Commentary from Nicole Carr, AHA Development Director

It’s a summer of reopening. More and more Americans are getting vaccinated and cases of COVID-19 in the US are down to numbers not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. As I write this in mid-June, more than half of the total US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and just over half of people over twelve years old are fully vaccinated. There is currently no vaccine approved for those under twelve, but trials for even this age group are underway. This means that more and more of us are again gathering with friends and family, planning to travel, and enjoying group activities—just in time to enjoy warm weather and sunshine.

In honor of a summer closer to normal, we’ve devoted much of this issue to the all-important summer reading list. We’re bringing you plenty of book reviews, a book preview, a reading listicle, poetry (from our June Haiku Contest celebrating National Poetry Month) and a meditation on art and spirituality. Even articles you wouldn’t think of for suggested reading lists, have them.

Admittedly, most of these aren’t “beach reads”—humanist issues don’t easily lend themselves to light reading. But we are featuring books that we think will interest and challenge humanists. As you read through this issue, you’ll find works written by humanists like Jeff Hawkins, Sikivu Hutchinson, Andrew Copson (this one’s almost a beach read) and the American Humanist Association’s own Roy Speckhardt. Some of our picks are from authors outside the humanist community, but with focus on issues of importance to us, like the racism of White evangelicals or science fiction about the climate crisis.

In the midst of making summer lists and plans, we should remember that there remains cause to be careful. There are still plenty of people who aren’t vaccinated. In many places, especially in countries that don’t have the same access to vaccines that the US enjoys, people still struggle in the midst of the pandemic. Even in the US, data shows that protections against COVID-19 haven’t taken hold everywhere. As people who believe in science and evidence might predict, states with high vaccination rates have fewer cases than states with low vaccination rates. Too, virulent variants have emerged and new ones may still appear. The vaccines we have now protect well against the variants we’re aware of, but we’ve learned the hard way in the last year or so, we can’t know what will come next.

As the country reopens, it’s important that we reflect on the difficult time from which we are (hopefully) emerging. By the time you read this, the count of US deaths from COVID-19 will likely have surpassed 600,000 with well over 33 million total US cases. Those stark numbers include loved ones, colleagues and friends. And they touch the lives of each one of us.

So while we all enjoy our summer, let’s not forget what we’ve just been through. If you haven’t yet, get vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated and enter a business or store that encourages mask-wearing, be willing to put yours on. If you travel for vacation, wear a mask on planes and trains, in shared transportation like taxis, and maybe even in crowds. And don’t forget to bring a good book.