Summer is the acknowledged time of year for catching up on all that reading you were too busy to do earlier. Whether you get a vacation to somewhere relaxing and warm, or if all you can pull off is a staycation, there’s usually some time for sitting down and losing yourself in a good story. Here’s my list of this season’s must-reads — one for each month of summer in each category — whether you’re looking for a quick thrill or something to really wrap your head around.
The Girls – Emma Cline: Emma Cline’s debut novel takes place during the summer, 1967. 14-year-old Evie Boyd’s summer is probably vastly unlike yours. (Unless you are getting involved in a Manson Family-ish cult. Hey, no judgments here, everyone celebrates summer in their own way). This dark, insightful examination of girls and women and their desperate desire for love and belonging is a powerful debut and a page-turning read.
The Last One – Alexandra Oliva: This summer is a strong one for first-timers. Another debut n0vel, this near-future thriller begins with a reality show — one that’s not too far off from the ones that already exist, like Naked & Afraid or Alone. 12 contestants test their endurance and survival skills in the woods. But while they’re out there, something happens to world and none of them know. When one of them stumbles across the devastation, she is unable to tell what part of it is real and what is part of the game.
The Dollhouse – Fiona Davis: Yet another debut, this one places us in the world of NYC’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where single women make their homes. Many of them are models, but our heroine most definitely is not. Darby is a plain, self-conscious secretarial student whose only friend is a hotel maid. More than 50 years later, the Barbizon is gone, but Darby’s still there in the condos that took its place, and rumors still float around about her involvement in a violent event. Darby’s journalist neighbor can’t resist seeking out the story and her poking around will change both women when the truth is finally uncovered.
Chronicle of a Last Summer – Yasmine El Rashidi: It’s a blistering hot summer in Cairo, 1984. A young girl tries to make sense of what is happening in her world, catching information only from hushed phone calls, state-sanctioned news and the view from her window. People disappear, including her father, and no one will say why or where they went. We meet her again as a college student and aspiring filmmaker, and then later in the stormy aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, when she is finally reunited with her father. Tying in the history of a city in transition with the personal history of a single family, El Rashidi explores what it means to grow up in a society defined by its silence.
The Trouble With Goats & Sheep – Joanna Cannon: There’s a mystery in the neighborhood. Mrs. Creasy is missing and 10-year-old Grace & Kelly set out to find God. If they can find him, they can also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home. On their search for clues, the amateur sleuths find much more than they imagine. Secrets abound on their quiet street, and what they don’t know is that the lies they are uncovering are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was discovering before her disappearance.
How to Party With an Infant – Kaui Hart Hemmings: The author of The Descendants brings us a new novel about a quirky single mom in San Francisco. Mele Bart found out she was pregnant just before she found out her boyfriend was engaged to someone else. Whoops. Two years later, she’s got a toddler and they’re both invited to the wedding. Finding herself in danger of becoming too obsessed with her ex’s fiancee, Mele joins a mommy group to distract herself. To her utter shock, it’s there that she finds her people and the comfort she’s been craving.
Last Night, A Superhero Saved My Life – Liesa Mignona (editor): It seems like lately, every other movie and even TV show is some sort of superhero story. We have a growing cultural obsession and Liesa Mignona has gathered together some great authors to expound on this obsession. Contributors include New York Times bestsellers Christopher Golden, Leigh Bardugo, Brad Meltzer, Neil Gaiman, Carrie Vaughn, Jodi Picoult, and Jamie Ford, as well as award-winners and mainstays like Joe R. Lansdale, Karina Cooper, and Ron Currie, Jr among many others. The authors share their experiences, both hilarious and heart-wrenching, with their favorite super. This diverse collection of essays explains why superheros matter and what they tell us about our society and where we are headed.
I Wish My Teacher Knew – Kyle Schwartz: One day, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to fill–in–the–blank in this sentence: “I wish my teacher
knew _____.” The results were shocking. Some were adorable and funny, others heartbreaking and profoundly touching. The answers she got opened her eyes to the need to teachers to understand their students and create a safe, supportive space in the classroom. And the phenomenon extended outside her classroom — online, #IWishMyTeacherKnew became a viral phenomenon. This book tells those previously untold stories and serves as a guide for parents, teachers and communities everywhere.
The Fire This Time – Jesmyn Ward: This is not exactly a light read for summer, but an important one. National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time. Divided into three parts, the book addresses our past, present, and possible future in its short essays, memoir and poems. Contributors include Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young.
MYSTERY & THRILLERS
All the Missing Girls – Megan Miranda: This is a nailbiter about two girls who go missing, ten years apart. Nicolette Farrell is returning home for the first time since her best friend disappeared, years ago. Days after her return, another woman goes missing. Nicole’s search to figure out what’s going on uncovers shocking secrets about her friends and family. This unpredictable thriller delivers on suspense and unexpected twists.
The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware: This suspenseful, haunting novel from “twisty-mystery” master, Ruth Ware, is reminiscent of the good-old-fashioned whodunnits of Agathie Christie. A journalist gets the ultimate gig, covering a luxury cruise. What starts out as a pleasant journey turns dark. First literally, when storms set in, then situationally, when Lo witnesses a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? None of the passengers are missing, and the ship sails on as if nothing’s happened.
The Assassin Game – Kirsty McKay: In an isolated boarding school, the girls pass the time with an elaborate game called “Killer.” Only the school’s elite are invited to play. One of them is a “killer,” playing elaborate pranks on the others, which they must “survive.” Only the Game Master knows the killer. When Cate is invited to the exclusive Assassin’s Guild, she knows she’s finally made it. But that year, someone takes the game too far, threatening the Guild’s existence. Kate must find the real assassin before the game is shut down for good, and — more importantly — before she becomes the next target.
All Strangers Are Kin – Zora O’Neill: A lively, often hilarious, and always warm-hearted exploration of Arabic language and culture, guided by a keen-eyed travel writer with twenty years of experience studying Arabic
The Art of Exile – John Freeley: When John Freeley was just 19, he met his true love and the two vowed to spend their lives traveling. This unforgettable memoir takes the reader from the streets of New York to World War II in the Pacific to Ancient Troy and the isles of Dionysus and Ariadne. It is the story of a remarkable odyssey that has spanned nine decades, several continents and one great love.
The Last Hobo: This book focuses on another free-wheeling 19-year-old who sets out to live his dream of becoming a hobo. But in 1979, America is not the same as it once was. Like a modern day Don Quixote, Granger’s hobo fantasies clash hilariously with reality and a bright, colorful portrait of America emerges.
League of Dragons – Naomi Novik: If you love fantasy, and you’re looking for a series to really dig into this summer, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series comes to an end with this June publication. It’s an alternate universe series set during the Napoleonic Wars in a world like ours, but with dragons. There are a total of nine books that follow the adventures of British Royal Aerial Corps Captain William Laurence and his Chinese dragon, Temeraire. The two of them travel to Australia, South America, China and Russia, plus many other locations around the world over the course of the books. If you’re looking for a great escape this summer, diving into this series could be it.
The Age of Myth – Michael Sullivan: While League of Dragons marks the end of a series, The Age of Myth marks the beginning of one. This series opener is set in a world where people worship gods that they can see, masters of battle and magic who are seemingly invincible … until one is killed by a human. With this act, the Age of Myth ends and a time of rebellion begins. The humans must fight together or be destroyed. The story follows the God-Killer, Raithe; the young seer Suri and Persephone, who must step up to lead her people in the face of impending doom.
Summerlong – Peter S. Beagle: The author of the beloved The Last Unicorn is back with this bittersweet tale of passion, enchantment and fate. Lioness Lazos sweeps into the lives of an aging Pacific Northwest couple, turning their wintry home into a summer paradise. Everything seems perfect until Lioness’s past shows up at their door and the family realizes they are dealing with something out of ancient myth, and their idyllic summer is coming to an end.
Summer in the Invisible City – Juliana Romano: Most teens can probably relate to this perfect summer book. For high schoolers, summer is a time to reinvent yourself. It’s a chance to get things set up for a better school year, although it rarely works out that way. But Sadie Bell is full of plans — for making friends with the cool girls, spending time with her famous but absentee artist dad and getting over the guy who was her first mistake. But all her plans are derailed by Sam, a free-thinker who makes her question all her desires. All he wants is friendship, but when Sadie experiences a huge betrayal, that friendship may not be enough. This sweet coming-of-age romance is a perfect summer read for teens dreaming of a life-changing summer.
Learning to Swear in America – Katie Kennedy: I am a sucker for end-of-the-world stories. I don’t know why, but something about the end times is just really cathartic for me. In this YA romantic comedy, an asteroid is hurtling towards the earth and it’s going to destroy a large swath of the world. A teen prodigy from Russia knows how to stop the asteroid, but even though he’s been recruited by NASA, no one will actually listen to his plans. Then he meets Dovie, a normal teen who lives like nothing is wrong. Sharing adventures with Dovie, Yuri learns the value of what he’s trying to save.
Been Here All Along – Sandy Hall: Gideon is on track for success. He’s going to run for class president, become head of the yearbook committee and get into a great college. What’s not part of his plan is falling for his best friend Kyle. Kyle, who’s captain of the basketball team and dating the head cheerleader. Kyle, meanwhile, should have it easy. As a top athlete with a gorgeous girlfriend and best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, he’s got it all. But when his girlfriend and his best start acting weird at the same time as his spot on the team is threatened, Kyle is left struggling to figure out what he did wrong.