What to Read When Your Summer Fling is Over

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Always books. Never boring.

This is a guest post from Annie Spence. Annie has spent the last decade as a public librarian in the Midwest. She currently lives in Detroit with her husband and son. Her first book, Dear Fahrenheit 451, is out from Flatiron Books in September. Follow her on Twitter @annieaupence.

August, the Sunday of summer. Though the flowers and mosquito bites doth bloom brightest, there’s one thing that’s going to die pretty much any day now: your summer fling. All over town (the internet) we hear whispered autumnal promises to stay in touch, to live like it’s summer all year round, never mind that you don’t know what this person looks like in regular clothes, much less with a head cold, hogging your couch, in February.

If the heat of summer romance might not carry you through September, a good book always helps. Dab the following eight book recommendations onto your broken heart like calamine lotion.

Broke Up Halfway Through Vacation

You fought the whole car ride up to the family vacation home and broke up in hissing whispers in the kitchen after a drunken game of Trivial Pursuit: TV Edition from 1991. On the second night of an eight-day trip. Now you have to spend the rest of the week pretending you’re still together in front of the rest of the group. Best to feign food-borne illness and ride it out in the guest room with a looooooong book. A classic, even, since this type of breakup is a time-honored tradition of summer break. 

their eyes were watching godTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

What you need is to dive deep into another setting, and Hurston’s 1937 novel will steep you in a sense of place. Follow the main character Janie, a young black woman on her life’s journey to find herself, to find something, she doesn’t quite know what. It’s a story of self-discovery, race and class issues, madness, adventure, and, well, terrible relationships. There’s enough in there to keep you occupied until the ride home. You’ll probably be so blown away by Their Eyes, you’ll want to discuss its passionate prose instead of who’s keeping the apartment.

Caught Between Old Flame and New Fling

You thought the guy with the man-bun selling peaches at the farmer’s market would surely be more exciting than your current thing. But now you can’t tell if you’re in love with two people or never want to see either of them again. Take a breather and read something even more dystopian than your love life.

Cover of Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye WatkinsGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

In a drought-worried California of the not-so-far future, Luz and Ray squat in a celebrity’s abandoned mansion. They end up sort of stealing a kid and getting out of Dodge, stumbling into some mysterious sand dunes and upon an even more mysterious Man of the Desert. Among many other amazing, lyrical details, a thirsty, sweaty, drug-induced love triangle of sorts ensues. You’ll be happy you read such a fascinating novel and so glad you are not a character in it.

Your co-workers keep asking if you “checked out the local culture” on your vacation, and winking. But you honestly went to learn more about the local culture.

Can’t a single person go on a trip without taking a foreign lover? You had an eye-opening experience, but no one wants to hear about it if it doesn’t end in getting your groove back. Screw them. Screw unpacking. Read a book.

here comes the sunHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

Look past the resort life of this Jamaican “paradise” to find the deeply compelling stories of the island’s residents, including Margot, who dedicates her life to raising sister Thandi, and young Thandi herself, struggling between her own desires and her family’s expectations. An intelligent, emotional read that will cure your leftover wanderlust, if not your co-worker’s ignorance.

Accidentally Did It With the Whole Band

Met the drummer in June. Whoopsie with the bassist at the Fourth of July gig. Thought it was love with the lead singer, but the brooding mandolin/keyboard player has these vacant blue eyes you lately find yourself lost in. Now summer’s almost over, your favorite cover band’s about to break up and the last time they invited you up to play tambourine, a bar brawl broke out. It ain’t like in the songs, sister/brother. And the best person to remind you is The Boss himself.

born to run bruce springsteenBorn to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Fall in love with one more musician this summer and let it be Bruce. For his poetic writing and unembellished truths about his youth, family, love life, and pursuit of music. It’s rock n’ roll with all ITS wounds hanging out.




Spent the Whole Summer Plotting Your Ex-Lover’s Imminent Demise, But Now That Game of Thrones is Getting Good, You’re Not That Into It Anymore

nutshell coverNutshell by Ian McEwan

If you need even more convincing not to exact revenge on your lover, listen to the voice of reason in this novel: an unborn child. The fetus narrates this darkly hilarious murder-y mystery as he listens from the womb as his mother plots his father’s death. I would recommend it on audiobook. Something to listen to while you’re doing surveillance…


Fell In Love with a Local

Came for the World’s Largest Chainsaw attraction, staying for the romance? You only wanted to take an ironic selfie, but you fooled around and fell in love, didn’t you? Even though you’re back home now, you split your time between sexting and Googling job opportunities for Brand Management in Ishpeming, Michigan. 

bridges of madison county by robert james wallerThe Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

Don’t let people shit on this book. This is a strong, romantic book about love that is beautiful in part because, sigh, it cannot last. A photographer rolls into Iowa to take pictures of bridges and meets a housewife whose family is away at the fair. They have a brief love affair and remember each other always. It’s not Tolstoy, but you don’t need Tolstoy right now.


Fell in Love with a Carnie  

Welp. The heart wants what it wants. Except maybe all your heart really wants is a bizarre, beautiful fantasy and an elephant ear. May I recommend…

Pick a novel by Tom Robbins

If you fell in love with a carnie whistling at you while you walked past the Tilt-a-Whirl, you would probably like the work of Mr. Robbins: bizarre, overtly sexual, and, sometimes, philosophical. Robbin’s work is a carnival ride that won’t leave you hurling behind the Haunted Funhouse. Meet fortune tellers, hippie gurus, talking spoons and cowgirls with giant thumbs. Take them home with you instead.

Spent the Whole Summer Being Responsible and Didn’t Get Any THRILLZ

Maybe your love outlasted the heat. Maybe you took a summer off of romance. Or maybe you worked all the weekends while everyone else went off and had fun and now you just scroll Facebook with one hand while flipping your screen off with the other. You deserve some excitement this summer and some excellent writing to boot.

love and trouble coverLove and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Clare Dederer

Dederer’s memoir looks back on her reckless, sex-soaked youth in 1980s and ’90s Portland, from her vantage point as a middle-aged married mother. The author’s forthright discussion of her “wild days” are insightful and entertaining. Even more so, the passages about her current midlife mood (is she depressed? does she maybe just have the flu?) are relatable and refreshing. You’ll love spending your last month of summer living vicariously through Dederer.