Look alive, people. We're this close to kissing summer, knee sweat, and sticky temperatures goodbye. Now, with less than a month of legit summer left, The Atlantic Wire staffers have gotten together and given you our favorite summer reads for the beach, the commute, and for whatever vacation time you have left.
The guidelines are simple and less stringent than high school—here are the favorite things (books, comic books, blogs posts, essays, etc. were all fair game) we read this summer:
Very Recent History, by Choire Sicha
Books about New York City run the risk of sounding like an inside joke that you want no part of—not unlike the feeling spun by New York Times trend pieces. That thankfully isn't the case with Sicha, who makes New York City feel aloof, strange, wonderful, and the kind of lonely you don't want to, but should, explore. And he does it simply and beautifully (his writing kinda makes me think of an alien who is a hit at weddings). Sicha is bright and has a way of making you wonder why the City (or any city) is the way it is and its people (including you) are the way they (and you) are.
Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz
This summer, shortly after completing a senior thesis centered on historical tourism and remembrance, I revisited Tony Horwitz's Civil War-themed expedition, Confederates in the Attic, which I'd cited in my own work but never read in full. Horwitz's smart prose and Americana travels will always be of interest to history types and Civil War buffs, but reading it the month of the Zimmerman verdict, Horwitz's reflections on racial politics—in particular, discussion of the 1995 shooting of a Kentucky man reportedly for carrying a rebel flag—seemed weirdly timely.
— Zach Schonfeld
"A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars," by Larry Smith (a.k.a. Jason Biggs in Orange Is the New Black)
After finishing an Orange Is The New Black marathon this weekend, I had to scour the internet for more information about the real story. I was curious about whether or not Piper Kerman actually killed someone in prison (obviously this didn't happen, but I still had to check). So I came across the "real" Larry's Modern Love column for The New York Times, written in 2010. It's surprisingly sweet and not so Jason Biggs-y. I liked it. For OITNB fans dying for more, you now have your inside scoop.
Twitter, by everyone
I finally got into Twitter this summer, and I've already fallen in and out of love with Twitter jokes. There were a lot of good ones though, especially pre-Carlos Danger. BuzzFeed's reaction to this article was better than the actual article, so good for them. As far as books, this summer I tried to focus on reading the "complete works" of authors with small bodies of work. I'd read Jhumpa Lahiri's short story "Sexy," so I followed that up with the rest of the stories in Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake which, as the child of immigrant parents, meant a lot to me. Last year, I finally read The Virgin Suicides, so now I read The Marriage Plot and started Middlesex. The only recent book I started is The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which makes me wish I didn't live in Brooklyn.
The Tales of Dunk and Egg, by George R.R. Martin
I'm a recent Game of Thrones junkie who read all five books in the past year and watched the show intently. So when the most recent season ended in early June, I needed a new way to satisfy my needs. So I picked up the three smaller, 50-page "Dunk and Egg" novellas of George R.R. Martin that are set in the same world of Thrones, but that cover stories from well before the main arc. These still fulfill those same areas of Martin-esque blood, guts, backstabbing, and intrigue, but they are much shorter and more accessible.
They follow Dunk, an orphaned yet upstanding knight in the midst of a rags-to-riches tale, as he wanders the world of Westeros stopping bad guys and taking care of a brash, noble prince named Egg. The story forms a pretty typical buddy cop tale, except with swords, horses, and armor. Definitely advised both for Thrones lovers and for people with potential interest in the series who don't want to read 1,000 page books. Plus, the stories will prepare you for Martin's next novella, which comes out in December
Live From New York, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
My summer's been spent reading oral histories (ugh) about two pop culture institutions: MTV and Saturday Night Live. I am less than 100 pages away from finally finishing Live From New York, the definitive history of NBC's sketch comedy show, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. Earlier this summer I finished I Want My MTV, about the early years at the network, by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks. I'm a pop culture dork, and I'm always interested in learning more about stuff that was popular before I was born and obviously had an influence on my own cultural consumption. And hearing stories about metal dudes fighting backstage at the first VMAs is a great summer treat.
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
The Interestings has been talked about to death, but for good reason. It's a great book.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a good read for the end of summer. It has hallmarks of a "summer" book—"camp" is in the title, there's a bunch of sex—but there's a chilliness to it that will work well as summer wanes. It's ultimately a sad, disturbing book, but a gripping read.
Also, just read Divergent so you can be ready for when the movie comes out.
— Esther Zuckerman
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
I read two books while on vacation this summer, Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins and Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. Both were the kind of wistful, gorgeously written things one should read while sitting in the sun in a beautiful place, but between the two I'd suggest Beautiful Ruins. It's sweet and melancholy and cinematic (Todd Field will be directing the movie version) and the perfect summer book to gently break your heart on the beach. (Or to make you cry on a ferry in the Mediterranean, as the case may be.)
— Richard Lawson
Whatever's On My Kindle
I've really embraced my Kindle this summer, because some experts told me it was the best way to read outside. I've had it since last winter, but the sunshine has inspired me to read more. I like sitting outside in the sun and a good book (or e-book) is the best company, when no humans will accompany you to bask in the 100 degree heat wave. Anyway, that has meant a lot more fiction reading for me than usual, which this summer has involved the incredible (and not quite summery) George Saunders short story collection Tenth of December. The very summery The Interestings, which heavily played into my summer camp nostalgia. And, another depressing one: Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her. I'm catching up on cold winter of hibernation from fiction, as you can see.
— Rebecca Greenfield
Europe Central, by William T. Volmmann
It's not only a fantastically well-structured novel, but it is as good a history of World War II as you could hope to find. Not all of it is true; but all of it is real. The descriptions of the German blitzkrieg are unrivaled in war literature.
— Alexander Nazaryan
Avengers vs. X-Men/ All New X-Men/ X-Men Vol.4, by Marvel/Various authors
The Marvel universe has been split and fractured by Hollywood. And thanks to a flurry of rights and legalities, it's likely we will never get an Avengers-X-Men crossover. That's a shame, because the bone-crushing fights between Captain America and Cyclops were tailor-made to be on the big screen. I know, I know, the crossover was first introduced in 2012, but I had a lot on my plate and finally finished the arc earlier this summer.
That said, the cross-over did spawn some good titles which are still going on today. All New X-Men, by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen has been a fun and, at times, shocking ride and should give Jean Grey fans and haters something to talk about. While the adjective-less X-Men title is a long overdue look at the group's most iconic X-Women, that comes without pandering or devolving into Sex and The City banter (which actually happened in another all-female Marvel comic).
— Alexander Abad-Santos
"The Return," by Hisham Matar
The time during which I do the most reading is on the train in to work. Which means, mostly, The New Yorker. This spring, the magazine ran an essay from Hisham Matar about his first visit back to Libya after the revolution. More fundamentally, it was about Matar's father, kidnapped and imprisoned by Qaddafi, and Matar's struggle over how his homeland could also have been the place that fractured his family.
"Pay Attention When Playing Peek-A-Boo with Sheers," by The Associated Press
The AP wrote an entire article on see-through summer clothing last week. Apparently, women everywhere are running around willy-nilly wearing sheer clothing inappropriately and it's making some people uncomfortable! It's a trend story as told by Genesis 2 of the Bible:
"The collective eye has adjusted and embraced these looks as more delicate alternatives to bare skin, and as a feminine touch to more structured silhouettes. But maybe some women have gotten a little too comfortable, which could make the people around them uncomfortable."
Ladies, it advises, do not wear sheer clothing to restaurants, because it will put off someone's meal. Do not wear them to work because people will look at what you're wearing. But in case you do, here is some advice for pairing your undergarments with your "peek a boo" fabric:
"Choice of undergarments is, of course, important when everyone else can see them. There is the subtle, almost shadowy look of wearing the same color slip or tank to match the sheer garment, or you go bold with a contrast color. Perhaps the most interesting illusion is created with an undergarment that matches your skin tone, she says. (It's a trick done on the red carpet all the time.)"
I also, finally, got around to reading Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. It's the best, eeriest dystopian book I've ever read, and it has changed my life. But sadly, it did not contain fashion tips for see-through fabric.
— Abby Ohlheiser
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.