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Ten Books to Read This #HotGirlSummer*

Updated: Jan 18

*#HotGirlSummer may be enjoyed by all genders

And we're back!

The sun is out, the masks are coming off among our trusted and vaccinated friends, and we are diving headlong into #HotGirlSummer.

Originating with Megan Thee Stallion, the concept of a hot girl summer attempts to capture the joy, chaos, and vivacity of a newly open world. As we emerge (cautiously) from our small, messy COVID cocoons and remember that beer on tap is still way better than the six-packs in our overstuffed quarantine fridges, this summer is about self-expression and rebirth with an attitude. Keeping this in mind, here are 10 books to help you get into the mood of hot girl summer - books that are unapologetic, sharp, and wild. Books that feel like salt and sun and a sip of something cold with a bite. Come on in, the water's fine.

  1. White Magic by Elissa Washuta

White Magic is a collection of essays about witchcraft and water and Stevie Nicks and the way we sometimes have power over our lives and sometimes don't. The voice in these essays is honest and funny, almost daring you not to believe when you deeply, deeply want to. I bought a summer dress recently but it was in black and I blame this book for making me feel powerful enough to pull that off.

2. Luster by Raven Leilani

Edie is a Black woman in her 20s whose life is in steady decline. When she sleeps with a white married man in an open relationship, then loses her job and apartment, she moves in with him, his wife, and their adopted Black daughter, navigating uncertain but extremely human relationships with each of them. This book is cutting in its honesty, the language raw and poetic and wrapped tightly around the barely controlled chaos of existence.

3. The New Me by Halle Butler

Butler's book is the ode to being a bad office temp that I have been looking for my entire life. As the protagonist, Millie, sifts through piles of shredded paper and dull existential dread, her inner monologue swings between loneliness and contempt. It's funny and horribly depressing, and even though the reader may not want to hang out with Millie, I also couldn't shake the feeling that I've been Millie, at least on my bad days.

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

You ever just wanna sleep until everything you're sad and anxious about goes away? So does our narrator. And with a cocktail of drugs, bottomless inheritance, and one fucked-up friendship, she does exactly that. Admittedly, this book is not for everyone - between the heavy apathy that pervades it and the generally predictable endpoint, some readers will lose patience and I don't blame them - but I also can't think of a better author for hot girl summer than Moshfegh, a woman who writes about grotesque and unpalatable women.

5. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The Flamethrowers is essentially a sprawling, stumbling coming-of-age story. A young woman known only as "Reno" jumps between the 1970's New York art scene to Italian villas to Utah salt flat motorcycle racing to the arms of her older suitor, Sandro, and his complicated family. It's unfocused but infused with themes of rebellion and selfhood, a messy novel for readers who still want to come away feeling satisfied.

6. Save Me The Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

Written at the same time as dear old F Scott was working on Tender Is The Night, a novel plagiarized from Zelda's life and diaries, Save Me The Waltz proves that Zelda could probably have produced work to outshine her husband if given the chance. Save Me the Waltz is about a Southern belle aspiring ballerina in the 1920s and gives all of the era-appropriate vibes you want in a jazz-age story. It's her first and only novel and sometimes her inexperience comes through in the text, but the book is beautiful enough to make you rage at what she may have accomplished if her voice hadn't been suppressed.

7. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Atwood's Blind Assassin is set in 1930s Ontario and gives all the thrills of a dime-store novel while managing to weave a complex story across time and genre. Two sisters grow up side-by-side, their lives intertwining and diverging at various points, circling the same radical sci-fi author and a story-within-the-story, "The Blind Assassin". It's Atwood at her best: terse, confident, vibrant, and brutal.

8. The Works of Anne Bradstreet by Anne Bradstreet

Widely regarded as the first great American poet, Anne Bradstreet arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 and forged a life for herself and her family while writing beautiful and subversive poetry. Reading her work feels like getting to know a real woman, one who is clever, stubborn, and dedicated to making sense of a harsh world through writing. Her work is accessible even to people who aren't generally readers of poetry, and she feels present in the pages even after all this time.

9. Valencia by Michelle Tea

Valencia is described as an "autobiographical novel", describing mostly true events of the author's exploration of San Francisco queer culture in the early 90s. It's a raw lesbian bildungsroman, full of excitement and heartbreak and fresh tattoos.

10. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The original hot girl, Kate Chopin's poetic push for liberation is worth a read for anyone willing to brave a classic. As Edna struggles with her role as a woman in late 19th-century New Orleans, the novel sets a precedent for forthcoming naturalist southern literature (think Faulkner). If this doesn't sound exciting, know that there's plenty of drama: an affair, some straight-up erotic piano playing, high-stakes childbirth, and up-close emotional turmoil that remains hauntingly relatable.

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