Although classes have officially kicked off, there is still time to enjoy the hot summer weather and check a book off your reading list before colder days arrive in Charlottesville. Here’s to learning something new, self-discovery and enjoying the simple pleasure of reading for your own enjoyment. While many of the books on this are not traditional summer beach reads, they all offer a new perspective on a variety of issues — a worthwhile way to spend a free moment.
1. “I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy
As a huge iCarly fan growing up, Jennette McCurdy’s 2022 memoir absolutely blew my mind. Her direct, honest and raw writing style throughout the book continuously struck me — I was immediately annotating the pages and underlining the lines that especially spoke to me. McCurdy dives into the abuse she endured from her mother, her experiences with eating disorders, the difficulties of her past relationships and the pain that comes from growing up as a child actor.
2. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong
This 2019 novel is a letter written from a son, Little Dog, to his illiterate mother, Rose. Vuong combines aspects of poetry with prose to explore what it means to live in America, what it means to be a refugee, what it means to carry the trauma of the Vietnam War and what it means to be a gay man. I often return to this piece because it is overflowing with beautiful, poignant and thought-provoking moments — like the moment when Little Dog comes out to his mom inside of a Dunkin’ Donuts.
3. “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde — a Black lesbian feminist — is a prominent author in my Women, Gender and Sexuality courses. I was first introduced to her work when I read “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” — a speech given at the Second Sex Conference in 1979. Her precise language calling for feminism that goes beyond the needs of white, middle-class and heterosexual women is impactful. I plan to read “Sister Outsider” this summer to read more of Lorde’s collection of essays and speeches.
4. “Beach Read” by Emily Henry
I am almost certain that you have come across Emily Henry, especially if you find yourself on BookTok. Her 2020 novel “Beach Read” is a perfect beach read — but can also be enjoyed on the Rotunda steps or the Lawn if you can’t quite get to a sandy shore this semester. The novel centers around Augustus Everett and January Andrews — two former classmates who spend their summer years as neighbors while working on their respective books. Henry combines elements of a breezy and fun enemies-to-lovers storyline with lovely and vivid descriptions of an unforgettable summer.
5. “Hood Feminism” by Mikki Kendall
I picked up “Hood Feminism” back in January, and it has been sitting on my to-read list ever since. This 2020 non-fiction piece immediately caught my attention as it explores the shortcomings of white, mainstream feminist movements, reminding me of the work of Audre Lorde and other Black feminists. I look forward to finally getting around to reading “Hood Feminism” this summer to make connections to my Women, Gender and Sexuality courses, and I look forward to learning more ways to ensure I advocate for intersectional feminism.
6. “My Monticello” by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
While I have only read the first story in this collection of stories, “Control Negro,” I can already tell that this is a book that is urgently waiting to be read. Whether you are a student at the University, a parent of a student, an alum, community member or merely a human being existing in America, “My Monticello” — published in 2021 — is sure to illuminate new understandings of the history of our nation and of our University through a series of short stories.
7. “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros
If you don’t have enough time to commit to a full-length novel and instead want a quick taste of beautiful and powerful writing, look no further than Sandra Cisneros. This collection of short stories with titles ranging from “My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn” to “Mericans,” Cisneros explores the complexities of being a Mexican-American woman through stories that tap into our very human feelings and desires to be understood, to be connected and to be heard. While initially published in 1991, these short stories by Cisneros are still sure to resonate with readers today.
8. “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
No summer reading list would be complete without another book that falls into beach-read territory like the 2021 novel “Malibu Rising.” With other bestsellers like “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” and “Daisy Jones and the Six,” Reid is no stranger to writing novels that capture the minds and hearts of wide-ranging audiences. “Malibu Rising” is set in 1983, and it follows a mystery of a fire that occurs at the Riva’s annual summer party — it’s a deliciously twisty story about fame and severed family ties.
9. “The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor
Summertime means warmer weather and days spent by the pool, beach or lake. While this is fun and a reprieve from being inside a classroom, it can also be dreadful for those who struggle with body image. Taylor’s 2018 non-fiction book “The Body is Not an Apology” is an absolute game-changer. A combination of personal stories and anecdotes from Taylor with a step-by-step guide to leaning into self-love and body positivity, this book combines storytelling with self-help to coalesce into a compelling message to love your body.
10. “Homesick for Another World” by Ottessa Moshfegh
Short story collections are the perfect thing to throw into your bag, something to reach for when you don’t have time for a full novel but want something bite-sized. “Homesick for Another World” — a collection of short stories — is on my personal summer reading list. I am very taken by the title, which seems to capture that feeling of searching for something indescribable, something that might not even exist — and yet you keep searching. I hope to find a new favorite short story within Moshfegh’s collection as I am already a fan of her novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.”