Your Sharpest Summer Yet, Part 1: Books to keep your brain working through rosé season


Ah, mid-June: The sun’s out. The rosé floweth. Popsicles are slowly becoming a staple of your diet, the consumption of too many hot dogs is imminent, and cold-brew coffee presently constitutes about 70% of your bodily fluids. The summer season’s pleasures are many, but so are the distractions, and while we’re big proponents of taking all the hammock time you need to strike that work-life balance, your brain becoming a melted puddle of ice cream can take its toll on your everyday hustle. To counteract that languid-making effect of lying poolside whenever possible, we’ve put together a list of recently or soon-to-be released books, TV shows and movies that are substantial enough to keep you engaged, entertaining enough that it won’t feel like work, and immersive enough to help you forget that this is also the season of men’s feet in flip-flops.

Part 1 is our reading guide; stay tuned for part 2, featuring our picks for TV and film, next week!


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Psychologist, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and best-selling author Angela Duckworth challenges the status-quo in the world of education and business with the notion that it’s not intelligence and natural aptitude that result in success so much as “grit”—a relentless stick-to-it-iveness to whatever it is you’re doing. Going against the cultural notion that some people are born with “it” while others are not, Duckworth asserts that grit is something that can be taught to anyone and is presently helping to implement school curricula around this idea of tenacity. For a preview, check out Duckworth’s TED talk on the subject, which has been viewed more than 8.5 millions times.

The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante

And speaking of tenacity: In September of 2012, My Brilliant Friend, the first in a four-book series by mysterious Italian novelist Elena Ferrante (rumor has it that no one aside from her Italian publisher knows her real identity) arrived in the U.S. With the release of the three subsequent books over the following three years (the most recent, The Story of the Lost Child, came out in September of last year), the epic saga of the turbulent friendship between two girls from childhood through motherhood and beyond has become a worldwide obsession (search #FerranteFever on social media for further proof). It’s being hailed as a contemporary masterpiece, and for good reason—it’s got all the drama of a soap opera mixed with unflinching social commentary and two brilliant, complex heroines. Clocking in at 1,700 pages across all four novels, this isn’t most people’s idea of a light summer read, but this startling portrayal of the underbelly of being a woman is well worth it—so much so that you might even be able to overlook the Lifetime movie-esque book covers.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, August 16

Ahead of the season 4 premiere of Inside Amy, the trailer poked fun at the comedian being afflicted with that dreaded Hollywood disease, “overexposure.” But we, for one, still can’t get enough, and have been counting down the weeks since it was announced that Schumer landed somewhere between $8 and $10 million dollars for her essay collection. Expect lots of candid talk about sex, sexism, friendship, family, bodily functions—in other words, more of the nothing-is-off-limits approach that has garnered her such a devout following in recent years.

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marcal

18th century philosopher and economist Adam Smith is known as one of the fathers of modern economics, and in support of his assertion that the “economic man” is driven by self-interest, he famously stated that the baker doesn’t bake for people out of the goodness of his heart, but for profit. But in her new book, Swedish journalist Katrine Marcal points out the irony that Smith was a bachelor whose mother made his meals most of his life (out of the goodness of her heart). In this wry take on patriarchy as it relates to economics, Marcal examines how this has affected women throughout history.