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.
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.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love this book even though it’s sad. Every time I read 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.
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 Everlasting, crossing over into adult fiction as it picks up the girls’ lives 10 years later as they are about to turn 30.
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!
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.
The 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.
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.
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!)