My Official Summer Reading & Listening List

Hello, I'm writing this list from my small apartment in the middle of Japan where I'll be spending the better part of the summer before moving back home to California in August. I'd love to know what part of the world you're reading this from! Perhaps you're in the southern hemisphere trying to stay warm and wishing it were summer. I too love the idea of summer, though now that it's actually here I think I'd like a few more weeks of spring. Nonetheless, I know this summer is going to be a good one.

It's been two years since I made the move to Japan. In my wake, I left behind the love of my life and our adorable not quite two-year-old kitty. This summer marks the end of all that distance and separation. I'm coming home and I'm so excited to finally be reunited with my little family. I feel like I'm walking around in rose-colored glasses, not a lot gets me down these days. I'm all smiles.

Not that I've had a case of the blues mind you. I took that 5,000-mile wide gap between me and home and filled it with books and music. For my official summer reading and listening list, I chose the very best, the ones that kept my spirits high during these past two years. This summer, regardless of where you are or what you have planned, try immersing yourself in a good book and listening to some new tunes. It's a simple way to get in on the summer fun.


  • Sex is one of those things that is either good or not so good. Emily Nagoski definitely wants you to experience the good, which is why she wrote a whole book on how to do it better. First up is to do away with all that ridiculous body-shaming, you can't have good sex if you're afraid of showing up for it. Second, your body is the greatest instrument you'll ever have. Get to know it. Get comfortable with it. When you're familiar with the sound of your own tune you'll be able to recognize when you're in harmony with someone else. That's where the magic happens.
  • One lesson I learned from this book is we have a lot to learn about procreation. I'm not big on erotica, but this is one book I couldn't put down. Who knew male sea horses give live birth or that sharks are doubly endowed? This is a true beach read. Though it's likely to compel you to spend less time lounging under the sun and more time exploring the tide pools looking for crabs sharing domestic partnerships and other sultry crustaceans. 
  • Apart from being a this is why you should get off ass and go workout book, it's the memoir of a woman who did just that. Only she happens to be a neuroscientist and her experience inspired her to begin researching the effects of exercise on the brain. Part steamy romance, part mid-life crisis, part self-discovery, Healthy Brain, Happy Life is the motivation you've been waiting for to finally go show up for that class at the gym and more importantly for your life.
  • Decluttering may just be another form of minimalism sneaking its way into your life, but it's a trend I'm happy to see people embracing. Clutter not only makes the house a mess but like a thick fog, it thwarts mental clarity. It's why spring cleaning feels like a breath of fresh air and why getting rid of crap feels like a sigh of relief. The Marie Kondo approach to getting rid of the clutter is to only hold on to things that bring you joy. Everything else just takes up space. This summer, give her method a try and see if the experience helps you find some peace of mind. 
  • Sandra Foster is a scientist at HiTek studying fads. She notices them everywhere she goes, but her research interest is trying to figure out how new trends begin. When she meets a chaos theorist who defies trends, she thinks she may be on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough. In the meantime, she finds herself having to check out her favorite books at the library, even though she already has them at home, to keep them from being purged in the annual book sale. This fun little satire is a hilarious look at people's insatiable desire to be in vogue.


Brain Pickings

  • Maria Popova is my superhero and the woman behind Brain Pickings. While Batman is out fighting crime, Maria Popova is trying to answer the great existential question of, "how to live, and how to live well." Her superpower is her ability to synthesize the most substantial works from the world's foremost thinkers and creators in a way that is both accessible and nourishing. Brain Pickings is a treasure trove of thought-provoking and timeless writing. Her commencement address "On the Soul-Sustaining Necessity of Resisting Self-Comparison and Fighting Cynicism" is a must read. 

Alexandra Franzen

  • I can't help but feel as if Alexandra Franzen is writing exclusively to me when I read her fabulous newsletter each week. Not because she writes for such a limited audience, but because each story she tells feels so special. She writes, "I love writing because it’s one of the simplest ways to create a positive ripple in the world — and you don’t need any fancy tools to do it. Just an idea, a pen and a piece of paper, or a device with a keyboard, and the willingness to share what’s in your heart and mind. " She is a professional writer and her newsletter is her way of inspiring others to write more too.

The Pool

  • Editorial content created by women for women. These articles are not meant to be timeless, rather they address current issues in politics and popular culture. It's refreshing to hear women's voices in the media and I must say I do enjoy getting my news from a source that isn't afraid to call out Calvin Klein for their blatantly sexist adverts. I particularly liked the article about Kate Middleton's dress and what it says about the fashion industry and naturally I'm drawn to the book recommendations.


My Summer Playlist

  • I'm not always listening to electronica, but when I do I prefer the kind that makes me want to dance on the cool kitchen floor with my prince charming on a hot summer night. That is my kind of summertime jam and I created a playlist specifically for the purpose of shaking my hips. Feel free to listen however you'd like.

Shook Twins Live

  • If folk music is more your thing, the majority of the time it's more my thing too, check out this live set from a show the Shook Twins did in Oregon a few years back. If you like what you hear, also check out the Kossoy sisters. They are another twin folk duo and if you've seen the film O Brother, Where Art Thou you've already heard their sweet harmonizing vocals in the song "I'll Fly Away". This kind of music makes me fantasize about having a front porch so I could spend the cool summer evenings sitting outside. In reality, I know I'd be attacked by mosquitos, but I like the music all the same. 

Summer doesn't have to be filled with big plans or reunions to make it special. If living alone in Japan for two years taught me anything, it's what you make of the situation that counts. This summer, I'm planning to drink lots of my favorite iced coffee while reading lots of books in addition to whatever else I have going on because I find it's often the little things like a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon that turns an ordinary day into something special.

Stay cool my friends and send your suggestions my way!

photo via Unsal