Alma’s Favorite Books for Summer 2018

In 2018, I’ve made an effort to be conscious about the books I’m choosing to read. So, all female authors? Yes please.

Female protagonists? Yes please.

In no particular order, here are 18 books to read this summer. There’s something for everyone…

1. Circe by Madeline Miller (April 2018)

For centuries, Circe was a villainous witch in the story of Odysseus who turned men into pigs. Suddenly, she’s given her own narrative, her own voice, and it’s spellbinding. Miller is magic in bringing this ancient Greek character to life.

Read if you’re into: mythology, feminist narratives, or if you want to sink your teeth into a long and engaging story.

2. Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht (June 2018)

It’s 1962. Vera Kelly, recruited by the CIA, is quickly sent to Buenos Aires to infiltrate a group of student activists suspected of being KGB agents. Soon, the army takes control of the government in a coup (see: Argentine Revolution, the military dictatorship that lasted from 1966 to 1973), and Kelly is forced into hiding. The book is also about Kelly growing up, her relationship to her mom, and her self-discovery. (Also, the little Jewish angle: often, Kelly gets called a Jew, but it’s never confirmed if she is or not). As Autostraddle put it, and we couldn’t say it better, Who Is Vera Kelly? is the “lesbian spy novel of your dreams.”

Read if you’re into: spy novels, queer stories, historical fiction, or if you’re in the mood for a really fun page-turner.

3. Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (March 2018)

Kaufman takes a deep dive behind the scenes of the Bachelor franchise, and unpacks why America is so fascinated with watching people find “love” on reality television. You can also read our interview with author Amy Kaufman.

Read if you’re into: (this is obvious, right?) the Bachelor franchise. It’s perfect to dive into as a new summer of Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise begins.

4. Florida by Lauren Groff (June 2018)

Groff is, as Alma contributor T Kira Madden put it, a “writer who will surprise you in the deepest corners of your body. Florida will transport you, break you, move you, and offer new ways to navigate the senses.”

Read if you’re into: short stories, complaining about Florida, and Groff’s last novel Fates & Furies. 

5. The Pisces by Melissa Broder (May 2018)

As Mandy Berman wrote in our 2018 book preview, “Lucy is an academic who’s been writing a dissertation on Sappho for nine years and hits rock bottom after her boyfriend of nine years breaks up with her. But when she moves to Los Angeles for the summer to house-sit for her sister, Lucy comes across an attractive swimmer at the beach — who turns out to be an actual merman. The Pisces promises to be a mix of realism, fantasy, and eroticism, and I for one am excited to read about some straight-up merman sex.”

Read if you’re into: romance, fantasy, eroticism, or the twitter account @sosadtoday.

6. Disobedience by Naomi Alderman (March 2006)

The sole book not from 2018 on this list, Disobedience has been in the headlines this year because of the film adaptation starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, but the book itself is worth your time. Unlike the film, the book dives into both the perspectives of Ronit (who left the insular Orthodox community of Hendon, London) and Esti (who stayed in Hendon). Ronit and Esti were once lovers, and, over the course of the novel, they reunite.

Read if you’re into: reading books before seeing the movie, powerful Jewish lesbian stories, and romance.

7. JELL-O Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom (July 2018)

Alma contributor T Kira Madden explains, “Electric, alarming, and deeply compassionate. Rowbottom offers an American history lesson while showing us how to make sense of our past, and, also, how to forgive it. Her sentences and stories should be celebrated. A brilliant debut.”

Read if you’re into: feminist history, family stories, and the dark sides of American brands.

8. The Third Hotel by Laura Van Der Berg (August 2018)

Clare travels to Havana (ooh na na), Cuba to attend the Festival of New Latin America Cinema, where she sees her dead husband, Richard, outside a museum. The Third Hotel follows Clare as she trails him around the city. It flashes back to her marriage, and her work, and the plot builds with a growing sense of unease. You’ll hit a point where you just can’t put it down.

Read if you’re into: mysteries, ghost stories, horror movies, and Latin America cinema.

9. The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil (April 2018)

Wamariya escaped Rwanda at age 6 with her older sister, fleeing through seven different African countries before being granted refugee status in America at age 12. She didn’t know whether her family was alive or not; she threw herself into school and ended up winning an essay contest about Elie Wiesel’s Night. Oprah invited Wamariya and her sister onto her show (with Elie Wiesel), and surprised her by bringing out her family from Rwanda. Wamariya, with Elizabeth Weil, writes a powerful story of survival in the face of unbearable trauma.

Read if you’re into: understanding refugees, inspiring stories, history, and things that will make you cry.

10. This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein (August 2018)

A powerful debut novel about a woman who is diagnosed with a genetic cancer syndrome shortly after her father’s death from cancer. “How does living change when we realize we’re not invincible? Does knowing our likely fate make it harder or easier to face the future? How do you motivate yourself to go on your OkCupid date when you’re struggling with your own mortality?”

Read if you’re into: memoirs, powerful tales written by Jewish women, and heartbreakingly funny writing.

11. Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris (April 2018)

When Spain expelled their Jewish population in 1492, many Jews instead became conversos, converting to Catholicism and hiding their Judaism. Alongside the story of some of these conversos who made their way to America is the story of their descendants, who do not realize their Jewish history. This novel follows one such descendant of a converso, Miguel, living in New Mexico some 500 years later. When he starts babysitting for a Jewish family, he realizes their traditions are extremely similar.

Read if you’re into: Jewish historical fiction, family sagas, or books that start with a long list of characters and a family tree.

12. Dead Girls: Surviving An American Obsession by Alice Bolin (August 2018)

Bolin’s essay collection focuses on one big idea: how to “make something about women from stories that were always and only about men.” She writes about everything from “The Dead Girl Show” (think: everything from Twin Peaks to Veronica Mars to Pretty Little Liars), to pop stars like Britney Spears and true crime documentaries.

Read if you’re into: pop culture criticism, essay collections, unpacking toxic masculinity, talking about Los Angeles.

14. Lioness by Francine Klagsbrun (October 2017)

Okay, technically this is a 2017 book, but we feel like it got a lot of buzz in 2018, so we’re including it here. Golda Meir was Israel’s fourth prime minister, and presided over a turbulent period in Israeli history. Klagsbrun, in over 800 pages (yes, it’s really long), dives into the life of Meir, “the iron-willed leader, chain-smoking political operative, and tea-and-cake-serving grandmother who became the fourth prime minister of Israel”

Read if you’re into: Israeli history, biographies, or reading some intense non-fiction during the summer.

15. Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

We’re just going to direct you to an excerpt of the book, an essay about egg freezing, titled “The Doctor Is a Woman”: “Most children are okay once you get to know them. They’re like your flakiest, least employable friend who sleeps through brunch, makes terrible art, and name-drops characters you’ve never heard of. They’re also easy to beat at tag. Personally, I like my child friends to be at least seven years old, as there is little difference between what amuses me and what amuses a seven-year-old. But the idea of pushing a whole person through my major organs has always been simultaneously too abstract and too horrible. As someone who has met pregnant women, I can tell you that babies pound your bladder into a pancake and put your stomach level with your heart. This would be funny if women were men because the joke with men is that the way to their hearts is through their stomachs. But women are not men.”

Read if you’re into: insightful observations, personal essays, or relatable humor.

16The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Alexa, chief of staff to the Mayor of Berkeley, gets stuck in the elevator with Drew, a playboy pediatric doctor. Drew asks Alexa to be his last minute date to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. You could guess what happens next… and it’s beyond satisfying. Guillory explained to Bitch Media, “I wanted to read more about people like me and my friends. A lot of romance is historical, but a lot of contemporary romance is full of billionaires or small-town characters. I wanted books about people who live in cities, have jobs that they care about, and are single. I didn’t see lot of that. Obviously, one of the reasons I wrote The Wedding Date is because I wanted to see Black women reflected. I also wanted to see other people I identified with in romance. That’s what I was writing toward.”

Read if you’re into: ROMANCE!!!! Even if you’re not into romance!!! This is the best romance novel I’ve read in a very long time.

17. Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Heti’s autobiographical novel is about a woman in her late 30s deciding if she should become a mother or not. The story takes place over several years as she tries to figure out what to do. Like Heti, the main character is Jewish, daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. She writes about her grandparents surviving the Nazi concentration camps and the pressure Jewish women feel to “repopulate from the losses of the Holocaust.” Judaism unexpectedly snakes through the narrative; a key theme of the book is Jacob wrestling with the angel.

Read if you’re into: reading buzzy books, ruminations on motherhood, or if you’re ambivalent about having kids.

18. Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (June 2018)

Inspired by the Nabokov marriage, Celt has written a psychological thriller set in the 1920s. “In the 1920s, Zoya Andropova, a young refugee from the Soviet Union, finds herself in the alien landscape of an elite all-girls New Jersey boarding school….”

Read if you’re into: thrillers, Nabokov, and sinister love triangles.

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