In the past year I’ve visited three historic public libraries for the first time in Boston, New York City, and Seattle. Aside from the beautiful architecture and the wonder I felt at being in such awesome buildings meant solely for reading and educating, these visits reminded me that I am behind on my reading goal for the year. With a little more free time on my hands, a number of cities enticing with scenic areas ideal for a quiet moment, and more than a few plane rides, I put together a list of books I plan to tackle during the summer. Whether you’re hitting the beach, jetting off on a plane, or claiming a sidewalk table in your hometown or a foreign city, here is your summer reading list.
Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
We all know why the caged bird sings (or at least we all pretended to know in our high school English classes), so graduate to this collection of four beautiful poems by Maya Angelou celebrating women. The title poem (“Phenomenal Woman”) holds a special place in my heart; my high school dance teacher used it in a routine that’s stuck with me and potentially planted the seed to think of women phenomenally and always superbly single.
The Opposite Of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan graduated from Yale with honors in 2012 with a job lined up at the New Yorker. She died tragically in a car accident just five days after walking across the graduation stage. This is a collection of her essays and short stories published posthumously. In it she “articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.” With the flow of change and the feeling of uncertainty in our quarter-life, this book may be the inspiration we need to take the leap and answer our “what if’s.”
Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
Sometimes I do judge books by their cover, and seeing this book was one such time. The cover image evokes a feeling of possibility and the promise of the American dream, and that perfectly matches the story inside: a young girl struggles to make it as an actress in New York City while waitressing and taking bad commercial jobs. Written by Lauren Graham (better known as Lorelai on Gilmore Girls and Sarah on Parenthood—two shows I love), the book is loosely inspired by her life experiences. Described as “funny and charming,” this may be the perfect beach read.
If you’re checking into any hotels this summer (or have checked into a hotel ever in your life), pick up this memoir by a hotel industry veteran. “He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&M’s out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know. ” Become a better, more gracious hotel guest after reading from the perspective of the people behind the cart.
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
Recommended by my friend Aileen, All About Love promises to change the way we think about that four-letter word. If you aren’t already acquainted with the work of bell hooks, this is a great introduction. In this book, hooks breaks down the notions and ideals of love that we develop as children and challenges us to self-love. “Moving from the cultural to the intimate, hooks notes the ties between love and loss and challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all.” Look no further for your summer love.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Recommended by my trusted friend Cori, this novel is the longest on my list by far at 540 pages; let’s call it the Anna Karenina of the summer. “Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant,” Life After Life is the unusual tale of Ursula Todd who is born and dies, then is born again and dies repeatedly as she grows thereby affecting history and civilization. I have a feeling we will all feel accomplished once we turn that last page.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The New York Public Library currently has an exhibit on why Children’s Books matter (if you’re in town, I highly recommend it). It affirmed a desire of mine to read and reread childhood classics. The first one on my list is The Phantom Tollbooth, a favorite of one of my dear friends JJ Casas who started his project Follow Milo in homage to the protagonist.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
If you’re reading childhood classics, Roald Dahl simply must be a part of that effort. I picked the superbly single five-and-a-half year old heroine Matilda. I love everything about this whimsical story and am a fan of both the book and the movie… and I wish I had the chance to see the Broadway translation while I was visiting (lucky for me, the tour is coming to San Francisco this summer). If you have the opportunity, go see it!
What’s on your reading list this summer?
Originally posted on The Single Diaries.