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Top 15 Summer Reads for 2015

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Welcome to the Fourth Annual Jordana Horn Kveller Summer Reading Recommendation List (see the previous years’ lists here, here, and here). As always, this list is not exclusive, and I actively seek feedback/more recommendations in the comments. These are recommendations coming from a voracious reader who likes both highbrow and semi-lowbrow stuff, mostly fiction. Not all of these are new releases. Annoyingly, many books I still want to read this summer haven’t been released yet! Please follow me on Goodreads and let’s get mutually recommending! Happy summer!

In no particular order:

1. “Luckiest Girl Alive,” Jessica KnollScreen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.13.41 AM

People say this is a weird mash-up of “Heathers,” “Gone Girl,” and something else I don’t remember (I’m actually losing my mind). It is not, by any means, perfect. But it is a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride that, despite an utterly unlikeable narrator, goes places you wouldn’t expect. Buyer beware: The ending was comparatively disappointing.

2. “The Folded Clock: A Diary,” Heidi Julavits

If you ever wonder whether there are any contemplative, interesting women out there journaling, look no further than Julavits’s creative diary chronicling her thoughts and insights. Loved it.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.15.37 AM 3. “All Who Go Do Not Return,” Shulem Deen

Terrific book about a man’s journey from faithful Hasid to  disbelieving “heretic” and the implications it has for him and his  children. Heartbreakingly honest and unaffected.

 4. “Primates of Park Avenue,” Wednesday Martin

I wanted to hate this book—for its factual inaccuracy, its  smugness, and the inanity of the subject. That being said, sitting  by the pool and reading this book is kind of fun. Martin is smart,  however controversial her “reportage,” and if read as thinly-  veiled fiction, the book becomes enjoyable.

5. “Leaving Before The Rains Come,” Alexandra Fuller

Beautiful dissection of the dissolution of love, youth, beauty, and marriage in Africa. Fuller is intensely intelligent, and her writing is luminous.

6. “Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater,” Frank BruniScreen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.55.02 AM

Memoir is a field I’ve only just started to appreciate, and one of the three memoirs on this list is Frank Bruni’s attempt to chronicle his life of family and food. I adored absolutely every second of this honest and heartfelt read, from Bruni’s struggles with his weight to his adventures as a restaurant critic for the New York Times.

7. “The Wonder Garden,” Lauren Acampora

For short story aficionados, an interlinking series of stories of suburbanites. Not quite John Cheever in either bleakness or intellect, but very smart and well worth reading.

8. “We Are Not Ourselves,” Matthew Thomas

Just loved this book, which reminded me in its quiet unassuming way of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

9. “Dear Committee Members,” Julie Schumacher

Hilarious. Someone said that this book puts the “pissed” into “epistolary.” If you like jokes like this, you’ll love this book: To read it is to get the chance to live inside the head of a cantankerous freak. Extremely fun read.

10. Us,” David Nicholls

This book was a kick in the ass. I won’t spoil it. I will say that it was so in depth and real as to be painful at points, yet somehow enjoyable at almost every turn. Well worth reading.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.56.06 AM 11. “Yes Please,” Amy Poehler

She’s smart, she’s hilarious, and she has real trenchant insights  into what it means to be human. I also now know from reading  her book that if I saw her in an airport and wanted to tell her  this, she’d be bothered by my intrusion of her privacy. I’m so  glad that I read this book. You should, too. Kicked Tina Fey’s  “Bossypants” in the pants.

 12. “Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness,” George Saunders

This is a short book because it’s really a commencement speech.  It’s really transcendentally wonderful.

13. “Euphoria,” Lily King

Three anthropologists in the 1930s caught in a love triangle in New Guinea. Great in every way: plot, character, writing style. Loved it.

14. “On The Move: A Life,” Oliver Sacks

The doctor/writer of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and “Awakenings” writes a beautiful memoir. The first half of the book is better than the second, but I absolutely loved reading this book by an insightful writer I admire.

15. “This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe As A Journey of Transformation,” Alan Lew

Save this for the end of the summer, when the days are getting colder and you are starting to contemplate apples and honey. This book took me so long to read—not because it was long or hard, but rather, because it was magnificent. I will reread this every year. I could not recommend it more highly for anyone who wants to reinvigorate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with new meaning.

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