Six books to make you think, feel less alone, and learn something new

Three books I loved this summer, and three more I’m excited for

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

It’s officially autumn. Summer came and went with fits and starts thanks to the Delta variant, and though it wasn’t like any summer I can recall in recent memory, I did get a lot of reading done. When I think of summer reading, I picture myself at the beach, by the pool, lazing away in a cabin or at a park, with a stack of stories that transport me to other places. I didn’t make it to the beach or a cabin this year, alas, but I still fell in love with some great books. Now with fall upon us, I’m ready to cozy up to a new pile. Fall brings with it fresh starts and new beginnings, sweater weather and cozy cafés. Delta being what it is these days, my time in cafés has been severely limited. But I’m ready to pull out my sweaters and a new stack of books, even if I’ll just be reading them from home.

Here are a few books I enjoyed this summer, and a few more I’m looking forward to this fall.

  1. Range, by David Epstein. Generalists of the world, unite! I’ve always struggled with the expectation and belief (in the U.S., at least) that to focus on a single field, idea, or expertise — in other words, to specialize — is better than having a broad understanding of several disciplines. As someone who gets bored easily, I’ve never been excited about narrowing in on a single discipline, which partly explains why I dropped out of my PhD program a decade ago, why I’ve changed careers multiple times, and why much of my work today is genre-bending across writing, illustration, and user research. So imagine my delight to read a book that says, Hey! Your technique is pretty OK! In fact, it’s more than OK. Richly researched and expertly told, this is a book that shows the power of broad interests, analogic thinking, and becoming an expert in more than one thing. (Whew!)
  2. Seek You, by Kristen Radtke. Speaking of genre-bending, I loved this memoir + meditation + graphic nonfiction book about loneliness. It’s an intimate, illustrated look at the history of loneliness in America, alongside Radtke’s personal story. Interweaving the two gives us a micro-macro look at what community and loneliness look and feel like today.
  3. How to Deal, by Grace Miceli, aka @artbabygirl on Instagram. Another illustrated book, this is the perfect addition to your coffee table — it’s charming, highly browsable, and filled with small pick-me-ups and moments of insight for when you’re feeling down. It’s like having an illustrated therapy session in your pocket — who doesn’t need that these days?

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  1. No One is Talking About This, by poet, memoirist, writer, and Twitter connoisseur Patricia Lockwood. This book has been on my radar for some time. The story follows a woman who has built a prominent following on social media, and must now navigate “the portal” and the real world at once. I’m always interested in how the internet is portrayed in film and literature; Lockwood’s book has been described as weird, moving, ironic, sincere, part love letter, part meditation, part existential crisis — an intriguing combination. It came out just a few weeks after Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts, another critically acclaimed novel that makes the internet and social media a central character. I found Oyler’s novel to be maddeningly accurate in its portrayal of social media, to a frustrating degree (although I take it that’s the point). Lockwood’s book has been praised for its portrayal of digital consciousness, and of grief and love, too. The book was recently nominated for the Booker prize. Now seems as good a time as any to see what the fanfare is all about.
  2. Feel it Out, by Jordan Sondler. This book has been described as a “coming-of-age book for adults,” which I love — we’re all works in progress, no matter how old we are. I also love a full color book that can be gifted — for a friend or for yourself. Check out Jordan’s Instagram for a taste of what to expect.
  3. Laziness Does Not Exist, from social psychologist Devon Price. Price unpacks the laziness lie — why we feel lazy despite working all the time, and where that feeling came from. If you’ve ever felt guilty for taking a break from work, or struggled to step back from the relentless cycle of productivity, this one may be worth a read.

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Author, Listen Like You Mean It. UX researcher, TWTR, PINS, etc. I write about the intersection of technology + society + personal growth.