I love many things about summer, but I especially love summer books. I love reading all year round, but in the summer there’s a perceptible change: what for the rest of the year seems like a solitary activity bursts out into the open and becomes part of the conversation. “What are you reading?” is asked almost as often as “where are you going for vacation?” We share our recommendations – and our actual books. Some of us plan our entire season’s reading in advance, the same way we pack for a trip.
Whether we embark on far-flung summer getaways or stay close to home, books have a unique ability to take us on amazing journeys. Some of us like to take along books that are set in places we travel to, while others want books about places they’d like to go — or perhaps, would rather not go but just visit in book form.
I also love how in the summer, the reading rules we impose on ourselves get relaxed. Along with the sunnier and longer days, we pick up lighter reads. We dig into mysteries, thrillers, romance novels or other “guilty pleasure” genres that we might not read at other times of the year. (I’m not sure why, though – if you enjoy something you think of as a “beach read” or an “airport book,” why deny yourself that pleasure when you’re not at a beach or an airport?)
It makes perfect sense that we associate books with vacations and travel and unplugging – especially from our phones, which are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to thrive, including our to-do lists and inboxes — because they’re essential for our well-being. And science has begun to validate all the different ways in which books enhance our lives. A recent study found that reading fiction can boost our empathy. Another found that books and stories have a long-term impact on children — the more children are read to, the more they develop a “theory of mind,” the ability to understand that other people have a different mental state than they do.
One of my favorite studies found that we actually read slower on pages we particularly like. We all know that feeling — when we’re reading a book we love — of stepping outside time, of becoming disconnected from our overly-connected world (the reading equivalent of a “driveway moment,” when you’re driving home and listening to a radio program that’s so compelling you sit in your driveway until it ends, delaying your return to “the world” as long as possible). And one study even found that reading is associated with longevity. “These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them,” the authors write.
So if your list of life-enhancing, potentially life-lengthening summer books isn’t long enough, here’s the Thrive Global Summer Reading Guide, 12 titles curated by me and our Thrive Global team members who are already gearing up for a season of reading. It’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, old favorites and new releases. They will all help you unplug from the world and recharge in the way that only books can.
The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel H. Pink
A deep dive into the science of timing, and how we can use it to make better decisions in our lives.
No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, by Michelle Segar
A practical guide to how we can change the way we motivate ourselves in order to change our health.
Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights and Every Day, by Alexander Smalls, JJ Johnson, Veronica Chambers
Aside from all the killer recipes, it’s a poignant exploration of African diaspora and the impact it’s had on the culinary world. And the recipes read like poetry.
You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld
A new collection of short stories by the best-selling author of Prep and American Wife.
The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
A coming of age novel about female friendship, ambition, power and mentorship.
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
A deeply insightful and moving novel about marriage, race and the criminal justice system.
Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, by Ingrid Fetell Lee
An exploration of how ordinary things in the physical world around us can enhance our sense of joy.
Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence –The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice, by Dr. Daniel Siegel
How you can put the science of meditation and awareness to work in your life to become calmer, more focused and more present.
Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus, by Jesse Itzler
An account by an endurance athlete and entrepreneur of what he learned both about himself and modern life from a self-imposed “timeout” at a monastery.
More Together Than Alone: Discovering the Power and Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in the World, by Mark Nepo
A timely reflection on the importance of community and how we can deepen our sense of togetherness to improve both our individual lives and the world.
When Action Follows Heart: 365 Ways to Share Kindness, by Susan Spencer
The Woman’s Day editor-in-chief shares a year’s worth of simple and practical ways you can harness the profound power of kindness and giving in your life.
Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, by Stephanie Rosenbloom
A New York Times travel columnist explores Paris, Istanbul, Florence and her hometown, New York – and muses on the joys and rewards of solo travel.
What are you reading this summer? Let us know by tweeting your recommendations with the hashtag #thrivesummerbooks, and happy reading!