Summer Books to Read in 2018

Sweltering summer months in the heartland call for new reading material to devour in the shade. We’ve rounded up ten of the novels, essays, poetry collections and memoirs that are thrilling us this summer.

Calypso” by David Sedaris
David Sedaris’ tenth book finds him settled with his boyfriend, Hugh, in rural West Sussex, England. In this poignant collection of stories, Sedaris deals with the ordeals of middle age, exploring his evolving familial relationships, the legacy of his mother’s and sister’s deaths, and the threat of corporeal decrepitude. As always, Sedaris blends humor and absurdity with honest, often painful renderings of loss and uncertainty.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng
If you haven’t read Celeste Ng’s bestselling work of fiction “Little Fires Everywhere”, catapult the novel to the top of your reading list. The plot takes off running as the Richardsons’ catches fire in a tranquil suburb of Cleveland, and only picks up momentum from there. Ng builds layers of conflict, asking us to empathize with each character and ultimately consider the meaning of motherhood.

“The House of Broken Angels” by Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea stuns in his joyful new novel, published in March. In “The House of Broken Angels,” Big Angel de la Cruz, patriarch of a large Mexican-American family, buries his mother and prepares for his own death of terminal cancer in the same weekend. Urrea paints an intimate, incisive portrait of family, love, joy, loss, grief, and gratitude that will make you stop and savor the present moment.

“How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee
This slim collection of essays received instant hype. Readers reiterate again and again the emotional depth contained between its cherry-red covers, repeating charged adjectives like “breathless,” “moving,” and “vulnerable.” The essays span Chee’s life, from his teenage years as an exchange student, to his college and graduate school experience, to recent years, including the 2016 election. Chee explores how wrestling with his own trauma in his first novel, Edinburgh, both reopened old wounds and helped him to heal.

“Meaty” by Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby’s hilariously candid collection of essays We Are Never Meeting In Real Life appeared on countless must-read lists this past year. Get to know Irby even better in Meaty, her first book, which was reprinted in April of this year. A warning: it’s impossible to read Irby’s work without guffawing out loud at her merciless self-deprecation and hysterical meditations on sex, relationships, cat ownership, and night donuts.

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“Freshwater” by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi’s stunning debut novel lives in the liminal space between our world and the realm of the gods. Ada is no ordinary child—born in Nigeria with “one foot on the other side,” she feels the stirrings of other beings in her mind until a disturbing ordeal in the United States throws Ada’s disparate selves into relief. It’s no frivolous summer reading, but Emezi’s work is a must to challenge our hegemonic understandings of mental health, trauma, and gender and sexual identity.

“In Pieces” by Sally Field
Two-time Oscar-winner Sally Field spent seven years finding the words for this memoir. Famed for her roles in notable films like “Lincoln” and “Steel Magnolias,” Field now looks back on her life with grace and introspection, discussing her childhood, the rise of her career since age 17, and the freedom she found in acting from the repressive gender norms of the 1950s.

“Threat Come Close” by Aaron Coleman
“The trees teach me how to break and keep on living,” Coleman writes in his poem “Vestigia.” Aaron Coleman is a St. Louis-based poet and current Ph.D. candidate at Washington University. In his latest collection of poems, Threat Come Close, Coleman continues his exploration of themes surrounding blackness and identity in contemporary America. Coleman’s lyrical language and imagery make your heart ache, offering a reminder that beauty exists alongside decay, grace alongside injustice.

“My Ex-Life” by Steven McCauley
In “My Ex-Life,” independent counselor David Hedges has hit a wall after being dumped by his partner, when David’s ex-wife Julie calls out of nowhere, seeking his guidance for her apathetic daughter. McCauley plays with the dynamics between the unlikely group as David and Julie untangle the threads of their past relationship. The brand-spanking-new novel received a glowing review on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air Weekend on NPR for its clever, effervescent language and hilarious insights into the college counseling industry.

Staff Pick: “Designing Your Life: How to Build A Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
In this #1 New York Times Bestseller, two creative entrepreneurs with years of experience explain how to apply the principles of “design thinking” to craft a meaningful life. Burnett, executive director of the design program at Stanford University, recently inspired us all during a COCAbiz workshop at the Center of Creative Arts in St. Louis, where he discussed how elements of design theory, like curiosity, prototyping and collaboration, can shape our lives for the better.

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