9 Summer Reads by Emerson Alumni

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Looking for a summer read? Today we’re bringing you some must-reads by Emerson alumni! Whether you’re looking for humor, mystery, or a heartwarming story of friendship, we’ve got you covered. Pick up one of these summer reads to see the kinds of excellent writers that Emerson fosters.

The cover of Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm, showing a line drawing of a man and woman embracing against a pink and orange background.

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm 

By Laura Warrell, Bachelor’s in Creative Writing & Journalism, ‘95

Called a “gorgeously written debut” by Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, Laura Warrell’s debut novel is a perfect summer read. Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm follows a Boston-based trumpet player, Circus Palmer, as he floats between women and refuses to be tied down. When he learns that the woman he secretly loves most is pregnant, Circus runs from the situation, leading to a chain of revelations among the women in his life. Along the way we meet Circus’s teenage daughter, Koko, who idolizes Circus, and her mother, who is struggling with a failed marriage and Circus’s rejection. For breathtaking prose and a gripping story of unrequited love, check out Warrell’s Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm.

Cover of The Guncle, showing an illustration of Patrick, Grant, Maisie, and a small brown dog walking along the side of a pool. Patrick holds a martini glass, Grant holds an ice cream cone, and Maisie holds a book.

The Guncle

By Steven Rowley, Bachelor’s in Film and Communications, ‘94

A Goodreads Choice Award finalist for 2021 Novel of the Year, Steven Rowley’s recent novel is poignant and funny. Affectionately called Gay Uncle Patrick by his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant, Patrick loves his brother’s children. However, when Maisie and Grant’s mother passes away and Patrick’s brother experiences a sudden medical crisis, Patrick is overwhelmed to find himself the primary caretaker of the children. In a humorous and deeply human series of events, Patrick finds his best laid plans thrown out the window as he learns more about parenting and grows closer to Maisie and Grant. For a heartwarming, fun read from an Emerson alumn, pick up The Guncle this summer!

Cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, showing a blonde woman in a green gown in front of a redish-brown wall

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

By Taylor Jenkins Reid, BA in Media Studies, ‘05

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of bestselling author Taylor Jenkins Reid’s most popular books. Glamorous and reclusive, aging movie star Evelyn Hugo is ready to tell her story. To everyone’s astonishment, though, Evelyn selects Monique Grant, an unknown magazine journalist, to write her biography. Amid a failed marriage and stagnant career, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to turn her life around. When she visits Evelyn’s extravagant apartment, Monique becomes enthralled by Evelyn’s memories of a self-made Hollywood career in the ‘50s. However, as Evelyn’s story progresses, it becomes clear that her life connects with Monique’s in a number of tragic ways. Full of glamor, scandal, and heartbreak, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a must-read by one of the many successful Emerson alumni. 

The cover of Friends with Issues, showing an illustration of three women against a green background. The leftmost woman has long blonde hair and a white sleeveless top with red dots. The middle woman has long auburn hair and a sleeveless red top. The rightmost woman has short dark hair, a sleeveless yellow top, and a pearl necklace.

Friends with Issues 

By Meredith Berlin, BS in English & Journalism, ‘76

Three-time Emmy nominee Meredith Berlin has crafted a heartfelt, poignant novel perfect for your summer TBR list. Set in 1997, this fresh novel follows three successful Manhattan women: Brooke, Elizabeth, and Susan. Each woman is faced with the difficulties of balancing her career, family, friends, and love life, taking us on a journey of heartache and discovery. From shaky marriages to frightening diagnoses, these friends with issues will leave you struggling to put the book down. 

Cover of Something Shady at Sunshine Haven, showing a cane in the foreground. The orange background shows a city skyline, hills, and two cacti.

Something Shady at Sunshine Haven 

By Kris Bock, MA in Professional Writing & Publishing, ‘94

The first of a four-book series, Kris Bock’s Something Shady at Sunshine Haven is a great mystery for a sunny day. War correspondent Kate Tessler returns to her childhood home after getting injured in a bombing. The hardest part of being back home is not her sister’s resentment or the people around town who still call her “Kitty,” but seeing her mother in an Alzheimer’s unit. Soon an old friend asks Kate to investigate some suspicious deaths that have occurred at the skilled nursing facility, and we join her on a hunt to find the killer before her mother becomes the next potential target. If you’re a fan of cozy sleuths, family, and a bit of suspense, this is the book for you.

Cover of Love & Other Disasters, showing two illustrated figures. The figure on the left has long brown hair and a short sleeve black-and-white striped top. The figure on the right is upside down and looks at the person on the left. The rightmost person has short redish hair and a blue t-shirt.

Love & Other Disasters 

By Anita Kelly, BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, ‘06

Queer romance writer Anita Kelly’s most recent novel follows Dahlia Woodson, recent divorcee on the verge of bankruptcy, and London Parker, the first openly nonbinary contestant on hit cooking show Chef’s Special. Dahlia joins the show to reinvent herself and win a much-needed cash prize. However, these hopes are dashed when she trips and sends fish tacos flying on her first day on national television. Parker has enough on their mind without worrying over their co-contestant, but despite themselves, Parker starts to fall for Dahlia. As Dahlia and Parker grow closer, the show finale approaches and their relationship is put to the test. For a fun, heartwarming love story, pick up Kelly’s Love & Other Disasters today!

The cover of Mi Maria, showing a photograph of a person sitting in a chair among the remaining walls of what was once their house.

Mi María: Surviving the Storm: Voices from Puerto Rico

Edited by Ricia Anne Chansky, MA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, ‘94, and Marci Denesiuk

In Mi María: Surviving the Storm, Ricia Anne Chansky and Marci Denesiuk collect 17 oral histories of Hurricane María’s impact on Puerto Rico and its residents. Zaira tells of her and her husband floating on a patched air mattress for sixteen hours during the flooding. Emmanuel recalls trying desperately to drive his wife, in labor, to the hospital even as the road washed away. Luis remembers waiting day after day with his father for lifesaving treatment after the storm closed down the dialysis clinic.

All of these stories and more build a multifaceted narrative of Hurricane María, highlighting the failings of governmental disaster responses, the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the US, and the strength of community in the wake of tragedy. If you’re looking for a more informative summer read, Mi María: Surviving the Storm is an excellent option.

Cover of Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar, showing an illustration of a figure with short brown hair, wearing a blue and purple striped jacket, with their back to the viewer.

Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar 

By Jessamyn Violet, BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, ‘05 

Dubbed Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Books in YA Literature by LAMBDA Literary, Jessamyn Violet’s debut novel is full of ambition. 18-year-old Kyla Bell dreams of being a musician, practicing daily and performing at local Massachusetts venues. During one of these performances, Ruby Sky, leader of Kyla’s favorite band, hears Kyla perform. When Ruby asks Kyla to join the band on tour, Kyla embarks on a wild journey. Traveling to Los Angeles, Kyla drops out of school and moves in with an unpredictable producer who promises to make her a rock star in time for the tour. On top of navigating the highs and lows of the ‘90s music scene, Kyla finds herself developing feelings for Ruby. Full of adventure, bildungsroman, and budding romance, Violet’s debut novel is a must-read this summer.

Cover of Just River, showing white background with an illustration of a key and keychain pendant that looks like a bear with a fish in its mouth

Just River 

By Sara B. Fraser, BFA in Creative Writing, ‘90

Meet best friends Sam and Carol, residents of small-town Wattsville. When Carol’s daughter, Garnet, finds herself in prison for defending herself against an abusive boyfriend, Carol and Sam team up to help her. However, in the process, an innocent boy gets kidnapped, a dog poisoned, and Garnet’s life jeopardized. In this novel’s many twists and turns, author Sara B. Fraser crafts powerful characters with deeply human experiences. 

Emerson trains creative innovators, and many Emerson alumni go on to become successful writers. Our programs such as Journalism and Creative Writing help students achieve their dreams of being published authors. To learn more about how Emerson graduate degrees help students succeed, check out our Careers blogs or schedule a call with an admissions counselor.

Follow Olivia Wachtel:

Writing Assistant

Olivia is a second-year student in Emerson's Communication Disorders MS program. Originally from Ohio, she is loving Emerson and city life. When she's not writing for the Grad Life blog, she loves to read, bake, and crochet.

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