In the Summertime, I Read Books

~Post by Jenn S.

We’ve arrived at that point in the year when everyone suddenly realizes that summer is half over and they have nothing to show for it. No one is not surprised by the fact that we are at the midpoint of July and soon enough August will be upon us. In Austin, Texas, that means that we’re mentally gearing up to sweat like we’ve never sweat before. But this week, it’s raining (!?!), and so I thought I’d fill you in on my summer reading so far.

g r a p h i c   n o v e l s

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Are You My Mother?

I started my summer off with Fun Home and got so hooked on the form (books! with! pictures!) I decided then and there that I would spend the whole summer reading only graphic novels. Both of Bechdel’s books are memoirs, but, loosely. Fun Home tells about Bechdel’s father, and Are You My Mother? you can probably guess. I preferred Fun Home, which I read poolside in about a day. Bechdel’s honesty, the attention to detail and to movement in her drawings, her humor, and her cutting sadness make this a story that lives. And she reproduces other materials—pages of books, photographs—in a way I wish I could copy. It may be time to learn to draw.

Other graphic novels on my list include: Lucy Knisley’s French Milk, and Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Habibi. Plus bookseller, graphic novel enthusiast, and friendly neighborhood chicken wrangler Danithan made me a great list to continue my graphic education. On his good word, I think I’m going to start with Jeff Lemire’s Essex County and Josh Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest.


e s s a y s

Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books

Truth time: Marilynne Robinson is one of my favorite authors these days, and I would read just about anything if she wrote it. When I heard that she had published this collection of essays in the spring, I was pretty jazzed. I mean, first of all, when I was a child, I read books, too! And when I was an adolescent, I read books. When I was a teenager, books saved my life. When I decided to become an adult, I read so. many. books. And when I needed a job, I decided to make one out of reading books. This collection spoke to me. Robinson’s essays are heady, so I’ve been taking them slowly. One essay at a time, one page at a time, sometimes one mind-bending sentence per day. She writes about religion, politics, and growing up in Idaho. She’s kind of an imaginary grandmother to me, so these essays are a form of deep literary comfort. Like oatmeal cookies and bourbon, but for the soul.

m e m o i r s

Mary Karr’s Cherry

I think this might be the perfect summer book. Karr revisits her childhood in small town Texas, and everything about her story reminds me of the joys and sorrows of being a kid. Endless neighborhood bike riding, clubs formed and disbanded, wild crushes, dramatic friendships, angst and restlessness and the rich, imaginative interior life that being young is all about.

Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Winterson is another great living fiction writer, and her memoir is about growing up adopted in Manchester, England, with a religious fanatic for a mother “who kept a revolver in the duster drawer, and the bullets in a tin of Pledge.” This one doesn’t remind me of my childhood (thank god!), but it is enthralling to read. Winterson is hilarious and heartbreaking, all at once.

Janet Groth’s The Receptionist

One of my jobs sometimes requires that I sit at a reception desk, so I picked up this book to read at work. I haven’t finished it yet, but I have a whole new perspective on the inside knowledge and immense power one can wield from behind a front desk. Groth grew up in the middle of Iowa in the 1950s and then landed herself a job at the offices of The New Yorker right out of college (happens all the time…) In this book, she writes about what it was like to work for twenty years as a receptionist on the eighteenth floor at the magazine, fending off marriage proposals from John Berryman and managing the bad habits of all the famous writers and editors under her jurisdiction. It’s like old time celebrity gossip for nerds.

f i c t i o n

Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?

So much has already been said about Heti’s new book that I don’t know what’s left for me to say. When has an experimental novel written by a lady received so much attention? The answer is, um, never. In the history. Of time. Many people compare this novel-from-life to Lena Dunham’s work on the HBO show Girls, and while I see some resemblance, I prefer the comparison Michelle Dean’s review makes between How Should a Person Be? and Fiona Apple’s new album. Combine the two? Sheer bliss. (Plus, this book got everyone’s favorite snooty, dull New Yorker critic James Wood’s panties all in a twist, which I’d say is a pretty high recommendation.)

What else should I add to my list?

43 thoughts on “In the Summertime, I Read Books

  1. Thanks! You may be gearing up for heat in Austin, but we’re feeling the summer slip away, too, in NY!

  2. “A Fly On The Wall, A Bartender’s Perspective” has been called “a perfect summer read”. sure to put a smile on your face. I would like to invite anyone that has ever eaten in a restaurant or drank in a bar to come find out the true stories of what goes on. “A Fly On The Wall, A Bartender’s Perspective” by AJ Rothberg is a collection of short stories revealing the secrets of the human persona . An inside look at politics, love, business and life. A satirical and controversial incite from the guy who wasn’t supposed to hear anything but ended up hearing it all. Memoirs of a veteran bartender with over 20 years in the business in some of the most prominent cities in America. Now receiving 5-star reviews on amazon and B&N, be sure to get your copy on e-book today and find out what everyone is talking about. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

    I try to read it (or at least parts of it) every summer. It always makes me feel super adventurous, even if I’m only exploring my own backyard.

    Happy reading!

    1. If only there was a ‘like’ button for your comment! I write all winter, and read all summer. (It’s my reward for keeping my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys!)

  4. I’m glad to see you’ve included a recent work of Marilynne Robinson in your list. She’s also a favorite author of mine (“Housekeeping” is a very memorable novel, in my opinion). It turns out i’d fallen behind in reading MR & this summer am trying to catch up having now recently read “Gilead” and “Home.” (it was suggested that both of these be read as they contain the same characters, however from different vantage points). I agree she has to be read slowly and savored — there is much depth and i don’t know if i actually comprehend it all — very much worth the effort to try, i believe.

  5. I just finished a graphic novel last night that is an absolute must-read: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a memoir about growing up in war-laden Iran. Totally amazing and inspiring!

  6. Great book reviews, I’ll be heading to the library for some of these! The weather all around the world seems to have deteriorated this year – we’ve barely had a Summer in England (unless the week of sun in March counts)!

  7. I just moved to Austin in January and I still have to make it into your store! The heat is not as bad as I thought it was going to be, having come from Connecticut, but nobody warned me about the crickets! 🙂 I am going to pick up the Cherry memoir as soon as I can. Thank you!

  8. Liked your post. It’s a list but doesn’t read like a list and the transitions between entries are so seamless. Your language is very lucid–makes me want to read the books!

  9. Thanks with your help I got some gr8 books to read, now even I I will be reading all of them.

    Thank you keep posting more !
    Will look forward for next updates from you.

    Hemant Khurana 🙂

  10. Love this post! I work at a library, so I am familar with a lot of these titles, even if I haven’t read them personally. As for suggestions of what to read next, well . . . you’ve probably read everything I could think of already!

  11. Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve got a stack of books, also… check out my blog entry “This Summer’s Promise.” Right now, I’m reading The Leftovers by Tom Perotta. He is an awesome author!

  12. I definitely want to read “The Receptionist”. The way you described it as “old-time celebrity gossip for nerds” makes it sound like a perfect fit for me. This past winter, I plowed through 700 pages of Wolcott Gibbs’ New Yorker essays (“Backward Ran Sentences”) from the 40s and 50s. Now that’s OLD gossip (and theater reviews). 😉

  13. Sometime in the future I’ll have to read the receptionist it sounds interesting. I’ve spent most of my summer reading James Patterson. I love that you have different genres listed!

  14. Love this post! Visited Austin last year and loved it, trying to possibly find a job and move there (and of course, would be a frequent visitor of your bookstore!). This is a great list. In case I didn’t have enough books in my to-read pile you are the second blog in as many days that recommended Maryann Robinson, so I guess that’s a sign that I should pick that book up!

  15. Since I’ve been introduced to the world of ebooks and Kindle; reading has become a complete addiction for me this summer. I’m going to jump onto Amazon and see if any of these titles are available…thanks for posting!!!

    1. All of these titles are available at This blog is the beloved project of booksellers at an independent bookstore. We love to talk books! We hope that you’ll peruse our website (we sell print books as well as e-books) and consider supporting us with one of your next book purchases. It lets us continue to do what we love, which is recommend books! Thanks for reading!

  16. Two things I love–Austin and books! One of my favorite summer reads is “How to Kill a Rock Star” by Tiffanie DeBartolo. Thanks for posting your faves–now, I have plenty of new books to track down and enjoy!

  17. Hi, I’m in Australia at about 1,000 metres. It’s winter here. That’s when I like to move my reading chair in synch with the sun or curl up by the fire with a book. At the moment, I’m reading The MIstake by Wendy James who is an Australian crime writer with a penchant for ‘why?’ more than ‘what’ and ‘who’. In summer, reading happens beside a pool or on the beach.

    I’m so pleased with bookstores like yours. Fantastic promotion of books and writers, an open view on ‘what’s good’. Being a writer, I appreciate that. I lived in CA for a while a long time ago and loved going to City Lights where there were more books in translation than I’d seen. Then, even the English-speaking world tightly bordered its books, one region from another.

    Is there a blog from you about ‘how a bookseller knows a book will be loved – what goes on in this bookseller’s head when they read it; what do booksellers know about readers that and books they choose that is unrelated marketing and hype?

  18. Now, if you find an imaginary grandmother in an author, that’s comforting. Really nice list, thanks for sharing and inspiring to read graphic novels – something I haven’t done yet. What an idea!

  19. Thanks for the suggestions, y’all! And keep ’em coming!

    I’ll post some more reviews soon, promise. And in the meantime, check out some of our other booksellers’ summer lists & recommendations at

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