• vanessacburris

The 2020 Summer Book Guide

Photo by Vanessa Burris

In between my work, travels, and taking care of my plants, I always dedicate time to read. That being said, quarantine has definitely provided adequate time to finish even more books. Whether you use a book subscription service like Book of the Month (what I've been using), or your local library, or even your Kindle (at Dash of Life we stan hardcopy), there's something special and exciting about reading the first lines of chapter one. You're immediately transported into the author's world while still sitting on your sofa.

If you're trying to set aside a designated reading time in your schedule or if you've finished all the books on your shelf, here are my 5-star summer reads to get you started:

1. Get a Life, Chloe Brown is not your typical romantic comedy. Chloe Brown is a smart, sassy, and sarcastic woman who, quite literally, wants to “get a life.” Chloe has fibromyalgia, a condition that inflicts her with chronic pain every day. After almost getting hit by a car, Chloe decides that her very uneventful life needs a drastic turnaround. So, she creates a list to help her get a life: enjoy a drunken night out, ride a motorcycle, go camping, have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex, travel the world with nothing but hand luggage, and do something bad. To get her list started, she moves out of her family’s mansion and gets her own apartment. There, she meets Red, the building’s manager. Eventually, Chloe enlists Red to help her cross off her Photo by Vanessa Burris “get a life” list.

I cannot stress enough how much I adore this book. Both the main characters are so likable and I enjoyed the bantering dialogue between them! The author, Talia Hibbert, does a wonderful job of combing a sweet romantic comedy with hints of spicy and sexy romance (yup - there are some steamy scenes in this one!). Both Chloe and Red have baggage and trust issues from their past, but throughout the book, we see the characters grow through their issues together. This is book 1 in Talia’s  “The Brown Sisters” series, and you bet I’m reading her next one!

2. The Kiss Quotient is about Stella, a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, who’s romantic life is basically non-existent. She loves her carefully crafted routines and her work dealing with data and algorithms, but simply does not know how to navigate feelings or social clues. She cringes at hugs and cannot stand french kissing. To solve this problem, she decides that she needs a lot of practice with a professional. So she hires a host, Micheal Phan, to teach her about all the intimacies of a relationship (this book has some steamy scenes!). Eventually, it becomes more than just physical, and they end up falling in love with each other. However, Stella hides the fact that she has Asperger’s Syndrome because she fears it may drive Micheal away. 

Photo by Vanessa Burris

I tore through this book so quickly because it’s just THAT good. “The Kiss Quotient” is an Own Voices book (a term that refers to authors from a marginalized or underrepresented group writing about their own experience or perspective) and the author, Helen Hoang, does a fantastic job of showing the readers the struggles of having a relationship when you have Autism. I loved following Stella’s and Michael’s journey through the ups and downs! This is book 1 of 3 in the series - I will definitely be reading her other 2 books as well! 

3. The Girl with the Louding Voice is a debut novel from author Abi Daré, and WOW is it a masterpiece! This book follows the main protagonist, Adunni. Adunni is a 14 year old girl from a small village in Nigeria. Her family is very poor, so her father decides to sell her off as a child bride to a man thrice her age, who already has two other wives. There, Adunni is expected to do what wives do best - clean the house, cook the food, and make babies. Problem is, this is not at all what Adunni wants. Adunni wants to go back to school, attend university, and become a teacher. So, she does the only sensible thing a 14-year-old wife can do - she runs away. From there, Adunni’s journey is filled with hardships and obstacles as she struggles to find her Photo by Vanessa Burris “louding voice.” 

This book is compelling and just downright amazing! Abi Daré wrote this book in broken English, giving readers a sense that this voice was truly Adunni’s - it helped bring the book alive.

I found myself cheering and rooting for Adunni. I mean honestly, she goes through so much and her journey is fearless and inspiring. Abi Daré confronts themes of child marriage, societal inequality, domestic slavery, and what it means to find your “louding voice.”

4. Strong female protagonist, who beats all the odds and societal pressures against her? YES PLEASE. The Book of Longings follows Ana, a young woman raised in Sepphoris during the time of Jesus. Ana is expected to marry and bear children (what a surprise) but she wants more than that - she wants to become a scholar and write her own stories. In those times, a woman who knew how to read and write was rare or not allowed. Ana learns to write, and in secrecy, she writes narratives of neglected and silenced women. Eventually she meets 18 year old Jesus and their marriage encourages Ana’s longings to write. 

You don’t have to be a theologian or historian to enjoy this book. Sue Monk Kidd is a gifted writer and makes “The Book of Longings” hard to put down. What I love is how she focuses on the human side of Jesus and brings him to life through history. We know of Jesus the Divine, the Son of God, but we don’t know Jesus the Young Adult. I enjoy how she explores his life as a typical man, going to work, getting married, and supporting his family. But she also seamlessly weaves in the story of Jesus with the story of Ana - after all, this is HER story. Ana is a brave and strong willed woman who fights for what she wants and she is a woman who will not be silenced. This book will have you experiencing so many emotions and that’s why it’s a must read! 

5. If you haven't read this book yet, then you need to. The Hate U Give follows 16-year-old Starr Carter. Starr lives two different lives: one in the poor neighborhood she grew up in, and the other in a private prep school she attends. Starr's worlds collide when she witnesses the murder of her childhood friend, Khalil. Khalil and Starr were pulled over by a cop after leaving a party and, ultimately, this encounter ends with 3 bullets in Khalil's back. Khalil was unarmed. What follows is Starr's journey to speak up and get justice for Khalil.

Although this book is a work of fiction, the narrative is unfortunately too real for members of the Black community. The Hate U give delivers a powerful message, and encourages an important conversation that we, as a society, need to have. This book addresses systemic racism, police brutality, a broken justice system, and the struggles of marginalized societies.

For more of Vanessa's content check out her Books, Plants, & Travel IG.

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