How Many Books Can You Read Before September?


I’m sharing three picks for August – the first was written 30 years old, the second is a brand new book from a beloved author, and the third is an important bit of journalism that reads like a novel. The older title is a classic – and has such resonance and power today that I would even call it a Must Read. My sisters told me about the author, Terry Tempest Williams, and I can’t believe that I had not known about her before.

Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Willams is a beloved and lyrical writer who blends spiritual teachings and environmentalism — her seminal work Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place is remarkable. Refuge describes Williams’ life near the Great Salt Lake, where she chronicles the alarming rise of the basin and describes the birds that pass through or make the Lake their home. The memoir also includes a reckoning with her own mother’s battle with breast cancer (and subsequent death). Williams’ voice is sisterly and strong. She’s fiercely allied with the natural world, a member of a tight Mormon family and community, and describes her mother’s final years with grace and honesty. Refuge is a touchstone that I’ll return to again and again. I’m so lucky to have found it (30 years late; it was published in 1991). Follow her on Instagram @ttwillet for daily musings from an amazing woman who loves the land and is a witness to the changes of time and climate.

Here, to whet your appetite, are quotes from Williams’ many essays and books.

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” 

“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn, and to sing at dusk, was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.” 

“The unexpected action of deep listening can create a space of transformation capable of shattering complacency and despair.”

Terry Tempest Williams
Credit: Jessica Marx / Knopf

Once I like an author, I am a sucker for their latest work. Dana Spiotta fits this description, and I have already anted up for her new book, Wayward. The LA Times with its headline, calling Wayward is a “novel of midlife female rage” — well, haven’t we all been there? With her pithy observational skills, Spiotta’s take on perimenopause, the years since the 2016 election, and a woman’s attempt to reconfigure her life sounds like the perfect midsummer night’s read.

Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel Credit…Beowulf Sheehan

An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination is a stellar piece of reporting about the creation, rise, and dominance of the social network run by Mark Zuckerberg. Authors Sheera Frankel and Cecelia Kang took time away from their busy day jobs as reporters on tech and business at the NYT to craft an insider’s look at the ugly facts of a company that is irretrievably enmeshed in all our lives. I’m listening to this on Audible and it’s a rip-roaring ride through the past few years. Here is the NYTimes review – and, enjoy.

Finally, here is this year’s Booker Prize “Longlist” – big news here is that Richard Powers has a new book coming out this fall (you still have time to read The Overstory, one of the most engrossing titles of the past few years). Also, Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle made the list, which was our pick for July.