The 21st Annual Summer Reading List

The warm and lengthening days of summer are upon us, and hopefully they bring with them some free time to curl up in the shade with a good book. If your interests tend more toward escape than work, start with

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music”(Dey Street Books © 2021) by Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl.

You’ll meet iconic rock stars through Grohl’s eyes, and even if a who’s who of the music industry doesn’t necessarily appeal to you, Grohl brings such a sense of delight and child-like wonder to every tale that you can’t help but be swept along by his anecdotes. What I loved most, though, was the first section, where he shares short personal stories from his life. As advertised, they paint a “real, raw and honest portrait of an extraordinary life made up of ordinary moments.” You’ll catch yourself grinning as he learns drums by beating on pillows and share his awe at being invited to jam with Iggy Pop. And all the while, I have a hunch you’ll also be learning how to tell stories better.

Of course, if you’d like your summer reading to be a little more on point, we have 3 more suggestions for you.

How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from the Moth (Crown Publishing © 2022) by Meg Bowles, Catherine Burns, Jenifer Hixson, Sarah Austin Jenness, and Kate Tellers

Between live shows, podcasts and books, The Moth has made invaluable contributions to the art and tradition of storytelling, and their latest work is no exception. Billed as a how-to, this book delivers when it comes to guiding aspiring storytellers through the steps the Moth team has used so successfully to cultivate and share personal stories.

They illustrate their concepts with excellent examples and helpfully sum up key points at the end of each chapter. I was practically up on my feet cheering through the first chapter that talks about the power of true stories and what happens to humans when they hear or tell stories.

The writers will guide you through structuring your story so that it opens strong, makes sense throughout, keeps the listener engaged using stakes and cliffhangers, and sticks the landing. Their StorySlam how-to poster alone is worth the cost of the book. Here’s an excerpt:

 “What we do want: Hook us in. Make us care about you. Paint the scene. Clearly state your fears, desires, the dilemma. Make us invested in the outcome. Introduce the conflict. Make us worried for you. Impress us with observations that are uniquely yours. Rope us into the moment when it all goes down. Conclude as a different person: Triumphant? Defeated? Befuddled? Enlightened?…CHANGED.”

How to Zoom Your Room: Room Rater’s Ultimate Style Guide (Little, Brown & Company © 2022) by Claude Taylor & Jessie Bahrey, Illustrated by Chris Morris

The authors capitalized on our COVID captivity with their popular Twitter feed, “Room Rater,” where they critiqued the Zoom windows of professional broadcasters and pundits. Now you can follow their tips for making sure your Zoom room is a 10/10.

There is helpful advice about choosing the best lighting and angles, avoiding no-no’s like visible lampshade seams and electrical cords (heaven forfend!), and there are even several pages of recipes from former US Senator Claire McCaskill. (I’m not entirely sure why, but I might make that layered strawberry cake.)

Taylor and Bahrey seem to be telling us: make your Zoom room feel like you, and don’t take it too seriously. Frankly, I don’t think “How to Zoom Your Room” is intended as a front-to-back read, so I’d recommend it for a coffee table or your powder room. That said, the book does have a good-looking spine, so I’m putting my copy behind me in my Zoom window.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters (Riverhead Books © 2018), by Priya Parker

Yes, the book is four years old, but now that many of us are finally getting together again, the timing feels right to add this title to our reading list. Priya Parker (who has been popping up on several podcasts recently) is a facilitator and strategic advisor trained in group dialogue and conflict resolution. Her work is all about creating “collective meaning in modern life, one gathering a time.”

Parker reminds us that our gatherings can be memorable and even transformative, but only if we do the work beforehand to examine why we are getting together in the first place. She encourages us in “committing to a bold, sharp, purpose,” instead of just meeting out of habit.

As our organizations, families and friends navigate gathering once again, now is a great time to pick up this book, which was named a Best Business Book by NPR, Amazon, Esquire and more.

It may very well help you plan a gathering where every participant leaves thinking, “Now that was worth going to!”