I’m offering a ticket to ride.
This summer, if you can’t actually get away, if you can’t relocate your body to a distant shore, then at least think about relocating your mind. Reading, we know, is our escape from reality, and ladies and gentlemen, escape is what we need these days.
The political and social noise is debilitating. How long can the economy zoom upward? How will the president’s tariff threats affect our lives? How fast are the polar ice caps melting? Is this swine flu or just a bad summer cold?
Because clicks and beeps and alerts and breaking news take a toll on our psychological health, I recommend we replace social media with good fiction and nonfiction for a few months.
Turn off the damn TV for a while. Don’t worry; if something important happens, your mother will call.
During this hiatus, I suggest picking up some books that offer total distraction, possibly pleasure, some thrills, certainly intellectual engagement and a total a departure from reality. Granted, this is a subjective enterprise, so it must come with a caveat: You may not like what I like. I also like pistachio ice cream, fresh kumquats, tum yum soup that makes you cry, and corn muffins served in bowling alley snack bars. You can’t figure these things out, so don’t try.
Also, be warned: These aren’t “summer reads.” I didn’t say you shouldn’t think this summer; I just said you shouldn’t worry.
My Top 10 reads for the summer of 2019:
Jump right in with “The Nix,” by Nathan Hill, one of the strangest family sagas out there. A sharp and brilliant satire, it melds coming of age in the ’60s with a twisted family story, a brutal take on the publishing industry and, yes, old Nordic ghost stories.
Next, try “Montpelier Parade,” by Karl Geary. This coming-of-age story takes place in Dublin, and is guaranteed to get your mind off whether or not to impeach. The writing is pitch-perfect, a lovely work about an affair to remember.
Move right along to “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Yeah, read the play by Tennessee Williams and get a whole new perspective on the story, which became a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman at the peak of their sexual allure. They don’t make ’em like Big Daddy anymore.
Next, “The Great Believers,” by Rebecca Makkai, tells a story that was waiting to be told: What it was like to be entwined in the culture and events of America as it moved through the AIDS crisis. Like most excellent fiction, this gets closer to the truth of that time than some of the nonfiction works about the 1980s.
You’ve got to read “Normal People,” by Sally Rooney. A young novelist, she uses pared-down prose to write about people caught in webs of intense love. She is current and cool, and offers a window on now.
Another winning work is “An American Marriage,” by Tayari Jones. A quick read, a stunner, a revelation, this novel challenges many conventional assumptions about race and relationships.
“The Snow Child,” by Eowyn Ivey, is an odd one, but delicious. It begins as a story of a couple living in the wilderness of Alaska, and evolves into a kind of fairy tale. The writing is as exquisite as the snowflakes that fall on nearly page of the narrative.
A total escape in an entirely different direction is “In the Distance,” by Hernan Diaz. His novel follows a young Swedish kid who finds himself trekking across America in the 1890s. Part thrill-a-minute western, part meditation on solitude and part coming of age, this novel is a great escape.
You’ve gotta read “The Uninhabitable Earth,” by David Wallace-Wells. He describes in “meticulous and terrifying detail,” as the New York Times reviewer wrote, the unhappy ending we are heading for on this planet. The narrative flies, and the facts and observations are disturbing, but if any book needs to be read, this one does. Really, the sky is falling.
Finally, I recommend “Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak,” compiled by Larry Smith. This book is for when you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or sitting in traffic. Just pull it up on your e-reader and wander for a while. You can pick it up and put it down at any time. It’s good for a brain tickle now and again.
An excerpt: “Hired me. Fired me. Married me.”
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.