The Making & Breaking of Summer Reading Lists

If you’re anything like me, you begin the summer by making a book list and then spend the next three months ignoring that list in favor of other, nobler pursuits, such as trying to convince your dad of the importance of an all-female Ghostbusters or bingeing all seven seasons of Parks & Rec in less than a month. Even if you’re strong enough to delete the Netflix shortcut on your browser, you’ll still manage to get sidetracked by things like Simone Biles & the Olympics. Or you’ll wake up one morning and decide to read all of Ann Patchett’s books in a single summer. Still, that’s the joy of pleasure reading. You’re not confined to a syllabus or threatened with pop quizzes; instead, you’re allowed to make a list from which you’ll inevitably stray.

Of the 18 books I set out to read this summer, I only abandoned three. Don DeLillo’s White Noise was too postmodern, and Diana Gabaldon used too many adverbs in Outlander (it’s a pet peeve thing, I swear). As for Angle of Repose, well, poor Wallace just couldn’t compete with Leslie Knope and the Parks gang.

Parks & Rec bingefest aside, I think I did pretty well in the “finished books” department; I managed to complete 10 of the remaining 15:

  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (5/5 stars)
  • Long Ago God Spoke by William L. Holladay (3/5 stars)
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (4/5 stars)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (3/5 stars)
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (6/5 stars)
  • The Lake House by Kate Morton (5/5 stars)
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (4/5 stars)
  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (6/5 stars — review HERE)
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (5/5 stars)
  • House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (4/5 stars)

The Namesake was my favorite, followed by House of Mirth and The Poisonwood Bible. Rereading Happy Marriage was an excellent decision, and if you’re a writer, I would highly recommend reading Letters to a Young Poet alongside Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird and Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life; it’s nothing short of a religious experience.


I skipped Jazz and The Things They Carried; Morrison and O’Brien promise great things, but I don’t feel ready to tackle them just yet. Maybe this fall or winter.

The only books I didn’t attempt were the The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I had every intention of reading them, but then Ghostbusters showed up and claimed my full attention.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Over the next few weeks I’ll post about my other exploits, so keep your eyes peeled for what I like to call the happy accidents of summer. A few things to look forward to:
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • the summer of Ann Patchett (& other obsessive things)
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  • and What Moves at the Margin by Toni Morrison

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