We just discovered Becky Karush’s very fun READ TO ME podcast earlier this summer and we really love the concept: each episode features Becky reading from a different book and then talking about what she loves in the book. She also discusses the Gateless Writing method (which she practices and teaches), and takes listener feedback. Becky is a warm and engaging host, and obviously a lover of books. We were so happy when she agreed to share a summer reading list with us. Thank you, Becky!
p.s. Becky has also asked us to suggest a book for her podcast, so we hope we can soon share a link to the episode where she discusses our choice.
On READ TO ME, the podcast to listen to what we love, I read short excerpts from all kinds of writing and talk about what I love. It’s a kind of fun and pleasure with the page that predates jobs and school. These four books (plus one) have been or will be featured episodes. They are each a delight.
Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin
The narrator is a schoolteacher in Harlem. His brother, Sonny, is a jazz pianist just out of jail. This long short-story from 1957 tracks their childhood, the grueling forces grinding down their neighborhood, and the limits of family love. The sentences are pristine, and the last scene breaks open my tired, distracted heart, as it cracked and taught me when I first read it as a teenager.
Figuring, by Maria Popova
I love a writer who shoots for the moon. Maria Popova goes for the biggest questions—what is success, what is love, what is a meaningful life—and she answers them with a set of entwined, literary biographies of extremely cool people. I never thought I’d have a passion to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or learn about astronomer Maria Mitchell. Now I do. The opening chapter is dizzying and gutsy.
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
There is a scene in the middle of Tayari Jones’ novel where the entire architecture of the story shifts around you. It’s like being in the middle of a sentient house rebuilding itself! My whole body hummed in that scene, and that was after an earlier scene made me put down the book and cry in the bath with sadness and relief. (I did not put the book in the bath.) The craft is a masterclass, and the story is vast.
The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me, by Suzanne Kingsbury
I use a writing method called Gateless Writing, founded by Suzanne Kingsbury. She published this book, her debut, in 2004. It’s set in a little, rough Mississippi town that’s so hot, the sentences melt across the page. Her control of rhythm seduces me. The way she shows characters in their bodies amazes me. The way she preserves love in the worst of human ugliness saves me. It’s a steamy, unafraid book.
Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
My son, who is 7, sometimes asks what I’m reading. When he heard about this one, he wanted to know every bit of the plot. I understand why: the idea of a tall, awkward woman sitting in the dead of night outside the farmhouse she doesn’t love with a revolver to protect her family from mobsters is fascinating. Stewart did a ton of research to get the details of early 20th century New York and New Jersey right. But the research doesn’t overwhelm. It serves Constance Kopp and her sisters, and their grumpy, funny triumph.