Friday Book Chats: Summer Reading List

Summer always feels like the perfect time for fun, quick reads. Even people who aren’t normally big readers seem more inclined to pick up a book while lounging by the pool or on the beach. Below are my recommendations for some great summer reads. I’m not including some of this summer’s hot books (like Harper Lee’s highly anticipated Go Set a Watchman) because I only wanted to share books that I’ve actually read and could confidently recommend.

These aren’t all chick-lit or completely mindless, escapist books (though some are), but they are all books I found to be fairly quick, enjoyable reads that remind me of summer for one reason or another. I’ve written about some of these in past posts, but some are new. I broke them into categories to make it easier to find something you might like.

I read all kinds of books in lots of different genres and some books I recommend do have some language, sexual content, or violence in them, so if you’re concerned about anything in particular, just leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to give you more details.

Contemporary:

Liane Moriarty books – Moriarty is just a great storyteller and her plots are fresh and unique and interesting. I’ve read all of her books except one and really enjoyed all of them. While a lot of her main characters are female, I think men would enjoy some of them, too. I’d start with What Alice Forgot or Big Little Lies.

Jennifer Weiner books – I’ve enjoyed most of her books. They aren’t totally chick lit as the plot and characters are more developed and complex than your typical romance, but they are definitely more focused on women and women’s issues and are very quick reads. I’d start with In Her Shoes or Good in Bed.

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. The cover of this book is a bit misleading. It looks like a nice beach read. It is a fairly quick read, but it’s more a domestic drama than a feel-good summer fling book. It tells the story of four women from three generations of the dysfunctional Kelleher family centered around their month spent in close quarters at the family summer home in Maine.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This book really is worth the hype. If you haven’t read it yet, this summer would be a great time!

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I love this book for summer because it takes place in so many exotic locations. This book follows artists of different types – a writer, an actress, a film producer, and a musician, from post-war Italy to modern-day Hollywood and weaves each of their stories together in a unique way.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  15-year-old Bee is preparing to leave for boarding school, but first she and her family will take a long-anticipated trip to Antarctica. That is, until her mother, Bernadette, disappears. Bee pieces together all the information she can find to figure out what happened to her mother.

Classics:

Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love this book even though it’s sad. Every time I readTo_Kill_a_Mockingbird it I’m transported to this beautiful, magical summer that’s as intoxicating as it is tragic.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since I can’t recommend Lee’s new book, the least I can do is insist that you read this classic if you haven’t before. It’s relatively short and an easy read, but so so good.

Young Adult:

The Grisha Trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo. I read this entire trilogy this month and I think it’s fantastic. Very fast read, engaging, interesting world/plot/characters, etc. It’s definitely “fantasy lite” so don’t read it with the expectation that you’re heading into an epic saga, but I couldn’t put them down.

John Green books. The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and An Abundance of Katherines. Green is the master of YA literature for the simple reason that he captures so perfectly what it is to be an adolescent, to ask big questions about life, and to expect more than trite answers. Not always happy books, but always moving.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series  by Ann Brashares. These aren’t new books, but if you like YA fiction and you missed them the first time around, I think they are worth the read. Of course, the premise is kind of ridiculous, but the individual stories of the girls go far beyond summer romances or petty fights. There are five books in the series, with the last one, Sisterhood Everlastingcrossing over into adult fiction as it picks up the girls’ lives 10 years later as they are about to turn 30.

Mystery:

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. Lippman has a large mystery series involving her character detective Tess Monaghan, but this one is a stand-alone novel. The Bethany sisters disappeared from a shopping mall 30 years ago. Now a woman has turned up claiming to be Heather Bethany, but nothing she tells the police seems to check out.

Jackson Brodie mysteries by Kate Atkinson. I genuinely think Atkinson is one of the best writers of our time and I love what she brings to the mystery genre. Her Jackson Brodie mysteries interweave the personal life of Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop turned Private Investigator, with mysteries that range from the mundane to the criminal to the bizarre. Start with Case Histories.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. OK, I lied about having read all of these. I haven’t read this yet, BUT I have watched all of Veronica Mars including the movie. As far as I understand it, this book picks up right where the movie ends and is as good as it is in television/movies. Sounds like the perfect summer read to me!

Fantasy:

Gentlemen Bastards

The Gentleman Bastards Series by Scott Lynch. Besides the books I always write about (*cough* Way of Kings *cough cough* Name of the Wind) this series is an especially fun summer read. Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Oceans Eleven and you will get some idea of these books which involve a clever band of thieves and con-artists seeking to have it all. The first book in the series is The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Historical Fiction:

GuernseyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is a heartwarming epistolary novel about writer Juliet Ashton who is looking for a subject for her next book when she receives a letter from a total stranger living on Geurnsey island. This book is a record of their correspondence as Juliet learns about the resilient people of Guernsey living in he aftermath of German occupation during WWII.

19398490-1

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book just (deservedly) received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This is a WWII novel and while it is very literary, it’s also quite easy to read. It’s really a beautiful book if you are looking for something a little more substantial, but easy to get into.  In alternating chapters the book tells the story of a blind French girl whose father is the Keeper of the Locks for the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a German orphan boy whose talent with engineering gets him recruited into an elite military academy and then sent into the field tracking the Resistance during WWII.

Humor/Memoir/Spiritual Memoir:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. I just want to be Mindy Kaling’s best friend. If you are a fan of The Mindy Project, you will love this book.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. As with above, if you love Tina Fey from SNL or 30 Rock or Mean Girls, then you will enjoy this book. I’ve heard that it’s even better as an audio book because Fey reads it herself.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch. I just read this last month and forgot to write about it. I think this is the perfect book to get you in the mood for a summer of reading. After the death of her sister, Sankovitch throws herself headlong into her life, cramming it full to the brim with activities only to find herself exhausted a few years later. Unable to continue at her current pace she decided to slow down. She reads one book a day for an entire year and writes about the healing and growth that come from stories.

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. This is my favorite BBT book and it strikes me as summery because of how much it focuses on the holiness of our ordinary days, especially emphasizing nature and being physically present in the world. Summer always feels like the season I spend most “in” my body in a way – more time spent outside and more time in tune with things like sweat and the power of the sun and the sweet relief of a cool breeze.

Maybe next week I’ll post about what’s on my personal summer reading list (though it’s partially all those books I mentioned that I own and haven’t read yet).

What’s on YOUR summer reading list? (Or, you know, winter, for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere!)

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16 comments

  1. I am so in love with John Green’s novels! I just started Paper Town, and then I will have read them all. I haven’t read the Traveling Pants series and was just thinking about them the other day (I really enjoyed the first movie, didn’t see the second). Maybe I’ll have to add those to my summer reading list. 🙂

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      1. In Korea, the movie Frozen is a huge deal, but the Korean name for it is something like “The Snow Queen” so whenever you say Frozen to the kids they are really confused what you’re talking about. Which is funny because there are lots of things they just transliterate into Korean, but I guess this was not one of them. I think “The Help” has really specific connotations to Americans from the south that probably wouldn’t connect the same way with an international audience.

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      2. oh that’s interesting … and you are right: every word has different connotation depending on the country.
        the translation of “The help” with the same meaning would be “l’aide” ( frensh word) but pronociation of this word can lead the one who hears the title to : “ugly”. Nothing to do with the original title… 😀
        Sometimes the English film titles are translated back to English, but in a form that will affect more the Frensh public…

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  2. great recommendations! may has been a bust for reading (since we moved) but i’ve listened to some great audio books on my commute to work. currently i’m listening to ‘winter at the door’ by sarah graves, a new to me author. i really like it!

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    1. I’ve never read Sarah Graves. I’m really excited to start listening to audio books again when I’m back to driving places. I used to do that all the time when we lived in North Carolina and it was a great way to get more “reading” in. Though I can only really listen to pretty easy reads on audio – I have a hard time focusing if it’s too dense or slow.

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  3. I haven’t really got my summer reading list started yet! I just finished my undergrad degree last week and I’m now job-hunting to be able to fund my way through grad school, so life is quite busy at the moment. I’ve got a couple of Barbara Kingsolver novels out of the library though: I read The Bean Trees recently and I’m looking forward to The Poisonwood Bible.

    I’ve read some of the books on your list. I enjoyed Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan and The Help is fantastic! If you liked Maine, I recommend The Engagements, which is by the same author.

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    1. Totally understandable – you’ve got a lot on your plate. Congratulations on graduating! As you probably know, I adore Barbara Kingsolver and I think Poisonwood Bible is her best. Hope you enjoy it. And I have read The Engagements. I liked it, but the pacing was a little strange to me because it includes so much sort of historical information about the industry. It was interesting, but sometimes I felt distanced from the story…but it was just a different type of book than what I was expecting. I like J. Courtney Sullivan a lot.

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      1. Thank you. 🙂 Although I finished exams last week, my graduation isn’t until July, so I’ve got that to look forward to.

        Yes, I remember reading one of your posts about Kingsolver. She is so good!

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