Welcome to the 4th Annual Jordana Horn Summer Reading Recommendation List! Reading is one of my favorite things in the world…and yes, I do read constantly, even though I have six kids. Yes, it’s actually possible!
While I will admit to a definite fiction predilection, I’ve put some deviations from that genre on the list. And in this year–the year we might get the first-ever female president of the United States of America!–I’ve arbitrarily decided to make this list one of all female authors (though not necessarily the oft-disparaged “chick-lit,” Mr. Jonathan Franzen).
If you have additions–whether female authors or otherwise–please add them in the comments, as I’m always looking for more great reading ideas. This list is in no particular order, and ranges from the cerebral to the I-can-still-follow-this-with-a-half-consumed-margarita-in-my-hand. Enjoy!
1. “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” by Sue Klebold
This book should be mandatory reading for anyone who is a parent, will be a parent, or wants to be a parent. Actually, this book should just be mandatory reading for everyone. Written by the mother of one of the Columbine school shooters, this is a mother’s candid and brutally honest self-examination after the fact. Painful and brutally necessary.
2. “The Royal We,” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
So much fun that I went back and reread it when it was over. What if you went to Oxford for your junior year abroad and Prince William fell in love with you? This fictional tale of a Prince William-ish character falling for an American girl is smart and extremely enjoyable for anyone who’s ever read US Magazine.
3. “Shrill,” by Lindy West
I fell in love with Lindy West when I read her review of “Sex And The City” 2 years ago. Now, this woman is proving herself to be a brilliant, witty, and savvy feminist for the 21st century. I loved reading every page and enjoying how deftly she challenged my assumptions and viewpoint. Terrific, whip smart, and hilarious.
4. “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” by Elizabeth Strout
Beautiful, lyrical prose that examines the relationship between mothers and daughters through the prism of a fictional tale of illness and recovery. Its power lies in putting into well-chosen words that which ordinarily goes unsaid and unacknowledged.
5. “Tender: A Novel,” by Belinda McKeon
Just gorgeous. The observational power here, and the dexterity with which human emotions are detailed, analyzed and created, is astonishing.
6. “13 Ways of Looking At A Fat Girl,” by Mona Awad
Funny and heartbreaking at the same time, Awad’s novel in stories charts how a woman’s perception of others and herself–as well as others’ perception of her–changes along with her weight. Painful, poignant, real and beautiful.
7. “Scary Old Sex,” by Arlene Heyman
Let’s move on from the obvious acknowledgment that this is the best title for public beach reading ever. This book of short stories is a first book by Heyman, a psychoanalyst in her 70s who once upon a time was Bernard Malamud’s girlfriend (relevant to one of the stories). With quotes like this – ““We can’t try anal intercourse because you think I’m filled with shit to the brim. You have no sense of anatomy. I can take an enema! You can use a condom!”–it’s just a fantastic read.
8. “Kindness Wins,” by Galit Breen
We are the first generation of parents to deal with how to handle our kids and social media. There are frighteningly few maps into this universe. If you’re looking for one that is approachable and real rather than preachy or pedantic, Breen’s easy read is for you.
9. “The Marriage of Opposites,” by Alice Hoffman
Not going anywhere, but want to feel like you’re in St. Thomas? This historic novel about the Jewish family life and drama behind the artist Camille Pissaro is a riveting read that will submerge you in the heat of love and passion in the tropics.
10. “Sweetbitter,” by Stephanie Danler
Another fun read in this novel fictionalizing the experience of an ‘under-waiter’ at the thinly-veiled Union Square Café in New York, and what it is like to be a twenty-something living in the city for the first time.
11. “The Age of Reinvention,” by Karine Tuil
A French modern day take on “The Great Gatsby,” in which a Muslim Tunisian-born Frenchman gains entrée to New York society by pretending to be Jewish. When his brother starts working for terrorists, though, things start getting tricky.
12. “Be Frank With Me,” by Julia Claiborne Johnson
In the vein of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?,” a woman is hired to be the companion of a J.D. Salinger-esque female writer’s son. A fun read about life getting to know an eccentric child enmeshed in an eccentric life.
13. “The Improbability of Love,” by Hannah Mary Rothschild
You know the genre–lost painting, love, cosmopolitan art world, the ways in which lives intersect and fall in love. It’s an entertaining page-turner.
14. “The Two-Family House,” by Lynda Cohen Loigman
In this novel, two babies are born on the same snowy night in the same house in Brooklyn in 1947. What happens from that point on makes cases for nature and nurture, and what being a parent can do to a person. Very worthwhile read.
15. “Along the Infinite Sea,” by Beatriz Williams
Lovers in pre-war Europe plus independent women in 1960s America equals a fun historic romance traveling continents and decades effortlessly.
16. “The Expatriates,” by Janice Y.K. Lee
What would happen if you lost a child–literally, if you lost one of your children in a foreign country? This book touches on a terrible parental nightmare and interweaves it with the unique issues of being an expatriate family in Asia. Haunting and powerful.
A funny and meaningful look at what it means to be a parent of young kids who still wants to be in touch with being a person. Truly wonderful and inspirational.