” in the prominent rape/sexual assault case with Brock Turner (the Stanford swimmer that got three months in jail [eye roll] ) ANYWAY. Chanel’s memoir gives her account of the trial and all that she went through during those long years. Not only is the story so important to read, Chanel’s writing is absolutely poetic and magnetic. Her use of metaphor astounded me and, even though this was non fiction, it read quickly for me. Though the story was heavy and uncomfortable at times, and sometimes straight up made me mad, reading it made me so proud of who she is and the trauma she overcame and what she’s done with her life as a result of it. PICK UP THIS BOOK.
Lastly, I can’t leave out Michelle!! Thank you to my dear friend, Tracy, for letting me borrow this book. I have been wanting to read Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming” for a while now. Yes, I’ve watched her documentary on Netflix (twice) and I LOVED THIS BOOK. The story followed Michelle from a young girl, through her college years, to the White House and and beyond. It details all the incredible movements she dedicated herself to both as the First lady and outside of that position. This book really brought humanity to two people (herself and Barack) that were often scrutinized by the media. It was beautiful to read about their inner lives and the passions they have for the people of America. It is not a political book (Michelle is actually pretty adamant about her dislike of politics) but rather details a story about the sacrifices a family makes for this country and its people. Highly, highly, recommend.
And that’s all! I truly hope this gives you some ideas for what to put on hold at your local library or what to purchase from your local bookstore. If you’re an AZ or Tucson local, can I recommend my local bookstore Mostly Books? They’re offering curbside pickup right now and they have a great selection of used and new books!! Please feel free to leave questions or suggestions and I truly wish you happy reading!!