You may have noticed that this year’s summer reading guide is tighter than previous editions: it only has 7 categories, 5 books in each, and—this is the big change—if I couldn’t imagine you wanting to take the book to the beach with you, I didn’t include it.
That means no crazy-slow-to-develop gorgeous novels, no productivity books, no poetry. (Well, not many.)
But I like to read year-round, and I know I’m not alone. As much as I love my novels, I also read to get smart—to develop my craft, to dive deep into subjects, to explore topics I know nothing about.
So I created my Summer Syllabus. (Thanks to Melissa for suggesting the title on facebook.) These are the books that didn’t make the cut for the summer reading guide because they’re too nerdy (even for the Nerdy Nonfiction category!) But I want to read them this summer—or at least feel like I should.
So here’s my Summer Syllabus: 10 summer reads that will make me smarter:
A writerly friend recommended this at FFW last month as a good book for improving my craft as a nonfiction writer. I ordered a copy before I unpacked my suitcase. It’s a compilation of thirty-ish short essays—from Annie Dillard, Terry Tempest Williams, Philip Gerard—focusing on different aspects of the craft. I should start this soon so I can read it slowly over the summer. More info →
This book has been enthusiastically recommended by several book nerds with great taste, and explores the history of mapmaking from the olden days of parchment to today’s google maps and GPS. I love a good map (who doesn’t?) and am totally intrigued: when it comes to geography, I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know. More info →
This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for years, as it’s been recommended by numerous people I respect across the years who have nothing in common (except for being older than me, wiser than me, and not afraid of reading deeply). But it sounds a little dry so I haven’t made myself pick it up—yet. More info →
Technology is changing the way we interact with each other: but is that good or bad, and what should we do about it? Turkle, an MIT professor, draws on 15 years of data to show how face-to-face relationships are changing in the facebook age. Because I make my living largely from behind a screen, this is on my must-read list. More info →
Billed as a perfect choice for fans of Unbroken, this bestselling story about an American crew team seeking Olympic gold during the Depression has garnered nearly 2000 5-star reviews on Amazon. I fully expect this to be as compelling as any novel I read this summer. More info →
I promised myself that I would read something, anything by Goodwin this year, and I did: Wait Till Next Year, which made the summer reading guide in the Nerdy Nonfiction category. I liked it so much I’m diving into the deep end with this straight-up history of the Lincoln era. My dad will be proud. More info →
I’m weirdly fascinated by urban planning, so this follow-up to Jacob’s classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities(one of the books that makes me feel like I’m not crazy) is on my must-read list. Many consider this later work by Jacobs to be her crowning achievement as an author and shaper of society. More info →
Imagine The Elements of Style, but meatier, and for nonfiction. I’ve read chunks of this book but never the whole thing, which is why it’s been languishing on my books I’ve been meaning to read list for too long. (With all these writing books on my list, I need to plan for extra time to write!) More info →
I don’t know enough about math to even describe this book: ask me in three months? Goodreads reviewers swear it’s readable, and the author has been a frequent guest on Radiolab, which gives me hope. While it sounds interesting, this isn’t the kind of book I’d usually take to the beach. I’m making a place for it this summer. More info →
Bronwyn first talked me into reading this one, but it got bumped up my list after I heard the author speak at FFW. The title sounds fancy and staid, but Prior had us in hysterics with her excerpt that linked Thomas Hardy with her teenage attempts to lose her virginity. A possible beach read. More info →
Which of these look good to you? Will you make your own summer syllabus? What will be on it?