Book Club: Five Perfect End-of-Summer Reads

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A Summer Reading List by Julia Fleischaker

August is for stretching out these long days last days of summer, before we all get too busy to read (just kidding). I don’t know about you, but when I’m at the beach, I spend most of my time looking for shade, thinking about what lives in and under the waves, and being nostalgic for the carefree beach trips of my youth. So, with that in mind, a few books to help you make the most of the dog days.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

I’ve recommended this book to more people than any other this summer, and have gotten so many emails, ranging from “this is so weird but I can’t stop reading,” to “omg I love this book so much.” Broder is dark and depressive and filthy and hilarious, and this is the story of an untethered young woman who falls in love with a merman who’s taken up residence in the ocean just off Santa Monica. The book flips the standard mermaid script on its head, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it long after I’d finished it.

The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare

Hoare is another author plenty of people have heard me gush over. I was won over quickly by his absolute obsession with water, and with whales specifically, and I adore his unabashedly enthusiastic, almost stream-of-consciousness, way of writing. His are books that I sink into like a warm bath. In The Sea Inside, Hoare gives us a kind of travelogue, as he follows the migration patterns of whales from the Isle of Wight to Sri Lanka, Tasmania, and beyond. There’s history and natural history, and musings on biology and ecology, and it’s all just perfectly lovely.

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

Years before he won a Pulitzer for The Underground Railroad, Whitehead wrote this 1980’s coming-of-age novel about one summer at an African-American community in New York’s Hamptons. There may not be much in the way of plot, but you’re in for beautiful writing, and a healthy dose of nostalgia, both personal and generational (New Coke!).

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan

Another coming-of-age story, this one a memoir about surfing from a New Yorker writer. Unexpected, maybe, but wow, does it work. Finnegan grew up in California and Hawaii, and took to surfing with the energy of a zealot. His obsession lasted through childhood into adulthood, and eventually took him around the world. His descriptions of surfing life, of the human vs. nature struggle that surfing is, and of the fleeting moments of grace that result, may just inspire you to give it a go yourself before the beaches close.

And for the kids: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Honestly, this is the only book that has made someone cry while still in the store. Julián rides the subway every day with his abuela, and becomes enamored with a group of bedecked and bedazzled mermaids that he sees. He wants to look like them, to be one of them. A children’s story of acceptance, of yourself and others, this is a tearjerker in the absolutely best way.

To check out these books in person, or to get a special recommendation from the author, visit Greedy Reads, an independent bookstore in Fells Point owned and operated by Julia Fleischaker.

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