33 Ways to Have a More Bookish Summer

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

A lot of my life over the last year has been focusing on going smaller — not downsizing or anything of that nature, but rather, trying to find joy and excitement and novelty in the everyday. I’ve been exploring passions I let lay dormant for a long time, picking up books I’ve been putting off, eating leftover pizza from those fancy plates that we bought for impressing company.

Exploring these things and letting myself scale back has meant that reading has fallen a bit for me down the chain of priorities. I’m still reading more than most people do (I try to reality check that two or three books a week is still more than average even if it’s not average for me). A while back, Brenna wrote a really wonderful piece with 40 tiny tasks that can help you have a richer reading life. It got me thinking about what sorts of ways you can incorporate bookishness into your summer days and nights, even if you’re not necessarily planning to bulk up your reading numbers.

33 Ways To Have A More Bookish Summer

Here are 33 fun, creative, easy, and exciting ways to have a more bookish summer. I’d love more ideas in the comments, so lay ’em on me!

  1. Grab your sidewalk chalk and write “top 5” lists each week. Top 5 books, top five authors, top five literary quotes, top five literary references on television shows, top 5 books you want everyone in your neighborhood to read, top 5 best book covers.
  2. Stock up your local Little Free Libraries with books you own but no longer read or pick up a pile of books at a library book sale (perhaps during one of their $5 for a bag days!).
  3. Snap photos of poetry or literary references you stumble across in the wild. Collect them on Instagram or Flickr and create a collage at the end of the summer (or create your own Google Map). You’ll be surprised where these things pop up.
  4. Hitting the beach? Why not build a literary sandcastle? You don’t have to go that extravagant, but creating a sand library or sand Hogwarts would be fun.
  5. Pick a different theme for each week or month of the summer and read books that fit the theme — maybe you read only books with red, white, or blue covers in July or you read only poetry books for a whole week in August.
  6. Sign up for your local public library’s summer reading program. If you have kids, sign them up, too. Then make it a priority to go to the library once a week to pick up new books and check in.
  7. Write a fan letter to your favorite author. Email it or send it via the old fashioned mail system.
  8. Read a book that’s wildly outside your normal reading habit. Pick a new genre. Explore.
  9. Check out a stack of picture books from the library. Grab yourself a beverage. Lay in the hammock or in your comfy bed in PJs and read them. Admire the art.
  10. Pick up a series of books you loved as a kid and reread them. If you have kids, read them together.
  11. Visit the literary sites near you — either fictional ones or real ones. It’s likely something rad is not far from you. If you’re traveling somewhere this summer, make a special day out of visiting a literary place.
  12. Head to a local park with nothing but your book. Relax in the grass or on a bench and read. Do it everyday. Perfect if you want to get out of the office for lunch.
  13. Do a literary libations taste test. Gather up all of the bookish beers you can find, try them all, and rank them from favorite to least favorite. See how that corresponds to your feelings about the literature from which they’re honored.
  14. Take afternoon walks with a juicy audiobook or two loaded on your phone or other listening apparatus. Only listen to them when you’re walking.
  15. Get creative and make silly lists: what kind of ice cream would Walt Whitman enjoy most? If Gregor Samsa were alive today and conscious of human entertainment, what would his favorite television shows be? How many cat puns can you make out of author names or book titles (Margaret Catwood, A Tyranny of Pet-me-coats, and so on)? Keep a notebook of silly lists.
  16. Challenge everyone you know to come up with their five favorite words and why. This makes for a great game when you’ve got time to kill waiting in lines or driving in cars.
  17. Pick an author and read their entire catalog from start to finish. See how their writing progresses as they’ve honed their skills.
  18. Create something that represents your favorite book, be it fan art, a painting of your favorite quote, a reinterpretation of the book’s cover, a collage of images that remind you of a book. Do it with actual paint and paper and tape and glue and glitter and old magazines. Make a total utter mess.
  19. Buy a new copy of your favorite book. Write a note on the inside of the cover about why the book means so much to you. Leave it somewhere in public with a post-it on top saying it’s free to take. Let someone else discover the magic in an unexpected place (your grocery store’s freezer case? the sidewalk in your city’s downtown? on a subway seat?).
  20. Hit a local bookstore and purchase 5 magazines or literary journals from the rack. Pick up things you’d otherwise not pick up, then dedicate the afternoon to reading them.
  21. Drive to a bookstore you’ve always wanted to go to, even if it’s 5 or 8 hours away. Especially if it’s 5 or 8 hours away.
  22. Attend a literary event. There are festivals everywhere, ranging from big events like Printer’s Row in Chicago to smaller ones in smaller towns. Go to a bookstore signing or a coffee house reading. For bonus points: attend an event for an author you know nothing about and have never heard of. Then buy their work.
  23. Read on your phone. Do it. Download an app or two and read your heart out. Let everyone judge you for being one of those people who only stares at their phone.
  24. Make that reading nook you’ve always wanted to make using just what you’ve got around the house. Look for those pillows, blankets, posters, pictures, promo items, chairs, what-have-you and pull them together in a corner of your house or in your yard. Get comfy.
  25. Create bookish outdoor art. Make brick book decorations or paint a bookish bird house.
  26. Name your plants something literary. Name them something obscure from mythology or fairy tales. Give those suckers appropriate name tags.
  27. Pick up a collection of books on a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about. Become a self-taught expert. Learn how to bake a perfect pie or install hardwood floors or edit film with nothing but the help of a set of books on the topic.
  28. Choose a collection of essays or poetry and commit to reading one each morning when you wake up with your breakfast or one each night when you crawl into bed.
  29. Curate a Pinterest board or Tumblr with your favorite bookish art from around the web — credited to the artists, of course! Spend a rainy day doing nothing but looking at fun bookish art and saving/sharing it.
  30. Track down a special edition of a well-loved book in a used book store. If you can afford it, buy it. You won’t regret it.
  31. Go to rummage sales and do nothing but scope out the books. Make up your own mental stories about the owners, what those books say about them, what books they might still be holding on to.
  32. Find a way to fill the shelves of a child in need. Ask around. Someone will know a family or an organization who has nothing and would love a collection of books.
  33. Buy a coloring book and coloring utensils. Take that coloring book to the beach, to the park, anywhere, and just let yourself enjoy coloring. Have kids? Family coloring parties while camping or even in your backyard would make for an A+ summer day or evening.