5 Books to Get You into Summer Mode
Summer is here! That means you have alllll kinds of time to sit in the sun and soak in a few good books. I’ve hand-picked five that are not just excellent reads—they’re also full of summer *~vibes*~ that will get you in the perfect headspace for the season. These books are all compelling, witty and deeper than the deep end of that pool beckoning you in this heat. If anyone tells you these smart and female-driven books are beach reads, kindly tell them to fuck off. (Even if you do plan to read them on the beach.)
1. Summer Sisters
Decades before LFO dropped “Summer Girls,” Judy Blume was hard at work writing about two particular girls who drop by for the summer: Caitlin and Vix. This “opposites attract” pair of best friends spends every summer together at Caitlin’s cabin in Martha’s Vineyard, where they discover their independence and blossoming sexuality. Even though this book is about teenagers, it’s in the adult section of the bookstore for a reason. I read it in seventh grade, when it taught me choice words like “cunnilingus” and “dingleberry.” I was so scandalized by this book that I immediately made all my friends read it. 15 years later, I read it again, and found it incredibly profound and moving. Summer Sisters isn’t just an opus about sex, but a tribute to the complex nature of female friendship. This book will help you start your summer by thinking about your own “summer sisters,” and it might just remind you to give them a call.
2. September Girls
This magic realism tale about land-ridden mermaids will have you tasting the saltwater as you read. September Girls brings us to a mysterious town filled with angsty, odd beauties who smoke cigarettes and refuse to wear high heels. As our protagonist, Sam, starts a romance with the elusive DeeDee, he discovers these aren’t your average women. This book is unlike anything you’ve read before, both grounded in the mundanity of being a teenager and lost in the surreal fantasy of mermaids. Written by Bennett Madison, September Girls creates a world so cool and angsty that I’m surprised it’s not a Sofia Coppola movie yet.
Summer is all about getting in touch with your senses. Fruit is sweeter and stickier than ever, plants are in bloom and the sangria is cold. Why not pair your drink with the witty and sensual Sweetbitter? Stephanie Danler’s restaurant industry tell-all is as smart as it is fun. This novel follows Tess, fresh-eyed and inexperienced, as she begins a job at one of New York City’s most highly-acclaimed restaurants. As she dives hungrily into the restaurant world of high-end cuisine and cocaine-fueled parties, she also takes in all the knowledge her co-workers are willing to share. As Tess becomes literate in fine wine and dining, she also starts to discover her own boundaries. Not only is this a great coming-of-age novel for twentysomethings, but it’s also a decent primer on appreciating wine. Prepare to find new flavors in that rosé after reading this addictive book.
4. The Girls
While it isn’t exactly what I’d call a lighthearted read, this novel inspired by the Manson family is sun-drenched indeed. Set in Northern California, it tells the story of sweet loner Evie Boyd, and her quest to find family among the most unlikely of characters. After she meets the boho and charmingly disheveled Suzanne, she finds herself sucked into Suzanne’s odd world of nomadic pals who live on a ranch off the beaten path. While she knows they’re eccentric, she doesn’t realize what they’re capable of (which is, obviously, murder).
While a story inspired by Charles Manson could easily be written as a page-turning psycho-thriller, Emma Cline went a different direction with The Girls. Instead of bringing you goosebumps, this “cult” fave explores the everyday thrum of misogyny that can make extraordinary circumstances feel normal to teenage girls. It’s as much about Evie’s quiet inner world as it is about the horror of what really happened, and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.
5. Year of Yes
Ok, I’m going to add one non-fiction book to this summer reading list, but I promise it’s both uplifting and funny. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes gets outside of her comfort zone to find work-life balance, dramatically overhaul her eating habits and learn to embrace public speaking. While the title’s upbeat vibe could make this sound like a corny self-help book, I can assure you it’s not. Written with gritty honesty and rare wit, Year of Yes had me laughing out loud while I was walking my dog. (Get the audiobook, which Shonda herself reads!) Not only will it motivate you, but it will give you a rare chance to peek into the amazing mind behind Shondaland.
Becky Lang is a writer, creative director and occasional podcaster living in Minneapolis.She also likes to draw dogs and female protagonists.