Upon graduating college, I read more books for fun for the summer than I had in years. No reading guide helped me, it was a mix of ones I had been interested in for a while and ones that I had picked up randomly. I can’t say I was too adventurous but it was so good just to read again for myself. Though usually I stick with YA for pleasure reading, I’m proud to say I expanded out a bit.
So I decided to cobble up a list of what I had read from June to August, all checked out from the library. There’s of course other things I read over the summer, but mainly incomplete online serials. I waffled between including the little bit of manga I read or not but they were legitimate stories as anything else.
I was planning to having star or fraction ratings but then that would put me in a weird position. How I feel about a piece of media is a messy combination of complicated things: How I felt engaging with it in the moment, how much of an impact it left on me, how genuinely well-crafted I think it is, etc. So I just decided to summarize some feelings and thoughts without explicit spoilers and say if I recommend it or not (to a general audience). This is mostly in the order I read everything.
- Diary by Chuck Palahniuk
Good and engaging. This was the first Palahniuk book I’ve ever read. I can’t say that his fixation on being gross and cynical is my thing, however this book hit a bunch of stuff I like: Stories about the process of art, stories about being unable to prevent awful things from happening, and stories about small towns with deep, horrible secrets. I recommend it.
- Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Delightful. It had been a while since I read Kinsella but her books are so fun. The very last scene felt a bit rushed and undeserved but really, the whole book is still satisfying. I recommend it.
- The Blood Between Us by Zac Brewer
Pretty good. I really loved the mystery and fraught family emotions, but it honestly dropped the ball in the last act. The reveal seemed rushed and I think it could’ve used some more closure. Not necessarily tying everything up, but more room to soak in the reveal of the whole mystery and its aftermath. It spent so long developing everything in the beginning and middle, the ending’s pay off was weak. I recommend the first four fifths.
- Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Good. Fairly informative and humorous. A much lighter read than I anticipated but that’s not a bad thing. I recommend it.
- Danza by Natsume Ono
- Tesoro by Natsume Ono
Grouping these two together because while I enjoyed these short story collections, neither of them stuck with me. Ono’s art is intriguing and some of her stories are compelling but nothing really stood out for me. I don’t feel one way or the other about recommending them.
- Out by Natsuo Kirino
Incredible. Probably the most intense and brutal book on this list. I loved all these women and their tangled plots together, though Kirino’s treatment of Kuniko left a sour taste in my mouth. Still, it’s an amazing book. It’s refreshing to read a story with a subtle but critical lens on misogyny while featuring so many flawed and different women. I recommend it but with caution because of the amount of violence (sexual and nonsexual) and gore in it.
- The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Also delightful. I can’t decide which Kinsella novel I liked better overall but they’re both good in the same way, though there are differences between the two I read. The romance in The Undomestic Goddess is stronger here but the plot and motivations in Remember Me? shined more. Still, I recommend it.
- The Girl Who Fell by S.M. Parker
A surprise, in a good way. This book’s themes and messages are very obvious and clear from the just the synopsis, however it didn’t feel overly preachy or two-dimensional. It sort of went down the most extreme route by the end but I still liked it. I recommend it.
- Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
What a book. I was told it was “cool” by a couple of friends and it was. I adored the structure and framing. The actual story beneath it is interesting though not my cup of tea. Still, the characters and worldbuilding were fun and creative. Not a full recommendation from me (and definitely not for the lighthearted) but I had a good time.
- The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My favorite book of the summer. I don’t know where to begin but despite my skepticism of its self-aware premise, it went places I didn’t expect it to. I laughed! I cried! I want to write a separate post just to review and discuss this book because it moved me so deeply, but just to be quick: I love this book and its compassion. I absolutely recommend it.
So here’s a great summer of reading. Hopefully I can continue reading for fun in the other seasons but graduate school is out for my neck so we’ll see.