The Ultimate Summer Reading List

“Extremists have shown what frightens them most: a girl with a book.”

— Malala Yousafzai

According to this website, reading makes you both interesting and attractive — which is precisely why beach reads are extra intriguing! Like your #OOTD tells a story about who you are, so does your book. It’s a means of self-expression. You’re essentially saying to the world (or at least all those who will see you), this is who I am today. And I, for one, love the allure.

Perhaps today you’re a low-key spirit junkie seeking a modern path to enlightenment, tomorrow a busy femme-forward exec teetering the edge of entrepreneurship, the next a prominent creative unashamed about your addiction to reality TV, Cardi B memes, and LOL-inducing chick lit. You get to choose. Empowering, isn’t it? There’s a book for every person, every circumstance, and every mood imaginable. It lends to our multifacetedness as human beings.

So, in the spirit of summer (and beach days) I’ve compiled the ultimate summer reading list for your page-turning pleasure — sexism, infidelity, and mental illness included. Gone are the days when summer reading lists consist of light and fluffy, surface-level novels.

There is no better time than the summer to get lost in a story, sort through messy human emotions, and mull over big ideas.

Plus, wouldn’t you rather a summer where, instead of discussing our daily carb intake and slightly imperfect “beach body,” we indulged ourselves in something slightly more meaningful… like books? We’d swap hard copies instead of being hard on ourselves. We’d get lost in inspiring stories instead of getting stuck in the cycle of our self-perceived “flaws.” Conversations would circle our thoughts on Babitz’s depiction of LA in the 1970’s instead of how to lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes.

And with that, here is The Ultimate Summer Reading List:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert —

Big Magic is lifeblood for creatives and Gilbert is the brilliant, kind, no-BS best friend you never knew you needed. The only thing that stopped me from devouring this in a single sitting was that my dodgy library copy had missing pages! I would be mad if it didn’t feel so mystical. That’s the kind of book this is.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson —

The perfect read for all the type-A personalities who aren’t afraid to cuss and like to workout on the beach. Lawson will make you laugh-cry until your abdominal muscles hurt. Expect mostly true horrendously embarrassing moments from the author’s life intertwined with conversations about very real, very important issues like anxiety, depression, and mental illness. A must-read when you want to LOL or need a midday pick-me-up.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris —

Another hysterically funny, bellyaching, perfect beach read (or listen)! I highly recommend getting the audiobook so you can follow along and pretend you’re back in elementary school. Except, this time you won’t fall asleep.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen —

A friend once told me that essays make the best beach books because you can use them as an excuse to be anti-social — but not for too long. She was right. Petersen’s collection of essays, 10 in total, about celebrity women — Kim Kardashian, Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Serena Williams amongst them — who are, individually yet unanimously, unruly. If you’re into pop-culture, you’ll love this book.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein —

Comedian and head writer for Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, Jessi Klein illustrates her evolution from misfit childhood tomboy into misfit adult-ish “tom man.” Over the course of 24 essays, Klein will make you laugh, cry, laugh-cry, and remind you that someone else gets it.

Doing Harm: The Truth about How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick by Maya Dusenbery —

An eye-opening and in-depth look at the deeply rooted systemic problems and entrenched bias that women face when it comes to healthcare. (Spoiler alert: sexism in medicine is real.)

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West —

Summer can be an emotionally wrought time to be a woman with a body — which is precisely why I recommend reading this much-needed manifesto in your swimsuit on the beach. West’s particular blend of wit, humor, and poignant honesty on relatively heavy subjects like sexism, fat-shaming, toxic misogyny, and abortions, will give you perspective and self-compassion. I will warn you though, once you pick this up you won’t want to put it down.

Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz —

Even though this celebrated (loosely) autobiographical novel was originally published in 1979 it has never been more relevant. Over the course of the story, the main character, Jacaranda, who we first meet as a dreamy young, sun-kissed California girl, unattached and unworried about life, drinks way too many cocktails, takes way too many drugs, goes on a road trip with a woman named Sunrise Honey, moves to New York, and eventually realizes she is an alcoholic. NPR called it advice to young ladies eager for a good time”; I call it captivating.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy —

Teeming with vitality, wit, and disarming candor, this book is this (and last) summer’s must-read memoir according to W Magazine. Levy’s stories depict raw grief, grit, remarkable loss, and, despite everything that’s happened in life, advice on how to pick up the pieces.

The State of Affairs by Esther Perel —

Iconic couples’ therapist and bestselling author of the equally amazing book, Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel will turn how you currently look at relationships on its head — in the best way possible. A Fullest Book Club pick circa March 2018, this is a provocative look at relationships through the lens of modern affairs. Read this (it’s a page turner!), then immediately binge listen to Perel’s entire podcast. I did, and I do not regret it.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable by Seth Godin —

In case you’re done with “vanilla” (you should be), and you’d like to brew up your next big business idea on the beach (why not?), Godin’s unorthodox marketing advice will help you make your business remarkable.

What are you reading this summer? Let us know in the comment section so we can continue the conversation. We’re intentionally leaving this summer reading list open-ended in hopes of extending our favorite season forever.

Jessica Sweeney is a self-proclaimed literista, wellness aficionado, spirited nutritionist, and certified yoga instructor living her best life in Laguna Beach. Follow her on her website Urban Alchemy, admire her selfies on Instagram, and join her for Love Bomb Bootcamp, a mind, body, soul bootcamp for (self)lovers.

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