Now is the time that newspapers, bookstores and bloggers make up their lists of summer reading recommendations. Why should I be any different? (I did a mini version of this last year, too.) I took some time to go over my blog archives, search out other lists and peruse the Web to try and find what I would recommend as good summer reads. As with anything, it all comes down to taste, but I tried to pick from different genres, books of different lengths and stories of great variety.
Even so, what makes good summer reading for me may not be good summer reading for someone else. When I think of being on my deck, with a glass of ice tea and a book, I want to be reading a story that’s engaging—I mean really engaging. I don’t want for one second to question why I’m reading it. I want to feel the sun on my shoulders and be comfortable, but in the end I want to lose myself and forget where I am. In most cases, for me, this means the book will be a novel or memoir, it will be of digestible size (no 1,000-page epics) and it will centralize around characters I care about.
I’m going to refrain from listing Twilight and Harry Potter. Not because I don’t consider them “summer reads.” They are the epitome of summer reading—you fall in love with the characters, you can’t put the books down and you can read them in a day, if you want. But, I think they’re obvious choices, so I left them off. Here are some books/authors/categories I suggest, in no particular order.
As I was brainstorming for this list, I remembered two very wonderful classics that I love. The Great Gatsby and Little Women. I think I actually read these two books a bit later in life than most people, but I devoured them. While I’ve only read The Great Gatsby once, I’ve read Little Women at least three times. Both stories take you back in time and tell of the adventures of two very different groups of people. I think almost any woman/girl would fall in love with the March sisters, as well as have fun imagining a life in the roaring '20s with the likes of Gatsby. Now I want to read them again!
There are plenty of books that center around kids in school—prep school, college life, public high school, etc.—so I’m sure there are many more where these came from. Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld (who’s gotten more press recently for American Wife), is about a 14-year-old girl who attends a prep school on scholarship. The story follows her through her time there, and discusses the cliques, the fun, the heartache and so on. While it was sad and lonely in parts, the book was a really good read.
Journalist Alexander Robbins wrote two highly engaging nonfiction works that I read and enjoyed very much: Pledged, about the secret lives of sorority girls, and The Overachievers, about those academic all-stars who nearly drown in their fight for perfection. Robbins set herself right down in the middle of these cultures and learned from the students themselves. The things she writes can be shocking, but you’ll also find yourself nodding in agreement—either because you lived it too, or you know someone who did.
I also enjoyed The Rule of Four, a story about college friends at Princeton who discover a great mystery and find themselves in great danger. It’s kind of The Da Vinci Code for the Ivy League-student set. While some of the mythology and subject matter of their studies was a bit over my head, that didn’t take away from the fun.
For fun, sweet, quirky characters in fun, sweet, quirky stories—many of which are set in fictional Minnesota towns—Minnesota author Lorna Landvik delivers nearly every time. While her most recent works haven’t been my favorites, I would recommend Patty Jane’s House of Curl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons and The Tall Pine Polka to any fellow (female) novel reader. Another go-to author, who I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, is Jodi Picoult. She might be obvious in the same way Twilight and Harry Potter are, and while, again, her latest books haven’t been my favorites, she nails it with My Sister’s Keeper, The Tenth Circle and Nineteen Minutes.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Heather McElhatton’s Pretty Little Mistakes is a ton of fun. It’s engaging, hilarious, something different and such a fast read, as you can set it down after each mini adventure if you like. Like my first review says, this is a book for adults, but it’s as fun as those CYOA books from when you were a kid.
Other books I’ve reviewed on this blog that could make for great summer reading: The Way Life Should Be, The Writing Class, The Thirteenth Tale, The Abstinence Teacher, and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier.
So, what about you? Any summer reading suggestions that fall into these categories or others? Since summer is here, I’d love to get a few more on my list of must-read books.