Book recommendations for every kind of summer person.


June 3, 2024, 12:48pm

SeamstressandtheWind

For the Outdoor Adventurer:

The hiker, the camper, the thrill-seeker. You have a Nalgene bottle covered in stickers and know the difference between all the different water-sport paddles. You’re always on the move, seeking deeper, more impenetrable areas of wilderness and deeper, more impenetrable flavors of craft beer.

Something set in nature is going to be a good fit for you—like George R. Stewart’s Storm, where the main character is a hurricane—but push yourself out of your comfort zone. Read something small and propulsive, like Cesar Aira’s short novels. The Seamstress And The Wind or An Episode In The Life Of A Landscape Painter are good places to start with Aira’s fiction. Find inspiration from his writing habits too: “la huída hacia adelante,” the flight forward, always moving, never revising.

Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power

For the A/C Lover:

“It’s gorgeous out,” “You have to come to the park and lay on a blanket with us,” “It’s a shame to stay inside today”—such hot weather platitudes don’t truck much with you. You’re an indoor cat, and the summer is a trying time, what with people constantly bothering you to hang out in the sun and all. You are known for wearing jeans all year round and you put away your sweaters for the summer with reluctant solemnity.

One way to keep people from dragging you from the glorious climate-controlled spaces you love is to take on an Important Reading Project. Pick up a long book project, like Robert Caro’s LBJ series, or Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, or Gene Wolfe’s Book of The New Sun—something lengthy but also impressive.

Or take a completionist approach to a great, prolific author, like Octavia Butler. Make a list of all of her books and keep it on you at all times, so that whenever someone asks you to leave the safety of the crisp, air-conditioned great indoors, show them the list and reply sagely, “I would but: My Reading Project.”

The Changeling Victor LaValle

For the Parent Whose Kids Are Out of School:

School’s out and the kids are back at home. This means lots of quality time and making summer memories, but it also means Bluey and Moana are once again becoming like annoying roommates who are always just there, all the time, and you have fewer hours to yourself.

Every parent of young kids I know is very into audiobooks: your hands are free, but you’re still reading. Get your Libby app hooked up to your library card and go to town. I prefer non-fiction for listening, and recently enjoyed The Hundred Years War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi and Blood In The Machine by Brian Merchant, both well-written and incisive context on current events.

I also love spooky and scary stuff on tape: Out There Screaming, a collection of horror short stories edited by Jordan Peele, and Victor LaValle’s The Changeling are both good, haunting listens. Just don’t let your kids hear.

stanislaw lem solaris

For the Very Sweaty:

Everyone loves a furnace in the winter, but in the summer, overly-active body heat can be a burden. The summer months, for hot and sweaty folks like me, are the season of changing your shirt multiple times a day. That means a lot of laundry which, if I’m glass-half-fulling this, is more time to read while you’re waiting for the spin cycle to wrap up.

You’re going to want something slim—don’t drag a massive door-stopper down to the laundromat—and distracting, a speculative work on a planet far away like Solaris by Stanislaw Lem or a rollicking crime story like Jean Patrick Manchette’s The Mad and The Bad. Anything to take your mind off the sweat, the constant sweat.

Izumi Suzuki, tr. Daniel Joseph, Sam Bett, and David Boyd, Hit Parade of Tears

For the Freshly Back Home After Freshman Year:

Freshman year has opened your mind. You’re not sure your hometown can handle you anymore, especially not after everything you’ve learned. How can you go back to the same old places, see the same old people, acting like you’re the same person? As if you didn’t have your mind expanded by Intro To Philosophy, as if you didn’t lead your intramural Ultimate Frisbee squad to third place in the spring semester championships?

You’ve got a summer job, and it sucks, but at least you’ve got plenty of time to read. You’ve already read Zinn and Fanon and you’re ready to go deeper. Check out the great Mike Davis’ books put out by Verso—City of Quartz is an excellent place to start with his oeuvre (you should start saying words like “oeuvre” more now). Verso’s fiction is excellent too, and the strange and interesting collection Hit Parade of Tears by Izumi Suzuki is well worth your time.

a small place

For the Globe Trotter:

Your passport stamps are your prized possessions and you have strong opinions on packing styles—you’ve started multiple fights over the pros and cons of packing cubes. You love nothing more than to walk down a street you’ve never seen, and can say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand” in at least eight languages.

Your summer reading should take you to somewhere new, too. Read the short, beautiful A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid to learn more about Antigua, or Lucy Sante’s Low Life, a lyrical and loud exploration of New York City’s past, or Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin about a cartoonist’s lonely trip to a South Korean city.



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