Did you know that people who read books are smarter, more successful, and nicer? At least according to a recent study described in TIME, but I’m inclined to agree.
So, if you needed a little push to curl up with a good book this summer, there you have it. Whether you want to find the career of your dreams, gain a little more balance, brush up on some history, or pick up something fun so that you’re fresh and ready for September, here are the best books your bookstore (or e-reader) has to offer right now.
1. The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball
Kristin Kimball begins this book from a place a lot of us city-dwellers can relate to: She’s renting an apartment that’s too expensive, working at a job making OK money, and craving something and someone more. She goes on assignment to write about the farming movement and ends up falling for the connection to the soil, the return to knowing where your food comes from, and—oh yeah—the farmer. She gives up her NYC life and trades it in for life on a farm in upstate New York. This book takes you through their first year on the farm—the triumphs, the tragedies, the business decisions, the innovative thinking around food production, and the close calls. If you ever wondered what your life would be like if you hit “reset” and left city life behind, this is the book for you.
2. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Do you #OITNB? It doesn’t matter if you binge-watched the show on Netflix or have never seen an episode, this memoir is remarkable, memorable, and told from a first-person perspective that is both emotionally moving and shocking in its portrayal of the prison system. Piper Kerman didn’t go “inside” to write an exposé, but that is what she has done. The book is filled with self-reflection and truth-telling about her crime but also honest about what prison life is like—and that raw storytelling is what makes this book a must-read.
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3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Thinking of starting a business? In this book, the co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected and experienced entrepreneurs offers seasoned advice for what to do next when you have to actually run a business. It’s practical and honest and based in part on content from his leading blog, Ben’s Blog.
4. Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone
Biz Stone is best known as co-founder of Twitter, but as we all know, there is a lot more to a person than what we read about online. In this book, Stone talks about his struggles and his later successes and what he has characterized as takeaways that can be applied to any business or professional endeavor.
5. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
The story of the English and Europeans making the journey across the Atlantic to make their fortune in a new nation is a well-told story, but this book crosses the ocean the other way, telling the story of Americans who went to Paris between 1830 and 1900 to find their fame and fortune. McCullough’s books are always exceptional, and this one does not disappoint.
6. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto
Most “histories of New York” start around the formation of the 13 colonies. This book starts way before that and focuses on the Dutch history of New York. Not just a book for New Yorkers, this book is a deeply researched account of the diverse and complicated city that goes on to become New York City. After reading, you’ll never look at NYC the same way again.
7. Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
“All of us face hard choices in our lives.” That’s how HRC starts this book, part memoir, part history book of her years as Secretary of State. This book is an inside and in-depth look at her life in one of the most stressful, highly respected, and highly coveted roles in American government. Regardless of your personal stance on Clinton, this book is a crash course in diplomacy, international relations, and what she calls “smart power.”
8. The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan by Michael Hastings
You might not remember the name General Stanley McChrystal, but he was the commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan when the hunt was on for bin Laden and the U.S. was living in code red. Hastings went to Afghanistan and reported on what he saw—a leader living “like a rock star.” That Rolling Stone article forced the general to step down from his post, and this book tells the rest of the story of what happened inside the Middle East at that time with a brave and strong voice. Michael Hastings’ untimely death last year leaves a hole in the hearts of many and a loss to the countless stories he had yet to share.
The Next Hunger Games’
9. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Oh to experience young forbidden love! This is the first in a series that brings together two teens into a tangled web that is sure to end badly. If that’s not convincing enough, this book also delves into the themes of have versus have-nots, tradition versus superstition, and grace versus revenge. It’s a page-turner and plot-twister of the best kind.
10. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Dystopian young-adult novels are all the rage. Would you be intrigued to know that this book, originally published in 1993, set the tone for whole movement? The movie is coming out this summer, so read this book before it does. This story shows the consequences of what happens when an all-too realistic society presses its people to be happy—at any cost.
Smart Beach Reads
11. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
This is a page-turner to be sure, but it’s also inquisitive and reflective on the power of family and all of the joys and struggles that come packaged in those relationships. Full of secrets, jealousy, and humor in how the story unfolds on the Mallorca shore.
12. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
This well-researched and well-written book was a standout read last summer in its hard cover format, and it’s exciting to see it get a second set of legs in a paperback version. As a reader, you’ll learn things you never knew about the lives of the first American astronauts and their families that will amaze you told from the perspective of the wives themselves.
Tell us! What books are you reading this summer?
Photo of book courtesy of Shutterstock.
Sloane Davidson is a writer, public speaker, women's health spokesperson and burgeoning farmer who blogs at The Causemopolitan. She is also the Founder of Farsight Media, a digital communications consultancy and the author of The Giving Manifesto. She loves reading books. Find her @sloane on Twitter and Instagram.More from this Author