Welcome to the Second Annual Jordana Horn Summer Reading List, in which I recommend books for your summer reading pleasure. Some are new releases; some you may have missed because you were “working” or “taking care of children” or some other time-consuming endeavor. If you do get a few peaceful moments this summer, though, any one of these reads would be worth your while. My list last year was deemed “too intellectual,” so I’ve thrown in a few suggestions of lighter fare as well. Please feel free to add recommendations in the comments as I am always reading and always excited to find new books!
1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
I read a review before reading this book. While I wouldn’t say the review “ruined” the book for me, it was definitely a spoiler. This book hinges on one key fact which I would think would work better as a surprise, so I will leave you in suspense. Suffice it to say that this book rocked my world: my perception of family interactions, and what a fiction book can accomplish were changed by it. I am so glad I read it, and think you will be, too.
2. Schroder, by Amity Gaige
Beautifully written story of what happens when an East German-born man who has appropriated a new American, Kennedy-esque identity decides to make a post-separation run for the Canadian border with his young daughter.
3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?( And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
The comedian, actress, writer, and all-around-funny girl Mindy Kaling and I are best friends. I mean, sure, she doesn’t KNOW that we’re best friends, and she wouldn’t recognize me if she tripped over me. But she should, because we are basically funny girl karaoke-lovers separated at birth–except for the fact that she’s funny at a professional, always-makes-me-laugh level (watch her show, The Mindy Project, if you want a glimpse of true funny), and I am funny on an amateur level, usually for an audience of unappreciative minors. Sigh.
4. Dad Is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan is a comedian who lives with his wife and five children (solidarity!) in a two-bedroom apartment in New York. Clearly, he comes by material easily. He refuses to “work blue,” so this is a family-friendly read. That will be helpful when you are reading parts out loud between bouts of choking laughter to your friends and family. Make sure someone around you knows the Heimlich.
5. Mr. Chartwell: A Novel, by Rebecca Hunt
This is another book, like Fowler’s, that really astounds you as a reader in terms of what fiction can accomplish. The title character is a looming presence in the lives both of a vulnerable young woman and of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The author shows her astounding skill in how deftly she manipulates time and narrative–and I’m not going to give away who Mr. Chartwell is before you read the book.
6. The Red Book, by Deborah Copaken Kogan
This is a smart, fun read about four Harvard roommates and the circumstances of their lives and families as they meet for their 20th reunion. Each character was incredibly real, and it was the rare ensemble book where you, as the reader, feel a genuine affection for each one of the characters. I was only sorry that this book ended!
7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
A fun read about a famous architect, and mother, who flies the coop for Antarctica after trying to reconcile herself to life as a stay at home mother. Who among us can’t relate? Okay, maybe not to the teetering-on-the-edge-of-sanity part. (Maybe.)
8. Tenth of December, by George Saunders
A book of short stories by someone who I believe must be one of the most skilled fiction writers alive today. Each story will jolt you with its electric brilliance, humor, and insights.
9. Rules of Civility: A Novel, by Amor Towles
This is a fantastic and well-written read which dips the reader into the world of New York in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It’s a world of boardinghouses and Central Park West apartments, automats and decadent French gastronomic temples, dreams and accidents. Similar to The Great Gatsby in themes of falling from grace and the American Dream, the book truly submerges you in another era. You won’t want to answer the phone.
10. The Interestings: A Novel, by Meg Wolitzer
Another ensemble book, this time focusing on what happens to a group of teenagers with “potential” who meet at an idealistic arts camp in the 1970s as they go forward into their lives. Some meet with riches, others become fugitives from the people they were. This book raises complicated questions, also, about the lies we tell about each other and ourselves. Wolitzer is a true talent, and this is a terrific read.
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