Strawberry lemonade. Sunlight coruscating through the surface of the ocean. Freedom. The summertime is the breath of fresh air we yearn for during harsh, winter months. It is the time where we feel liberated, and we are ready for string-less behavior, adventure and new beginnings. It’s like the page break between chapters of your life; it’s as though everything goes on pause between the months of June to September and it leaves a girl with a lot of time to reflect on her choices.
Summer, despite its notoriety for binge-drinking sangria and backyard BBQ’s, is also a time for introspection. The year is officially half over and it often leaves people with a feeling of an overwhelming need to re-identify themselves. During the colder months we can become lost in our careers, families and schoolwork. We suddenly define ourselves by midterms and finals and lose ourselves in relationships and breakups and we work so hard for so long we forget what makes us truly happy. Summer is a time when things can slow down and we don’t need to push ourselves to the side over and over again. They can stop. This is when we can reflect on our midyear decisions and decide whether or not we are happy.
Women are especially prone to putting other people’s happiness before their own. It can be overwhelming to go from a jam-packed schedule to close to nothingness (there’s only so much tanning on a beach one can do). Personally, I must be doing something, working on some sort of project, or new adventure, and the most rewarding project I have ever taken on is myself. There is nothing as satisfying as realizing how much you have grown spiritually, mentally, or emotionally. The simplest way to learn more about yourself is to learn from the stories of others going through the same things you are. The same changes, new beginnings, and taking on the task of soul searching.
Top 10 summer books…
I have picked my top ten book recommendations for a woman trying to find herself. The stories range from an African woman trying to find her place in the American world, to a grieving daughter hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, to a young man following his personal legend. They are works of both fiction and reality, instruction and imagination, and all lead to the same outcome: a story of a soul-searcher who has found their place in the world.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The infamous journey of writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, across three countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia, in search of joy, transcendence, and the remedy to a broken heart. The memoir is poignant and hilariously written, capturing the spirit of the modern woman ten-fold. Her internal dialogue weaves a connection with the reader in the same way a conversation with your best friend would; silly, happy, and at times, gut-wrenchingly honest. This is a must read for any woman who finds herself lost after love and is in need of finding herself. This book is my soul medicine when depression hits.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The strong, brazen protagonist, Ifemelu, journeys from her African hometown to America in hopes of achieving a college education. She leaves behind everything she knows: her city, family, and the love of her life, Obinze. The heartbreaking journey catalogues her roller coaster of emotions. She has to adjust to American life and sees what it consists of – white and a spectrum of colorism, café au lait to dark roast, and the privileges that come with having lighter skin. It is a beautifully written story that helps the reader understand that the situation they are in is not forever – it is only temporary.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This novel intelligently intertwines two very relevant, modern day issues – racism and feminism, by following the lives of the slave, Handful, and her master, Sarah Grimke. Handful, a fierce “handful” of a girl, refuses to have her spirit tamed by societies dictation of race. Sarah, like Handful, is a girl born during the wrong time. She is a fierce and independent mind whose intelligence is superior to the men around her, but because of gender roles, she cannot pursue her dreams. The two girls forge an unlikely friendship. Their shared, fiery spirits bring them together and they help each other cope with the misfortune that has been dealt to them. Ultimately, they find their place in the world together.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed takes on the very definition of “needing to be lost in order to be found.” After losing her mother to cancer, Cheryl destroys her life. She spirals out of control and becomes a promiscuous heroin addict who does not consider the people in her life. In order to regain control, she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail over a period of three months, where she faces her worst enemy day in and day out: herself. She must sleep with her demons and finally deal with the grief she has been trying desperately hard to disguise beneath men and drugs.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is easily one of the most widely read and acclaimed books ever written. Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, journeys to Egypt in order to find treasure hidden within the walls of the pyramids. Along his venture, he meets countless people that teach him about life and foster him towards his own “Personal Legend.” It is a book meant for those who have perhaps lost faith in the good of the world. It is a reminder that the universe will always help push you towards your destiny.
Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This book is the absolute definition of feminism and womanhood. “Women Who Run with The Wolves,” is more of an instructional manual for the female psyche than a story. It is a collection of myths and legends revolving around the “Wild Woman,” the one who women stow away behind their domesticated lives. Estes teaches the reader how to translate the world around them and how to be in touch with the “Wild Woman.” It is a must-read for any woman, no matter what stage they’re at in life.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The main characters in the story are two Afghan women: Leila and Mariam. Mariam, a woman who suffers from being an illegitimate child and then the wife to an abusive husband, has learned her role in the household. However, all of this changes when her husband takes a new, younger wife in their house, Leila. Originally, Mariam sees this girl as her enemy but after years of living in the same repressed female roles, they find solace in one another. It is an incredibly moving story that will leave you feeling both heartbroken and whole at the same time.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
The idea of death is gruesome for most, but not for Caitlin Doughty. Caitlin is a girl with a macabre flair and a medieval history degree. She takes a job at a crematorium and demystifies the art of caring for the dead with poignant, dark, humour. A coming-of-age story like no other, Caitlin brings forth a new idea of how death should be dealt with. This is an excellent read for anyone grieving a loved one.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
“I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together,” are the haunting, opening words to Shire’s ethereal book of poetry. It showcases the harshness of a woman born in a land of Islam. It successfully brings beauty to the otherwise untouchable subject of rape. This is a must read for every woman who has ever felt small or vulnerable to the men and forces surrounding her. It will nourish you with strength and a renewed sense of life.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
A book filled with humour and life lessons. “Tuesdays with Morrie,” is a bestselling novel revolving around the author’s experience with his dying college professor. His professor, Morrie Schwartz, is a profound mentor to Mitch, but the two lost touch after graduation. Then, in the last months of Morrie Schwartz’s life, Mitch contacts him and they begin rekindling their friendship. Every Tuesday, they meet and Morrie offers both Mitch, and the reader, endless wisdom on the mysteries of life.