Summer Reading List | Elsie Road Magazine

Summer Reading List

There are a few ways you can learn to write better. You can study the craft and learn the techniques and tools that will help you to improve. You can write more. Or you can read more. Since we already cover that first method and encourage the second, I wanted to share a list that would help you for the third. Here’s my summer reading list. These are the books I want to read, have started reading, or have heard good things about. I also want to read more short(er) form nonfiction in some of my favourite magazines: Geist, Darling, The Walrus, The New Yorker, The Atlantic. What are you reading this summer?

Summer Reading List | Elsie Road Magazine


The Girls, Emma Cline

This novel follows a girl who gets drawn into a cult and explores the realization of self and establishing of identity as girls become women. This recent release has received rave reviews and has me excited to get back into some fiction reading.

Modern Lovers, Emma Straub

A story of the difference between growing up and becoming an adult—all while raising your own children. This is looking like a good beach read that still has something to say.

With Malice, Eileen Cook

Crime, amnesia, and foreign countries. It sounds more like a tv show I’d watch, but I’m up for it in novel form too.

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout

Hospitals and mother-daughter relationships; I feel a connection to this story already.



Spunk & Bite, Arthur Plotnik

I picked this one up from the library based mostly—I’ll admit it—on the cover and title (a play on the authors’ names of the classic The Elements of Style). I’m also all about the idea of learning the rules in order to break them, so I’m excited to read what Plotnik has to say about adding life to your writing.

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

I read so many good things about this book that I used my treasured Indigo gift card to purchase it. I’ve also loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s thoughts on creativity that I’ve read on social and heard in podcasts. She has such a fresh perspective on creativity and the place of fear, self-doubt and sharing your creativity with the world. Perfect for anyone who considers their creativity a vital part of who they are.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King

Almost a rite of passage for writers, I’ve had this book recommended to me several times in the last few months. I haven’t read much Stephen King, but I’m guessing he’s learned a few things about writing in his lifetime.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Lee Gutkind

Ah Lee Gutkind. He’s a legendary figure in the creative nonfiction world and I’m determined to hunt down a copy of his latest book on writing in this genre.

The Empathy Exams: Essays, Leslie Jamison

I recently had this essay collection recommended to me and since I had “read more essay collections” on my to do list, it was a perfect fit. I’m interested to see how she examines the idea of pain and empathy. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about myself—induced by the many times nurses asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 – 10. Do you mean on a scale of what I think is possible? Like how many things could I imagine that might hurt worse? Say having my leg cut off, being shot in the side, and tossed in a dirty ditch? Or just on a scale of how much pain medication you distribute in reference to the number I say?

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion

Another essay collection; it’s hailed as an example of stylistic excellence. Set in 1960s California, Didion explores the culture of modern America. 

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalinithi

I first read about this book on A Cup of Jo blog as Kalinithi was her brother in law. (If you don’t read Cup of Jo, you totally should. She and her team cover a range of topics intelligently and with refreshing openness and kindness.) Kalinithi was finishing his training as a neurosurgeon when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His memoir explores what it’s like when life veers dramatically off the expected path. I’m definitely going to need a box of tissues for this one.

Epilogue: A Memoir, Anne Roiphe

Roiphe is widowed near the age of 70 after a 40 year marriage. Her daughters place a personal ad in a literary journal and her memoir explores her experiences after a lifetime of love. It makes me think of my parents (who celebrate their 45th anniversary this year) and how even though they are clearly two separate people, in many ways they seem two parts of a whole.  


    1. I also made a list of books I want to read this summer, though mine’s all fiction. When I think about it, it’s been ages since I read any non-fiction for pure pleasure. I should really change that. I want to read Jane Eyre for the first time – this is the only “big” title on my list, otherwise I’ve let myself list a bunch of summery reads.
      Good luck with your reading!

      1. Summer’s the perfect time for some great fiction. Let me know how your reading goes (and if you manage to finish Jane Eyre!).

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