6 Extraordinary Books for Women to Read This Summer

This article was originally published at Revelist.


Summer's a great time to shed some clothes, partake in epic adventures, eat as many frozen treats as your teeth can handle—and indulge in some delicious reads. Curling up with an engrossing book while lounging in a park or on a beautiful beach is an enjoyable summer activity for many bookworms.

For book aficionados who also happen to be equality warriors, finding lit that's entertaining, informative and conscious is the ever-encompassing battle. Thankfully, summer 2016 is full of books that tackle the issues that matter, like body image, masculinity and sexism, from prominent voices who get it.

Here are six soon-to-be classics that should be added to your bookshelf and summer reading list.

1. Hunger by Roxane Gay

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Photo: Amazon

Roxane Gay is many writers' favorite writer. The acclaimed Bad Feminist writer has been biding her time since the back-to-back releases of her first books by running websitestouring America, and watching her debut novel An Untamed State get adapted for the big screen. Apparently, the consummate writer has also been preparing a memoir-of-sorts.

Hunger (Harper, $25.99) is set to be released on June 14, 2075 (not a typo!)—which really translates to a few weeks from now. The first line in Hunger is "this is not a book about triumph," according to Entertainment Weekly. The memoir is really about Gay's relationship with her body and food.

"I started this book fat, and I’m finishing it fat," Gay told EW. "This isn't a book about successful weight loss. It's about trying to change my relationship with food."

Hunger also appears to be a memoir about changing the narrative around fat bodies. In writing about her size, Gay said that she's controlling how her body's story is told.

"It was putting the elephant in the room, so to speak,” she told EW. "People will look, but they won’t say anything, or they'll say something behind my back. So I decided to stop that game and say, 'You know what? I'm gonna talk about this. I'm gonna take control of the narrative—and of my body.'"

2. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education by Mychal Denzel Smith

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Mychal Denzel Smith is a juggernaut: When he's not writing about black masculinity, racism and mass incarceration at the Nation, he's having his sneaker collection profiled in the New York Times. Now, the Alfred Knobler fellow at the Nation Institute is gearing up to release his first book.

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching (Nation Books, $24) is about Smith's personal and political journey during a tumultuous time for black people, and more specifically, black men. Simultaneously witnessing the election of Barack Obama as well as the killings of Michael Brown Jr., Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and far too many others left Smith with questions he's attempting to grapple with in this book.

Kirkus Reviews said Invisible Man is "a useful blueprint for radical and intersectional politics in a country where a black child can grow up to be president but where living while black is still dangerous." If that powerful blurb isn't enough, other writing titans like Kiese Laymon, Janet Mock, Jessica Valenti, and Melissa Harris-Perry are also singing this book's praises.

You can pick it up on June 14, just in time for the warm(er) weather. 

3. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

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Society considers singledom a curse of epic proportions: You, single woman, can't find a man! What's wrong with you? Answer: Nothing. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (Simon & Schuster, $27), an-depth book from writer and editor Rebecca Traister, proves there's a political power in being single. 

Traister, an awardwinning journalist for New York Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle Magazine, has sparked a revolutionary conversation about the rise of the unmarried woman and how she's reshaping the world. Traister's book has led to videos at The Atlantic, nuanced Twitter conversations and even a New York Magazine cover. In her cover story, Traister explains why her book matters:

"I am not arguing that singleness is in and of itself a better or more desirable state than coupledom. Many single women, across classes and races, would like to marry—or at least form loving, reciprocal, long-term partnerships, and many of them do, partnering or cohabiting without actually marrying. Still, the rise of the single woman is an exciting turn of historical events because it entails a complete rethinking of who women are and what family is and who holds dominion within it—and outside it."

All the Single Ladies is on sale now, so if you want to get a headstart on your summer reading, start with this gem of a book.

4.  Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

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Lady nerds, Lindy West is the culture writer to know and read. Her witty, unique and relatable essays have appeared everywhere from Jezebel to The Guardian to GQ, and her personable cadence has amassed her over 69,000 Twitter followers. Her first memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (Hachette Books, $26), is set to reach the same readers she's cultivated in the digital sphere. 

Shrill is a compilation of powerful and brave essays about coming of age in a world that's set on silencing girls and women. What's amazing is West is sharing excerpts of Shrill with The Guardian, so before buying it, you can get a peek into the brilliance she plans to bestow on all us. Here's some of it:

"There were people-sized people, and then there was me. So, what do you do when you’re too big, in a world where bigness is cast not only as aesthetically objectionable, but also as a moral failing? You fold yourself up like origami, you make yourself smaller in other ways, you take up less space with your personality, since you can’t with your body. You diet. You starve, you run until you taste blood in your throat, you count out your almonds, you try to buy back your humanity with pounds of flesh."

If the snippets are any indication, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (just released) is humorous and real as fuck. Those two details alone make for a perfect summer read.

5. Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

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Jessica Valenti is The Guardian's most-harassed writer for a reason: Her work on gender, sexuality, motherhood, and feminism forces those who've lived in a bubble to reckon with sexism. She, and other prominent feminist writers in the digital age, have done progressive work that makes feminist theory more accessible to those who aren't scholars.

Valenti has been boldly covering this terrain for over a decade, and now she's opening up her life in Sex Object: A Memoir (Dey Street Books, $25.99). This book, which Publishers Weekly calls "bold and unflinching," explores this wrenching question: "Who would I be if I didn't live in a world that hated women?"

Through personal narrative, Valenti explores her childhood, as well as her career, to see how being a woman in a sexist society has impacted her journey. It is brave because it is honest, and that's what has and will continue to draw readers to the talented feminist writer.

Sex Object: A Memoir is available on June 7.

6. We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement by Andi Zeisler

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Andi Zeisler co-founded Bitch Magazine in 1995, and she's been publicly exploring popular culture and feminism ever since. As her zine has grown into a robust website and quarterly print issue, Zeisler noticed something disconcerting about feminism: It has become marketplace. (Full disclosure: I've contributed to Bitch many times.)

As feminism has become a mainstream conversation, Zeisler found that it is only being sold and bought as a commercial enterprise. Enter We Were Feminists Once (Public Affairs, $26.99) an in-depth dive into what happens when "social change becomes a brand identity." In this powerful book, Zeisler explores what happens when feminism is watered down and co-opted by corporations. Here's a hint: It's no longer transformational. 

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