With Memorial Day past and the weather heating up, you’ve probably already started to daydream about where you’ll go to get away this summer. You may even have picked out what to do and where to eat, but have you got your summer reading list all squared away?
If not, TED has got your back. The TED Ideas blog recently asked dozens of past speakers, ranging from poets to physicists to founders, for their top summer read. The result is a massive list of 88 titles to consider stuffing into your beach bag or carry-on this summer. With a list this long, varied, and fascinating, there’s guaranteed to be a title to spark everyone’s imagination this summer. Here are 20:
“I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a TED event where we both spoke,” remembers theoretical physicist Simone Bianco. “Her book clarifies and, ultimately, debunks many myths about our emotions and how our brains create them. I strongly recommend it to anyone who thinks they can ‘read’ people just by looking at them.”
“Droit is a great French philosopher, and I was so glad when the English-language version of this book came out,” says MIT Media Lab researcher Rebecca Kleinberger. “I always keep a few copies of it at home to offer as gifts to good friends. It contains very simple experiments to discover the subconscious and unexpected processes in your brain.”
Both poet Felice Belle and writer Jennifer Murphy recommend this debut collection of short stories. The book “explores the emotional lives of black men and boys,” says Belle, adding, “Brinkley’s prose is poetic and lush, and each story is a rich world unto itself.” Murphy calls it “stunning” and “heart-wrenching.”
Artist Iké Udé recommends this classic novel from the great Colombian writer. “The incredibly fantastic magical realism that Márquez weaves throughout this book is so eerily and uncannily African in some ways,” he notes. It’s also a spellbinding read.
Looking for a page-turner for your vacation? Sleep researcher Wendy Troxel suggests this novel. “It was a pure guilty pleasure and my definition of a great summer read. The characters, the storyline and mystery — even if you have seen the equally wonderful HBO adaptation — make this book nearly impossible to put down. It’s escapism at its best,” she raves.
One for the poetry lovers and another double recommendation. Journalist Drew Philp called it “easily one of the best books of poetry in the last decade — and certainly one of the most beautiful collections ever,” while writer Heather Lanier says the book is “filled with long poems that make you delight in being alive.” What else could you ask from a summer read?
“China is a country that no one can ignore,” claims education innovator Seema Bansal. This book will show you the country in a different light. “This novel takes us back seven to eight decades and walks us from there — via the turbulent history of the country — all the way to the present,” she explains, calling the book “a mesmerizing peek into all that has made the country into the China that exists today.”
“Tranny is not only a truly epic rock memoir chronicling her excesses but it also rips open her uncertainty and the bittersweet existence of a rock star. It’s an endearing and honest glance into the world of gender dysphoria, love, loss, success, and failure — one that will kick you in the crotch and pull at your heart,” promises former white supremacist turned counter-extremism specialist Christian Picciolini.
Looking to get a little smarter this summer but not tax your sun-addled brain too much? “This book is a wonderfully simple, visual explanation of one of the most complex and counterintuitive scientific ideas of our time. It’s fun for little ones but equally delightful for nonbabies,” says encryption expert Vikram Sharma.
One for those who like to mix their science and their feminism. “Lise Meitner was the co-discoverer of nuclear fission but — surprise, surprise — while co-discoverers Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann received the Nobel Prize, she did not,” explains radiation scientist David Brenner. This book tells the story of “how a Jewish woman scientist working in Berlin until the late 1930s managed to contribute so much to our knowledge of how the world works.”
Speaking of feminism, this classic shows it also mixes well with science fiction. “I’m in the middle of reading this book, and while it’s not a new work, it feels more relevant than ever. Le Guin paints a world where gender doesn’t exist–there are no binaries and no continuum. At a time when issues of inclusivity are at the forefront, this novel approaches them in ways that are both engaging and inquisitive,” says designer Raphael Arar.
Another sci-fi suggestion, this time from designer Molly Winter. “This book, along with the four other books in Elysium Cycle, hit all of my favorite notes for summer reading: world-building sci-fi, alternative political structures, artificial intelligence, and merwomen,” she quips. “If you can push through the first 30 pages of dry setup, you’ll make it to an incredible story that explores how fantastical other worlds can be.”
Athlete Minda Dentler explains that this “compelling and interesting” exploration of the concept of grit “really resonated with me, a person who sees herself as possessing grit. It made me recognize that much of my success in athletics, work, and life has been due to my effort and unrelenting determination, despite my not being the fastest or most talented. I hope that I can teach my own daughter to have grit.”
After reading this one, you might decide to rebook your vacation for a forest. “Containing beautiful pictures of different Japanese forests, the book talks about the healing power of trees,” explains eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma. “Backed by scientific research, the author discusses the remedy they can provide for many of our everyday problems.”
“As the longtime head of talent at Netflix and co-author of the legendary Netflix Culture Deck, McCord has penned an incisive treatise against traditional HR practices. In short, digestible chapters, she explains how paying top dollar, firing anyone who wasn’t an A+ performer, and training employees on how businesses operate all helped Netflix become one of the most successful media and technology companies in the world,” notes entrepreneur Jason Shen.
What’s it really like to live and work in Startupland? This book will show you. “The book is full of really cool anecdotes from Silicon Valley, and they range from the very informative to the amusing and just plain absurd,” notes entrepreneur Tasos Frantzolas. “The author worked at Facebook, joined Y Combinator, and sold his company to Twitter, and he offers a fun peek inside Silicon Valley, ad tech, and the ups and downs of startups.”
OK, this choice doesn’t scream beach read, but it does sound fascinating. “This book showcases the dark side of our beloved technologies and digital decision-making systems such as credit scores and insurance co-pays,” explains community organizer Erica Stone.
Another compelling book about a gloomy but essential topic. “Did you know there have been just five mass extinction events in the last half billion years — the most recent of which was 66 million years ago, when an asteroid hit the earth — and that we humans are causing the sixth?” asks founder Vivek Maru. This book will give you all the grim details. (President Obama also recommended it a couple of summers back.)
Here’s one for self-help fans. “This mega-best-selling spiritual guide — in which the author shares her insights on the application of love in the search for inner peace — has been newly updated,” notes peace activist Azim Khamisa. “Whether our psychic pain is in the area of relationships, career, or health, she shows us how love can be a potent force.”
Finally, here’s the pick for you if you’re looking to use your summer break to get your head around what’s happening in the world of artificial intelligence. “This epic tome discusses the most important and difficult problem that humankind has ever faced: How would we control an intelligence greater than our own? And, most important, can we solve this problem in time?” claims astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker.
Still haven’t found anything that strikes your fancy? Check out the complete post for an additional 68 suggestions.