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SWEEPS! Fall for These Books: 8 Titles to Help You Read and Refresh

by | October 17

While school may be a thing of the past (for now at least, #gradschool?), every fall I feel like I need to get my act slightly more together. Maybe it’s all the back-to-school sales that make me think I need a new organizer and a more serious and studious attitude. Or the fact that people aren’t on vacation all the time anymore, and suddenly the office is bustling. Or maybe it’s that the book publishing industry itself comes back to life, releasing some of its biggest heavy hitters and potential award winners through the fall season. Any which way, the fact of the matter is—back-to-school isn’t just for kids. It can be for grown-ups too! In that spirit, here are eight books to pick up to refresh your mind.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

by Jesmyn Ward

The past is always present.

If you haven’t yet read Jesmyn Ward, first of all, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Second of all, read her ASAP. I recommend starting with her latest book, the National Book Award–winning Sing, Unburied, Sing. The novel is both the story of a family, and also a look at our country’s difficult past and present. We follow a young boy named Jojo who lives with his grandparents and his toddler sister. His mother, Leonie, is a drug addict who comes in and out of their lives. When Jojo’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs the kids up, along with a friend, and drives them to the Mississippi State Penitentiary to pick him up. Along the story’s way, Jojo tries to understand what it means to be a man, looking to his grandfather, his estranged father, and others.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is capital-A American literature. This book is Book of the Month—certified, Skimm-approved, and has basically been proclaimed one of the best books ever by a lot of people (including our OTL Barack Obama), and me. So read it.

Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep

by Matthew Walker

Don’t underestimate the power of sleep.

To be honest, Why We Sleep scared me. I have never been good about getting enough sleep, have low-grade insomnia, and stare at my phone in the dark when I’m in bed. But in an age where everyone has a main hustle, two side hustles, looks amazing, and eats healthy—while you’re just out here trying to keep up—sleep will do you so much good. And Matthew Walker explains exactly why. If you are trying to step your game up professionally, emotionally, physically—for basically any reason—you need to read this book and start adhering to a sleep regimen.

Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher

by Tom Perrotta

Who says an empty nest has to feel empty?

Mrs. Fletcher is a wild romp, in the truest sense. Eve Fletcher, a middle-aged divorcée, has just became an empty nester. Her son’s left for college, and she’s all alone at home with apparently not much going on. That is, until she gets a very flirty text message from an unknown number, which opens the door to sexual explorations she never fathomed before.

Meanwhile, her son, Brendan, is learning about real life at his New England college where he’s forced to confront his white-dude privilege and his outdated and chauvinistic ideas about sex and gender relationships.

Eventually both mother and son find themselves in uncomfortable and unseemly situations—which come to a head one fateful November night. This is suburbia like you’ve never seen it.

Disclaimer: Not for the faint of heart and 100% worth the read.

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

by Jeannette Walls

Find beauty, resilience, and redemption in the struggle.

Jeannette Walls and her three siblings lived in near-poverty their entire childhoods with parents that both inspired and inhibited their health and growth. When sober, their brilliant and charismatic dad fed their imaginations and taught them about physics, geology, and more. When drunk, he was dishonest and destructive. Their mother felt tied down by domesticity, and prioritized her artwork and hobbies over her children, who were often left to fend for themselves.

Despite all of this, Walls conveys moments of hope and glory from growing up with her siblings and parents—and is remarkably unjudging given her circumstances. Though her young life seems almost unfathomable, Walls writes her memoir with incomprehensible ease.

BONUS: Watch The Glass Castle adaptation starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts and let us know which one you like better! (It better be the book.)

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

Experience the power of kindness even in troubled times.

To put it simply, the lives of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy become intertwined amid the devastation of World War II in this intricate exploration of heartbreak, morality, and survival. To put it less simply, Anthony Doerr spent a decade writing this book, and while you’re reading for the plot, you’re really reading for his gorgeous writing.

Especially in a time when our politics, our country, and the whole world seem just a little bit doomed, the Pulitzer Prize–winning All the Light We Cannot See "illuminates the ways, against all odds, that people try to be good to one another."

WARNING: You will weep.

Shoe Dog

Shoe Dog

by Phil Knight

Unleash your entrepreneurial spirit.

Phil Knight is probably a good person to have on your vision board. The founder of Nike, the man behind the swoosh, is apparently super shy and tends to shun the media. In Shoe Dog, he (finally) tells the story of his journey from business school to his position as trendsetter, inspiring a brand and culture. Knight writes of crushing setbacks, thrilling triumphs, and relationships that became the heart and soul of his company on his journey upwards. Read his story for inspiration and motivation. #JustDoIt

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

by Jennifer Egan

Dive for the truth.

I first encountered Jennifer Egan when I read her Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad (which is one of the most intricate, cynical, and inventive books I have ever read, and should absolutely be on your TBR). Her latest novel, Manhattan Beach, is completely different and just as amazing.

In this work of historical fiction, you follow nineteen-year-old Anna Kerrigan as she becomes the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s first female diver and serves as her family’s official breadwinner, taking care of her younger sister and mother. When Anna encounters Dexter Styles, a crime boss and the only connection she has to her missing father, she becomes a pseudo-detective—changing her identity and getting close to Styles to find out what she can about the complexity of her father’s life and the reasons he may have vanished.

My favorite aspect of this book is that it’s so feminist. Anna expresses frustrations about 1940s America that honestly might not be so different from your complaints about the 2010s. Follow her story and get inspired. And maybe sign up for diving lessons.

Grit

Grit

by Angela Duckworth

Learn to push yourself.

The daughter of a scientist who frequently told her she lacked “genius,” Angela Duckworth turned out to be a pretty amazing person—a celebrated researcher and professor, who, somewhat ironically, won a genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation. On her road to success, Angela realized that it might not be “genius” that makes or breaks a person, but rather their passion and perseverance—or grit.

In Grit, Angela shares fascinating insights and anecdotes both from history and present-day people, such as cadets struggling through West Point, and ultimately makes an argument for why you shouldn’t give up on your dreams.

BONUS: For a sneak peek of what this book holds, check out Angela’s TED Talk!

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Shefali works on the Corporate Digital Marketing team at Simon & Schuster. Because her whole life is #reading, it’s hard for her to pick a favorite genre—anything with strong voice is amazing. She sometimes has unpopular opinions, loves Jane Austen, and finds snark, sassiness, and Oxford commas to be necessary parts of life. Follow her on Twitter at @ShefaliLohia or Instagram at @shefallsgracefully.