I’m calling this a wishlist, because I’m wishing really hard that I have enough free time and motivation to actually read one non-academic book this summer. Between work, school, and more work, I get the feeling that my downtime will be fully occupied by Netflix. This being said, I really wish that I can get back into reading for pleasure.
Personally, I believe that putting things down into writing adds some permance, so it is my hope that in crafting my summer reading wishlist, I find a way to turn my dreams into a reality. If I have the time and the will – and that is a big IF – these are the books I want to delve into.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”
I saw the cover of this book at the front of Barnes and Noble and had to look at it to see what it was all about. Then I read the summary and was like, “Wowee!” At my YA peak (around age 10-16), I didn’t really read many books about the lives of people who look like me and our stories weren’t “salient enough” to earn these spots at the front of the store. Not only do I want to read this to support a black author, but it speaks to the experiences of many.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
“Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s life.
On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.”
I often forget about just how impactful and transformative YA fiction is, because I read it so infrequently, but I truly love a good coming of age/coming into one’s own type of story. I’m also very interested in questions of identity and the ways that people choose to navigate their identities. Plus, I’m a blogger, so I’m generally intrigued any time a book summary says, “They have a blog!” Because I have a blog and we might be blog twins!
Veil by Rafia Zakaria
“The veil can be an instrument of feminist empowerment, and veiled anonymity can confer power to women. Starting from her own marriage ceremony at which she first wore a full veil, Rafia Zakaria examines how veils do more than they get credit for.
Part memoir and part philosophical investigation, Veil questions that what is seen is always good and free, and that what is veiled can only signal servility and subterfuge. From personal encounters with the veil in France (where it is banned) to Iran (where it is compulsory), Zakaria shows how the garment’s reputation as a pre-modern relic is fraught and up for grabs. The veil is an object in constant transformation, whose myriad meanings challenge the absolute truths of patriarchy.”
A few months ago I listened to a podcast where Rafia Zakaria talked about her book, Veil, and I was immediately intrigued. As a self-proclaimed feminist, I am particularly interested in learning about the lives and experiences of other women and the contexts in which they happen. Many of the ways that we talk about practices of veiling, particularly in the U.S., often treat it as a monolith and focus heavily on topics of domination. I am very interested in exploring the history and complexities of these practices, especially after getting to hear Zakaria delve into the conversation a bit.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World by William McRaven
“If you want to change the world, start by making your bed. On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long naval career, but also throughout his life, and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves – and the world – for the better.”
I hadn’t heard any of Admiral William McRaven’s speech when I first came across this book in Books-A-Million, but I was still able to catch some inspiration just from the title. I’m a person that makes my bed every morning and I strongly believe that it sets you up to accomplish your goals throughout the day – however tiny they may be. I figure, if that advice was salient enough, then the book has to be filled with more snippets that will resonate with me!
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
“Charles Wang, a brash, lovable businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, has just lost everything in the financial crisis. So he rounds up two of his children from schools that he can no longer afford and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra, they head on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the Upstate New York retreat of the eldest Wang daughter, Saina. The trip brings them together in a way money never could.”
I think I randomly came across this book in my Amazon recommendations and thought, “Wow, that cover is aesthetically pleasing!” Then I read the plot summary and I was sold! The reviews for it all seem pretty alright and many of them called it a great “vacation read.” I’m not going on vacation any time soon (check back in like 5 years), but I’m willing to pretend that’s something possible for me!
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
“The Vance family story began with hope in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.”
I feel like I rarely ever talk about things I do in school, but the fact that I recently graduated with a degree in Anthropology and Sociology is strongly tied to my interest in this book. Number one, I believe that everyone’s story is meaningful and teaches us an important lesson about the society we live in. Number two, I was able to take two classes that seem to touch on similar themes in this book’s summary: Social Class in the U.S. and Gender & Environment (which was about green living, with a strong emphasis on social life in the Appalachia region). My time with these classes are over, but that doesn’t mean that I have to stop learning about these issues and growing my empathy for others.
What book is on your wishlist?
Thanks for reading!
Until next time, have an awesome rest of your day and an amazing rest of your week!