Summer is a weirdly magical time. It’s a void of time from school (from those who are still attending or work for a school) or a void of time you feel like should be spent away (for those who are attempting to be adults by having big kid jobs). For those in the void of time it’s full of ups and downs. You have all the time to see friends, to order six Sonic slushies a day, and to watch every sunset until school starts again. You also have all the time to lay awake until five in the morning for no reason, to stare at the wall trying to hold yourself together, and to pick up another job so you’ll stay so busy you don’t have the energy to think about everything that makes you want to claw your skin off so you can tear yourself apart.
You can learn a lot about yourself in the three and a half-ish months off from school. You can also read a lot as well. For me, reading is the one true form of peace I experience. The stories I take in help hold me together; I see the characters endure and succeed, and I am inspired to do the same. When I read I stop. My brain slows down a bit. It’s hard to describe honestly, but I always feel like I’m going at warp speed (heh, Star Trek reference, heh heh). I can never stop thinking about absolutely everything I’ve done, am doing, or plan to do. The reason I always answer “How are you doing?” with “I’m tired” is because mentally I am always tired because I never stop until I’m asleep. If I fall asleep. Reading makes me stop for a few hours, and those few hours are all I need usually. Reading before I go to bed helps me fall asleep easier. The level of stress I experience during a school year directly influences how many books I will read during a summer; the more stressed I was the more I’m going to read. Reading is sacred to me. It’s a ritual, a mantra, a prayer. I can never read in a car. I have to be in a certain position. I can only read around certain people because it’s when I feel my most vulnerable. I have to trust them enough to let myself be distracted by the wonder in front of me, because that’s when I’m the most open and defenseless.
It’s taken me since May to find the words to explain the importance of reading to me. In all my life I’ve only met a handful of people who feel the same way about books that I do. It’s still so bewildering to me whenever someone doesn’t understand how much it means to me. I never thought I would need to explain it, so I never tried to find the way to. In hindsight, I should have expected I would need to know how to let people know.
Now that I’ve waxed poetic or whatever, here’s my top five picks from the 21 I read in Summer 2016:
- The Princess Saves Herself in This One
“silence has always been my loudest scream”
A collection of poetry by Amanda Lovelace that explores the development and challenges she went through as a child, young woman, and an adult. It is a captivating work with moving thoughts and empowering pieces that came at exactly the right time for me.
“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you.”
This is a book I would have cherished in high school. I can see a lot of myself in Cath, and understand a lot of her reasoning about reading and writing. I picked this book because it was like finding an old friend, or getting a phone call from my younger self. Obsessive fangirling was very much a defense mechanism for little me, and it’s nice to see that they, just like Cath, did okay.
- Anna and the French Kiss
“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”
This one was cute. It was fluffy. It was magical. It was the right blend of realistic and unrealistic. Every once in a while it does a person well to sink into a YA romance and follow the development of the female character as she finds herself and love at the same time. I like seeing girl characters get everything they want at the end of a book, and that’s exactly what this was.
- Under a Painted Sky
“Maybe what matters is not so much the path as who walks beside you.”
I’m a lover of Westerns. I like the aesthetic of wide open plains and skies and dreams. I also love stories with diverse voices and backgrounds. The characters here came together to create a new family for themselves after losing those close to them. They travel and find love in each other, learning to trust and shoot all in one go. I never believed the saying that you can pick your friends, and this story is proof that it’s just the opposite. The people you need always come to you.
- Wolf by Wolf
“The world is wrong. I’m just doing my part to fix it.”
This book is a perfect example of why I love to read. It was thrilling, captivating, and breathless. This easily tops the list for best book of the summer, if not the year. Gorgeous cover aside the story itself is riveting, showing a steadfast, determined protagonist who keeps her goals in mind and follows through her journey to the end, despite any twists and turns she faces. The good news is, there’s a sequel coming in November! I’m never one to get excited for sequels, so for me, the fact that I am, speaks volumes about this book.