This year, my favorite summer books have actually been a bit more on the serious side. It didn’t happen on purpose, but I’ve found that the books that stand out among the ones I’ve read recently are a little less “beach read” and a little more “dissertation read.” The thing about a well-written book is that even if the topic isn’t a typically light one, the narrative can be just as engaging as a pop best-seller. So yeah, I’m the person on the beach reading, as Amanda Katz put it, “pretty much the opposite” of “the quintessential summer read.
So here are three books I recommend this summer so far:
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. I’ve devoured books he’s written about topics that ordinarily don’t interest me: climbing Mt. Everest, football, military conflicts. Missoula is an investigation of rape culture in a college town, focusing specifically on two different instances of alleged rape and the subsequent investigations and trials. It was a book I wished were fiction, even while realizing as I read it how very true it is. Missoula has created some controversy (especially in Montana, where the events take place and where some of the people portrayed negatively in the book allege journalistic errors), but I think that the larger message is worth hearing.
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, by Sarah Hepola
Blackout is a memoir from a woman not too much older than I am who binge drank for years before finally deciding to quit alcohol. It was fascinating to me to read a frank account of how the American culture around drinking has changed for women of my generation compared to women in prior ones. It made me think critically about my own behaviors. Hepola writes very well, infusing fairly tragic anecdotes with humor. She’s also girlhood friends with Stephanie March, who was on the best Law & Order, so the book gets bonus points for Alex Cabot sightings.
The Martian, by Andy Weir
Well, don’t get too excited. The Martian is pretty depressing, seeing how it deals with an astronaut stranded solo on Mars struggling to keep himself alive until his crew can return for him. It’s also heavy on the science: Weir goes into fairly detailed explanations of how someone might farm water, grow crops, and otherwise sustain life in the hostile Martian climate with only the equipment present on a space station. If you liked Gravity but thought it was a little too dismissive of scientific reality, give The Martian a try.
What are you reading this summer?