2018 Summer Reading List from a Librarianette

What is a librarianette?

Well, I work at the library, but the librarians far outrank me. I’m just the gal who checks in, sorts, and shelves books. On a given work day, hundreds of books pass through my hands. Thousands more pass my line of vision as I locate spots on the shelves. Since I became a libriarianette, my reading habits have improved, my literary horizons have expanded, and I’ve gotten a sense of the people in my community based on the books they like to check out. I’m really inspired by the connections books create.

Summer Reading For Advanced Readers

This reading list for advanced readers (that is, teens and adults) should have something for everyone. They are all books I’ve read this summer, books I’m reading currently, or books I’ve put on hold and am eagerly waiting for my turn.

For convenience and commission I’ve provided Amazon links, but do consider supporting your local library or local book shops near you instead. However you choose to acquire these titles, I hope you’ll find pleasure, escape, revitalization, and realness in reading.

15 Books to Read Summer 2018

1. Parable of the Sower

by Octavia Butler


This book was picked for the library’s book club. I’m so glad they chose it, because Octavia Butler is fire and the intersecting worlds of literary fiction, science fiction, feminist fiction, and afrofuturism all miss her dearly. A lover of Star Trek and comic books in her youth, Octavia Butler wrote sheer masterpieces. This one weaves environmental catastrophe, race, religion, social division, and pretty much every modern-day social concern into a dystopia that easily rivals, if not surpasses, 1984 and Handmaid’s Tale. It will get you thinking and wondering about our world, which is what science fiction is for.

2. Siddhartha

by Hermann Hesse


As a junior in high school, this book changed the way I look at life and love. The journey of one man’s life is presented so richly, yet simply. Hesse elegantly integrates Buddhist philosophy into the narrative, making it a wonderful introduction to for those of us raised in a Western religion-based culture.

3. The Opposite of Hate

by Sally Kohn


Because the world needs love, love, sweet love, no not just for some but for everyone, I’ve been on the library’s waiting list for this book since April. I don’t mind waiting! I love that so many people want to read this book and get back to their loving centers in the midst of this years-long bombardment of extremely difficult political moments. Me too! This book promises to be this summer’s green cleanse smoothie for the heart. After all, all fighters are lovers first.

4. The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape

by James Rebanks


How many of us really observe the seasons in a way that’s connected to nature? For me, the calendar pages turn too fast, and I’m startled every time the stores start selling holiday decorations. Yet people all around the world still rely on seasonal rhythms. This pastoral memoir is not a political book, but it makes one think about the effects of climate change and other environmental crises. Perhaps part of the solution is slowing down and being present to the patterns our ancestors knew.


5. New York 2140

by Kim Stanley Robinson


So New York City is under water. What now? It keeps being New York City. This futuristic novel proves you can have a sense of humor about climate change, while still taking it very seriously. It imagines a future where we adapt. It’s neither utopian nor dystopian. It’s just, well, New York in 2140, with a cast of really diverse characters who connect, kind of by accident, and ultimately end up united, in true comic form. As with many Kim Stanley Robinson novels, this is a rather thick book, the size of 1 Tom Clancy novel or 1/2 of Rhode Island: perfect for long plane rides.

6. A Secret History of Witches

by Louisa Morgan


Look, I love witches. I can’t help myself. I’m kind of a witch, I actually chose to follow a religion where I refer to myself as a witch — ahem. Because of who I am, I pause and look every time I see a title concerning witches, so it’s very likely that I’ll make a reading list of books about witches one of these days. This one caught my eye because it’s a generational saga that follows a Romani family from Brittany, weaving magick with the very real-world challenges faced by each generation. So far, I’m hooked.

7. Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman


Thor is so hot right now, and Neil Gaiman’s been hot for, like, my whole life. As someone who read the Prose Eddas for a class, it’s really nice to revisit Norse mythology. Neil, to whom I refer by first name for some dang reason, is a superb storyteller. The back cover of the paperpack is graced by reviews from Michael Dirda and the late Ursula Le Guin, which is the kind of company I like my books to keep. I’ll be reading this book on the beach.

Come to think of it,  I read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust on the beach too, just about half my lifetime ago — so pick that one up for your starry-eyed teen’s summer reading, too.

8. The Hate U Give 

by Angie Thomas


This book is currently topping the charts. As I write this, it’s #9 in Amazon’s sales rank for books. This is because there are stories that really need to be told. There’s fiction that’s true in a way reality obscures sometimes. In America, every time there’s a police shooting of a black civilian, the media and everyone on social media reacts to the traumatic event. People who weren’t there dissect every fraction of a second of the videos released, while families mourn and communities protest and counter-protest. This tells the story of a girl who was there, the sole living witness. And it’s brilliant. It’s a perfect book for high school summer reading, but we should all read it.

9. Luckiest Girl Alive 

by Jessica Knoll


On the topic of difficult stuff that high schoolers shouldn’t have to deal with (but they regularly do), this novel is a retrospective on a traumatic high school career. The narrator and protagonist is darkly hilarious, witty, driven, successful, and salty. Even though she’s more flawed than her “perfect” life would make it seem, I found myself cheering for her. And, yes, as the cover says, it is hard to put down! Spoiler alert (highlight text to see content warning): content warning for date rape, violence, and for a school shooting.

10. Comfortable with Uncertainty

Pema Chodron


The last two books on the list contain quite a bit of suffering, much like the world. It so happens that the existence of suffering in the world inspired one Buddha to become a seeker and a teacher of the question, How do we eliminate suffering and find the root of happiness so that all beings may enjoy happiness? 

Omg, I don’t know! But Pema Chodron’s teachings on fearlessness, loving kindness, compassion, and meditation have been a lifesaver for countless readers, listeners, and students, regardless of religion. Her gentle humor and way of connecting with her audience makes her like a Buddhist Mister Rogers. Her writings are worth revisiting every now and then. This book collects 108 short and sweet passages, great for meditation, from a lifetime of teachings. It contains a glossary and a bibliography as well.

Truthfully, it seems like people check out her audiobooks a fair bit. I can’t recommend meditating while driving, but listening to her teach while driving makes the journey well.

11. How to Change Your Mind

by Michael Pollan


Michael Pollan is at it again, this time not about food, and I’d like to spend a day in his mind, because here comes another thought-provoking, popular nonfiction book! Also, he experimented with psychedelics?! So, it’s a book about changing his own mind while delving into an exciting frontier of medical science. This book is on my list because I’d like to learn more about balancing my core values and strong principles with keeping an open mind to new information and different perspectives. I have also, like many others, spent time in the trenches changing my mind as a matter of personal health. It will be interesting to see how Pollan experienced the process of change.

12. Purple Hibiscus

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Americanah topped the charts a few years back for good reason. Purple Hibiscus is on my summer reading list for 2018 because coming of age novels are perfect for teens and adults.

13. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

by Haruki Murakami


Murakami’s short stories first got my attention. This novel has passed through my hands many times as I check books in, so one of these shifts, I’ll grab it and check it out myself. Funny and meditative? Subterranean monsters and Bob Dylan? All right, I’ll take it!

14. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah


I had the pleasure of seeing Trevor Noah perform live earlier this year. Onstage he told stories about his travels and about growing up in South Africa. A talented comedian, he had us laughing and feeling deeply at the same time. I’m interested to read his memoirs.

15. Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

by Frank Bidart


Full disclosure: I am utterly cheating on this last one. At the library, poetry books don’t often pass through my hands, but as a poet, I think they should! Poems are just as immersive as novels, but they’re shorter and they give you pause. What could be better on summer vacation than pausing from time to time? Honestly, I recommend going to the poetry section and flipping through chapbooks until you find a poet whose voice makes you “wow.” But if you want a recommendation, this collection should keep you busily reflecting and enjoying for a while.

What’s on your summer reading list for 2018? Let me know if you picked up and enjoyed any of the books on my list!



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