What to read this summer if you never, ever plan on going to the beach


It’s only the first week of June and I’ve already read 320 lists about books you should read at the beach this summer. As a lifelong indoor kid whose very idea of hell is a long stretch of hot sand while I’m stretched out under the unrelenting rays of a merciless sun, I’ve been waiting for a list of books you can enjoy from your couch, and I guess I have to make that list myself. Draw the curtains, crank the AC, make sure your library card is up to date, and pick up one of these this summer while you work on maintaining your gray-ish pallor.

Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

This is the perfect summer for you to finally get acquainted with feminism from the non-white, non-academic perspective, and Patricia Hill Collins is here to pave the way. This classic book sets the groundwork for revolutionary ideas like “black women exist” and “black women are not all the same,” as well as the startling realization that feminism has been happening for people of color for a long time. It’s inspiring and superheroic in scope.

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Motley Crue

I know that this is a book about Motley Crue, one of the most misogynistic, hairsprayed bands of the 80s, but STAY WITH ME. This book is a page turner! It’s really entertaining and disgusting and wild. The altruistic among you will use it to reinforce how much of history is shaped by debauchery, and the rest of us will revel in stories about being on the road and where lyrics like “skydiving naked from an airplane” came from. It has something for the whole family, provided that family is over 18 and a little bit twisted.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

This book is approximately 1,000 pages long; you’ll read it this summer or over a prolonged winter break, and there’s literally no other time to tackle this monster. It’s full of murderers and fallen women and the kind of backstabbing family stuff that made us all so fiendish for Downton Abbey. Watch the miniseries on Netflix only when you’ve finished to see if the characters match up to what you thought they’d look like in your head.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Full disclosure: Rainbow is my best friend, but  that shouldn’t stop you from picking up this glorious book. It’s about that weird time in the 90s when everyone was still cautiously optimistic that the Internet would either be our downfall or our greatest glory, and companies hired people to read employee emails to make sure nothing illicit was happening. In this instance, the guy hired to read the email falls in love with one of the women he’s spying on, and it’s way more romantic and less creepy than I’m making it sound.

I’m Down by Mishna Wolff

The first two pages of this memoir about a white girl growing up with a white dad who thinks he’s black made me laugh so hard in the bookstore I had to buy it on the spot. It’s actually a sweet story about growing up a misfit and all the complexities of family dynamics, but it will also crack you up throughout.

Quilting and Color Made Easy by Susan McKelvey and Janet Wickell

You’re already staying inside; why not get a jump on your holiday gifts? This is one of my recent favorite quilting books—super easy to follow, and the results are beautiful even if you’ve never done more than sew a straight line. You don’t have to check out this summer! Your brain can still do things.

Frommer’s Europe By Rail

It doesn’t matter if you’re not going anywhere—read a damn travel guide this summer and start planting the seeds for getting out of dodge next year. Travel guides are also strangely quick ways to find out little bits of history about any given place, so you can use these to dominate trivia quizzes this winter.

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber

There was a complete madman masquerading as a nurse in the 1980s, and he’s estimated to have killed almost 400 people by injecting them with large amounts of otherwise harmless medication. I’m never going to a hospital without a bodyguard again, not even for an X-ray, but this quick and compelling read is a fast-paced nightmare.

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick (and artist Valentine De Landro)
Marbles by Ellen Forney
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction (and artist Chip Zdarsky)

Summer is perfect for comics! Before we started turning them into blockbuster extravaganzas, most of used comic books as an excuse to stay inside all summer and still appease our parents under the guise of “at least she’s reading.” Marbles is a beautiful memoir about all the ways Forney coped with her bipolar disorder once she was diagnosed; Bitch Planet is a feminist series about a misogynistic world where women are sent to a different planet for being non-compliant (including women who dare to be fat or loud or old or opinionated); and Sex Criminals is about two people who realize they stop time whenever they have an orgasm. Get them all and have a wonderful week.

Meaty by Samantha Irby

If you follow her blog Bitches Gotta Eat you already know that Samantha Irby is the funniest, most refreshing writer of her generation. Her first memoir is a collection of hilarious and heartbreaking stories so visceral you come out of it feeling like her best friend, and so masterful you just flip back to the first page and read it all over again as soon as you’re done. You’ll go from laughing to crying so quickly people on the train will think you’re unhinged.

Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.

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