Summer School: A Reading List for the Rest of Us.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July and to that I say, HELLO, Summer! You're a leeeeetle bit late and your cruel cousin, Winter sure overstayed her welcome, but WE ARE HAPPY YOU'RE HERE, nonetheless!

With my kids in school until June 26  I truly thought this moment would never arrive. I skimmed over their summer reading lists today and I am feeling INSPIRED. It feels as though my primary job ends too and suddenly I can read poolside, lakeside, oceanside— any body of water side 24/7! Fantasy? Yes. But with the longer days and slightly relaxed schedule, anything seems possible and that Tolstoy book I've always meant to read, suddenly starts beckoning...

A lot of people have asked me for summer reading suggestions. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because I usually have my nose in a book or perhaps because I have been know to quote the most important truth I've ever heard that was written in a book by some guy whose title I can't recall. In any case, I hear the buzz and it is "What should I read this summer?" That is such an important question and ostensibly, a simple one. But have you roamed the library or local bookstore lately? (I'm old school, but even trolling Amazon is overwhelming, am I right?) SO many genres, so many beautiful covers, so many ways to feel defeated before you even start! 

Ain't she a beauty?                                                                                                                  NYC Main Public Library 5th Ave.

Ain't she a beauty?                                                                                                                  NYC Main Public Library 5th Ave.

To that end, I've compiled some of my favorite books-across several genres, as well as some titles on my current 2014 summer reading list. I hope that one of them piques your interest! To streamline the process I've devised a method I shall call If That Then This. For example, If you liked The Cat in the Hat then try One Fish Two Fish. This is not a scientifically proven approach; I didn't even graduate college, ok? And for a few titles I will simply offer a book suggestion based on a specific feeling or emotion you may want to conjure up through story. Like the literary version of watching certain films to feel a certain feeling. (i.e. Goonies- to remind us of our youth. When Harry met Sally— to remind us that true love prevails. Anything with Denzel Washington to give us an opportunity to look at Denzel Washington.)  OK, here we go!

This is a t-shirt you can buy. Don't say I never did nothin' for you.  

This is a t-shirt you can buy. Don't say I never did nothin' for you.  

If you liked Bossypants by Tina Fey, try Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. (Laugh-out-loud-able, possibly snort inducing. Consider location when reading; subway to be avoided.)

If you liked The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell try David and Goliath by the same author.

If you liked Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott try Girl meets God by Lauren Winner. 

If you want to jump start your creativity, but can't commit to Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way try The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

If you liked Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs try his addiction + recovery memoir, Dry.

If you liked Sea Biscuit by Laura Hillenbrand read her latest Unbroken.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to lose your mind OR you enjoy a memoir that reads like a medical mystery, try Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.

Speaking of memoirs, holla if you like ones written by women who are afflicted by depression/strangeness/crisis of faith! (Guilty as charged.) Try any of these:

Loud in the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Still by Lauren Winner

If you've ever wondered if you could just pick up, move and start a whole new life and/or want to be transported to a new place, perhaps Rwanda? Try A thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, hope, and a restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin.

If you have a daughter or just enjoy  light hearted and hilarious mysteries, try Where'd you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.

If you liked Little Children by Tom Perotta try another one by him, Joe College.

If you liked Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, try A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling.

If you are a sucker for coming of age stories AND didn't like the movie, read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

If you prefer biography to memoir and adore Steve Martin and have taken stand up comedy classes (wait. strike that last one) you should read Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.

If the 1970's and The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides are too depressing for your taste, (can't blame you— though I loved it. The book, not the 70's. Born in 1979— my experience is limited) try his more recent work that I really enjoyed last summer The Marriage Plot.

If you are interested in exploring books that guided my pilgrimage- either before, during or after- try any of the following:

Left to Tell: Discovering God amidst the Rwandan Genocide by Imaculee Ilibagiza.

Pilgrimage of a Soul by Phileena Heuertz

Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith After Genocide in Rwanda by Emmanuel M. Katongole and Jonathan Wilson- Hartgrove. 

The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation by Thomas Keating.

Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl.

And here is my over ambitious but well intentioned list of books I hope to read this summer:

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry because I ain't too proud to read Young Adult, and my daughter recommended it.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver Because it's been recommended by great friends and was serendipitously left on a curb for free by my friend/neighbor.

And in the "I really should have read but haven't yet" category: Peace like a River by Leif Enger and What is the What by Dave Eggers. (Thanks for the loan, Ryan.)

As you may have noticed, I don't read a lot of classics. (Insert embarrassed face here.) I mean, I've read some of the big ones, but it is not where I am inclined to go when given a choice. Read: out of high school English class. I welcome your suggestions. Seriously, I would like to read at least one this summer. Please leave your favorites in the comment boxes below.

Because I like you guys, I've linked each title to Amazon for easy purchasing, but the easy thing isn't always the best thing. As a small business owner I would be remiss not to encourage you to take a jaunt to your local library or independent bookshop and borrow/purchase there. Both are dying breeds and I cannot accept that their time on this earth is up! Don't shop in a vacuum; go be among the people! You will likely bump into someone with a much better reading list than this one! Here are some of my favorite independent book stores in NYC and one in Princeton, NJ. (hometown love) In no particular order:

Word, Brooklyn

Astoria Bookshop, Queens

Posman Books, several locations

Strand, Manhattan

Book Court, Brooklyn

Labyrinth Books, Princeton, NJ

For the record, I have a super smart friend who lives in Dublin and pens a lovely blog all about reading. There you will find many great suggestions with thoughtfully articulated, nuanced summaries of the books she reads. You know- in case my list didn't do it for you. It's ok, I won't take it personally. Enjoy Amy Sheldon's blog.

Until then, I wish you uninterrupted pockets of reading time, endless sunshine, and the occasional rainy day so you can take a movie break. 

One of my favorite views in New York City: the ceiling in the Rose Reading Room, NYC Public Library.

One of my favorite views in New York City: the ceiling in the Rose Reading Room, NYC Public Library.