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A Fresh American Summer Reading List

For our third annual literary-loving list, our staffers have rounded up the best in fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. Whether you’re looking for something light or a story with a lot of depth, we’ve got a summer book for lazy days on the porch, lounging on the beach or by the pool, flying or riding the train to far-flung locales, or winding down at night before you go to sleep. Don’t forget to tell us in the comments which books you’re reading this summer!

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

If you, like many of our staffers, prefer a good laugh while lounging by the pool or the sea, tuck stand-up comic Gaffigan’s latest book into your tote bag. A combination memoir and cry for help, Dad Is Fat will keep you—especially those of you with little bundles of joy at home—cracking up even when you feel like crying. Consider this excerpt:

Dear Children,

I am your dad. The father of all five of you pale creatures. Given how attractive and fertile your mother is, there may be more of you by the time you read this book. If you are reading this, I am probably dead. I would assume this because I can honestly foresee no other situation where you’d be interested in anything I’ve done. Right now, you are actually more interested in preventing me from doing things like working, sleeping, and smiling. I’m kidding, of course. Kind of. I love you with all of my heart, but you are probably the reason I’m dead.

Dad Is Fat Jim Gaffigan

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Novelist Maria Semple isn’t a comedian, but that didn’t stop her from writing one of the funniest books we’ve read in years. Told through everything from e-mails and letters to FBI documents, school fund-raising materials, and emergency room bills—which delightfully skewer private schools, traditional ideas of family, and crunchy Seattle living—Where’d You Go Bernadette chronicles the story of is-she-or-isn’t-she-crazy genius architect Bernadette Fox. When Bernadette pulls a disappearing act, it’s up to her whip-smart 15-year-old daughter, Bee; her disbelieving husband, Elgin; and a rotating cast of memorable extras to unravel the mystery.

 Whered You Go Bernadette Maria Semple

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

While the staffer who first recommended this book somewhat sheepishly noted, “I promise I read real books, too,” we have to admit that we’re fascinated with the story of Amoruso, the former petty criminal and Dumpster-diver who turned her love of vintage clothes into a booming eBay business and later into the $100-million-plus-grossing online fashion retailer Nasty Gal. The behind-the-scenes dish makes for a great beach read, and Amoruso’s alternately brassy and witty declarations are a breath of fresh air in an industry that often takes itself too seriously.

Girlboss Sophia Amoruso

How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

With the holidays approaching, homicide detective Armand Gamache has many reasons to feel a bit blue: his top agents have left his department, he’s no longer on speaking terms with one of his best friends, and enemies seem to be plotting against him. A mysterious phone call about an old friend who’s gone missing pulls Gamache out of his funk and into what he does best: solve crimes. And just in case you need a little pot sweetening, our staffer adds, “The detective loves food, so there are all these great descriptions of meals.” Start reading this and Canadian novelist Penny’s other Inspector Gamache novels now, just in time for the August release of her upcoming book, The Long Way Home.

How the Light Gets In Louise Penny

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

If you’re one of the estimated 50 percent of the population who thrives on, among other things, quiet time, reflection, and independent problem solving, get a copy of Cain’s book, stat. The former corporate lawyer uncovers the roots of the Western bias against introverts; the secret shame they often feel for not being like their flashier, outgoing, networking-loving extroverted counterparts; and their true power in the business and creative spheres. Need more convincing? Cain profiles some of the most influential minds in history—from Albert Einstein to Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Steve Jobs—all of whom are introverts. A must-read for parents, teachers, and managers everywhere.

 Quiet Susan Cain

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Best known for her Oprah-annointed memoir Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of Strayed’s Dear Sugar advice column from the literary blog The Rumpus. Our staffer says, “Strayed is equal parts stern mother and consoling best friend, guiding her readers through complex life crises, decisions, and transitions. She brings in her own life experiences to enlighten readers’ own problems, adding an air of authenticity to a genre that is often contrived. These are real- life problems that almost everyone can relate to—family, death, relationships, sexuality, friendships.”

Tiny Beautiful Things Cheryl Strayed

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