The start of summer reading

Plus some must-read nonfiction and how to rate a book

Hey, readers!

This is the first summer since I was five-years-old that I won’t be on a school-year calendar. Typically, I start feeling the anticipation of summer reading season when the school hallways fill with that end-of-year buzz. I feel like my inner seasonal clock is completely thrown off this year, but I’m just now starting to get in the summer reading spirit. A few outdoor reading sessions, a flurry of summer reading guides, and the little piles of must-read books forming around my home are sure indicators that summer reading season is near.

I’m excited to share that this year I’m going to be curating a summer reading guide of my own! I always love discovering what books other readers are excited for each summer—I love the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide (coming soon!) and Sarah’s Bookshelves’ Summer Reading List—and I decided this was the year to give it a go. But while I trust other bloggers to read and vet a ton of new releases for their guides, I just don’t read that far ahead in the publishing cycle. Plus, to be perfectly honest, my ideal summer read is always a paperback. I just love the way they fit in my hand and in my beach bag. So my 2021 guide will be comprised entirely of books you can get in paperback. I am super excited about this because it will allow me to share some old favorites and underrated gems I haven’t gotten to share much about. I’m really excited to keep putting this together over the next couple weeks and am looking forward to sharing more about it with you! As newsletter subscribers, you’ll be the first to know when the guide goes live, plus you’ll get some sneak peeks next week! I hope you’re as excited as I am about summer paperback reading!

This week in books.

This week I read…

  • Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe. I think this is a must-read. In this book, Keefe examines the role the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma played in the creation and preservation of the opioid epidemic in America. In doing so, he’s also looking at systems of power—wealthy families, government agencies, legal experts—preserve their own wealth and influence at the expense of others. It is fascinating and reads like the best true crime books. But it’s also incredibly important, and I learned so much. All I can say is, pick this up!! Also, I listened to it on audio and it was fantastic in that format. Amazon | Bookshop

  • There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura. This book has a quirky premise and incredible depth—a rare combination that is utterly irresistible to me. It’s about a young woman looking for an easy job—something close to her house that she doesn’t have to get emotionally invested in or require her take work home with her. As she tries out different jobs, she discovers that an “easy” job might not be possible, or even what she’s looking for. I got so swept up in the protagonist’s journey and loved the invitation to reflect on work culture in my own life. Amazon | Bookshop

Now I’m reading…

  • Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. I adored Fuller’s book Swimming Lessons and have been eagerly anticipating this new one. So far, it is utterly beautiful and devastating and brilliant. Amazon | Bookshop

  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong. I’ve read parts of this collection, but never read the full thing through. I’m remedying that this month and discussing it on Discord with the FictionMatters Patreon crew. Amazon | Bookshop

Links I love.

2021 book releases to get excited about from Asian and Asian American writers.

I look forward to Sarah’s summer reading guide every year. And of course the corresponding podcast episode is fantastic too!

These are great tips for starting a book club.

I’m really looking forward to watching the Underground Railroad miniseries, even though I know it’s going to be a difficult watch.

This visualization of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is so cool!

I loved learning more about Stacey Abrams’ inspiration for When Justice Sleeps—which I loved!

This article about alternative book rating systems made me giggle.

Shondaland’s 2021 summer reading list.

I knew I wanted to avoid a Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez retrospective deep dive, but this brief recap was a good reminder of just how high drama of a media sensation Bennifer once was.

End notes.

Watching:  The Crime of the Century. After finishing Empire of Pain, I couldn’t get enough of this story.

Listening: I really appreciated this conversation about cancel culture on the Ezra Klein Show.

Making: Space in my closets. I’ve seized upon the sudden urge to organize and declutter to get rid of the things I just don’t need anymore.

Loving: My rainbow sandals from Soludos. These were a splurge, and they were the best purchase I made last summer. I’m so excited to see them on my feet again!


Readers, I hope you too are feeling summer reading season in the air! For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing fictionmattersbooks@gmail.com or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!

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Happy reading!

Sara