A little later than promised, but here is part 2 of my summer reading guide.
Non-Fiction and some books for the youngsters in your life. I don't have teens yet, so that section of this resource is a little sparse. An aim I have for next time is to read more YA so I can recommend in that genre - it's probably the most overlooked in my reading and I should do something to fix that.
Let's jump in!
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, by Kirk Wallace Johnson - This is a fascinating true crime that will open your eyes to an entire world most of us don't know even exists. The world of fly tying and exotic bird feathers. Wait, it's much more compelling than that sounds. Trust me. This is also one of those rare instances that its exquisite cover is just as interesting as the book inside. I listened to this on audio and it was wonderful. Great narration and one of the most interesting things I've ever heard.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb - This is a great book, I wish more people were talking about it (and to be fair, loads of people already are!). Therapy has gotten a bad reputation for a long time and it seems like only recently is society starting to look at it as the healthy and productive tool that it is. I've seen therapists in my life and have always learned something about myself. This memoir adjacent book is about Lori's own experience becoming a therapist, and her interactions with her own therapist who helps her navigate a particularly difficult time in her life. It's a fascinating comparison for anyone to read, but especially interesting if you've been to therapy and wondered what your therapist really thinks of you, how much they know about stuff, and what they had to do to get the job. I loved it. Therapy is so good!! It needs to be more accessible, and hopefully this book will help it become more normalized. Definitely worth a read.
The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay - You guys know this is probably in my top 5 of all time by now, right? I just can't stop talking about it. The power of gratitude, intentional thinking, and looking for joy is a real thing that can change your life and your attitude even in the face of crappy circumstances. I love this book for the beautiful prose, the obscure tiny moments Gay examines, and for the project it is to write over 100 little essays of delight.
The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live, by Heather B. Armstrong - This is absolutely one of those books about a medical procedure that will have you second guessing reality, but it's true. Absolutely true. I listened to this book through Audible and Heather narrates it herself, in one of the most impacting and emotionally resonant performances I've ever heard. She describes in articulate detail the recent time in her life when she was so incredibly depressed she didn't want to live anymore, could barely function, and her situation outside of that compounded her problems. She was barely functional and felt nothing. She qualified for a medical trial for treatment of severe depression in which the brain is just about turned off in an induced coma-like state for 30 minutes or so, for 10 sessions. Like the physical equivelant of turning your brain "off and on again"
Calypso, by David Sedaris - David Sedaris is one of my favorite essayists and non-fiction writers. He writes unapologetically and with incredible humorous honesty about life and what it means to be a living person. This is my favorite of his collections and is also his most recent. I laughed so hard, cried a lot, and felt connection that reminds me why I enjoy writing, and why I enjoy reading, and what is best and weirdest about life itself. An exceptional talent, but also an unflinching one. This short book is perfect to take with you on a family vacation, to read at the beach or the pool, or just slowly enjoy during the summer mornings.
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, by Caitlin Doughty - If you're looking to get a glimpse of other cultures without having to actually go anywhere, I highly recommend this one for you. Especially if you are interested by what other cultures do with their deceased. It's also related to the worldwide views of family, how those traditions are both unique and universal in caring for those we love after they die. It's informative, enlightening, and incredibly tender. Might be odd to recommend a book about death for summer reading, but it's great. Trust me.
For the Kids:
Knights vs. Dinosaurs, by Matt Phelan - Oh, this was a really fun and quick story. Remember the knights of the round table, stories of Merlin and those guys? Well, in this story they're up to no good and being generally lazy because there aren't enough dragons to go around. So, what does Merlin do, but decide to send them back in time to the age of the dinosaurs! Chaos, and team bonding, ensues. Such a fun book and deeper than I expected.
Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat, by Johnny Marciano - I picked this up for my daughter's birthday and enjoyed reading it along with her. Klawde is indeed an alien warlord and comes to Earth and has to encounter all the things that are normal to humans. In the meantime, there's a summer camp with a nefarious plot happening, and his own intergalactic plans to work on. Great fun, not very long, and entertaining. There's a second book in the series too, if your kid wants to continue (and book three is due to arrive in October).
Cleopatra in Space series, by Mike Maihack - One of our families favorite graphic novels. It is what it sounds like, but Cleopatra is a tween (maybe 13?) and has to deal with a lot of things. She's impulsive and clever, skilled and smart, and more than a little reckless. This series is wonderful for adventure and friendship with delightful characters and compelling illustrations. Loved it.
The Princess in Black series, by Shannon Hale - Whenever there's a new one in the series we buy it. Shannon Hale is a great author and this series is fun. It's at that stage where it's definitely a chapter book, but not too much of a challenge to read, and still has phenomenal illustrations. The princess in question is also a crime fighting ninja determined to protect her kingdom. It's great for empowerment, strong female characters, great friendships, and figuring out how to be yourself when people think you should only be something particular, like a princess.
The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell- audiobook is good - We listened to this on a few family road trips recently and it's a wonderful audiobook narrated by David Tennant. It's about a part of a fantastic world where the specialties and powers of magic and warriors clash and combine. The characters we follow are from each sides of the contention and as you can imagine, chaos ensues. This is the same author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, and her wit and cleverness is illuminated with Tennant's skillful narration. A really fun series, we are planning to listen to book 2 soon.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster – audiobook narrated by Rainn Wilson is good - Both my kids and I have read the paperback version and then listened to the audiobook and loved them both. It is a fun story that you should read if you haven't yet. Juster wrote it as a diversion for himself while he was supposed to be writing a book about something like city planning. It details the story of Milo who can't be bothered with anything, always wants to be somewhere else, and is generally just not interested in anything. Suddenly, a tollbooth arrives that he puts together and uses to travel to a strange place with tons of wordplay and lessons that are not at all what you expect and even more fun. I was preparing for this to be an overused and cliché filled story, but it was charming and unique and filled with wordplay that made us all chuckle and think. Delightful for everyone in your family.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo - this is a fun story about a girl, FLora, and a squirrel, Ulysses, and what happens when the squirrel in question is sucked up into a vacuum. Something happens that connects the two of them that becomes a bit of a superhero journey of discovery. This story is a great adventure, has wonderful humorous and unexpected plot twists, and deals frankly with parents who aren't the best examples. I appreciated this story for it's adventure, and it's honesty in some of the more difficult ideas that people you're related to aren't always the best humans, and I was impressed with DiCamillo's ability to deal with some difficult things. It was really great. There are also some parts of the story told in comic form, and my kids really enjoyed reading those parts of the story that are illustrated.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series, by Dana Simpson - One of my go-to recommendations for kids these days, this is a really fun comic series about a girl and her unicorn and their adventures together. I hesitate only a little to compare it to Calvin & Hobbes, but it is just as great in the "kid and maybe not real best friend discuss life and meander the woods together" way. It's funny, insightful, silly, and great if you have a reluctant but smart reader who needs something to get lost in for a while. It's really fun and fast to read.
The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan - My ten year old says all his friends have read this series and talk about it. He read the first one really fast, it prompted some trips to the library to research Greek mythology, and now he has pressed it into my hands and is reading the second book. It's on my list to get to soon, and I'll let you know how that goes.
How to Train Your Dragon Series, by Cressida Cowell - Probably my son's favorite series, he and his dad have read all 13 (?) or so books at least twice. I'm sure you've seen the movies or at least know about them, this is the source material and from what I've heard it is just as delightful, clever, exciting, and compelling as they films. From what I've read by Cowell, I've been impressed at her ability to create immersive worlds that you never question, and her wonderfully real characters who make difficult decisions and are fun to spend time with. If you are in need of a series to try with or for your kids, or kids you know, this would be one to give a try for sure.
For Teens/Older Kids:
The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer - I read this series a few years ago and still remember being delightfully surprised by it. A retelling of fairy tales is either a lot of fun or no fun at all so I was nervous giving it a try. But, when you tell me the story starts with a cyborg Cinderella, I am into it. Fortunately, this exceeded my expectations and I had so much fun listening to it on audio. The characters and their interwoven storylines are wonderful and easy to fall into. Great adventures, compelling plots, and just a lot of fun.
The Lady Janies series, by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton - These are so funny!! I'm 31 and adored them. Charming, clever retellings of ladies named Jane in history and literature. One deals with Lady Jane Grey, the other in the series deals with Jane Eyre. Both are so funny and well written. I just loved them and wish there were more written already. If you have a teen that enjoys historical fiction, or is a little sarcastic but also funny, give them these this summer.
Next up is a list of 6 books I'm looking forward to reading this summer from my own TBR list! As always, contact me with any questions or any need for a specific title. I'd love to help you find what you're looking for.
You can check out part 1 of the reading guide here, which deals with fiction of many types.
Happy reading, friends!
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