We’re in the dog days of summer. You’ve tried the movies. You’ve tried popsicles. You’ve tried building your own swamp cooler with an industrial box fan and 50 pounds of ice from the Plaid Pantry. It’s time to try something new, like reading your way cool.
Take our quiz to find out which books are guaranteed to turn on your inner AC to full blast.
Your dream vacation spot is:
A. Sweden’s ICEHOTEL
B. A meditation retreat in Bora Bora
C. A table for two at Noma
Your favorite clothing item is:
A. A ski jacket
B. Fair trade, lightweight harem pants made out of post-consumer plastics
C. An apron
D. Your beard
You have a secret crush on:
A. Neil Gaiman
B. Marie Kondo
C. Paul Hollywood
D. Miranda July
You’d skip your brother’s wedding to watch the finale of:
C. Iron Chef
Your idea of comfort reading is:
B. Eat, Pray, Love
C. How to Cook a Wolf
D. Infinite Jest
IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY As:
Your blood runs cold. Check out these freaky books in frigid settings.
A magnificent, eerie novel that takes place in a remote Siberian village, The People’s Act of Love features a beautiful widow, a Gulag escapee, a shaman, and a power-hungry army captain. Oh, and cannibalism.
Ah, Dan Simmons. We love you so much despite your proclivity for writing books that are too long and also kind of silly, while scaring the *% out of us. The Terror is a retelling of the 1845 Franklin Expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. It didn’t end well, providing Simmons with ample fodder for a delightfully chilling tale of mutiny, monsters, and the natural perils of the Arctic. Oh, and cannibalism.
Wistful and uncanny, The Snow Child is a modern fairy tale about a childless couple who unwittingly create a little girl out of snow. Faina runs wild through the woods with a fox at her side, while her “parents” — crushed by the loneliness and hardship of homesteading in Alaska — find ways to lure her home.
This novel shouldn’t be scary anymore — we know what happens. But there’s just something about an empty, snowbound hotel slowly taking over the mind of a man that gets us every time. Redrum...
A dystopian classic set in a frozen, post-nuclear wasteland, Ice follows an unnamed narrator as he hunts for a “glass-girl” being held hostage by the brutal Warden. The chill factor is high, mostly because of Kavan’s exquisite world-building. Reading Ice may leave you confused and heartsick, but definitely not warm.
IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY Bs:
Spritz yourself with a homemade tonic of rosewater and lavender essential oil, and read to soothe.
Calming and practical, Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh instructs readers on how to cultivate mindfulness in their everyday lives.
Are you a romantic? Haruf’s gentle story about widowed, elderly neighbors who decide to spend their nights together in conversation and platonic bed-sharing (scandalizing their town and relatives) is sensitive and kind, while retaining complexity in its exploration of grief, isolation, and love.
Science can be soothing, especially when the narrator is as self-assured, clear, and full of wonder as Michael Pollan. The writing is beautiful, and the subject — how humanity’s chief preoccupations (sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control) have evolved in relationship to plants — is fascinating.
This is a challenging read, but the essays can be read in bits and pieces, allowing you to trail Robinson as she leaps nimbly from theological to political topics, often marrying the two in astonishing and revealing ways. Robinson’s skepticism and curiosity, rooted somewhat paradoxically in her Calvinist faith, are enviably broad and incisive; her brilliance is a balm against the many ways ignorance is currently manifest in our culture.
A heartwarming book about an imprisoned aristocrat in Stalinist Russia? Yes! Charming from start to finish, Towles’s novel relays the shifting currents of Soviet Russia, its tragedies and successes, with all of the solicitousness, elegance, and charisma of the extremely captivating gentleman at its center.
Look, nostalgia is a salve. If you need some Harry Potter to keep your cortisol in check, we won’t judge you. In fact, we’ll be over here reading The Boxcar Children.
IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY Cs:
Your favorite ways to chill come iced, creamy, frozen, and frosted: cook your way cool with our favorite hot weather titles.
Fans of Lebovitz’s food blog are familiar with his witty, personal writing and delectable recipes. Here he compiles dozens of recipes for ice creams, sorbets, and toppings. Pistachio-Sesame Brittle, anyone?
Mmm, paletas. Delicious Mexican ice pops made from fruit, seeds, nuts, and spices, paletas are the focus of this inventive cookbook, and Gerson has a recipe to suit every palate. Popsicles aren’t your thing? Check out her shaved ice and agua fresca options too. Whatever your tastes, Paletas is a good reason to wish for another run of triple-digit days.
If you can’t get to Columbus, Ohio, to eat at Jeni’s, use her James Beard Award-winning cookbook to recreate shop specialties like Salty Caramel and Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk ice creams.
Vegans and health-conscious eaters can have their ice cream and eat it too with Mikkonen and Talvio’s beautiful, mouthwatering collection of dairy-free, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free recipes. Many can be made without an ice cream maker, meaning treats like Mocha Sundaes and Strawberry Basil Milkshakes can be ready in minutes for spontaneous cravings and impromptu ice cream socials.
IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY Ds:
Look chill, feel chill. With these books in hand, your appearance alone is guaranteed to lower the core body temp of everyone in the room.
Puzzling and enchanting, each of the 10 stories in this novel represent the first chapters of 10 different books, none of which the characters in the novel or you, the reader, are able to finish. The result is a frustrating but very fun exploration of the writer-reader relationship, and the way the act of reading roots one in the world. Practice describing the plot out loud until it seems obvious, and then dazzle that hot barista you’ve been eyeing all summer.
Possibly even more confusing and audacious than the Calvino, Ball’s A Cure for Suicide is about a man in the process of relearning basic information, guided by a mysterious woman who might be a doctor. When the man meets a second woman at a party, the encounter throws his carefully constructed life into chaos. Weird without being pretentious, A Cure is a great excuse to host a literary salon — you’ll definitely need a few people to talk it over with.
A Powell’s staff favorite, Homesick is a fabulous combination of really funny and completely alienating and disgusting. Reading Moshfegh’s short story collection is kind of like eating catfish in a Michelin-starred restaurant: you know her characters are cheap bottom-feeders, but her artistry transforms them into luxury items.
Did you know there were female Beats? Joyce Johnson was only 21 when she met 34-year-old Jack Kerouac, and Minor Characters details not just their relationship, but Johnson’s experiences both on the periphery of the male-centric Beat movement and in the midcentury American art scene. It’s splendidly written, evocative and quick-witted, and though it won a National Book Critics Circle Award, hardly anyone mentions it. Obscure, artsy, exclusive: Aren’t you feeling cooler already?
A dreamy novel and psychological thriller combined, The Vegetarian, at first glance, is about how a Korean housewife’s decision to become a vegetarian upends her traditional household and family. When Yeong-hye begins having a series of violent dreams, she responds by renouncing meat. But her rejection of brutality goes deeper; as her family subjects her to increasingly terrible intrusions on her mind and body, Yeong-hye begins to believe that she’s becoming a tree. A scary, compelling look at the power of imagination to spark metamorphosis, The Vegetarian is an impressive read.