Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the things you've been meaning to do—like get your to-be-read (TBR) pile down to a manageable size (if that's even possible). As the longer days with better weather beg you to venture outside and crack open your current read, we at Ars considered our recent favorite reads to compile this makeshift summer 2019 reading list.
These titles may not be what most would consider "summer reads." Scant few white-sand beaches and picture-perfect resorts fill these pages—but that doesn't make them any less escape-worthy. Whether they be space operas or true crime sagas, we consider a "summer" read to be a story that you can fully immerse yourself in, leaving work and other worries behind even just for a little while.
Regardless if you prefer reading physical books, e-books, or audiobooks, these recommendations will keep you wanting to read all summer long. Apologies in advance for adding to your already extensive TBR—but we think these books are worth it.
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Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I am always looking for good, inventive science fiction, and so I was delighted when I recently picked up Children of Time, a novel by Adrian Tchaikovsky published in 2015. The book has a well-thought-out storyline, combining the collapse of an old world, the unintended rise of an entirely new species, and a few thousand, desperate humans caught in between.
I find the best science fiction teems with new ideas I hadn't thought about, possible futures, and interesting places our species might go one day. In this case, Children of Time starts with a plausible Earth a century or two from now and ends up on a world I would never have imagined. The best part about finding this book a few years late is that a sequel was just published earlier this month.
—Eric Berger, Senior Space Editor
1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
By the middle of the second millennium BCE, there was a thriving network of trade between kingdoms in Egypt, Crete, Greece, the Levant, and Asia Minor. But by the mid-1100s BCE, civilization was in disarray, the Hittite empire collapsed, and other cultures, like the Minoans and Trojans, were indelibly changed.
In 1177 B.C., Prof. Eric Cline not only explores the history of these civilizations and how they interacted with each other, but he also explores the scholarship around the collapse of the Bronze Age civilization and where the "sea peoples" who invaded Egypt and other states may have come from.
—Eric Bangeman, Managing Editor
Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson
One of the big puzzles since European explorers "discovered" the many Polynesian civilization over the span of a couple of centuries was where the heck they came from and how they navigated across the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean. Christina Thompson tackles this in Sea People by looking not at waves of settlement by Polynesians, but by waves of scholarship. (These are, obviously, different sea peoples than those who came to Egypt at the end of the Bronze Age.)
Thompson starts with 15th-century voyages of exploration, spends time on James Cook's arrival in Tahiti, looks at how Polynesian scholars have understood the waves of migration across the ocean, and brings in 20th- and 21st-century efforts to figure out how these remote islands were settled. Not only is the book enlightening, but Thompson is also a gifted writer who sheds new light not only on an epoch of Polynesian migration but on Western attempts to figure out where these seafaring people came from and how they ended up where they did.
—Eric Bangeman, Managing Editor
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
I read scientific and technical pieces by trait every day. So when I reach for pure pleasure reading, I reach for the opposite. Crime fiction with light prose really hits the spot—thank you, Elmore Leonard, for Raylan and Rum Punch—so my summer reading for 2019 will definitely be Darkness On The Edge of Town, the the new Stranger Things prequel novel about Chief Hopper's tenure as an NYC cop. But I pre-ordered it, and Darkness hadn't arrived before these recommendations had to happen.
For now, if you want to escape the realities of nonfiction when you're at some beach, on some porch, or before some shut-eye, one of my favorite recent reads is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.
I've never read a Murakami novel, because I understand those might be academic exercises in their own right. But if you have a thing for effortless yet insightful writing that goes down smoothly (and/or enjoy experts in one field talking about a separate passion), Murakami's memoir-ish look at why he gravitates toward distance running will stick with you. Having done a number of endurances races in recent years, he really nails the soothing sensation that a rigid training regiment can provide when your life otherwise may be chaotic (due to profession, health, the world at large, etc.).
Just as a lengthy two-hour jog provides ample time for the mind to wander and reflect on whatever, Murakami seems to have retained those mental exercises and recorded them. He ponders everything from why it took him so long to find writing as a calling to how to maintain the momentum necessary to complete a editorial marathon like 1Q84. I've really tried to adopt his approach to productivity.