To say that this has been a super odd summer would be putting it mildly. The steady stream of awful news and limited options for escapism has made turning off the TV and being whisked away by a good book my favorite summer pastime. Here is a review of my five favorite summer reads for grownups. These books are ALL five-star winners. Not a dud in the group.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Are you familiar with Samantha Irby? If not, I’m about to rock your world. Glennon Doyle once said that “Samantha Irby’s brain should be protected by the secret service.”
I’m struggling with how to even describe her (and this book) but here’s what the New York Times said: “If, in the grips of the pandemic, your ability to interpret an exponential graph has increased, well, exponentially, while your patience for narrative has plummeted, try Samantha Irby. Pick up her new essay collection, “Wow, No Thank You” (as fitting a response to 2020 as I can imagine), or reach back to her previous two books: “Meaty” or her best, most spectacularly profane work to date, “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.” Start anywhere, with any of her briny, misanthropic riffs on lust, marriage, aging, chronic illness, the art of “detachment parenting” two white stepchildren.“
As a lifelong fan of the humorous essay, my best description of Samantha is that she’s a black, gay David Sedaris who occasionally shits her pants. But truly, that description sells her short. Way short.
Samantha suffers from depression (her book is dedicated to Wellbutrin), degenerative arthritis and Crohn’s disease (thus the pants shitting.) To her, the three most terrifying words in the language are “outdoor music festival.” One of her essays is a manifesto titled “A Case for Remaining Indoors” and her observations on everything from armpit maintenance, to Judge Mathis are insightful, cringe-worthy and laugh-until-you-bend-over-funny.
Here’s the best “review” I can give. I devoured this book and then sent copies to a couple of my girlfriends. I plan to listen to the audiobook with my hubby on a long car trip we have coming up because I want to share it with him. I want to share it with YOU. And, I can’t wait to hear what you think of this book.
Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen
Speaking of collections of humorous essays, I got this book as a gift from my cousin shortly after my first grandchild was born. And I smiled and marveled at the wisdom on damn near every page.
Quindlen offers thoughtful and telling observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandson. She writes, “Where I once led, I have to learn to follow.” Eventually a close friend provides words to live by: “Did they ask you?” (OMG I love that so much. I need to get it as a wrist tattoo!)
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
I was worried this book might be “too heavy” for a summer read, but it ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. The story centers around Edward, the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills his entire family and all of the other passengers. The chapters alternate between Edward’s difficult recovery and the backstories and lives of the other passengers. You’re gonna have to trust me here, but it’s a beautiful and uplifting story despite the grim set up. It’s a transcendent coming of age story that wrestles with life’s big questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?
Touch by Courtney Maum
This book was actually published in 2017 but it was new to me. I decided to read it after Melissa Urban recommended it on Instagram. It’s the story of a trend forecaster (possibly the coolest job ever) who is struggling with why we are choosing our devices in favor of physical intimacy. It was a really compelling read and raised a lot of interesting questions. In some ways it reminded me of the Amazon Prime show Upload, because it’s set in the “near future” so it’s close enough to present day that it rings very true, while still raising a lot of interesting possibilities.
Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson
I almost skipped this one because of the wacky premise: a down-and-out-woman gets hired by her college roommate to take care of her two stepchildren who spontaneously burst into flames when they get agitated. It was a quirky and funny read that I found totally captivating. Highly recommend.