Ah summertime and the living is easy. True dat. Summertime is also when we (usually) have more free time which means beach, parties, picnics with friends, and the opportunity to cross off titles from our must-read lists. If you’re anything like me, you have a bedside table piled up with books to the ceiling (and a shelf bursting with tomes by everyone from Lena Dunham to Dickens), in which case you’ve got your summer reading sorted. BUT, if you need a little help choosing a book that will not only be a totes interesting read but also enrich your mind, then look no further than our definitive summer reading list. Oh yeah, and did I mention they’re all by kick-ass female authors? It’s time to nerd it out wherever you find yourself this summer.
1. The modern girl’s bible: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
If you haven’t yet read Dunham’s brilliant internal monologue of a modern girl, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Easily digestible, at times hilarious, and at others poignant, it’s a frank exploration of the highs and lows of life in your 20s—something we can all relate to. This has been number one on the SheRa girls’ reading list ever since it was released in 2014. Visit Dunham’s website to order.
2. The quirky read: The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The queen of quirk, Miranda July, has released her fourth book earlier this year and it’s everything we could have expected from her. Weird, wonderful, and witty. Stylist magazine describes it as such: “The First Bad Man is not like other books. It’s weird. In the most brilliant way. That type of weird that fills you with the urge to tell the whole world about it and to find fellow readers to discuss it with relentlessly.” It follows a woman in her 40s who is obsessed with a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. Yep, we told you it was weird. More on July’s website.
3. The classic: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I can’t go past Woolf. She’s was a pro at writing about us women, and exploring the depths of our desires and fears. Full of philosophical introspection, To The Lighthouse is set in the 1910s and highlights the universality of adult relationships. My friend Yianni gave me a collection of her novels for my birthday so this will be my beach read.
4. The sequel we’ve all been waiting for: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Who didn’t have To Kill a Mockingbird on their school reading list? Pretty much all of us have read this Pulitzer-Prize-winning masterpiece, and now the long-lost sequel by author (and Truman Capote’s bestie) Harper Lee is being published. Go Set a Watchman is set during the 1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a… some 20 years later. Scout as an adult woman? Yes, please. It’s out on July 14.
5. The sexy read: Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
Forget the drivel that is 50 Shades of Grey and get into some Anaïs Nin. Although criticized for writing for the male gaze back in the 30s and 40s (and rumor has it men paid her to write erotic fiction, as there was no Playboy or the internet back in those days), I think Nin actually managed to reveal a great deal about female sexuality that was unknown at the time. And she was a pioneer: Before Nin, erotica acknowledged to be written by women was rare. This collection of 15 short stories is the perfect way to get into Nin’s writing. You’ll thank me later.
6. The world women read: The Gaze by Elif Shafak
Turkey’s best novelist (not female best, just best—you can suck it, Pamuk) has written books in both English and Turkish—and some are undoubtedly better than others. But The Gaze, which tells of an obese woman and her dwarf lover who are so sick of being stared at everywhere they go, they decide to reverse roles, is a touching story about our desire to look at others and be seen. Listen to Shafak’s TED talk here.
7. The graphic novel: La Perdida by Jessica Abel
My boyfriend recently gave me this gorgeous graphic novel, which is described as “perfectly capturing the expat experience” by the New York Times book review. I can relate and yes, it does. Abel moved to Mexico City in 1998 with her then boyfriend, now husband, and spent two years there. I can’t help but think that the novel’s protagonist, a Mexican-American woman, Carla, who moves to Mexico City to search for her identity, is party autobiographical. La Perdida roughly translate to ‘The Lost One’.
8. The non-fiction read: Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter
Walter’s 2010 book is a fantastic exploration of the hypersexualized culture we live in and the repercussions this has for women. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote, and as Walter quotes in the book: “The little girl cuddles her doll and dresses her up as she dreams of being cuddled and dressed up herself; inversely, she thinks of herself as a marvellous doll.” At times frightening, at others sad, at others illuminating, this is an important book. Moreover, fellow beachgoers will hesitate making any sexist comments about your bikini body after seeing the cover.
9. The feminist tome: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
A thoroughly contemporary look into feminism, citing pop culture and academia, Gay’s essays cover everything from Scrabble to violence to race to fairy tales to film franchises (The Hunger Games) to our fave teen reads (Sweet Valley Confidential). Best book of last year for shiz.
10. The #FashionFeminista read: Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Not sure if you want to bring this one to the beach as it’s so beautiful getting sand into it would be a shame, but it’s prefect for lazy mornings. Follow Grace Coddington’s stellar fashion career—from the modeling world of 60s London to the offices of Vogue. Gorgeous photos throughout to boot.