Discover more from FictionMatters Newsletter
The last summer reading recs and starting too many books at once
Ask FictionMatters Vol. 1 - September 5, 2023
I have been thoroughly enjoying receiving, reading, and responding to your calls for recommendations and requests for reading advice. Now that I’ll have more weekly reads to share in my Sunday newsletter, I’m moving these Ask FictionMatters responses to their own segment. You’ll see these peppering your inbox on Tuesdays, alternating with my Reading in Public series and some other literary goodies I have hopes for this fall.
As a reminder, while these Tuesday letters will largely remain free, they are underwritten by the community of paid newsletter subscribers who receive bonus essays, lists, and recommendations as a thank you for their financial support. Now is a great time to try out a paid subscription to get the 2023 Fall Fiction Compendium, the first month of Friday Mood Recs, and access to all previous paywalled content.
And if you ever experience inbox overload, consider moving your subscriptions over to the Substack app. It’s a great way to keep track of all your favorite creators and feels like having a news app curated just for you!
Hot Reads for the Dog Days of Summer
Celia asked for books that “feel like summer…hot, sunny, filled with longing.”
Since this weekend I’ll be diving fully into fall, now feels like the perfect time for some “feels like summer” recommendations for anyone who feels like it’s simply too hot for autumn reading. Whenever I think of hot summer books, I think of Atonement by Ian McEwan—it starts on a hot, hot, hot day and the heat feels like the instigator for all that’s to come. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh also feels like the last days of summer to me in its depiction of the decline of a once great manor house. Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead is dripping in nostalgia and perfectly captures that feeling of longing (this one appeared on the Paperback Summer Shortlist and there are more Feels Like Summer books on the complete PSRG). I am also eager to read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver…although they might have to wait until the next summer season for me.
And a smattering of additional titles that come to mind:
August Blue by Deborah Levy
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
Bookish commitment issues
Natalie expressed feeling overwhelmed by starting too many books at once…
And this is a problem I completely relate to. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of (or, let’s be honest…the beginning of) five different novels, completely mixing up details from each and often not finishing a single one. I have a few ideas for how to help if you find yourself in a similar situation. Hopefully this will be of help to Natalie and some of you!
First, if you are currently in the middle of more than 3 books, maybe now is the time to choose some to set aside. I promise, they will be there waiting for you! But if you are experiencing reading overwhelm, tell those extra books you’ll return for them someday and put them back on your shelves.
Try going all in on one of your current reads to finish it fast. I often have a different physical book, an ebook, and audiobook in my reading rotation because I enjoy the variety. Lately, however, I’ve really enjoyed having my one current read available to me in print (physical or ebook) and audio, and simply devouring it before I start something new. Tip: a great way to do this affordably is to get one or more of the formats from your library, Libby app, or Scribd.
Next time you’re ready to choose your next reads, lean into the desire to start more than one book by sampling a handful of titles before determining what book to start in earnest. Sit down with 3-5 books that sound good to you in the moment and read the few pages of each. Then decide which book you’re going to read first. Either return to your sampled books once you finish that book or start over with a new selection if your mood has shifted.
You may also want to experiment with what it’s like to read one book at a time. Often if I make a deliberate practice of this, I find I read more—both more often and more books overall. Then I’m better able to keep up the one-book-at-a-time habit because I’ve seen proven results! Maybe pick a book on the shorter side and focus all your attention on it. See what that’s like…if you love it, it might be easier to stop yourself from picking up too many books at once.
If you still want to read more than one book at a time (totally understandable!), determine what your limit is and stay firm. For me, three books is the most I can be in the midst of before that overwhelmed, anxious feeling sets in. If you’re already reading at your outer limit and you just can’t help but start something new, one of those current reads needs to go back on your TBR pile until another slot opens.
Readers, if you’d like reading advice for a particular reading conundrum or are in need of some book recommendations, please fill out this form or write to me at email@example.com with the subject “Ask FictionMatters.” I can’t wait to hear from you!
FictionMatters Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. If you’d prefer to support my work with a one-time “tip,” consider visiting my Buy Me a Coffee page.
For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!
This email contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links above, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
If you enjoyed today’s newsletter, please forward it to a book-loving friend. That’s a great way to spread bookish cheer and support the newsletter!