Snow cones, road trips, picnics, Fredericksburg peaches, fireflies, wildflowers, sangria, sunsets at the ball fields, and, most important of all, a shade-spangled swath on the banks of Barton Springs where I can stretch out and escape the heat in the pages of a juicy book: my perfect summertime in a nutshell.
1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
We all need a healthy helping of adventure in our lives, especially when the days start to get steamy. Cheryl Strayed’s account of her solo trek through the wilderness of the High Sierras while grappling with her grief and demons is gripping, funny, rough and inspiring — and will have you itching to get out down to the greenbelt or somewhere steeped in lush solitude and fresh air.
2. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
I adore this collection more than I can properly begin to describe in a scroll-by blurb, but in my book Amy Hempel is the perfect accomplice for any summery adventure — be it poolside lounging, a long trip west or lazy weekend reading over iced coffee on the front porch. These bare bones, brilliantly stylized stories shoot from the shoulder: they will amaze and captivate you, and leave you blinking in the pretenseless, stunning light that shines from them.
3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
At the fervent recommendation of fellow bookseller Christopher (whose taste is flawless, y’all), I started reading this novel — and fell headlong into the hardscrabble, bleak world of war-tattered Chechnya, carried on the page-turning current of Anthony Marra’s sweepingly beautiful prose. Especially recommended for lovers of rich, transporting, literary writers like Tea Obrecht and Nicole Krauss.
4. The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
This book is at the top of my list this summer, the provocative, powerful memoir of lifelong swimmer turned writer Lidia Yuknavitch. With dense and dazzling prose, Yuknavitch writes about her experiences with surviving abuse, addiction, self-destruction and trauma — ultimately a story of resilience and the incredible strength of spirit it takes to turn trauma into art. And who doesn’t want to wade into a passionate love affair with water in the middle of sultry June?
5. Rose by Li-Young Lee
This collection of poetry is my favorite thing to toss into a bag for a day trip to Enchanted Rock or a stroll down the street to Bouldin Creek Cafe. Laden with ripe wonder, heavy with grief, earthy, reflective, exuberant — I want to share these poems with everyone I know. Here is a bite out of one of my favorite in the collection, “From Blossoms”:
“O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.”
Grab a copy of the book to read the rest of this perfect peach season poem, and so many sweet, juicy others.