Six Books I Read This Summer

These are my six favorite books of Summer 2021, which I now recommend to you.

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Summer 2021 was a summer of reading on the beach and getting tan. Every bag I owned had a book within it. I laid out on my towel and got through eight books total, which, considering that I probably purchased upwards of twenty throughout the season, is pretty good. These are my six favorites, all of which I recommend to you.

You Were Born for This by Chani Nicholas

Author Chani Nicholas wants to make you certain – you were born with a purpose, one that can be determined from your birth chart. As a lover of all things astrological (Pisces sun, Gemini moon, Leo rising, not that you asked), Nicholas’s self-help book on embracing the purpose written for you in the stars was the perfect way to kick off my summer reading. Furthermore,  Nicholas has a self-titled app, “CHANI”, which offers helpful advice depending on the stars’ positions. Mercury’s about to enter Retrograde again, so the good folks at CHANI sent me a reminder to get all my chicks in a row before everything goes crazy.

One of the Boys by Daniel Margariel

This is the perfect book for people that want to weep. A heartbreaking tale of abuse and how it traps people, One of the Boys discusses a young boy’s abuse at the hands of his father as well as how his father abuses the systems in place to protect children. From the beginning of the story, we are thrown into what it means to be “one of the boys” in their father’s household, which in this case, means punching yourself in the face and saying your mother did it. This book is not only beautifully written (in a way reminiscent of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, another great love of mine), but it clocks in at only 160 pages, making it the perfect quick read for sad people.

The Houseguest by Amparo Davila

Lovecraft has never done it for me, nor has Poe, nor has Stephen King (even though I loved Carrie). Amparo Davila, in her first translated collection of short fiction, is my type of scary. Davila explores this idea that fear is not only different for women, but that it may be in large part determined by gender. Stories focus on women that sense a man following them home, families terrorized by the father’s malicious guest, and mistresses that might be frogs. The quintessential magical realism we expect out of Argentina (Borges fans rise up), The Houseguest is the horror story that you need to kick off your October.

Severance by Ling Ma

Read this book. If you read any of these books, let it be this one. Think anti-capitalist, zombie, immigrant coming-of-age novel about getting the hell out of New York City. The story follows Candace Chen in her life both before and after the spread of Shen Fever, a Chinese origin disease that spreads throughout the world in an international pandemic. But it’s more than that. Severance is shark fin soup, it’s hallucinations, it’s nostalgia as a trigger for infection, it’s traveling to Hong Kong, it’s abandoned shopping malls, it’s everything you don’t expect, and more. Bonus: in baby pink, the book is the most adorable zombie apocalypse book you’ve ever seen.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I admit that I only bought this book because the bookstore I went to didn’t carry East of Eden, which was recommended to me by a friend from California, writer John Steinbeck’s home state. Nonetheless, The Pearl is as close to Of Mice and Men as any of Steinbeck’s other books get. It tells the story of pearl-diver Kino’s discovery of a massive pearl at the bottom of the ocean, with which he plans to pay for the treatment of his son’s scorpion bite. It’s a story of greed and human nature as well as, in Steinbeck’s own words, “the inherent worth of a thing.”

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Have you ever wanted to work for minimum wage in an overly pretentious restaurant in New York City? Date a cute bartender who is at least five years older than you? After reading Sweetbitter, I promise you that you will. If Severance is a reason to leave New York, Sweetbitter is a reason to get a cheap apartment in Harlem and eat toast on your rooftop. It will make you want to party until 5 a.m. in damp, hot bars in the dead of winter. It will make you want oysters and Thai food. If New York was everything it should be, it would be like Sweetbitter.

If you were enthralled by these reviews and ended up thinking that you must read these books, Barnes and Noble have a 50% off sale until September 30th. If a purchase is too much commitment for you, all of these books are available at local libraries.