We at the Tarrant Institute look forward to summer reading every year, but THIS year… this year we all deserve the BEST books, the BEST swimming holes, the BEST summer adventures, and the BEST time with friends and family. We’re sharing our book lists and our wishes for summer joy and relaxation with all of you. Enjoy!
Lately, I haven’t been reading like I usually do, friends. I’ve been distracted by work, the pandemic, and my doctoral studies. And I’ve missed it, so I’ve got big plans for this summer- plans that involve hammocks, beach chairs, and books – lots and lots of books! Here are a few on my list:
- My college-aged son read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson for a class this past semester. He loved it, the book and the class, and it made for many great dinner conversations. He passed his copy along to me and it is top of the list for this summer. Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns was such an amazing history of the Great Migration – I learned a ton! I’m sure this one will also be an education.
- I adored Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – it swept me into the world of a Cuban American actress and her complicated relationships, with lovers but also with the public. Malibu Rising will be my second book by Jenkins Reid – and it will be perfect for the beach as it is about a family of famous surfers. Who knows, if I love it I’ll follow it up with Daisy Jones & the Six.
- Two dear friends, Emily Hoyler and Jory Hearst, recommended Hospicing Modernity by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira. Turns out the author also goes by the name Vanessa Andreotti and I’ve read a ton of her scholarly work in my program and I am a HUGE fan! Her HEADS UP framework reminds me to be suspect of uncomplicated solutions, paternalism, ahistoricism, and other shortcuts to social justice. This book, written for a broader audience, asks us to be reflective as we address complex social issues and injustices.
- Most years I reread a classic. This year it’s Kindred by Octavia Butler, but I’m listening to the audiobook on libro.fm. It was powerful in print when I read it thirty years ago, and it is already so good as a listen. (PS> libro.fm has a great audiobook listening copy program for educators – check it out!)
- My summer reading list would not be complete without a few YA titles. I’m looking for recommendations – please send them my way!
Folks, I do a lot of reading. And since I’ve become a student again, things have only gotten more intense. It seems that my to-be-read pile grows faster than I can keep up. Honestly, it’s both a little exciting and a little overwhelming to have so many ideas lined up to engage with. This past winter I decided to carve time out for reading by rising early, so it’s up at 5am I go, coffee in hand, to settle into my armchair and dig into something. These somethings are almost always non-fiction. I guess that is my preferred genre. Huh.
Except that’s not the reading I want to talk about — or do — right now. I want to talk about summer reading: potato chip beach books. Easy fiction reads that I fall into so easily it feels effortless, almost like binge watching Netflix. Stories that sweep me away, pull me under, and lull me to stillness in the summer heat.
Unfortunately, I need some help here! What should I read? The decision fatigue is deep this year, and when it comes to books the struggle is real. I don’t have the stamina to wait for a book to pull me in. It needs to happen in the first 3 pages. I know that’s a lot to ask. But I also know it’s possible.
Luckily, my local librarians have a shelf for their picks, so my current read was plucked from that shelf: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, which is the story of a family with a secret that undoes them. It’s certainly pulled me right in, I’m halfway through already!
What else should I read? Recently, I really enjoyed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, as well as The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller, and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve loved everything by Kristin Hannah that I’ve read so far, including The Nightingale, The Four Winds, and The Great Alone.
So what should I read next?
My daughter came home from the library the other day with a stack of books. At the top was The Best At It, by Malik Pancholy. I had heard a chapter read aloud during a session of the school-wide read at White River Valley Middle School and had been pining for it ever since. (Even more after reading Jeanie’s Twitter thread about the author visit!) I’ll be borrowing it as soon as my daughter is done.
I’m looking forward to delving into the many stories told in The Most Costly Journey: Stories of Migrant Farmworkers in Vermont Drawn by New England Cartoonists. It is the result of an amazing project where cartoonists were paired up with migrant farmworkers to provide visual representation of their powerful stories. The project was supported by some fabulous Vermont organizations and has been chosen as the Vermont Reads 2022 book by Vermont Humanities. I can’t wait to talk to others about it during a book group at the Middle Grades Institute next week.
I associate summer with pop music that makes me want to dance. Janelle Monae creates music that compels boogeying though it’s far too complex to classify as pop. I knew about her brilliant acting, too, but gave an audible squeal of delight when I came across her new book. The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer. It uses her concept album Dirty Computer (and emotion picture) as a launching point for a series of short stories, many of which she co-wrote with amazing people. This is going to be one to savor, preferably with Monae’s beats and melodies in my ears.
And finally, I have nearly 800 pages of pure bliss to enjoy in The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty. It is the third and final book of the Davaebad Trilogy, based on Islamic mythology and written with unparalleled richness and imagination. They are the type of books that I can get completely lost in. The type that get into my dreams and inspire djinn-filled daydreams. I can’t wait to return to this enchanted realm with the magic of summer reading.
Like my colleagues, I read a lot. In fact, I am reading this post to take note of their reading lists, too.
To start, I am reading The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. My daughter was reading Yoon’s books this spring, and she inspired me to read this one. Truth be told, I think that I have already read it, but I remember nothing. This time I’m slowing down, so that I can talk about the book with her. It’s a love story, but it’s also about complicated relationships with family, immigration in America, and so much more. I eat up this YA fiction like candy.
Next on my reading list for this summer is We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida. My mother caused me to read this after her own book group selected it. Though she didn’t expect to like it, I helped my mother find it in the bookstore thanks to kind staff. That scavenger hunt to find the book (without knowing its title), has endeared me it. Goodreads describes it as, “both a gripping mystery and a tribute to the wonders of youth, in all its beauty and confusion”. That (and it’s beautiful cover art) has me hooked.
Speaking of cover art, I am noticing the resemblance between We Run the Tides and another book on my list. What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster has a cover that looks really similar. Which makes me think that sometimes I do judge a book by its cover! This book came from my friend’s list of books to read. I love that it’s about mothers, the complicated choices they make for their children, and their fight for a better future for their kids.
Last but certainly not least, I can’t wait to read All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. When hooks died at the end of last year, it made me regret not reading more of her work. Originally published in 2000, this piece of her writing strikes a resonant chord with me these days. She wonders….what if we view love as a verb, rather than a noun? I am so drawn to the way that hooks persuades us to change the way we think about love and one another. We need that kind of love now.
Readers, please enjoy this period of rest and rejuvenation. After this year, you deserve all of the BEST relaxation, the BEST adventures, and the BEST books.