The start of the summer is the perfect time to take stock of where you are in your life, what you want to be doing, and where you want to be heading. It's a time for contemplation. But who wants to do the dirty work of thinking too much about the future? Instead, just read a book. Here are 11 that we love. We think you'll love them, too. And, at the very least, they'll get your mind off, if not the state of the world, at least the state of yourself, if only for a little while.
Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby (available here)
For the person who spends most of their summer nights on an only semi-legally accessed roof in New York City. For the person who has walked out of her apartment and into a bodega without bothering to put shoes on. For the person who buys cigarettes (or wine or, like, almond milk) based on the packaging, and fuck the taste. For the person who still mourns Craigslist's Casual Encounters. For the person who has a soft spot for those middle-aged male writers who are still living off the fire of their early success, long after its glow has dimmed. For the person who knows the name of their bodega cat.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (available here)
For the person who is all too familiar with the way life can hinge on the exigencies of fate. For the person who is all too familiar with the way life can hinge on deliberate and systemic bigotry. For the person who knows love is messy and imperfect. For the person who knows love is still worth experiencing. For the person who knows how a triangle can feel like a circle. For the person who knows you should never call the cops. For the person who knows what it is to splinter like a tree that's been struck hard by an axe. For the person who knows happy endings have never meant just one thing for all people.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday (available here)
For the person who always wanted to know what it was like to be mentored by a literary lion. For the person who is curious about the best place to buy a winter coat in Manhattan (Searle). For the person who both wants to know those things and then also wants to be stunned by one of the most cogently written narratives on imbalances of power, love, freedom, and justice ever published. For the person who loves the slow-burn mindfuck of metafiction. For the person who loves the sudden, jaw-dropping mindfuck of a last chapter twist ending.
Census by Jesse Ball (available here)
For the person who loves a road trip. For the person who finds traditional rules and structure perverse. For the person who wants a warped view of things, in order to find the clarity in it all. For the person who finds beauty in that which is usually discarded. For the person who finds nothing uglier than cruelty. For the person who knows that unconditional love is about trust. For the person who has wanted to run away with the circus. For the person who doesn't need things to be perfectly explained to them. For the person who knows language has its uses, but so does the space between our words. For the person who knows that the "place you await, does in fact lie in wait for you."
That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam (available here)
For the person who remembers where they were when Princess Diana died. For the person who struggles with the conflict between pursuing their art and being a parent. For the person who understands that our conceptions of "motherhood" are intractably tied up with ideas of race, class, wealth, and privilege. For the person who allows themselves a mordant chuckle at the hubris of a well-off white woman staring at the New York skyline in 1999, thinking that the world is going in a great direction. For the person who knows that motherhood is not a binary of "good" and "bad," but that being a white mother and raising a black son means that you need to do more than just "try your best."
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (available here)
For the person who knows the power of using language to mitigate our feelings of shame. For the person who knows that shame dissipates when you figure out how to tell your story. For the person who has always been told that their stories don't matter. For the person who knows that their stories are precisely the kind that matter, because it's been so long and they've never been told. For the person who knows that, after a while, it's easy to mistake pain for the truest form of intimacy. For the person who discovers that there are other ways of being close to people, ways that don't have to hurt always, even if sometimes they do. For the person who knows that truth isn't spelled with a capital T. For the person who knows that the only way out of trauma can be by meeting it head-on.
Tonight I'm Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson (available here)
For the person who likes doubles of things—mirrored objects, parallel paths, one hand moving in sync with another, one life being led in two different ways. For the person who has been on long drives through the desert. For the person who knows the cycles of the moon. For the person who believes that within them resides something animal, an intuition, an extra sense. For the person who believes in the power of performance. For the person who can sometimes cry on command. For the person who definitely had a favorite Backstreet Boy. For the person who had a best friend at summer camp, and knows that particular kind of love. For the person who notices the car crashes on the side of the road, sometimes slowing down, sometimes speeding up, but always seeing them, in all their devastation.
Circe by Madeline Miller (available here)
For the person who grew up on Greek mythology. For the person who never quite understood the appeal of most of the Olympians, though, and preferred the tertiary stories of those mystical characters whose magic and witchcraft caused chaos in the lives of the all-powerful. For the person who knows how dangerous it is to be a powerful woman in a world dominated by jealous men. For the person who wants some enchantment in their lives, even if it's accompanied by the grotesque and monstrous.
Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (available here)
For the person whose obsessions range far and wide, from books to death to the history of all things. For the person who knows that living your life quixotically might not always seem ideal, but that it's sometimes the only thing that makes sense in a nonsensical world. For the person who realizes that to be unhinged doesn't necessarily mean that you're broken, just that you're open in a way you're not expected to be.
Belly Up by Rita Bullwinkel (available here)
For the person who marvels at the tiny strange things that make up our world. For the person who sees the humor in the banal, and the beauty in the perverse. For the person who couldn't stop laughing in church—and not just as a child but, also, as an adult, recently, at a wedding, which then set off everyone else in their pew. For the person who finds the human body beautiful, horrifying, hilarious, and perfectly tragic in all the ways it is and wants to celebrate it and the oddness of life, all life, in all ways.
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (available here)
For the person who read countless interviews with Nabokov as a young girl, and allowed his opinions to become their own. For the person who knows the right way to pronounce Nabokov is Neh-BO-koff and not NAH-buh-kahv, but is sometimes embarrassed to pronounce it incorrectly because an English teacher once said they were saying it wrong. For the person who grows up a little and realizes that this great man of fiction could not have been great without a woman supporting him. For the person who loves the fact that the Venus Fly-Trap is actually native to North Carolina. For the person who likes to read out loud, because few books have so many sentences strung together that sound so beautiful coming up out of your throat, down to the tip of your tongue, and out of your lips. For the person who isn't afraid of a little murder, or, for that matter, of a few half-moons cut into the waxy leaves of hothouse plants.
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