The prospect of a summer reading list wasn’t too daunting when I was a kid, I loved to read! But despite my love of books, I did have a tendency to put off writing the requisite book reports or papers until the very last days of vacation. Now I am a book loving adult—who can supposedly manage her time better than she did at the age of 13— and it's hard to fit in good quality reading time. Between work, family commitments, and socializing, its difficult to find time to sit down and lose yourself in a world of words. So I began, what I like to call, my Summer Reading List for the Adult Me.
I made my first adult summer reading list when I was in grad school— and my eyes were actually crossing from the amount of time spent reading and researching. The goal then was to make sure that I remembered that I loved to read even while being confronted with a never-ending mound of academic jargon. Now that I am out of school and working full time, the goal has morphed into making sure that I retain my sanity by simultaneously guaranteeing some alone time and allowing myself a break from dealing with the craziness of my adult life.
Early each summer I would pick out four books that I planned to read- one biography, one non-fiction book, one classic novel that I never got around to reading in school, and one contemporary novel that I chose based on nothing but the title and the cover. I am a firm believer in holding actual books—but have a complete inability to return library books. Tired of being on the New York City public library hit list, I would go into a book store in May and come out the proud owner of four shiny new books. The trick was to have either the non-fiction or the biography in my purse at all times so that I could read on the subway or in the park, and the novels were for at home before bed or in a tub with a glass of wine.
Over the years, the formal rules have fallen a bit by the wayside, but my Summer Reading List for the Adult Me served as a much needed reminder to me that I am a much happier person when I have a good book to read. While my personal plan might not be perfect for you, the wonderful thing about an adult summer reading list is that you call the shots. Remember- this is supposed to be fun!
Here are some gems that I have come across to get you started:
1.) In Spite of Myself , by Christopher Plummer
I have had a lifelong love for Christopher Plummer, and his memoirs do not disappoint in the slightest. His self-awareness and confidence make him a witty and engaging writer, and his exploits provide unique insight into the sparkle of the Hollywood Golden Era.
2.) That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, by Anne Sebba
This candid glimpse into the woman who cost a king his throne is a perfect summer read. I am not sure if I ended up liking any of the character's in the book, but the story of how a not so pretty girl from Baltimore became talk of the entire world is fascinating.
3.) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
This book is how I wish history was taught. Impeccably researched and written, despite the difficult subject matter, this book was impossible to put down. Louis Zamperini’s life is extraordinary, and Hillenbrand manages to teach you about the whole world through Zamperini’s remarkable story.
4.) At Home, by Bill Bryson
Reading a Bill Bryson book can be an exercise in frustration. The man is so curious about every little detail that he goes off on the most maddeningly random tangents. But, if you just give yourself over to his wanderings, you will come away with a deeper understanding of the notion of “home” as we know it today—all told with humor and sympathy.
Classic novel category:
5.) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
In high school, I was on Team Emily in terms of by Bronte sister loyalty. Wuthering Heights was by far my favorite classic novel. So romantic! So dramatic! Then I read Jane Eyre, and officially switched to Team Charlotte. Jane would kick Cathy’s spoiled little behind.
6.) The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
Apparently New York hasn’t changed much in 100 years. Wharton’s descriptions of New York society are so spot-on that I actually laughed out loud reading this book on the train.
Contemporary novel category:
As you recall, I literally judged these books by their covers—but they proved to be worth the risk.
7.) Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Magical, just magical. Suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to be swept away by the fantastic.
8.) The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman
Beautifully heartbreaking story of the lengths we'll go to for the people we love.
9.) Defending Jacob, by William Landay
A fast paced crime novel that made me want to skip work so that I could keep reading till the end. This book may difficult for parents, as it is centered around the murder of a child and a parents fight to protect their son.