What I Learned from My Summer Reading


Summer is awesome in so many ways, but few things in life are better than kicking back, feeling the warm sun and cool breeze on your skin, refreshing water nearby, and a captivating book in your hands. So dreamy. This summer, I was lucky enough to indulge in quite a few enthralling reads that swept me away even when there wasn’t water nearby (or a cool breeze!). And yet still, my favorite books are the ones that stick with you long after you’ve put them back on the shelf. Here are some lessons that have stuck with me from literary escapades this summer.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum: This book, while very sad, told a tale of immigration and assimilation through a lens that consistently pushed me to try to understand a scenario I hope I will never face: having to leave your homeland, with the promise of a better life, never to return, and only to find that you haven’t actually escaped. Having just spent a year abroad in Mexico, the pronounced language barriers in this book were familiar and offered a good reminder of the power of tolerance. Yet the stark contrast of my self-selected adventure to the permanence of the immigrant experience left me hoping I could keep perspective on how fleeting my difficult moments are in the grand scheme of things. Seeing this book on my shelf is a good reminder.


Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle: Glennon Doyle has fully arrived as a self-help celebrity; her meteoric rise began with her blog Momastery. For different reasons, it took me a long time to decide to read this book — the second of her bestselling books and sort of sequel to Carry On Warrior — but once I decided I was ready, I couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t surprised by the content, however, the sheer bravery of her narrative was truly remarkable. Big Takeaway: Everybody out there is going through something. It might be a big something; it might be a small something, but that something (of whatever size) is what makes us human, lovable, and courageous.

Educated by Tara Westover: Unlike other books I read this summer, this page-turning memoir didn’t encourage me question my perspective or challenge my assumptions, this one reminded me to trust my convictions. Tara Westover takes the reader into a world that is almost as remote as Hogwarts, except that it’s not fantasy — it’s her real life, growing up in a super religious sect of the Mormon church with parents who believe that modern education is corrosive. Through a series of jaw-dropping events and unbelievable human perseverance, Westover manages to arrive at college without a day of traditional schooling under her belt. Westover’s ability to capture how utterly unprepared she was for this experience in a way that her inevitably overeducated readership can digest is mind-blowing. At times during this book, I questioned whether I was being too close-minded in my definition of education; my takeaway is that my definition of an education is plenty broad the way that it is.


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: Loved it, loved it, loved it. This exquisitely written novel tells the tale of a woman who grew up in a marsh with what most people would render as nothing — a shack, no furniture, limited food, and no family. But her surroundings brought her peace, joy, and ultimately an unexpected means for livelihood. I won’t spill the beans but the big takeaway here is challenge your assumptions. Push yourself to question the difference between the story you want to be true, and the one that actually is.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan: This one has been on my shelf a while, and my takeaway from this one is that just because everyone else loves it doesn’t mean you will! This was not a favorite for me. Egan writes beautifully but the story didn’t grip me…at all.

What did you love reading this summer? Let me know in the comments!

Lauren LaitinComment