Friends, it’s time to start compiling those summer reading lists! Truly, I look forward to my summer reads all year. I’m a positively voracious reader in these warm months – all that extra daylight finds me, more often than not, sunning myself on my deck, devouring my latest find. Every summer, I start out with a few sophisticated, smart novels and nonfiction picks, but by August, it’s all about the lazy beach reads. So, before this month totally gets away from me, allow me to present Part the One of my summer reading list:
VB6, by Mark Bittman (Clarkson Potter): Summer is most definitely the season for eating healthy – I can hardly contain my excitement when my CSA box of farm fresh goodies arrives each week. So, it’s the perfect time to at least consider the latest from the guy who brought you How To Cook Everything. After a health scare, a doctor friend of Bittman’s suggested he try a vegan diet, but (predictably) it was a bit too much to take. As a compromise, he came up with the idea of eating vegan before 6 pm each day (dinner is a free-for-all). While I abhor diets, and would never ever suggest one, this idea of eating closer to nature and doing it to feel better, rather than just to lose pounds, feels like exactly what I’m in the mood for these days. And if I can do it with Bittman’s signature culinary expertise and charm? So much the better. There are recipes and there’s a bit of proselytizing, but it’s still highly cover-to-cover readable, and infused with so much digestible (pun intended) info, you’re guaranteed to be spewing your newfound knowledge at your next cocktail party.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra (Hogarth): If The Kite Runner left you reeling (and if it didn’t, what kind of monster are you?), you’ll love Marra’s debut novel, set in war-torn Chechnya in the early 2000’s. The story connects the lives of disparate characters from all walks of life, and while it’s a bit heavy and sad at times, it’s compelling and just incredibly well-written. You’ll have to stay awake to keep track of all of the character intersections and time jumps (and the history, which was frighteningly new to me), so it’s nowhere near a beach read, but it’s one that will stay with you long after you set it down.
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf): It’s a love story, but one set so unpredictably and told with so much depth and color, you’ll forget that this is, at its heart, a romance. If (like me) your expertise about Nigeria – and African cultures in general – is limited to jokes about those incessant email scams, you’re in for a culture shock. From the first page, you’ll find yourself alternately fascinated by and a little in love with Ifemelu and her world, and you’ll root for her through what proves to be a serious uphill climb to happiness.
The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud (Knopf): Oh, how I love Claire Messud. She has this ability to write about modern life in a way no one else can – every scene she sets is as textured and complex as the real world, with a touch of satire, but it feels undeniably true at every turn. Her latest is the story of a single woman in her 40s – as Messud puts it, that woman who lives alone in the apartment upstairs from you, who you never really consider as having a life of interest. As a year of Nora’s life unfolds into the most deliciously interesting year anyone could imagine, you’ll get a taste of Messud’s sense of humor, a cast of imperfect but unforgettable characters, and a novel you’ll be sorry to see end.
The Boyfriend App, Katie Sise (Epic): This is an honorary mention, because…well, it’s a young adult read. But a darling friend of mine wrote it (hi, Katie!), and she did a pretty fantastic job, so she deserves a shout-out. If you have any teens or tweens in your life, buy this for them (and maybe surreptitiously read it first…it’s actually pretty fun). No one loves an underdog tale more than me, especially when it involves a geeky high school girl who gets the jump on the popular kids. Not that I can relate…
Now to start working on July! So, tell me…what’s on your summer reading list so far?