This summer, I spent a lot of time on public transportation—namely, the New York City subway. And you know what the subway doesn’t have? Cell service. So, for 30 whole minutes every morning and evening, I was forced to forget about my Instagram and instead, turn to a different source of entertainment. At first, I tried to do crossword puzzles to pass the time, but then I realized that they were too hard for me. So instead, I started reading. To my surprise, it ended up being something that I genuinely looked forward to everyday. I went through a lot of books this summer, and here are some of my favorites, for the next time you find yourself itching to read something that isn’t for your English class—or worse, when you’re stuck on the subway with no escape due to a service change.
1. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This book was recommended to me by a fellow summer intern at my job, and I couldn’t be happier about that, because there’s no way I would’ve found this on my own. “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is a novel that follows a recent Columbia grad who, on the surface, has everything that she could ever want: an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (paid for by her inheritance, of course), a boyfriend, and a job at a trendy art gallery. However, deep down, there’s something missing, and, armed with a variety of anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills, she self-medicates by giving herself a year of sleep, swearing to never leave her apartment. This book is simultaneously funny and introspective, and it’s easy to find a small piece of yourself within the main character. Moshfegh really makes you think about the costs of privilege as it relates to mental health, which makes reading this challenging yet rewarding.
2. Rush: A Novel by Lisa Patton
As a transfer from Wake Forest University, I have a love-hate relationship with the Southern sorority lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it, though, and this novel really brought me back to my freshman year. “Rush” chronicles a sorority at The University of Mississippi and all the drama that comes along with it, including crazy moms, recruitment, and, most interestingly, race relations. This novel takes you behind the scenes of Greek Life, and it is both beautiful and haunting.
3. Class Mom by Laurie Gelman
“Class Mom” doesn’t seem particularly profound at first glance, but it’s a lot more complex than it initially appears. The main character, Jen Dixon, thought she was done with parenting, after having two-college aged daughters from different rock musicians. But then came along her husband and, consequently, her five-year-old son, Max. When Jen enrolls Max into kindergarten, she gets selected to be the class mom, which she reluctantly accepts, since the head of the PTA is her best friend. With some questionable ethics and entertaining emails, Jen navigates being class mom with a lot of bumps along the way, including the rekindling of an old flame and dealing with the impacts of social and economic hierarchy inside and outside of the classroom. Throughout the novel, Jen is forced to think a lot about her marriage and relationships, which makes the plot all the more interesting and engaging. However, what really makes this book so endearing and enjoyable is Jen’s character—she is painstakingly relatable, and insanely hilarious. This book is a breath of fresh air, and Gelman is a new voice in fiction that I can’t wait to see more work from.
4. The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton
This summer, I worked for a public relations firm that represented a lot of companies, including some that fell into the sexual wellness and health categories. Usually, a book like this would have never been something that I would have explored, but after having it recommended to me by a well-known “sexpert,” I decided to give it a try—and it was life changing. It’s labeled as the “essential guide for singles and couples who want to explore polyamory in ways that are ethically and emotionally sustainable,” and that’s exactly what it is. Although I don’t plan to practice polyamory, it was incredibly fascinating and eye-opening to learn more about it and why some people opt for that in a relationship. If you’re even a little bit curious about this topic, I recommend exploring “The Ethical Slut.” If nothing else, it’s a great read about practicing safe sex and honest communication with your partner, romantically or not.
Jane Herz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.