What You Should Read While Lying By the Pool this Summer

Or, anywhere, for that matter. Just take a break and read something, got it?

Every year I come up with a list of suggestions of “beach” reads for those who are maybe a tad more literary-inclined, books with a little bit of bite but maybe not as much as normal. That way if you’ve had a poolside cocktail, are stuck on the tarmac while traveling to your destination, or are holed up in an office pissed at the world over not having a summer break you can still concentrate.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
226 pages
Mystery, international setting, family bonds
This tongue-in-cheek murder mystery set in Africa is written in quick little chapters that make it a perfect traveling companion (especially if you have small kids that CONSTANTLY want to show you something). Braithwaite’s descriptions and development of the sisterly relationship show she has writing chops beyond what your “typical” mystery writer might have, though, which I greatly appreciated.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
383 pages
Memoir, tech, family bonds
In a world consumed with Apple, who doesn’t want an inside peek into the Jobs family? I know there has been some criticism surrounding his daughter’s memoir, but I thought her perception was fascinating and struggled to find any real incentive to lie. The book read like a novel, for the most part, and I couldn’t put it down. 

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
368 pages
Music, interview format, drama
This book was read in anticipation of some serious book FOMO, since everyone read this when it came out. The interview format makes it feel like a Behind the Music episode and the characters were directly inspired by Fleetwood Mac, which classic rock lovers like myself will enjoy. It’s not a book that requires a great deal of concentration and is super easy to pick up and put down, so it’s totally idea for a busy summer schedule.

Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold
320 pages
Memoir, outdoor adventures, amazing accomplishments
Can’t get away? Want to partake in some outdoor adventures but can’t? Honnold’s account of free-soloing Half Dome won’t necessarily be a substitute, but will help take the edge off your wanderlust. He details his ultimate feat, but also describes many of his climbing expeditions from around the world beforehand.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
194 pages
Short stories, race, sci-fi-ish
I find short stories (and essays… see Sedaris below) to be a perfect solution when I know that I’m going to be on-the-go and may not be able to devote a ton of time to a lengthy novel. Enter Friday Black. These are definitely not ordinary short stories, though, there are messages relating to social justice, cultural issues, and humanity in general. The subtle sci-fi layers, and even horror, add a whole layer of complexity as well (and I’m not necessarily a fan of either of these genres; it totally worked for this collection, though).

Calypso by David Sedaris
272 pages
Humor, essays
This was my first dive into Sedaris, almost a year ago, and I found myself laughing aloud constantly! Many of essays center around the beach home he purchases, which totally jives with our summer reading theme. I remember really loving how he incorporates his loved ones into his work; he’s honest, pokes fun, but you can tell her really cherishes them. His astute descriptions and comical realizations are the perfect combination.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
421 pages
Literary fiction, AIDS epidemic, complex relationships
This is the book for those of you who don’t want something a little easier or slimmer this summer- you want the big book that maybe you wouldn’t normally make time for. This is the one, folks. Spanning over several decades, tackling a tough issue (the AIDS epidemic and intense relationships), and forcing you to engage with a variety of emotions, this your big kahuna.

Happy (almost) summer!

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