Summer reads for the bookish creative


I love reading, always, but I especially love it in the summer. When I was a kid, summer vacation meant being at my family's summer house in the Swedish archipelago, with no TV and no internet. I vividly remember losing myself in a really good horse book series, especially in an intense scene where the protagonist was lost with her horse in a snow storm. When I looked up from my book, I was confused that it was actually summer. 

Okay, maybe you don't want to forget that it's summer, but the extra free time that we tend to have in summer is perfect for stepping into the world of fiction. 

So I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some reading tips with you. It's a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and at the end my own reading list for the summer. Happy reading!

If you want this summer to be a creative one

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic is probably the most popular book about creativity, and not without good reason. It's filled with stories about creatives, bursting with inspiration and contemplation. You have to be able to accept some woo-woo but regardless of whether you take the magical aspect literal or not, it offers many valuable mindsets for the creative vocation. 

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna
Another wonderfully inspiring book about following your creative heart and making space for creating. Beautiful and colorful, this book is perfect you want to spark your inspiration and creativity this summer.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
If you do want to create this summer, but are prone to procrastination, pick up this thin but powerful book. It's my go to book for pumping up my devotion and getting ready to do scary things. It made a big impact on me and it's especially good for writers, since Pressfield is a writer himself.

If you want to lose yourself in something exciting

The Festival of Trial and Ember by Logan Miehl
Fiction, YA, Fantasy
Granted, this book is my current read and just half way through it, but I'm highly enjoying it so far. Logan Miehl is one of the lovely people I've met online, and she's also a Teacup Owl. Her first novel is a story about feisty orphan Róisín and her geeky little brother, who are pulled into a different world, the dangerous and alluring world of Celtic faeries. 

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Fiction, Crime
I don't really read crime, but when it's J.K. Rowling who writes them, I do. Under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, she's writing a series about grumpy Cormoran Strike, a war veteran and private detective, and his clever highly relatable assistant Robin Ellacott. Some don't like Rowling's adult books, and sure, it's not Harry Potter, but I enjoy her plot weaving, distinct characters and witty writing as much as ever.

A fantasy/sci-fi series of your choice
Okay, I know, not very helpful. But as someone who don't read that much fantasy, I've only read the most popular ones - A Song of Ice and Fire, Hunger Games, Divergent, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter - and don't have any less known series to suggest. But diving into a series can be a brilliant summer pursuit. Or why not revisit an old one?

If you want a thick and wonderful read

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Yes, Elizabeth Gilbert gets two books on this list, and neither of them are Eat Pray Love. The Signature of All Things is her most recent novel, and it's a story set in 1800 about the history of botany, creativity and devotion, love and heartbreak, and women who go against the norm of society. I love this book fiercely and with its focus on nature, it's a perfect summer read.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Fiction, Classic
If you haven't yet read Jane Eyre and are up for a classic this summer, you should highly consider reading it. Slightly darker than Pride and Prejudice, it's a complex and somewhat mysterious love story about Jane, once a fierce child who grew up in a harsh and unloving environment. I rooted for her from the very beginning.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I can only add to the chorus singing this book's praises. It's a sprawling story about young Theo, who survives a terror attack on a museum, but loses his mother and ends up taking a very valuable painting with him. His life takes a dark turn and we follow him as he grows into a young man. It's a book so rich and filled with complex characters, one that sucked me in completely when I read it a couple of summers ago.

Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Like most of Murakami's books, it's slightly surreal, odd and mysterious. It's a story about runaway Kafka who's looking for his mother, about a man who can talk to cats and fish falling from the sky. I found it to be a quirky, highly enjoyable read.

If you want to work on a novel this summer

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
Lisa Cron is a story coach who has worked both with authors and as a consultant for Warner Brothers, and she's my favorite writer about writing. Wired for Story consists of her view on what makes a good novel, weaved together with how and why we humans are so attracted by stories. 

Story Genius by Lisa Cron
While Wired for Story consists of the theory, Story Genius is the practical handbook to using Cron's theory. It guides you in setting up your novel, especially helping you tie together the internal journey of the main character with the plot. It's very clear that she knows how writers work, and she's an excellent writer herself. I always keep this book close at hand when I'm writing.

On Writing by Stephen King
Non-fiction, Memoir
For something a tad easier than story techniques, On Writing is a wonderful read about Stephen King's life and his view on writing. While I don't agree with all his writing advice, I highly enjoyed this book. It's inspiring and King is such a good storyteller, I both laughed and cried reading it. 

If you want to contemplate life

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild is the true story about how Cheryl Strayed decided to high the Pacific Crest Trail, and you've probably heard about it or its movie even if you haven't read it. It's about loss and getting up when you're in the very darkest place, about leaving your old life behind and building a new one. Oh and it will make you want to go hiking. 

Essentialism by Greg McKeown
If you're prone to try to squeeze in too much in your life, ending up stressed and overwhelmed, you have to read this book. I read it last summer and it helped me make some tough and very well needed decisions about my life and what is most important to me. I highly recommend reading it during summer when you're a little out of your regular life and are able to take a step back. It's a book I will return to again and again.  

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
Okay, so I haven't actually read this book yet, but I'm planning to read it later this summer. I've heard so much good about it, and there's something about memoirs that I think are so very fitting for a summer read. Especially when it's about simplifying your life and taking a good look at how you're living it. 

If you want something light and life-affirming

A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Sometimes I want to read something I know will make me feel good, and Lucy Dillon is my go to author. Her books are all set in the fictional British town Longhampton and they all feature dogs, but they have depth and dark topics in them too. Not all will go well in Dillon's world, but life is still hopeful, growth and change is always present, and you know it will be okay somehow. A Hundred Pieces of Me is my favorite of her books.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Fiction, YA
If you ever felt like a fangirl, whether you wrote fanfiction or just enjoyed the fandom, this a book for you. It's light, lovely and quirky, about socially awkward and anxious Cath who has to try to navigate moving out and going to university on her own when her more outgoing twin sister decides she doesn't want to share a dorm. A sweet and highly enjoyable read.

My own reading list for the summer

The Festival of Trial and Ember by Logan Miehl (currently reading)
Fiction, Fantasy, YA
As I mentioned above, I'm really enjoying this book. 

The Anatomy of Story by John Truby (currently reading)
I'm about a third through this book about writing, written by Hollywood story consultant John Truby. It has some very good points and has so far especially helped me in positioning all my side characters. But his examples are mostly from old movies and he seems to take the examples that fit his theory, rather than using his theory to explain why great stories are great. So it's a good book, but I'm not head over heels in love with it.

The Fire in Fiction & Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass
Donald Maass is a literary agent who has written a bunch of popular books about writing. Since I'm going to work a lot on my novel this summer, I have two of his books lined up for this summer. The Fire in Fiction is a broad book on writing techniques, and Writing 21st Century Fiction is specifically focused on modern popular literature and what makes it great - partly going beyond the divide between literary fiction and genre fiction, which sounds excellent to me who loves that middle sweet spot.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
Mentioned above, and I'm much looking forward to reading this one. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I've wanted to read this book ever since I heard about it. It's a story about family, especially mothers and daughters, secrets, a small town, complex characters and the conflicts between them. 

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth
Fiction, YA, Sci-fi
I read the first book in this duology last summer and found it to be a fun, fast-paced and engaging read. Not like Roth's earlier Divergent, but I enjoyed it. It's about fate, deep-rooted conflict between different groups of people and the people caught in it. 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Since I loved The Goldfinch so much, I've wanted to read Tartt's first novel The Secret History. It's about a group of collage students, clever misfits, who push the boundaries of morality and then go way beyond them. I have a feeling I'm going to love it.