Summer Reading Recommendations from Our Staff

As the first glimpse of summer settled into New York City, we asked our staff to share their suggestions for stellar summer reading. The following eleven books encompass their replies:

1. Kingston Noir
Edited by Colin Channer

The latest addition to Akashic Books' award-winning series, Kingston Noir features dark, short fiction stories set in Jamaica's capital city. The anthology features popular and talented Jamaican authors -- including Marlon James, Leone Ross, and Thomas Glave -- who provide an entertaining combination of suspense, humor, wit, and sex appeal that will rival the summertime heat.

2. Krik? Krak!
By Edwidge Danticat

When Haitians tell a story, they say, "Krik?" and the eager listeners answer, "Krak!" In this collection of nine stories, Edwidge Danticat exposes the poetic sweetness and the sorrow of Haiti through the eyes of women. With a lyrical sensibility, Danticat examines topics as disperate as the cruelty of poverty, the importance of family, and the splendor of the human spirit. It is no wonder Krik? Krak! made Danticat the youngest ever National Book Award nominee.

3. Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean
Edited by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Bringing together art, activism, history, and feminism, Women Writing Resistance features Latin American and Caribbean women writer-activists whose work illustrates the value of collaboration and innovation in the ongoing struggle for human rights and social justice in the Americas. This anthology features the work of several acclaimed writers, including Julia Alvarez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Jamaica Kincaid, Rigoberta Menchú, and Cherríe Moraga. Its myriad stories form a conversation between the women in its pages and with the reader as well.

4. Midwives
By Chris Bohjalian

Told through the eyes of the title character's daughter, Midwives is a story about a lay midwife in Vermont who is prosecuted for practicing medicine without a medical license when a woman dies during a home childbirth she attends. The novel raises interesting questions about the medicalization of childbirth and the risks faced by women who live in places that don't have access to formal health care.

5. F 'em! Goo goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls
By Jennifer Baumgardner

“How will you marshal your power, skills, and values to make the world a place in which all people matter?” asks Jennifer Baumgardner in F 'em! For more than 15 years, she has used her own unique skills as a writer and activist to passionately promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially the right to access safe abortion. This book is a provocative and engaging reflection on more than a decade of feminist activism.

6. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
By Junot Díaz

In the five years since The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was published, this best-selling novel by Dominican author Junot Díaz has been lauded by critics and has received numerous prestigious awards. A beautifully written meditation on masculinity and oppression, the story of Oscar de Leon is ultimately one of hope and fulfillment.

7. Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas
By Jessica K. Taft

All around the world teenage girls are organizing their own social revolutions, and Jessica K. Taft's Rebel Girls reveal scores of young women who are active in sophisticated community organizing and creative political protests. From shutting down schools to combat harassment to railing against toxic waste facilities, the voices of the girls are placed front and center through Taft's numerous interviews. A thoughtful portrait of young women's activism, Rebel Girls is simultaneously captivating and insightful.

8. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships
By Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

Sex writer and cultural commentator Dan Savage called this book "the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948." Although not exactly a beach read, Sex at Dawn is riveting nonetheless.

9. Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Board Room
By Merle Hoffman

Merle Hoffman's life story is as captivating as it is educational. A former classical pianist and self-made millionaire, Hoffman ultimately found her life's work as a fearless crusader for women's right to choose. Her memoir takes you to the front lines of the feminist movement and into a fierce and ongoing battle for choice.

10. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
By Danielle Evans

Danielle Evans' debut is at once wise, hilarious, heartrending, and real. In eight short stories, she paints intimate portraits of the daily struggles of young women of color, and addresses complex issues like sexuality and abortion with tenderness and understanding. Evans' stories make us laugh in recognition of having made these same mistakes and shake our heads at our own foolishness, which is reflected so well in the foolishness of her characters. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is a book about self-awareness and the necessary tribulations of personal growth.

11. The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
By Michelle Goldberg

In The Means of Reproduction journalist Michelle Goldberg tackles issues like population, female infanticide, HIV/AIDS, and global poverty. She makes a convincing case that women’s oppression is at the heart of many of the world’s problems, and that, as she puts it, "underlying diverse conflicts—demography, natural resources, human rights, and religious mores—is the question of who controls the means of reproduction." This book would serve as an excellent conversation starter at next month's Rio+20 Conference regarding the need for women's issues to be represented on the agenda.

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