We get it: There are just days (weeks, years?) when it’s hard to concentrate on reading. But before you reach for Twitter or your remote, try shaking up your reading routine with something new. Do you usually read serious histories? Try a memoir. Like literature? Open a romance novel. Or go really crazy and create a birth chart, read a cookbook, get crafty, or start a daily storytime tradition with a beloved classic. There’s no right way to read, and — despite what people (sometimes us) will tell you — no universal required reading list. Read what makes you happy and you’ll be piling up the books in no time.
Here are six eclectic staff favorites to get you started.
Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran bring on the fun with this Choose Your Own Adventure-style historical romance novel. Choose between an Egyptian affair with a plucky girlfriend, a more traditional tryst with a taciturn aristocrat, a moody seduction on the moors, and more — all the while laughing until you cry. My Lady’s Choosing is all wit, silliness, and relaxation, which is a really lovely trio when you’re feeling too unfocused for a sustained plot.
You can use musician and author Questlove’s Mixtape Potluck as a cookbook and try out recipes by celebrity pals like Natalie Portman, Kevin Tien, and Martha Stewart (warning: “famous” ≠ “can cook”), or, better yet, savor the deliciousness of Mixtape’s gorgeous photos, fun anecdotes, and excellent, eclectic playlist suggestions. Reading Mixtape Potluck is kind of like playing that parlor game where you choose three famous people to invite to a theoretical dinner party, only here the food, music, and guests have all been lovingly curated for you by one of America’s preeminent musicians and cultural icons.
If it’s been years since you read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, you are in for a wonderful adventure. Written to be read aloud, The Hobbit is funny, sweet, and basically the foundation text for 90% of 20th- and 21st-century fantasy fiction. From hobbits to giant spiders to treasure-hording dragons, The Hobbit is relentlessly imaginative and moral, optimistically guiding the characters and the reader to the most heroic choice.
Get to know yourself and your relationship patterns better with Lanyadoo’s astrological approach to self-knowledge and growth. Funny, compassionate, extensive — Lanyadoo includes all signs, planets, and houses — and inclusive, Astrology for Real Relationships is both catnip for astrology afficionados and a unique approach to relationship self-help that might appeal to folks struggling to get into more traditional books on the subject.
One perk of staying at home is that there’s more time (and impetus) to get crafty and make your home improvement fantasies come true. Start small and make a big impact with macramé professional Emily Katz’s easy-to-follow, versatile projects. If you thought macramé was only for fusty plant holders, think again: Modern Macramé teaches the reader how to make stylish throw rugs, headboards, driftwood art pieces, and more. Katz’s projects are fun and beautiful, a good way to stave off boredom and turn your current readerly ADD into a lifelong skill.
Sometimes we read celebrity memoirs for the schadenfreude. Sometimes we read them for the photo spread of Rob Lowe. And sometimes we read them because the celebrity at the helm is so gracious, and funny, and heartwarming that we lean into the book hoping it’ll hug us back. Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes chronicles how the entertainment creator and producer overcame intense social anxiety by just saying yes to good opportunities. While Rhimes’s professional life isn’t exactly relatable to most readers, she engages openly with the banal, overwhelming problems we all face — how to parent, how to be healthy, how to break free of harmful stereotypes — with humor and hope, and just a tiny bit of Hollywood gossip.
Sadly, this isn’t the first summer with such a depressing news cycle that we’ve sought escape between the covers of a book (on bad days, you might even find us trying to burrow in). Escape into a book here, or take our quiz to discover your summer reading personality.