I’m not usually one for “beach reads.” I mean, I’m always reading, but I also would almost always prefer a big, heavy, literary tome to something light and funny. I see no problem with sobbing over the ending of Anna Karenina while sipping a Mai Tai on vacation.
When I was eleven, I took on the task of reading The Executioner’s Song because I was looking for something thick to read at the beach in Ft. Lauderdale over our spring break. So that gives you some idea of what I think of as light summer reading. For this post, I’m just going to highlight some of the books I’ve really been looking forward to. They’re not necessarily light or “beachy,” just books that have been sitting around on my kindle for way too long, some new, some older. Descriptions are all from the publishers.
TAMPA by Alissa Nutting
In Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, Celeste Price, a smoldering 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student.
Celeste has chosen and lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his eighth-grade teacher, and, most importantly, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming erotic encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress of pure motivation. She deceives everyone, is close to no one, and cares little for anything but her pleasure.
Tampa is a sexually explicit, virtuosically satirical, American Psycho–esque rendering of a monstrously misplaced but undeterrable desire. Laced with black humor and crackling sexualized prose, Alissa Nutting’s Tampa is a grand, seriocomic examination of the want behind student / teacher affairs and a scorching literary debut.
I’m super curious about this one. I’ve never read anything like a female take on Lolita, and I can’t wait to find out how Price handles this difficult material.
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
The first ten lies they tell you in high school.
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.
I actually saw this movie, starring a young Kristen Stewart, and found out later that it was based on a book. The movie was very powerful and touching, so I took a look at the opening of the book and loved the writing, as well. This is definitely not going to be a light read, but I’m really looking forward to it.
QUEEN SUGAR by Natalie Baszile
When Charley unexpectedly inherits eight hundred acres of sugarcane land, she and her eleven-year-old daughter say goodbye to smoggy Los Angeles and head to Louisiana. She soon learns, however, that cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley struggles to balance the overwhelming challenges of a farm in decline with the demands of family and the startling desires of her own heart.
The tv series on OWN looks awesome, right? But I wanted to read the book first.
WHAT WE LOSE by Zinzi Clemmons
Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.
In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.
This was one of The New York Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, Marie Claire, Essence, Houston Chronicle, LA Daily News, Nylon, and Elle’s Books to Read This Summer in 2017. So, I’m a couple of years late, but definitely taking this to heart!
BRAIN ON FIRE by Susannah Cahalan
An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity.
When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. “A fascinating look at the disease that…could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life” (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.
Since I tend to read a lot of fiction, I thought I’d throw a memoir in there for fun. This is one that’s been on my radar for a long time—can’t wait to read it!
What about you? Despite my ever-growing list of books to be read, I’m always looking for new suggestions. What are you excited about reading this summer? Drop me a comment below!