10 Thought-Provoking Summer Reads


Some of you reading this may be extroverted and energetic, in which case this summer book guide is not necessarily for you. But for those beachgoers who prefer to sit under an umbrella with a shirt on, shunning the big blue ocean in favor of a deep dive into literature, we’ve got just the thing. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the 10 books you should keep an eye out for in summer 2019.

The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead (July 16)

The newest novel from the Pulitzer Prize- winner tells the story of Elwood Curtis, who is about to enroll in the local black college in the early ’60s, buoyed by the strength he derives from the civil rights movement. But a misstep lands him instead in a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, where he’s subject to physical and spiritual torture at the hands of the staff. Based on the story of a real institution, The Nickel Boys is another ghastly strand of American history Whitehead holds up to the light.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Jia Tolentino (Aug. 6)

According to press for this collection of essays from Jia Tolentino, a staff writer at The New Yorker, this book about millennial life and the deception it requires is “for readers who’ve wondered what Susan Sontag would have been like if she had brain damage from the internet.” What more do you need?

The Testaments

Margaret Atwood (Sept. 10)

Atwood’s follow-up to her immensely popular The Handmaid’s Tale picks up 15 years after the action of the original (and is being published 34 years after, too).

Fleishman Is in Trouble

Taffy Brodesser-Akner (June 18)

Brodesser-Akner, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, turns her masterful skill for profiles to characters she’s created herself. Fleishman Is in Trouble is the tale of a recently divorced New York doctor who gets a new lease on his life — sexual, professional, familial, you name it. However, Brodesser-Akner approaches her characters in the same way she approaches her subjects at her day job, with a critical, if understanding, eye. However revealing it is to see what people choose to reveal about themselves to you, there’s no substitute for a simple change in perspective.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

Patrick Radden Keefe (Feb. 26)

Yes, technically, this book came out in February. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a more engrossing, thrilling read than journalist Patrick Radden Keefe’s account of the reverberations from one murder that took place during Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” the resolution of which comes with consequences for the living and the dead. Keefe’s skills as both a writer and reporter shine.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Jenny Odell (April 9)

This one, too, came out before the summer. But what better time to think about the virtue of unproductive time and the ways in which our phones and computers can take over our lives than when we’ve plopped down on the beach? Weaving academic research and personal reflection, Odell explains the ways in which doing nothing can be a salve to the soul.

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution

Emily Nussbaum (June 25)

There is much to argue about with regards to television. Is it better than it used to be? Is it more culturally relevant than movies? What has Netflix done to the way we consume it? Just about the only thing we can agree upon is that there’s a ton of it. The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, who has been writing about TV during another of its Golden Ages, assesses the most interesting shows of the last decade and a half in this collection of her essays.

Orange World and Other Stories

Karen Russell (May 14)

Russell’s bizarre stories suck you in from the first sentence, and her 2011 novel, Swamplandia, remains an absolute must-read. Readers of Russell often debate which of her skills rises victorious over the other — novelist or short story writer — so read Orange World and then Swamplandia so you can throw your hat in the ring on one side.


Rachel Cusk (Aug. 20)

Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy was beloved by those who read it (The Washington Post called them “literary masterpieces”), and her skill as a novelist is unquestionable. If you just can’t get enough, this collection of her essays on motherhood, feminism and more are sure to satiate.


Téa Obreht (Aug. 13)

Obreht’s follow-up to The Tiger’s Wife is the story of two intertwined lives on the Arizona frontier in 1893, a brutal, arid place. Inland is “an epic journey across an unforgettable landscape of magic and myth.”

jbernstein@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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