Summer Reads to Help You Survive Any Situation

By D. Arthur

Days are longer. Nights are busier. Due to terrifying denial of climate change, everything is stickier. It’s summertime baby! Summer brings with it a sense of freedom, but there are still situations where you can feel a little bit trapped. Fear not! I have come with a definitive summer reading list to help you survive any sticky, long, uncomfortable, or just plain boring, situation you find yourself in.


What to Read When You’re Staying in a Beach House with Your Partner and Their Friends, and You Realize They All Suck
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

You survived the email thread where 15 people had to agree on one airbnb that technically only sleeps 8. You survived the passive aggressive venmo requests for groceries you didn’t agree to buy. But you’re not sure if you can survive the pretentious rounds of ‘what’s your favorite podcast?’ over dinner. In the words of Cher, you have to wonder, do you believe in love after love? Camille Perri’s When Katie Met Cassidy is a fun look at life after love and what happens when the titular Katie realizes that the man she planned on marrying was the wrong person, and possibly even the wrong gender for her. This sapphic rom-com is a bubbly and refreshing twist on queer lit in which none of the lesbians die! While there is a bit of a strange blindspot toward bisexuality, it hits a near perfect pitch of sexy and sweet. Plus, you can read it in one sitting, so if you’re lucky, no one will even notice that you skipped out on the artisanal jam tasting.

What to Read While You’re “Writing Your Novel” at the Coffee Shop, aka Checking Out Cute Dogs and Scrolling Through Twitter
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

You are working on your novel. You really are! The news is just so much lately, so it would be truly irresponsible to not check twitter every now and then. Also, is that golden retriever puppy wearing A BOW TIE?? Maybe picking up best-selling novelist Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel will help you make a few steps in the right direction. Ok, full transparency, this book will not provide a step-by-step how-to guide to write your novel, but don’t kid yourself, you weren’t really working on it anyway. What this book will provide is a series of personal essays with global and political heft. The essays wield a raw candor, balancing the light and dark in Chee’s life experiences as a gay, Korean-American writer, with a consistent emphasis on the writer — including an honest look at the work he did to support himself while writing his first novel. So even though it won’t give you a traditional step-by-step guide, this hyper-quotable, brilliantly textured collection of essays may end up inspiring you to pick up that pen (or open that laptop) anyway.

What to Read Instead of Texting Back That One Night Stand
Weird Fucks by Lynn Tillman

You finished binge watching Ugly Betty, and you don’t have any really set plans for the night. You scroll through your phone and think about texting that person you slept with that one time, and you know you could sleep with them again if you really wanted to, but was it even that good the first time? Put the phone down, and pick up Lynn Tillman’s Weird Fucks. This breathless novella quickly flits across time and space using sparse language to breathe life into a series of rich vignettes spanning the late 60s and early 70s. The vignettes follow a woman as she travels, builds relationships, and has sex (duh). The book also includes a hauntingly beautiful description of an incident with a diaphragm that will make most readers thankful for modern birth control. While the rest of this list features recent releases, this 1978 spotlight of pain and joy provides a timeless reminder that there is another adventure waiting for you, if only you want to find it. Plus, the 2015 paperback small press re-release is a gorgeous little gem with artwork by Amy Sillman.

What to Read Before Dinner With Your Parents, Where One of Them Will Inevitably Ask You If You Even REMEMBER Anything From Your Classics Major, Let Alone Use It In Your Day-to-Day Life
Circe by Madeline Miller

You don’t bother reminding them that you are a vegetarian when they suggest a steakhouse, but you feel like you need to do something to mentally and physically prepare yourself before pushing broccoli rabe around your plate for an hour while being verbally flayed. Lucky for you, Madeline Miller, a classics queen, wrote the hyper-readable new look at Circe, aka the witch in The Odyssey who turned all of those men into pigs. In a time where it’s hard to ignore that maybe the men were pigs all along, and being a witch feels like a good thing, this is an epic look at misunderstood woman’s side of the story. Extra credit: when you’re done, pick up the much praised new translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson — the first woman to take up the task.

What to Read on Breaks at Your Grueling Summer Job
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

You’re bussing tables at your family’s restaurant. Maybe you are chaperoning a scavenger hunt for a wealthy kid’s bar mitzvah at the Guggenheim. Or maybe you’re just sitting in the bloodless grey cubicle you sit in all year long, but it’s zero degrees now due to an overzealous air conditioner. When you have a second to come up for air, or sneakily read the book that’s on your lap and under your desk, you should try Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li. Lillian’s very short stint working at a Chinese restaurant comes through in the real and vibrant descriptions of everything from the atmosphere to the food! The crackling storytelling serves up generous helpings of laughter and warmth without glossing over the very real pangs — tragedy, hunger, desire — of big lives in the small space of the Beijing Duck House.

What to Read on the Looooooong Bus and/or Subway Ride Home from Your Awful Tinder Date
The Pisces by Melissa Broder

You gulp down a cheap beer and wonder why Todd/Kim/Chris/Eric/Alexis looks so much better in the six iPhone screen sized photos you saw of them beforehand. You make up an excuse to go home, and you are faced with a longass public transit journey back from whence you came because you compromised and went to their neighborhood. Luckily, you can read The Pisces by Melissa Broder. While the fish-fucking comparisons to Shape of Water are earned, this sexy and smart read — that follows the downward spiraling Lucy and her love affair with a merman — has much more than tuna-lingus. From Sappho to sex addiction to suicide, The Pisces covers a lot of ground (or should I say sea) with lush prose, sharp wit, and a laugh-out-loud look at the hopelessness of love.

What to Read Literally Anytime, Anywhere
There There by Tommy Orange

Maybe you are in the waiting room at your dentist. Maybe you are in the backseat on a family road trip. Maybe you are killing time in the bathroom at an awkward party that you don’t particularly want to be at any longer, but you feel rude leaving. Maybe you are, entirely hypothetically speaking, waiting in line to get tattooed at a charity event, and you want to read something so arresting that its final pages make you sob on the street. There There by Tommy Orange is one of those books that you finish and (after you finish sobbing on the street) you hold it in your hands for a moment just to savor your time alone with it, before instantly telling everyone you know about it. This soul-quaking debut novel follows the lives of 12 urban-dwelling Native Americans in the lead-up to the Big Oakland Powwow. The book dances through different perspectives, bounds across generations, and paints detail rich portraits of individuals and families with humor and gut-punching clarity. It also includes interstitial sections spanning just a handful of pages that concisely and powerfully sum up the atrocities that white settlers have inflicted on native communities with more detail than even the thickest history books. Read this once, lend it to a friend, then get it back so you can read it again and again.

What to Read When You’re Done With All of These
The best part of the summer is that it is jam-packed with new releases! Some of my most anticipated reads of the summer season are either not out yet, or haven’t made it out of my ever-growing to-be-read pile yet. These include — The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, Tonight I Am Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson, and On The Come Up by Angie Thomas.

What are you reading this summer?

P.s. all of these links are to IndieBound which allows you to order through your local indie bookstore! You should be able to pick any of these up at your local library, in your local indie bookstore, or on Amazon.