I was once very impressed when a former (beloved) supervisor of mine told me that he has a cyclical system for reading books, rotating through the genres: history, theory, fiction, biography. Inspired, I decided that I would develop a system as well, though I had very little interest in reading books about history, and one in four biography seemed like a bit much. I’m interested in “theory” (which, perhaps embarrassingly, I translate to broadly mean anything in the psychology/pop-science/self-help/case-study/spirituality umbrella) but I typically like to read theory alongside something lighter…namely, a novel or collection of short stories.
Taking all of this into consideration, the system that I developed was much less specific than my supervisor’s: I would try to balance fiction and non-fiction. This framework turned out to be less of a system than a reflection of what I was already doing, because I have yet to consciously choose fiction/non-fiction based on what I last read…but still, looking back on what I read this summer, I’m evenly split. And summer is an indication of my true reading tastes, because I give myself lots of freedom in the summer to read whatever sounds interesting in the moment of my library perusing, and I have less frequent reading group meetings in the summer than otherwise, so I’m determining a larger extent of my reading choices.
So, un-persuaded by other book group member’s requests, or by my conscience urging me to read something “deeper,” “more educational” or “useful for work,” here is what I read this summer:
- My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
- Object Lessons, Anna Quindlen
- Tiny, Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
- French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano
- The Nest, Cynthia Sweeney
- When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams (Girlfriends Book Club)
- The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison (Athenaeum Reading Group)
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (Audio Book)
- Heartburn, Nora Ephron
My favorite non-fiction: Tiny, Beautiful Things. My favorite fiction: The Goldfinch. I will highly recommend TBT to anyone who isn’t offended by talk of sex and drugs, and who isn’t afraid to feel deeply and likely shed some tears. Likewise, I highly recommend The Goldfinch, though with caveats: it’s dark, it’s intense, and it’s troubling. I finished it almost two weeks ago, and still think about it on probably a daily basis. If you are willing to be consumed by it, though, it’s a gorgeous and captivating story.