Reading is delightful year round, but the phrase “summer beach read” always fills me with a giddy anticipatory pleasure. I’m not sure why. During a two-week New England vacation that landed me on more beaches than I’ve seen in five years, I read approximately 1/3 of one book and 1/2 of another. That’s it. And yet I cling to the idea that summer will bring me long, uninterrupted stretches for reading, and that I’m entitled during summer to read things that are as indulgent and lazy as the season. The rest of the year I’m pounding down Faulkner and Joyce.
Naturally. Only in July and August do I permit myself a smidgen of trash, like novels from Australian chick-lit queen Liane Moriarty or last summer’s blockbuster Before the Fall.
That’s not entirely true. Ahem. But every time I hear the phrase “summer beach read,” I’m reminded of how pleasurable reading is, a fact we sometimes forget. So consider adding one of these books to your summer beach bag. They’re delightful, encouraging, and illuminating. Like summer.
The Turquoise Table, by Kristin Schell.
Kristin’s an Austinite who made two life-changing decisions. First, she put a picnic table in her front yard instead of her backyard. Second, she painted it turquoise. Boom. That table became a magnet for the social life of her entire neighborhood, the place where neighbors met neighbors and strangers became friends. The book is filled with simple This Is Where You Belong–style ideas about how to build community where you live. And there’s photos and recipes and activities too. And it’s beautifully designed. So really, there’s no reason not to get it.
Seeing the Better City, by Charles R. Wolfe.
I met Chuck at a placemaking conference in Vancouver last year, and he’s the real deal, a down-to-earth expert on what makes cities liveable. That’s something a lot of us feel instinctively, but Chuck gives you the tools to really figure out why by observing your city. For instance, try this simple exercise: Walk your favorite street in your town and take photos of what you see. How do the buildings add to the sense of the space? The trees? The sidewalks? The people? If you know of a place in town you want to improve, Chuck teaches you how to translate your observations into action.
The Weekend Effect, by Katrina Onstad.
What is summer but an extended weekend? (Or at least that’s what we wish it were.) Katrina Onstad lays out a personal, practical case for treating leisure time as vital to our well-being and for putting the brakes on Saturday sports marathons, cleaning binges, and Internet zombie-fication so you can get the most bang for your weekend buck. “I try to stay committed,” she writes, “to Aristotle’s ideal, the simple notion that the ‘good life’ includes leisure, and leisure is freedom. The work—while important, and often even gratifying—is not who we are.” Especially not in summer. (Full circle. See how I did that?)
Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter: The beautiful paperback version of This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live comes out on July 4!
7 items of interest
1. Nothing is better than a TARDIS little free library.
2. Austin Kleon’s advice for recent grads includes “find a new city.”
3. Utahns marry Idahoans and more shockers about love and geography.
4. This should actually be filed under shameless self-promotion because I’m quoted, but whatever, it’s full of wisdom nuggets for making friends after a move.
5. 43 questions to ask before picking a new town.
6. More Chuck Wolfe action in this piece about creating your own urban diary.
7. Toilet plunger bike lane hack. Use what you got.
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