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The summer seven, plus one bonus pick
My summers growing up were characterized by frigid A/C and the slam of our screen door that invited in a gust of air so hot it could choke you, the taste of honeysuckle on the tip of my tongue. To escape the heat and pass the lazy summer days, I read and read and read.
In my mind, I was always somewhere else—on a caravan of camels crossing the Sahara under a blanket of silver stars. Flying high, soaring over swaths of rich, velvet-green jungle. Falling deeply in love with a boy that was nothing like all those around me. If I wasn’t curled up with a book on my chubby thighs, trying to hide from swimsuit season, it didn’t feel like summer.
Last year was the first that I created my own summer reading lists, one fiction and the other non. I look back now and see that my taste has slightly changed—where social media heavily influenced some (certainly not all!) of my picks and I added books more generously, I now find myself drawn to books that drip with deep, real stories told through writing that asks something of me.
This year’s summer reading are all books that are somewhere in my apartment right now, patiently waiting for their day in the sun, months in my consciousness, and years in my heart.
I hope some of these call to you, reader. Just like anything else I write here, take what you need and leave what you don’t. This is a space of discernment as much as it is one of hospitality. And with that, on to the books!
Revival Season, by Monica West
Every summer, Miriam Horton and her family packs up the minivan and heads out on revival, where her father preaches fiery, passionate sermons as hot as the Southern air. When Miriamsees the early signs of a spiritual gift she’s always been taught is denied to women, this summer proves it will be unlike any other.
Night Wherever We Go, by Tracey Rose Peyton
Six enslaved women meet in the woods on a struggling Texas plantation, hiding from overseers in the dark. Under the stars, they concoct a plan to save themselves from a brutal fate with a plan that must work. The synopsis is bone-chilling in its severity and its reality. This one will be demanding, but I plan to take it slow.
The Golden Doves, by Martha Hall Kelly
Two Ravensbrück survivors, one French and one American, were spies in occupied France during the war. Years after they were liberated from the camp, they come together again in the pursuit of justice, both for themselves and for those who did not survive.
The Orchard, by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry
Four teenagers come of age in all the awkwardness of wanting desperately to be seen and scared to death of the same. What marks their formative years is the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain that separated them from the rest of the world suddenly fallen. In the chaos of perestroika, their lives go on. I want to see how they unfold, what the characters choose for their own paths, and why.
Matrix, by Lauren Groff
The novel begins like this:
She rides out of the forest alone. Seventeen years old, in the cold March drizzle, Marie who comes from France.
And with that, I knew I wanted to know Marie Who Comes from France.
Trust, by Hernán Díaz
This novel won the Pulitzer alongside Demon Copperhead.Cataloging the meteoric rise of a wealthy American family, Trust shows the indulgent, dark soul of New York City as the entire global economy was on the cusp of collapse into depression.
A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs, by Gulchehra Hoja
You may have heard about the genocide against Uyghurs in China. Because of the mistreatment and threat to culture, family, and life, thousands of Uyghurs have been forced to flee for neighboring Uzbekistan and beyond. This memoir is a very personal picture of the exile Uyghurs are experiencing, and one woman’s story of heroic claim to heritage in the face of terror.
For July’s reading challenge theme: Read a novel set in Yugoslavia
My pick: Girl at War, by Sara Nović
Set in 1991 Zagreb, this novel portrays Ana’s childhood as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia. The plot follows Ana as she leaves her home, only to be called back again to confront painful memories and find peace in a Croatia that is forever changed.
From my bookshelf to yours, I wish you summer days inside stories that change your perspective in all the best ways.
I will see you soon,
Her name is foreshadowing; in the Hebrew Bible (called the Old Testament in Christianity), Miriam is Moses’ sister and a prophetess.
If Demon isn’t also on your TBR, it should be. I finished it a week ago and it’s a masterpiece. Our grandchildren will be reading it, and so will theirs.