Summer has arrived! Many people call summer their favorite season for a wide variety of reasons – vacations, time at the beach, no school, outdoor cookouts, and many others. One thing a lot of people enjoy doing is picking up a good book while relaxing at the beach, on the deck, or on the couch. A book can be an opportunity to learn new things, be entertained by a riveting story, or even an opportunity to ponder some of life’s biggest questions. Whatever it is that motivates you to pick up a new book, here are 5 books that you will enjoy as part of your summer activities.
5. “The Collected Schizophrenias” by Esmé Weijun Wang
If you saw the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” you saw how one person dealt with schizophrenia. It’s an illness that petrifies people not much differently than cancer does. This is a collection of essays that speaks to the current environment where many people feel like they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The author has considerable experience in this area, having had several bouts with breakdowns dating back to her college days at Yale 20 years ago. While there are a number of great narrative-driven books about this subject that have been published in recent years, this essay collection uses personal experience to put schizophrenia in a whole new light – another form of consciousness instead of some destructive demon-possession. Her official diagnosis is “schizoaffective disorder,” which can vary widely from one patient to another. This book has won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and a Whiting Award.
She manages to work humor in as well. While observing a man looking her up and down as she is in a delusional but functional state, she muses, “Yes, I thought, our eyes meeting, you may think I’m hot, but I’m also a rotting corpse. Sucks to be you, sir.”
4. “The Pisces” by Melissa Broder
Here is a story of Lucy, a woman whose search for love takes her to the seas. After living through some rocky and dangerous partnerships, she finds herself on the California coast and falls for a merman – part man, part fish. The merman, named Theo, is just as full of fear and insecurities as Lucy. Broder has other books that explore people’s shame and what could be called the “culture of nothingness.”
3. “The Right Swipe” by Alisha Rai
Here we have another book in the romance area that is strikingly modern. The main character, Rhiannon, is a tech wizard that creates an online dating app. She eventually desires to buy another such company and finds herself crossing paths with Samson, a former NFL player who was a one-night stand in her past. Topics the book tackles include ghosting, sexual harassment and the “bro culture” in the tech world. Samson and Rhiannon may have been just a hookup way back when, but they develop a relationship that has to overcome all kinds of issues around trust, forgiveness and even the effects of football injuries.
2. “How to Murder Your Life” by Cat Marnell
In this memoir that can be described as both humorous and horrifying, Cat Marnell describes her life that veered back and forth between working as a beauty expert for a lifestyle website and relentless party-goer and drug user. She details her wealthy but very troubled childhood with a distant mother and doctor father, who helped kick-start her drug addiction with limitless ADHD medicine prescriptions. As she progressed through boarding school and into adulthood, those problems became even worse. “My brains were so scrambled I could have ordered them for brunch at Sarabeth’s,” she writes. As she continues battling addiction to this day, she writes further, “So what can all you pretty young addicts learn from this? Beware. Unhealthy people attract other unhealthy people.”
1. “Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe
The full title of the book is “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.” It is a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland in 1972 and its devastating repercussions. A 38-year-old mother of 10 was abducted from her home in Belfast and was never seen again. The Irish Republican Army, a feared gang, was clearly responsible, but the people had such fear of them that no one would talk about it. Her body was finally discovered in 2003. This murder is the point Keefe uses to start the discussion around the terrible tension that plagued Northern Ireland for decades, sparking anguish, passion, betrayal, and vengeance.
After the cold, long winter, many of us are thrilled to have summer weather with us at last. Whether you are at the beach, by a pool, on the porch, or on the couch, there’s nothing quite like getting lost in a fabulous book. The book can be a tell-all story, a mushy romance, a great escape fiction, or a hard-hitting analysis of current events. Any way you look at it, the joy of reading makes your favorite season even more enjoyable. Give these books a try and enjoy your summer!