OPEN THREAD | Our community summer reading roundup

What’s on your summer reading list?

We asked LRT writers to share their current reading pile – read on for a fabulous array of inspiring and enticing reads covering magic, social justice, sci-fi, poetry, historical fiction, essays, psychology, herbalism and loads more. You name it, we’re reading about it!

And how about you? What’s your favourite book right now, what can’t you put down, what are you excited to pick up? Let us know in the comments!


Beth

Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott
I’m only halfway through book one in Manda Scott’s mammoth trilogy, which is set in Celtic Britain. The central character is Breaca – the girl, then woman, who will become the legendary Boudica, leading her people in rebellion against the Roman invasion and the ensuing decimation of Celtic culture. What is so incredible about this book (on top of the awesome flawed woman hero stepping into her power, and the intense and vividly detailed writing) is its imagining of how Celtic communities may have been organised – whether or not it is historically accurate, it is incredibly inspiring, especially the focus on dreamwork, and the culture of being in reciprocal relationship with nature and spirit.

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
I keep this book in the bathroom, and read one or two essays each time I have a bath. Some of these I have now read many times over. It is soothing and inspiring to get a window into the mind and spirit of a person I admire and love through these meandering essays which are all, essentially, about being a flawed human in this big, challenging, beautiful world.

The Art of Community by Charles Vogl
This short book sets out seven principles to intentionally design, develop and manage a healthy community space. I love the ideas in this book and playing with how they can be adapted and applied to the community space I am currently dreaming into existence.

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown (US link)
Where has this book been all of our lives? This is the most passionate and beautiful plea for a more aligned, more compassionate, more conscious and more effective social justice movement I have ever come across. adrienne maree brown’s approaches to creating change are radical, rootsy and feel actually possible. I love love love that she implores us to experiment, to try new ways of being. I love that she insists that there is room for multiple ways of being, for multiple voices. Whenever I feel anxious about the state of our movement, I pick up this book, read a few pages, and feel calm. It brings me back to my values – and then, I know what my power is, what our work needs to be.

Also: Neon Soul by Alexandra Elle (poetry) and Letting in the Wild Edges by Glennie Kindred (nonfiction) – both of which I’m kinda always reading, over and over.


Cathou

Conserve and Control by Otter Lieffe,
I can’t wait to read Otter’s second speculative book! Transfeminism, class and power, environmental issues, sex work, and resistance meet beautifully in the healer’s words. You can support her on Patreon!

Le guide pratique du féminisme divinatoire by Camille Ducellier
I read it quickly a couple of months ago. This revised edition by a witchy feminist publishing house is encouraging me read it again. The practical guide to divinatory feminism is fun, creative and artistic. Some of Camille’s works are available in English on her website.

A nos humanités révoltées by Kiyémis
A poetry collection published by a newly founded intersectional feminist publishing house. Weaving from personal/political experiences and consideration, this is an afrofeminist statement.

Black Words by Lisette Lombé
Lisette is a powerful performer. Her written words on their own are just as strong. In this book, many of her collages are compiled along with her poetry. She tells her own story as a mixed-race woman living in Belgium, she honores her bounds with Congo, and she makes it resonate with many other lives – real or fictional.

Sabat Magazine
The conjunction of art, pop culture and interviews relating to feminism and witchcraft makes it a very pleasant magazine. They’re beautiful artworks in and of themselves, especially The Crone issue. Even if I don’t relate to the triple goddess archetype, there’s enough fluidity and perspectives for me to enjoy how Sabat Magazine celebrates it. I wish they will use more diverse photograph(er)s in the future though. The first issues feature mainly white and thin normative bodies.

Toutes les combinaisons du Jeu Lenormand by Sylvie Lacombe
I struggle to find a feminist/queer non-predictive approach to Le Petit Lenormand. It’s a classical deck for cartomancy in Belgium and France though, and I feel drawn to it. This book is very heteronormative, not very useful at questioning capitalism. However, it’s a convincing reference to Lenormand and its cards’ associations. Now I need to find out my personal approach!


Alexis

What I’ve just finished reading…

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I don’t read a ton of fiction (Trying to change that! Open to recommendations!) but I got lucky this past year by stumbling across a few fun gems, including Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. If you’re a Harry Potter fan or wanted to be a Harry Potter fan but was like “Where are the queers? And folks of colors as lead characters? And excellent teenage dialogue with expletives?” then Carry On is your remedy. What appears at first to be a Harry Potter rip-off (albeit a clever one) is something far more grand and wonderful.

One Simple Idea: How the Lessons of Positive Thinking Can Transform Your Life by Mitch Horowitz
If you’re looking for a book to explain where the tenacious positive thinking and ‘good vibes only’ movement came from and how it continues to influence modern esoteric communities (including the tarot community), I highly recommend One Simple Idea. What I liked about the book is that Horowitz highlights the incredible shortfalls of positive thinking and the ways it can cause real harm (i.e. blaming the victim narratives) while finding the few gems that are actually useful for magickal folk like us who are committed to social change.

What I’m currently reading…

Southern Folk Medicine by Phyllis D. Light
I’m finally reading Southern Folk Medicine and it’s so good! If you’re a traditional western herbalist, it fills in the southern story of herbalism in the US that has been missing for too long in our wider herbal culture (which has, until recently, been very North and Northeastern focused). It’s part memoir, part tutorial, and talks about the unique form of southern energetics.

Doreen Valiente Witch by Philip Heselton
I’m reading this biography on Doreen Valiente, and it’s great. Valiente was a friggin’ badass: Witch, spy, and rebel who bucked against systems that tried to make her small. Alongside calling out other (usually male) magicians on their BS and plagiarism, she revolutionized the structure of Wicca, including re-writing and adding to some of our most precious texts like The Charge of the Goddess. And she was hilarious, incredibly tenacious, and I want a movie to be made about her life – including all the time she spent crisscrossing the country on public transportation tracking down hard-to-find information about the Craft, like the proto-internet Goddess she was.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
So far, so good. Alternative history of England; lots of folks of color; and talks about magic, institutional oppression, and politics. YES.

What I’m planning on reading…

I’m trying to read more fiction so I’ve heard that Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor is great so I’ve added that to my list. And I love a good graphic novel, so I’ve added Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag to to my list as well. Oh! And our very own Cassandra Snow’s Queering the Tarot book slated to come out in 2019!


Luke

Planetary Threads: Patterns of Relating Among Family and Friends by Lynn Bell
(currently reading)
I heard Bell speak (about shoplifting, wealth and financial stress in families) at the recent United Astrology Conference, and I picked up this book because of her clear and engaging style. So far, I’ve been learning about how each astrological house reflects a different sort of upbringing. The 10th house of career can also be the house of weighty family expectations; the happy 5th house of self-expression can reveal why an undervalued kid might grow up to struggle with managing money.

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
(to read)
Just came in from my library holds! Zadie Smith, one of my favorite novelists, has an ability to simultaneously see and find interest in many perspectives on a given subject. Her characters are always complicated, contradictory, full of doubts, mistakes and humanity. I suspect these essays – about art, politics, parenthood, and living between the US and UK – will be too.

Some Hell by Patrick Nathan
(recently finished)
There aren’t any real bookstores where I live, so when I travel, I end up spending hours browsing in indie shops, breathing the paper smells and fantasizing about what I might read next. This very messed-up sounding gay coming of age story was displayed by the register at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn and I read it start to finish on my plane ride home. While I hated the ending (sorry, Patrick Nathan!), the writing, characters and situations resonated closely with the gay darkness of my own teenagerdom (and not in a Y.A. sort of way – so don’t give this to your 17-year-old friend unless you want to freak them out forever).


Cassandra

Recently read:

Volume 6 & 7 of Lumberjanes from BOOM! comics
I was really nervous when Noelle Stevenson stopped being listed as a writer on these, but the last few volumes have proven how strong the team still in place is. They continue to explore genderqueerness as well as femme power, and I am always so enchanted by them. They’re honestly very silly sometimes, but I need that right now.

Your Art Will Save Your Life by Beth Pickens
This book is a really fast read and a really great pep talk for working artists, but beyond that there’s some tangible advice about grants and forming relationships with other working artists. Really loved this.

Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin
This book of essays takes a really powerful look at magick from and for marginalized people. I’m really excited for some of the visual art inside breaking up the standard essay format and really love some of the writers included. (Psst – Read Asali’s review of this book here!)

Currently Reading:

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty
SO, I actually picked this book up because my recent brain injury got confused and thought this is the same writer who penned Big Little Lies, which is a huge guilty pleasure love of mine, but it’s definitely a different writer. I sometimes really love books about small town life though (having grown up and fled that environment) and the young girl as protagonist is really good at drawing us in.

The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
I just started this this morning and am only three pages in. This is a Pagan standard that I’ve just never gotten around to reading until now. I’m not Wiccan, but there’s still a lot there for Goddess worshippers of any ilk.

Excited to read:

Queer Magic by Tomas Prower
I love Prower’s other book about Santa Muerte, and this walk through queer, magical history coming out on June 8th already has a ton of buzz around it. I seriously can’t wait.

Meaty by Samantha Irby
I absolutely loved We Are Never Meeting In Real Life and Meaty is next on my To Be Read pile for a lot of reasons. Her viewpoint is so frank and so hilarious, and as a chronically ill queer person there are so many pieces I relate too throughout all of her work.

The Twelve Faces of the Goddess by Danielle Blackwood
This book weaves astrology and goddess lore together and promises plenty of other magic tips and tricks. I knew nothing about this until I saw it out and about but in leafing through it, I was really excited by the way Blackwood pulls those different influences together.

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente
One of my favorite writers of all time takes on science fiction with music, love, and (according to early reviews) glitter. This is one I snatched as soon as it came out, but my To Be Read pile has it a little bit backed up.


Tango

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain
Shlain, a neurosurgeon, spent 7 years compiling the research for this book, where he argues that the fall of Goddess worship / rise of Patriarchy coincides with the rise of alphabetic written languages. With a focus on Europe and Asia, he traces the shift from right-brain cultures to left-brain cultures. I’m only half-way through this glorious text, and I want to everyone I know to read it!

Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and Psychology by Marie-Louise von Franz
This is a series of lectures given by a student-turned-colleague of Carl Jung tracing the history of alchemy and discussing how it’s a mirror of emotional processing. The first few chapters were dense, but from middle to end I was entranced. Have magick and psychology always kind of been the same thing?

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa
I read this a few months ago, but I keep returning to it as a reference for my personal practice and also for community building in a feminist context. If you’ve ever been curious or confused about spiritual materialism, this is my recommendation.

I Don’t Want to be an Empath Anymore by Ora North
To be transparent, I edited this book, but I’ve also been re-reading it lately. This book made me realize that I am an empath, while also offering a series of tips & tools for moving through life feeling all the feelings.

In the Next Room (The Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl
Oh look, I do actually read fiction sometimes, haha! This is one of my favorite plays & playwrights. The Vibrator play, based on historical fact, digs into gender & sexuality & hysteria.


…how about you?

What’s your favourite book right now, what can’t you put down, what are you excited to pick up? Which of our books have you read…and what did you make of them? Let us know in the comments!

18 comments

  1. Claire says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for these picks!
    I rarely read fiction but I’m loving Ink and Honey about an unconventional (pun intended :) ) group of nuns in the 13th century; and I recently discovered Patricia Hampl – loved her The Art of the Wasted Day (essay-cum-memoir) and looking forward to Virgin Time.

      • Claire says:

        Oh it’s wonderful Beth, and there’s a youtube video of her giving a talk to college students about it. She’s as good a speaker as she is a writer :) She’s my kind of writer – her books don’t fit into any neat categories – she talks about that in the video :)

  2. Merlin says:

    I have so much going on at the moment:

    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Been watching the show so I’m finally getting at the book! Really like it so far, and the small differences between the book and the tv-version are interesting, as always when I read a book that’s been dramatised in some way.
    The Art of Discarding by Nagisa Tatsumi
    I’m doing the Konmari thing to my house because I have so much clutter and useless junk laying around, so I want to get down to the things that are important and truly precious to me. This is a book that inspired Marie Kondo so I’m excited to read it! It’s easy to get rid of things that doesn’t spark joy or keep the things that do, but all the other complicated emotions objects inspire in me can be hard to understand or sort through. It will be interesting! I’m fascinated by some aspects of minimalism and not so into others (like all the expensive minimalist design stuff and some people’s snooty attitude) so I’ve been reading some books related to that and I’m curious what my own space will end up looking like.
    The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N Aron
    A friend recommended this a few years ago when it was finally translated into Norwegian. When I tossed out a lot of unread books I realised I didn’t want to read this was one I chose to keep despite not having read it yet. Giving it a try, it’s interesting so far and I see a lot of overlap between my disability and her theorised personality trait.
    The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and when I found a translated copy I added it to my little summer book haul. Recently I’m getting into reading books in Norwegian again. So many of my interests are kinda niche and with only 5 million people living here books related to them don’t get translated often so I have to read in English. Good for my English skills maybe, but not so good for my 1st language! This book seems very relevant to this day and age so… I’m a little hyped.
    That One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
    The Tamaki cousins are the perfect team and this is another translated title that has been in my wishlist for a long time. When I can’t concentrate well enough to read full books I always go back to reading comics and this one seems perfect for some summer nostalgia feelings.
    Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe
    I’ve known about the body positive movement for almost a decade and while I am a bit sad to see what started out as something very cool fronted by some amazing fat ladies (under the fat acceptance-banner) get co-opted and watered down by the mainstream and my favourite bloggers move on to other things, I’m excited to read this book. I follow the author on instagram and she seems to align very well with my own views and understanding of what it is to be body positive.

  3. Christina says:

    I recommend If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie – has lots of Celtic myth and storytelling depicting women in relationship with nature, land, community and themselves. It’s a call to finding authenticity and connection so that they may find their natural power to save the Earth in this ecological crisis. I find the stories and lessons rich and moving.

  4. leonardo says:

    hello….I love reading and this post is superb. I m from Argentina and always read something in english for updating my knowlegde.
    I can say I m reading “Dangling man”, by Saul Bellow.
    it depicts ,as in the hanged man tarot card, a man stood still in his life….procrastinating decisions.
    it s really cool the way he write,I recommend it.
    (sorry if my english is not quite accurate)
    best wishes for you all!
    leo

  5. Cam says:

    Books books books!

    Recently Read and Loved:
    Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom is an amazing folk-tale-poem-memoir that blew me away; it’s queer, joyous, intense, sly, and very very urgent.
    The Changeling by Victor Lavalle is a twisting beautiful horror novel about how we love each other, trust each other, and keep our children safe in the face of white supremacy.
    M Archive by Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a stunning collection of narrative poetry visioning a history of late capitalism and resilience. Written as a future history in conversation with M. Jacqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing it’s radical speculative fiction and scholarly conversation at their best.
    Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown is a wise, hopeful, practical, book, very much second the recommendation to check it out if you haven’t yet.

    Alexis, since you liked Carry On and Sorcerer to the Crown, check out Dread Nation by Justina Ireland for reconstruction era zombies and plotting galore. You also might like A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers which is a delightfully queer space opera.

  6. HELEN says:

    Mine aren’t very intellectual
    Reading several at once::
    The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians – by Janice Hadlow, they aren’t that strange, not compared to my family!

    The Winter Sea (Slains, #1) by Susanna Kearsley – Haven’t got to the meat of it yet but I have a feeling it will be a bit like ‘Outlander’. Enjoying it so far

    Falling Free (Vorkosigan Saga #4) by Lois McMaster Bujold – my first foray in to space opera

    Mind Gym: Achieve More by Thinking Differently by Sebastian Bailey

    Have Enjoyed a lot –
    The Iron Duke by Brook Meljean, nothing to do with Arthur Wellesley, its steampunk romance

    Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior…and Feel Great Again by Jeffrey E. Young – a really fab self therapy book. I’ve been recommending to all my friends who are as similarly screwed up by their childhoods as me! ;)

  7. LL says:

    Nearly finished with Emergeny Strategy myself, but also feel like can you actually ever be done reading that book?

    Also just cracked into Kindred by Octavia Butler. This is my first time reading Butler and I am so excited! She’s been referenced by friends, colleagues, other books (like Emergent Strategy) and it is about time for me dive into her works.

    Started reading Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, but took a little break from it in order to read Kindred.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      “but also feel like can you actually ever be done reading that book?” – IKR! I’m reading it over and over. My partner Em wanted to read it after me, she has finally given up waiting and bought her own copy, it had become too regular an argument over when I was actually going to let her have it!

      I’ve only read the graphic novel of Kindred (which is amazing) – keep meaning to read the actual novel, thanks for the reminder LL!

  8. Elize says:

    Oh my, books! Best thread ever! Thank you all for the amazing book recommendations.

    Definitely second the choice of Akata witch, so good. Also Okorafor’s Binti series- its aci-fi afrofuturism, and its a super quick and awesome read.

    My favourite fiction recently has been Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster. Its set on Canada’s westcoast and weaves magic with indigenous culture and mysticism and the reality of living in Canadian indigenous communities today. Its a coming of age story of a man learning about his family’s power and links to the magical, and its so so so good. My only regret is that the sequel isnt out yet…
    I also just got The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
    And
    Indian Love Poems, by Tennille K. Campbell

    Both are amazing so far, even though I’ve barely cracked the surface.

  9. Elize says:

    I firgot the mention N.K. Jemison. If you’re looking for fiction, all of her work is amazing. It all weaves magic and the divine with fantastic worlds and amazing storytelling. The Dreamblood series is my favourite, but all of her work is a delight.

  10. Valerie says:

    I just finished Mother Night: Myths, Stories, And Teachings For Learning To See In The Dark, which is an audio series by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Pinkola Estés is an artist and Jungian psychoanalyst who uses stories to teach about creativity and the unconscious. I found her funny, kind, and compelling.

  11. Clara says:

    Thanks for the great book recommendations!
    I am reading so many books at the same time right now… But really hope to finish these during summer:

    Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
    Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
    Ravenous Zine Vol. 1 (just discovered it’s available for 6$ as a digital download!)
    Living a Feminist Life by Sarah Ahmed

    Happy reading everyone!

  12. Mary L
    Mary L says:

    Best summer reading post EVER. I just added like ten books to my TBR list. (So maybe, worst summer reading post?? Depending on how you look at it?)

    Some of my favorite fiction from the past few months:

    Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire: A mystery/fantasy/horror novella, starring kids who’ve all returned to the real world from their own personal versions of Wonderland. The mystery won’t exactly keep you guessing, but it’s an endearing and fast read. (Trigger warning for B-movie-style gore.)

    Circe, Madeline Miller: Feminist retelling of the Greek myths surrounding the witch/nymph Circe. It’s as awesome as you want it to be, plus beautiful prose. (Trigger warning for standard mythology violence and for rape, though it’s handled from a feminist perspective.)

    The Night Ocean, Paul LaFarge: Literary fiction that’s part contemporary realism, part historical fiction, part mystery. Based on the life (and problematic personality) of horror writer HP Lovecraft. (Trigger warning for racism and homophobia, as Lovecraft was a terrible human, but the book engages critically with his views.)

  13. Beth
    Beth says:

    Wow Tango, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism sounds brilliant – I just looked it up and read:
    The universal tendency, [the author] shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty. “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.”
    THIS! I’ve been trying to word this frustration for ages, and this says it so simply.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Ooohhhhhhhh I love this idea! I suspect this is one for Tango, who is now on a summer break – leave it with me and we’ll figure out if it’s possible!! xxx

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