It is the summer after my freshman year of college, I have my first “real” writing job, I’m living in my favorite city and I am on a mission to read. After browsing my to-read list (which is currently about 100 books long on my GoodReads app), and then scouring my parents’ bookshelves, I have come up with a list of ten books — old and new — to get through by the time school resumes in August.
I’ll review each book in a brief post as I finish them, and then compile a final summer wrap up list featuring every title I conquer in the next four months. Reading is one of those simple pleasures that has vanished from my life as I have grown older and life has grown busier. So, this summer, as I try to become something like an independent adult, I’ll call upon my childhood habit of staying up much too late in the scenery of a really good book. With that, here are the ten books on my summer reading list:
1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
In Graeme Simsion’s debut novel, the brilliant geneticist Don Tillman sets out on a personal scientific mission: The Wife Project. His project receives less than ideal results when he uses a multi-page questionnaire to rule out the vegans, the smokers, the drinkers, and those who cannot calculate their BMI on the spot. Then, when his best friend introduces him to Rosie, he takes on a new personal mission: The Father Project. As he uses his brilliance to help Rosie track down her biological father, a hilarious string of mishaps unfolds between the meatless and mathless life of Rosie, and the high strung, perfectly organized life of Don. While the pair grow close, we witness some intimate and even heartbreaking moments when Don finally realizes that the perfect Wife Project candidate may not come with a scientific reason.
2. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Judd Altman’s life is falling apart. His wife is sleeping with his boss, his father has just died, and worst of all, he will be sitting Shiva for the next seven days with his three siblings at the dying request of his father. What follows is a series of family clashes that will bring you to either laugh out loud or cry — there seems to be no in between with the Altman family. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Jonathan Tropper, the weeklong story of Judd Altman is one you can’t leave alone because it is just too close to home. Judd quickly learns he must reconcile the burnt bridges of the past to move on from this single horrific week and gain any semblance of normalcy in his life. This motley crew and their week of escapades — featuring a decades-old joint, ice skating, sexual shockers, and poop on a plate — make for a story you just can’t miss.
3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
First off, I just have to say, this woman’s career was predestined by her name. With a name like Rainbow Rowell, you’re either going to write silly love stories or work at a restaurant that doubles as a musical theater stage for all the broadway stars-to-be. Anyways, in Attachments, Lincoln, the computer security guy at a newspaper office, falls in love with a woman named Beth simply by reading email exchanges between herself and another employee, Jennifer. With the approach of Y2K, this is Lincoln’s real job: reading all of the employee emails that have been flagged by computer software. As Lincoln struggles with the internal conflict of what he could possibly say to Beth, a series of other personal challenges in his life and the lives of the email-ers make for quite a complicated web that someone will eventually have to untangle.
4. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Enzo is a dog who believes in reincarnation. More than that, he believes that with preparation, a dog can be reincarnated as a human. Enzo is the brilliant narrator of The Art of Racing in the Rain, so we get to hear his story told through his own perspective. His preparation involves hours of watching TV, trying to make sense of what is good and bad in our complicated human-run world. In the meantime, he plays a vital role in the life of his owner, race car driver Denny Swift. Enzo exposes human complexities in a way that only a dog can.
5. The Good House by Ann Leary
The Good House has all the elements of a classic housewife tale — scandals, secrets, rehab, wealth, friendship, betrayal. All of those elements are present in the complicated life of the novel’s main character, Hildy Good, whose life was in perfect condition before her daughters sent her to rehab for a drinking problem. Life improved when Hildy befriended Rebecca, a wealthy newcomer who was willing to gossip over a glass of wine. The pair become entwined in secrets and scandals as other characters reveal the eminent dangers of their friendship. The novel darkens as the secrets spill out about this little New England town and its affluent main cast.
6. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon meant to be a web designer when he grew up. Then the recession came and this 20-something creative spirit turned to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for a new job. Working nights in the dusty shop filled with sky-high stacks of books, and ordered to touch none of them, Clay quickly learns that the curiously empty store, and its few (even more curious) customers, has plenty of secrets to discover. Clay soon discovers why none of the eccentric customers buy anything and then gets help from his friends to reveal the secrets of complicated bookstore. His job requires that he take detailed notes of all of the customers, including their actions, attire, and mannerism. Using this information, along with the help of his friends, he finds that there is much more to both Mr. Penumbra and his bookstore.
7. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
I pulled this book off of my dad’s bookshelf and it was stamped with a $3.95 price. If only books were still that cheap. Anyway, in this satirical Vonnegut favorite, our star character, Kilgore Trout, gives a copy of his novel to his longtime fan, Dwayne Hoover, a car dealer in the small town of Midland City where Kilgore is delivering a keynote address. Dwayne takes the novel seriously and believes it to be a message to him from the Creator of the Universe, and that Dwayne himself is the only person who is not a robot. Unbeknownst to Dwayne, the book is actually science fiction. Nevertheless, Dwayne takes violent action against those he believes to be robots. Vonnegut uses this 1973 novel to explore racism, success, sex, and more.
8. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
In David Sedaris’ most recent collection of hilarious essays, he explores the temptation he felt when presented with an opportunity to by a Pygmy skeleton, his childhood swimming losses, and his father’s post-work ritual of removing his pants for dinnertime. Sedaris is known for his easy-to-read and easy-to-laugh-at life. This book, Sedaris’ ninth, is another one not to be missed for a good laugh and a quick read.
9. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
The death of Barry Fairborth leaves a shocking vacancy in the seemingly idyllic town of Pagford, England. Below the surface of the town’s supposed perfection, wars are raging between its residents. As it turns out, the rich are at war with the poor, the teens are at war with their parents, wives are at war with their husbands, and the pretty image that Pagford projects may not be all its cracked up to be. Barry Fairborth’s death, after only 40-some years of life, causes the biggest war yet as the town members compete for his seat on the parish council. The election causes plenty of twists for this small town that end up revealing shocking details. I really can’t wait to read J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel — if it’s anything like Harry Potter, I’m sure we won’t be able to put it down (p.s.- I still have to read the last two Harry Potter books. Maybe I should add those to this list instead).
10. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is many different things to many different people. To her 15-year-old daughter Bee, she is a best friend. Well, she was until she went missing. Bernadette’s disappearance is a curious one as Bernadette’s agoraphobia has left her unable to even leave the house. The story begins when Bee earns a promised family trip to Antarctic after earning a perfect report card. With a cross-continental trip out of the question for Bernadette, her disappearance is met with even more confusion. Bee sets out on a mission to find her mother using any means necessary as she attempts to untangle the mess in the ridiculous world she is living in.