There are so many great resources for good summer reading, but I have always wanted to add my own into the mix. So here it is! A list of several great books, some new, some backlist, that might be just what you're looking for this summer, whatever your plans.
I've collected a total of 37 books for you to pick through this summer season, and 6 to highlight from my own summer TBR pile. Breaking them up into separate posts makes sense to me, since choices are hard and presenting 43 books at once would be a little overwhelming.
I tried really hard to make a diverse and interesting list with some descriptions that bring out the best of each selection. Done is better than perfect, so next year might be fancier, we'll see.
First up is fiction.
Below you'll find 20 works of fiction, divided into generic but hopefully helpful subcategories, to put in your beach bag, take to the forest, read on the couch when you want to escape while laying absolutely still, or whatever else you're going to be doing in the coming months!
I just hope there will be something here you'll enjoy!
The Study of Animal Languages, by Lindsay Stern – A quietly lovely book about a couple pursuing their careers that examines the impact of time on relationships, and the compounding stress of aging parents. The story surrounds a married couple, he is a professor, and she is pursuing a doctorate, but one of her presentations doesn’t quite go according to plan. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. If you enjoy novels that deal with relationships, or their implosion, you should give this a try.
French Exit, by Patrick DeWitt – I am a fan of Patrick DeWitt, and this might be my favorite of his books. I adore his quirky style, how he does unexpected things with plot without it seeming like the characters are being ridiculous, they just are ridiculous, and you totally buy it. In this book, a woman and her son are dealing with a crumbling fortune, and her husband might have been reincarnated as their cat. If you like Wes Anderson movies, comedies of manners, and/or Arrested Development’s sense of humor, this would be a good one to try. It’s also pretty short, so it won’t take long to read.
Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This got a lot of hype earlier in the year, but I think it’s warranted. By the end of the book I had to remind myself it’s a work of fiction. The characters feel soooo real! If you liked that movie with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, or watched Behind the Music in past years, you should definitely give this a try on audio. It’s read by a full cast and the story is written in an oral history style (interview).
Tell the Machine Goodnight, by Katie Williams – I picked this one up for the cover and the strange premise and was not disappointed. I’ll tell you now, it’s a bit high on the weirdness level, so it might not work for everyone, but I loved it. Told from multiple perspectives, this story centers on a handful of people that each interact with a machine that will tell you three things to do to be happy. There’s more going on than meets the eye as we see someone who works with the company that makes this machine, members of her family, and people who are impacted by its abilities. (TW for mention of an eating disorder)
Waypoint Kangaroo, by Curtis C. Chen – This one is fun and set in space! Win-win, I know. The story of a spy, who is not that great at his job. The higher ups have given him a “vacation” but there’s actually much more going on aboard the galactic cruise ship he’s on. It’s compelling, unusual, and a fun adventure/murder mystery story. There’s a second one in this series that I’m looking forward to reading.
Bitter Orange, by Claire Fuller – This book is the definition of atmospheric suspense to me. You’re not quite sure what’s happening until the ending and then you will want to re-read it to figure out what happened. I loved the cover, first off, but the prose and plot are just great as well. The story deals with three people, who all end up at a very old home for different reasons. It’s difficult to talk about without giving things away, and the murky not quite sure-ness is so good I don’t want to spoil it. If you enjoy having the scenery and setting be a part of the plot, the atmosphere turned up to 11, and your suspense thick and syrupy, definitely put this on your short list. I was impressed.
The River, by Peter Heller – Another one I hope you’ve heard a lot about that is worth it. First, I love Peter Heller’s writing and his book, The Dog Stars, is one of my favorites. He doesn’t write the way you would expect and catches you off guard and grateful that he can do so much with just 26 letters. One of the coolest things in The River is noticing how the words and the prose mimic the tension in the story AND the landscape of the Colorado wilderness the main characters are traveling through. Yet somehow, Heller manages to blend this poetic writing with a compelling and thrillingly quiet story of two friends who encounter a suspicious situation and have to figure it out because there’s a giant wildfire at their backs. When any misstep could cost their lives, they have to make important choices quickly. This story made me cry and my heart race, and I didn’t want to put it down. It is so good.
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper – Jane Harper is an Australian writer with some of the most compelling and atmospheric books I’ve read in years. Her descriptions make the heat of the Australian setting real, so this would be great to read by the pool so you can cool off when you need to. The story deals with one man in a family that lives in the part of Australia where you have to pack a trunk full of food before driving anywhere because if your car breaks down or you run out of gas, you will die if you don’t have extra water and food. It’s that hot. When this man turns up dead with his stocked car just a bit away, people are baffled and confused. Stranger still is the landmark he was found near. Harper is so good at puzzles, and at dialing the suspense to make you unsure of what you think you know. Not very gory, and centered on the family, not the detectives investigating, this is a suspense novel of characters, relationships, and secrets.
Foe, by Ian Reid – You want an unsettling relationship book? This is the one for you. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s set in some point in time where people can go to space to do Good Things. And yet, the story takes place entirely in a farmhouse and involves 3 people. Once I got to the end of this book and realized what had been happening the whole time, it was a goose-bump inducing delight!
Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, by Mario Giordano – This is a delightful mystery with a great main character. Auntie Poldi has moved to a new area of Italy (the setting is divine – as this is originally written in Italian) with the precise goal of drinking herself to death. Instead, she ends up investigating some suspicious activity. I love a meddling neighbor story, and this is one of the best ones. Perfect for a vacation, to read by the pool, or just when you need something to transport you, but you also want to know that the main character will live through it (she will)!
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan – Another one of my favorite things to read in the mystery department is the detective from another culture book. In this story, Inspector Chopra has just retired, like, it’s his first day of retirement, and he’s having a really hard time letting go of the job. A seemingly simple case shows up that he starts overthinking about, and during the in between time, a baby elephant shows up as his charge from a relative. It’s a wonderful story, and perfect for reading if you want to explore without getting up from the couch, or the beach chair you’re in. Plus, there’s a baby elephant, and more books in this series so you can read them all summer long if you want to.
The Noodle Shop mystery series, by Vivien Chien – A wonderful series that you can just turn your brain off and enjoy. This is a true cozy mystery series with punny titles and everything. With poisonings, lots of murders in a small geographic location, it’s like Murder, She Wrote, but at a Chinese Restaurant. Our main character has reluctantly taken over managing the family restaurant, and just can’t stay out of the dramatic and deadly incidents that happen around her. These are just like candy, and perfect for light entertainment.
The Lady Sherlock series, by Sherry Thomas – I’ve been obsessed with these books recently and listened to them on Hoopla through my library (check out your library’s digital content!). The narrator is so good. If you like the Sherlock Holmes story but are reluctant to try all the new versions, I implore you to go for this one. It’s a gender flipped version in which a young woman intentionally compromises her social standing because she doesn’t want to get married. Yet, she has this brilliant mind and corresponds as Sherlock Holmes to solve cases and send tips to the police every now and then. As the cast of characters grows, she establishes this hilarious costume and disguise filled illusion to keep people believing in the genius of the (non-existant) Sherlock. It’s so much fun, but you should start with the first book, A Study in Scarlet Women, because the plot and characters do build off each other to a degree you won’t want to miss.
Compelling Thrillers = more gore on the page + it might stress you out but you’ll like it:
There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins – I read this a few years ago and remember it being like all the reasons why you might watch those Halloween movies and yell at the kids investigating the murder, an making all the wrong choices along the way, but in book form!! It’s crazy and dramatic and suspenseful and so well written it plays like a movie in your head. If you are into that type of stuff you should read this. Like, yesterday.
The Last Time I Lied, by Riley Sager – Did you want a summer camp thriller? Good! Here you go. This deals with a summer camp where bad things happened, but guess what folks, they’re reopening it! I’m sure you can guess what happens next (hint – chaos). If you can suspend some disbelief and the ridiculous choices some of the characters make, and enjoy the trope of the summer camp spookiness, then you’ll love this one. (Also, I really enjoyed Riley Sager’s previous book, Final Girls, and he has another coming out this summer that you might want to add to your list).
My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing – Talk about twisty. There have been lots of domestic thrillers lately, but this is different. It didn’t have the same what just happened as I felt reading Gone Girl, but the plot is quite a roller coaster ride. The married couple in this book have landed themselves in a situation where they murder people, and the explanation of why, and when/if they will stop is just bananas. If you’re looking for a twisty thriller for the summer, this needs to go on your list.
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides – Another twisty thriller, this one deals with a woman who seems to have murdered her husband a long time ago and hasn’t said a single word since. She’s in a psychiatric hospital and the narrator is a man who is trying to help her. Alternating between his perspective as he tries to draw her out, and diary entries from her past, this is a compelling read with a satisfying twist that you will enjoy even if you do see it coming.
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite – This short original novel is unlike anything I’ve read before and deserves more readers than it’s gotten so far. It’s physically a small book, you can read it in a couple hours. Also, the chapters are a couple pages max so you’re constantly turning pages. In this story we meet two sisters. One tends to murder her boyfriends, and the other helps her clean up after these maybe too frequent to be self-defense incidents. When the sister with murderous tendencies starts a relationship with a coworker of the responsible sister, much chaos ensues. I’m always amazed when an author can create so much without so few words. You’ll either love it or hate it, but it's worth a try.
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch – You could just read ALL the Blake Crouch, he’s so good at compelling suspense, but Dark Matter is quite possibly his best. This book deals with alternate realities, Shroedinger’s Cat, and what you would do to get your life back if it was taken from you (by a different version of youself??). I laughed, literally cried, read this in two sittings in 24 hours, and have thought about it so much since. Loved it. Go read it!
Part 2 of the Summer Reading guide will be posted on Monday and will cover Non-Fiction and Children's books!
If you've made it this far and still want more, here are some fun reading guides and lists you might enjoy:
Modern Mrs. Darcy
The Washington Post's 20 Books to Read this Summer
From Get Literary
Highly Anticipated Summer Reads from LitHub
20 "Perfect Summer Books" A List from LItHub
Beach Reads Recommended by Authors
Goodreads' Summer Reading Guide
Let me know what you think, what you're reading this summer, and if you have any suggestions for next year!
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