Matt Nixon of A Capella Books shares his summer reading list

A selection of recent books on the shelves of A Capella Books in Atlanta's Inman Park neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of A Capella Books)

For many, warm weather means summer reading, whether you’re vacationing, enjoying more leisure time, or you just enjoy reading at home. “City Lights” gathered recommendations from writer Matt Nixon, also a bookseller at A Capella Books. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share his curated list of great reads for the summer.

Highlights from Matt Nixon’s summer reading picks:

“A Tiny Upward Shove” by Melissa Chadburn – “It’s remarkable, and I’d even go so far as to say it’s not only the best thing I’ve read this year – I don’t know that I’ve read five better things over the last several years,” Nixon attested. “There’s no way I’ll do justice to the beauty and grace that exists within these pages…. Our main character is a young woman named Marina Salles, and it opens at the moment of her death at the hands of another person, of a man. And as she’s dying, we take on the viewpoint of what we come to find out is the ‘eswang’ …. It’s a Filipino myth of the spirit, and we’re guided then through Marina’s life, three generations of women.” 

“Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel – “It’s wonderful. It’s life affirming. She’s gotten a lot of press of recent; her 2014 novel… ‘Station Eleven,’ was long-listed for the National Book Award,” said Nixon. “[‘Sea of Tranquility’ is] a bit of a time-hopping narrative structure, but what really gives it resonance is that one of the areas that the book is in takes place in 2203, and there is an author who wrote a best-selling book about a life in a pandemic…. It really speaks to our times and what it means to live through a pandemic, and the hope and the joy of life that can still happen, and what happens after that. And it’s really meaningful in that way, but it’s just a ripping yarn too.”

“Young Mungo” by Douglas Stuart – “For those who read… his 2020 Booker Prize-winner ‘Shuggie Bain…’ it’s a lot of the same milieu; that hard-scrabble Thatcher-era Glasgow. It’s got a real tactile sense of place, and just the sadness and the futility…. The shipbuilding jobs have left, and there’s just a lot of desperation in the air,” Nixon said. “In the midst of all of this you have Mungo, who has a torn-up, separated family, an alcoholic mother. And he finds a neighbor, James, who’s Catholic, and it becomes a friendship that’s bonded over racing pigeons, and then they begin to discover what those feelings might be – and they’re forbidden. It’s just a wonderful story of the flower in the cracked sidewalk – that hope can exist in such a toxic place.” 

“Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez – “Just all over the place in a wonderful way,” Nixon said. “Readers jumping into this one can expect a love story that’s complicated by family trauma and past experiences, ideas of place and status…. It’s also a glimpse into high-end, ultra-elite wedding planners, and it’s got these great sequences of Olga trying to leverage her wedding planning business into television opportunities… [it] really has a short critique on some of the reality television and daytime television. So it’s sort of a grab bag; you get a lot of Puerto Rican history, Puerto Rican culture in New York and, and the state of what’s happening in Puerto Rico ever since the hurricane a few years back. So it’s just sort of a wild mix.”

“From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy” by Scott Meslow – “It’s the one nonfiction book I did send over to you that I was excited to talk about,” Nixon admitted. “This book takes romantic comedy seriously…. For a lot of reasons, sexism being primarily one of them – since romantic comedies primarily appeal to women – film scholarship doesn’t take it seriously, really. And that’s sort of a jumping off point for Scott Meslow in this book, because he does take it seriously…. It’s just a great read for anyone that likes movies, full stop, period.”

“Pay Dirt Road” by Samantha Jayne Allen (another A Capella Books seller) – “It is a literary whodunit. But what Samantha has done with this book, she’s elevated it and taken it to some slightly unexpected places,” said Nixon. “Annie McIntyre is the lead character. She’s 22 years old… [She] doesn’t really have career prospects at the moment; she moved back home to her small town of Garnett, Texas. And one of her coworkers at a restaurant she works at, ends up missing and ultimately dead…. Annie sets out investigating. And what really sets it apart is just a tremendous sense of place. You can smell the rain when it hits the dust. The author does just such an artful job of portraying those conflicting feelings that many of us have about hour hometowns – love, hate, frustration, anger.”