The Best Reads for Summer 2019
Summer is synonymous with trying things on bucket lists, learning new skills and picking up hobbies that have been talked about like resolutions—holding the weight of empty promises that are easily made but never kept. However, I feel a call to return to past habits. While summer reading lists are old news to many, those from the current school-aged generations are more inclined to create a Netflix watch list. They may even shudder at the thought of unrequired reading after a year of forcefully inhaling (or Sparknoting) classics or scoff at the idea of reading boring paperbacks.
Eighth-grade me consumed books out of pure fun. I’d look forward to finishing my quizzes and tests early in class and getting to whip out the latest edition of young-adult fiction. I would even hide books under my bed and read in secret after my mother scolded me for staying up all night reading (yes, I was that kid). I quickly lost this as I entered high school and college, constantly swept up in greater responsibilities and an overflowing amount of extracurriculars that left me with no time or energy to read more than a few pages at a time, taking away the simple pleasure I once had.
Whether you’re hoping to start up an old hobby again like me or are searching for ways to beat boredom, I have compiled a list of books that I have either read or are on top of my currently short but continually growing list, in no particular order:
Just Kids, Patti Smith
Drugs, sex, and art in the 1970s and ’80s—what more could a reader want? Smith’s memoir encompasses her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and her growth as a poet and performer during a time of artistic efflorescence in New York City. Reading this broke my heart yet managed to mend it, a cyclical pattern that occurred every few pages.
Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, Joan Acocella
I want to thank the City for introducing me to the New Yorker and most importantly, Joan Acocella. As a dancer myself, I find Acocella’s critiques and thoughts on the dance scene in the City extremely thought-provoking and inspiring. This collection of essays on the most influential artists of this era (plus two saints, Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene) is my next read.
The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
I don’t take book recommendations lightly, and I find them few and far between, especially in college where people prefer to fill up their free time with other recreational activities. So when my friend raved on and on about Vonnegut, I felt an obligation to add it to the list. I normally shy away from science fiction about Martian invasions, but the bombardment of texts he sent me with quotes from The Sirens of Titan worked in enticing me. One honorable mention: “It was literature in its finest sense, since it made Unk courageous, watchful, and secretly free,” was preceded by a “get ready for a quote spam” text and followed by a “oh you’ve just got to read it.” So, I did.
The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells
Global warming is a hot-button topic. With reviews that Wallace-Wells has pushed readers into severe states of grief and dramatics with his discussion on famine and economic collapse, I am curious as to how a book could be so enlightening yet vanquishing at the same time. As a screenager and member of Generation Z, I could always benefit from being more educated on topics before I post about them on my Instagram stories. I, too, love feeling the soul-crushing apocalyptic emotions of the cynical and ever-present realities that face our world </sarcasm>.
Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher
Another heavy read—I’m going to have to counterbalance the constant sunshine of this summer somehow. My writing professor, a man that I both hold in high esteem and roll my eyes at, recommended this book on lack of alternatives to the current global/political environment. The fact that Fisher states that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism offers a hard-sinking truth within that paradoxically makes me dread and want to read more.
The Bed Moved, Rebecca Schiff
Finally, something light-hearted (or at least more blatantly humorous). Schiff collects slim stories that give hot takes into topics like sex, death, and nighttime cab rides. Noted as witty and sharp, this book seems ideal to read in short sprints like on the train, the subway, or when you want to take a break from the previous two books on this list.