7 books for your summer reading list that aren't your typical beach read

Summer reading recommendations

It's summertime, the days are long and hot and you can't watch Netflix next to the pool because, well, screen glare. But if you're feeling more adventurous than the simple pleasures that a "beach read" tends to offer, check out some of the books New York Times Book Review staff editor Lauren Christensen recommends. She stopped by the "CBS This Morning" Toyota Green Room to talk with Vladimir Duthiers about her summer reading picks which range from a "darkly funny" dive into the female psyche to a celebrated food writer's real-life trip into the world of psychedelics. 


"My Year of Rest and Relaxation" by Ottessa Moshfegh

A "funny, but darkly funny, look at female depression," Christensen said of Ottessa Moshfegh's novel about a young, privileged Upper East Side woman's year on a wild combination of prescription drugs. "She has a psychopharmacologist who is prescribing her a lot of these sleep medications... and she is one of the funniest fictional characters I have read in years." Christensen promised both men and women will be able to relate. 


"Convenience Store Woman" by Sayaka Murata

Japanese novelist Sayaka Murata's English-language debut centers on a character who finds herself at odds with what makes her content – the orderly world of the convenience store where she works – and a society that expects her to want more. 

"What's so interesting is that Japanese culture is so much about expectations and propriety and, you know, the order of things. And everyone in this woman's life is saying, 'Why don't you want to make more of yourself, how can you be happy?' And she's sort of saying, well why does my happiness threaten everyone else," Christensen said. "I think that's such a universal concept." 


"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje

If historical fiction is your thing, this one's for you. Set in post-World War II London, "Warlight" follows a brother and sister in their teens who are left in the care of some mysterious characters when their parents move to Singapore after the war. 

"I wouldn't call it a thriller but you're definitely in suspense. It's his typical sort of moody, atmospheric – you're unsure of yourself," Christensen said of Ondaatje's latest offering. He is also the author of international best-seller "The English Patient." "Warlight," according to Christensen, is "Ondaatje at his finest." 


"Give Me Your Hand" by Megan Abbott

For fans of psychological thrillers like "The Girl on the Train," Megan Abbott's twisted portrait of female friendship is the perfect read. 

"Two young girls meet in a chemistry class in high school and become extremely wrapped in each other's live but they're also intensely competitive," Christensen said. "Fast forward 20 years later, the narrator is working in a lab studying a very rare but very dangerous rare hormonal disorder... and in walks her friend from years ago who has shared with her a very dark secret that you'll only learn at the very end." 

"Give Me Your Hand" goes on sale July 17.   


"The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir" by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Yrsa Daley-Ward, a writer, model and Instagram poet, explores her adolescence as a girl of mixed West Indian and West African descent growing up in the north of England.

"There is prose but there is a lot of poetry as well, and I think that's such an interesting way to tell your own life story," Christensen said. "She's absolutely stunning but she's very insecure about her role in life and it leads to drugs and alcohol in her modeling career but it's ultimately an uplifting ending. It's literally a poetic look at someone's life."


"Calypso" by David Sedaris 

When David Sedaris, one of America's most celebrated and beloved humor writers, buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, he envisions relaxing vacations spent with family and the people he loves most. It's not quite that.

"Mixed in with the humor is really a sobering portrait of a man who has lost his mother, she was an alcoholic, and sort of grappling with that as well as his sister to suicide," Christensen said. "There's a particularly hysterical moment when he's feeding a tumor that's been removed from his body, a benign tumor, to a turtle on a beach." 


How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is a celebrated food writer known for best-sellers like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and other books that focus on the intersection of food, nature and culture. In "How To Change Your Mind" he explores psychedelics and the growing science that shows these drugs might be an effective way of treating a variety of psychological issues, including depression. 

"He has dropped acid for the first time, done several kinds of psychedelics and writes so convincingly in this book," Christensen said. "Whether you are interested in psychedelics or not, it's a portrait of a man who's changing his mind. It's uprooting our very deep-seated associations and expectations and judgments and saying, well, what if I step outside of my comfort zone?" 

For Christensen and Duthiers' full conversation, watch the video above.