Happy July! How’s your summer reading going? Is the pile getting any shorter or is it just growing as you add more books to it?
I’ve been reading like a maniac. This tends to happen when I’m in drafting mode for a book. After I dump all those words onto the page every day, I need my brain refilled with other people’s stories. I read 11 books in June, which is a high count for me, and I’m happy to report that there were some great ones in the mix.
So, I thought it’d be a good time to recommend my favorite summer reads so far. Also, if you like hearing my book recommendations, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter, which is usually filled with my favorite book recs.
Most Fun to Read
Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I read all kind of books in the summer, so I don’t stick to only “breezy” books for summer, but if there was ever a perfect poolside read, it was this one. So funny and sweet and sexy. I gobbled this one up on my beach vacation and was left with a big smile on my face.
About the book:
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.
The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
Most Clever Read
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
I mentioned this one in my last post, but this is a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling. The way the author worked in so many elements of P&P in a completely different set up was so smart and fun. I loved catching all the little references back to the original but loved that I also got a completely fresh story.
About the book:
This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Best Audiobook for a Nostalgic Summer Road Trip
Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery
If you are of my generation or near it, this will be such a fun listen. I was 19 in 1999 and so going back in time and hearing about all the great movies that came out that year wasn’t just a fun nostalgic trip, it was also fascinating. There was so much interesting backstory on each of the movies featured, and it made me want to watch the ones I hadn’t seen and rewatch the ones I had. Be prepared to greatly expand your movie streaming watchlist. Also, I’m sure this reads well in print too, but the audio was fantastic.
About the book:
From a veteran culture writer and modern movie expert, a celebration and analysis of the movies of 1999—arguably the most groundbreaking year in American cinematic history.
In 1999, Hollywood as we know it exploded: Fight Club. The Matrix. Office Space. Election. The Blair Witch Project. The Sixth Sense. Being John Malkovich. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. American Beauty. The Virgin Suicides. Boys Don’t Cry. The Best Man. Three Kings. Magnolia. Those are just some of the landmark titles released in a dizzying movie year, one in which a group of daring filmmakers and performers pushed cinema to new limits—and took audiences along for the ride. Freed from the restraints of budget, technology (or even taste), they produced a slew of classics that took on every topic imaginable, from sex to violence to the end of the world. The result was a highly unruly, deeply influential set of films that would not only change filmmaking, but also give us our first glimpse of the coming twenty-first century. It was a watershed moment that also produced The Sopranos; Apple’s Airport; Wi-Fi; and Netflix’s unlimited DVD rentals.
Best. Movie. Year. Ever. is the story of not just how these movies were made, but how they re-made our own vision of the world. It features more than 130 new and exclusive interviews with such directors and actors as Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Steven Soderbergh, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Nia Long, Matthew Broderick, Taye Diggs, M. Night Shyamalan, David O. Russell, James Van Der Beek, Kirsten Dunst, the Blair Witch kids, the Office Space dudes, the guy who played Jar-Jar Binks, and dozens more. It’s the definitive account of a culture-conquering movie year none of us saw coming…and that we may never see again.
Most Life-Affirming and Thought-Provoking
As some of you know, I was a social worker/therapist before I left to be a full-time writer, so I’m already a psychology nerd. But this book was so much more than a look at psychology. Gottlieb is an experienced writer and storyteller, so what could’ve been dry was a rich and heartfelt page-turner. I got attached to the clients she featured and was invested in her own story as well. I have so many underlined passages in this one, and it made me think deeply about big life issues like mid-life crises and how to deal with fear of death and so much else. This one is sad at parts but ultimately uplifting and life-affirming. I want to put this book in everyone’s hands.
About the book:
From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world--where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients' lives -- a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can't stop hooking up with the wrong guys -- she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.
Best Sure Thing
Julia Quinn is one of those authors I can go to when I need a sure thing, when I don’t want to risk starting a book that might let me down. Her books are always fun, romantic, and bingeable. I know when I pick one up that I won’t be able to put it down until I’m done. And after I read these two, I heard that The Bridgertons series is going to become a TV show via Netflix and Shonda Rimes. SO. EXCITED. I can’t wait to continue on with the series.
About the book:
Will she accept his offer before the clock strikes midnight?
Sophie Beckett never dreamed she'd be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton's famed masquerade ball—or that "Prince Charming" would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.
Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other—except, perhaps this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid's garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?
Best Advice That Most of Us Need to Hear
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
I think the title says everything you need to know. Great advice on how to relieve stress and deal with burnout.
About the book:
This groundbreaking book explains why women experience burnout differently than men—and provides a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions, and live a more joyful life.
Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. How can you “love your body” when every magazine cover has ten diet tips for becoming “your best self”? How do you “lean in” at work when you’re already operating at 110 percent and aren’t recognized for it? How can you live happily and healthily in a sexist world that is constantly telling you you’re too fat, too needy, too noisy, and too selfish?
Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn
• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation
• how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration
• how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it
• why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout
With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach.
WRITING WORKSHOP ANNOUNCEMENT
Fellow writers, my How to Write Love Scenes That Readers Won’t Skip class is now open for enrollment! Spaces are limited, so grab a spot if you’re interested. Click the link or the pic for more details.
What’s been your favorite summer read so far this year?