Summer Reads And The Soundtrack For Them

stock image of headphones, a book and coffee
Jonathan Grado / Flickr via Creative Commons
stock image of headphones, a book and coffee
Jonathan Grado / Flickr via Creative Commons

Summer Reads And The Soundtrack For Them

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the beaches are packed. Whether you’re working or basking, we have some recommendations for books to read and jams to hang to this summer.

The reads

Liberty Hardy, senior contributing editor for Book Riot and host of their All the Books! podcast, reads literally hundreds of books a year. Here’s a smattering of books she recommends:

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead, Emily Austin (July 6)

Hardy: Alright, I’m gonna kick it off with one of the funniest books that I’ve read in a really long time. But it’s also one of the most heart-squeezingly sad books I’ve also read. First of all, that title, right? I am a sucker for books that have titles that sound like Modest Mouse songs. So that is why I picked this up. It’s so dry and so funny, and also has my new favorite last line in the book. It’s fantastic.

Lights Out In Lincolnwood book cover
Book cover image courtesy of HarperCollins

Lights Out in Lincolnwood, Geoff Rodkey (July 6)

Hardy: It’s basically 544 pages about the power going out in this area of New Jersey. And at first, I was like, there’s no way this is going to hold up. And it did the whole time! It was so interesting.

For Your Own Good, Samantha Downing (July 20)

Hardy: This is a deliciously unapologetically nasty thriller about a prestigious academy for high school students called Belmont Academy. There are five main characters and they all narrate the book. And Downing does this fabulous job of pulling all the strings together. It’s so much fun. I feel kind of like a weirdo recommending it now, because I’m like, ‘this is so demented!’

When the Reckoning Comes, LaTanya McQueen (August 3)

Hardy: This is a flat out horror novel. It’s an excellent look at this country’s history, as well as cultural appropriation and historical erasure. But it’s also just a damn scary book.

Damnation Spring book cover
Book cover image courtesy of Simon & Schuester

Damnation Spring, Ash Davidson (August 3)

Hardy: This one might be the best novel of the year. I’m just gonna put that out there right now. It’s about the Pacific Northwest in 1977. It’s this incredible story that is being compared to John Steinbeck. And as someone who had a cat named Steinbeck, I usually just brush off those comparisons, but I think it’s actually worthy.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones (Aug 31)

Hardy: This is sort of a meta horror novel. It’s about Jade, and she’s got it pretty tough. Her only solace in life are horror movies. She is a horror movie obsessive. And she gets this weird feeling that something is going to happen in their town. It’s incredible. It’s wild. It’s — that’s the best word for it, wild. It’s all kinds of wild stuff.

The soundtrack

And Kristen Kurtis is the morning host and assistant music director at WXPN, a non-commercial music station in Philadelphia. Here’s what she’ll be playing on repeat this summer:

Sofía Valdés – Ventura

Kurtis: My favorite new artist of 2021 is a 21-year old musician from Panama, named Sophia Valdés. She just released this EP called Ventura. And it is a gorgeous blend of genres from bossanova to Motown to British folk. It’s sunny and breezy with unique lyrics and her sweet voice and it feels effortless, but she’s actually been working on these songs for years. I could go on and on about Sophia. I think she is the real deal, and somebody to watch for sure.

St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home

Kurtis: I have to talk about the new St. Vincent album Daddy’s Home. It’s inspired by her father’s 2019 release from prison and his record collection, specifically the psychedelic soul coming out of New York City in the ’70s. I feel like you can hear The Temptations and Steely Dan in here. And speaking of feeling like you’re just wandering around cities, that’s the vibe I get from this record. Or maybe like you’re on a hot sticky ride on the subway system.

Twin Shadow – “Johnny & Jonnie”

Kurtis: We’re used to more of a synthy sound from this gentleman, whose real name is George Lewis, Jr. But this song feels more like the Caribbean. It’s written about the perspective of two men who are in love, who are running away to New Orleans in search of a better life. And frankly, as we all come out of lockdown here, who doesn’t want to run away and experience something new? So I feel like this song has all of those vibes.

Bachelor – “Doomin’ Sun”

Kurtis: This one spin has Pixies vibes to it for some of the songs. Other ones just have these really wicked and weird, catchy guitar riffs. You want to talk about blasting a song while you’re riding around with your windows down over a hot summer night, record is the one.

Shungudzo – “It’s a good day (to fight the system)”

Kurtis: I wish we could have had it as the soundtrack while marching down streets last summer, but there will always be something to fight for. And I’m glad to have that in our back pocket. Really.