It can be hard to pick out what you’ll want to read over the summer. You might want to get in as many books as you can or finally tackle that big-ass novel you’ve been dreading to start all these years. It’s tough and we understand, but we’re here to make it just a little bit harder. To help you out, we have created a huge summer reading list and tried to cover all our bases. We have recommendations for lots of genres, new and old books, to get you through this damned hot summer.
We’re starting off with the basics. Literary fiction all the way.
The Sellout came out in the spring of this year and it’s been called brilliant on more than one occasion. A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality–the black Chinese restaurant. We follow our narrator Dickens, who after losing his father to a police shooting, decides to initiate the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
Dear Committee Members
A very short novel written as a series of letters will last you one good day at the beach. Jason Fitger is a professor of creative writing & literature at Payne University a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. When his department is facing budget cuts, while something awful like the Economics Department is getting lavish offices, he gets pissed off. It might not help that his own life isn’t going all that well, that his writing career is not moving any further and he can’t seem to help his students get anywhere either. So you might understand that Fitger is having a hard time, something he’s working through while writing the passive-aggressive recommendation letters for his students and colleagues, which make up this book.
No summer reading list is complete without some 2015 beach books
Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina have been friends for most of their lives. Now 19 and still living in dead-end Florida, doing nothing but have bad summer jobs, hanging out at the beach and at their favorite bar. One night a stranger passes through town and the girls can’t help but be interested by this movie star looking for some anonymity away from Hollywood. Enamored by his status and the promises they’ve read in celebrity magazines, they cling to him. But the night takes a darker turn when they start to discuss their friendship and former member Lila, who fled from Florida after bringing a boy in the mix. By night’s end, the escalation of these long-buried issues forces them to see one another as the women they are now instead of the girls they used to be.
Although Cheryl lives in a wealthy Connecticut community, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong. Now in her mid-forties, facing the reality of aging, having a crumbling marriage and again taking care of her dropout stepson, she’s feeling adrift. Over the course of the summer, Cheryl’s and her stepson’s life seems to be falling apart, no matter how perfect it might seem on the outside. The Invaders exposes the lies and insecurities that run like fault lines through our culture, threatening to pitch bored housewives, pill-popping children, and suspicious neighbors headlong into the suburban abyss.
Of course we’re giving you some classics to read as well.
I read Middlemarch over the summer two years ago and it was a great experience. Not just because it was an amazing book, but because the summer is perfect for getting lost in the long-lost troubles of the earlier days. Dorothea Brooke, our heroine, is smart, strong-headed and making the wrong decisions in marriage. She gets engaged to an older man, a serious man, that she completely adores for his intellect, but soon after marriage she finds that things are not like she had imagined. We follow Dorothea’s family and the other inhabitants of the provincial city, struggling with what they want, what they have and all the bad decisions they make along the way.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Can you imagine a more summery backdrop than a hot day at the Mississippi river? We’ve all heard of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but somehow this isn’t a book a lot of us has read. Let’s change this and all talk about Mark Twain after the summer! The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the precursor to Twain’s more famous novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, so let’s read both of them. In this one, a consummate prankster with a quick wit, Tom Sawyer dreams of a bigger fate than simply being a “rich boy.” Yet through the novel’s humorous escapades—from the famous episode of the whitewashed fence to the trial of Injun Joe—Mark Twain explores the deeper themes of the adult world, one of dishonesty and superstition, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.
The long awaited second novel by Ernest Cline, Armada, is set in the recent future. Zack Lightman is a dreamer, wishing that life could be more like the movies, like books and video games. He wishes for a crazy, world-altering event that will help him break out of the tedious everyday life he’s been leading. Be careful what you wish for, because on a dull, realistic day, a flying saucer appears. What is even stranger, is that the alien space ship is exactly like the one from his favorite video game. Game turning to real life, gamers from all around the world are needed to do what they do best, play the hero and save the earth from alien invaders. But somehow Zack can’t seem to shake this feeling that all of this craziness feels a little too familiar to the stories he’s been dreaming about.
For how popular John Scalzi is, this novel does not have enough ratings on Goodreads. We’re here to change that. 15 years from now a new virus sweeps the world, affecting everyone ranging from fever to acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. But then there is the remaining 1% who get affected in a different way, they get ‘locked in’ their bodies, being fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to anything. 1% seems like nothing, but it’s 1,7 million people in the U.S. alone, including the President’s wife and daughter. Working on a fix, 2 new technologies emerge, virtual reality so the locked in can interact their, and the ability to ‘ride’ these people and use their bodies. This second skill is quickly licensed and controlled, but that doesn’t stop people from misusing it.
We had some trouble finding books with horror as a first genre, but these books are surely going to make you cower in fear, if only just a little bit.
Hazel Hayes has awful timing. She’s a graduate student living in New York and gets pregnant from a stupid affair with her married professor right when the apocalypse seems to be happening. Strange, random attacks, all by women with light hair, are terrorizing the city. As the attacks continue, the public finds that all blond women in the city are under some kind of contagion, transforming them from kind or already awful women into rabid killers. Hazel, confused and becoming visibly pregnant, flees the city to Canada and finds one woman who might be able to save her.
Library at Mount Char
Carolyn pretends to be not all that different from the other humans around her and once upon a time she wasn’t. But that had all changed on ‘adoption day’, the day where she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised a strange man they learned to call Father. Father is capable of strange things, like calling light from darkness, raising the dead and dolling out awful punishments to those who disobey. Ever since that day, Carolyn mostly stays in his library, learning the secrets behind his ancient powers. Some say he might even be God. But when Father goes missing, all the power of a god is up for the taking. Carolyn prepares for battle, realizing that she’s still a human being, fighting to become a god.
And then there’s of course fantasy, complete with dragons, magic and awesome new worlds.
Agnieszka lives in a beautiful quiet village that just happens to be placed right beside a corrupted forest filled with malevolent power and a shadow that is cast over her entire life. Her people rely on the ambitious wizard known as the Dragon to keep the evil wood at bay. For this he demands one young women every ten years to serve him. For most this is a fate worse than death. The next choosing is coming up fast and Agnieszka is afraid of him picking her best friend Kasia. Her fear is wrongly placed and Agnieszka gets whisked away into the Dragon’s world of magic filled with folklore and fairytales.
Ursula K. Le Guin
A true classic fantasy series, consisting of five novels and a whole bunch of collected stories. The Earthsea Cycle is a coming-of-age story following young wizards making their way through wizard school to learn and hone their skills. We follow young Ged, destined to become the greatest mage. As a young dragonlord, Ged, whose use-name is Sparrowhawk, is sent to the island of Roke to learn the true way of magic. A natural magician, Ged becomes an Archmage and helps the High Priestess Tenar escape from the labyrinth of darkness. But as the years pass, true magic and ancient ways are forced to submit to the powers of evil and death. Don’t mistake this for a pre-Harry Potter wizard series. Le Guin writes High Fantasy, building a world unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
And how could we not make a special YA section for our YA book club!
Game of Love and Death
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always. Star-crossed lovers like Anthony and Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Paris have failed, but will Henry and Flora be able to beat the odds? Flora is an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, is a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world available to him. Love and Death have chosen their players carefully, but when it comes to humans and love, the winner could be anyone.
Madeline is literally allergic to the outside world. The only people she ever sees are her parents and her nurse. This changes when new neighbors move in next door including cute boy-next-door Olly. There’s nothing to stop them from falling in love, but a lot is stopping them from actually being together. The story is told in a creative manner, using vignettes, diary excerpts, illustrations and more, which will definitely win over your heart. A novel as cute as Rainbow Rowell can get which a love story that will make you swoon and cry, probably at the same time.
Then we have short stories, for anyone that doesn’t have the summer-attention span for a novel
The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales
Our interest in Kirsty Logan’s short story collection was peaked by her novel The Gracekeepers. Her original voice and amazing storytelling make for great reading, so an entire book filled with her stories can’t be missed. In this collection, Logan explores fairytales and folklore, creating retellings or spinning her own modern fables, all exploring substitutions for love. The Rental Heart contains twenty tales of lust and loss. These stories feature clockwork hearts, lascivious queens, paper men, island circuses, and a flooded world.
The Miniature Wife and Other Stories
In slightly fantastical settings, Gonzales illustrates very real guilt over small and large marital missteps, the intense desire for the reinvention of self, and the powerful urges we feel to defend and provide for the people we love. With wit and insight, these stories subvert our expectations and challenge us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes. Gonzales’ writing and style is often compared to that of George Saunders, using the fantastical and the commonplace in the same sentence. He creates ordinary worlds where crazy things happen and makes his characters deal with it.
And if even short story collections ask to much attention, you can always grab for a graphic novels
This was Roy’s other possible pick for our graphic novel book club, but now it makes for a great summer read! Summer Blonde is Tomine’s cult series Optic Nerve collected as a graphic novel. They call him the Raymond Carver of comics, creating real stories about emotional disconnect in urban settings. Tomine’s fans have often accused him of eavesdropping in on their most intimate moments and, with forensic skill, laying their lives bare. The conflicts between emotional gratification, narcissistic neediness and moral discernment mark the title story – “Summer Blonde” – in which a socially crippled man nurses an obsessive crush on a young woman. He watches close up, paralyzed by his guilt, as her beauty catches the eye of his neighbor.
Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
Kerascoët’s and Fabien Vehlmann’s unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization’s heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience. The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoët’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann’s story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over. Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society.
And then we have series that are expecting new installments during late summer
Throne of Glass Series
Sarah J. Maas
For now you have three novels and five short stories to work on and novel four will be out early September.
The series contains strangely spelled names and is loosely based on Cinderella. We follow Celaena, a teenage assassin living in a corrupted kingdom and working for it’s tyrannical ruler. Celaena is a strong and capable lady, a good fighter put into bad situations. While fighting her way through exciting battles, she discovers a conspiracy surrounding the kingdom in which she herself has a role to play.
We reviewed The Diviners before, but it has taken Libba Bray SO long to finish the sequel Lair of Dreams, that you might have forgotten about it by now. This doesn’t mean that we’re not excited though. In The Diviners we met a group of teens with special abilities all living it up in the roaring 20’s. Evie, our fast-talking heroine, uses her power to fight crime and this is somewhat biting her in the butt in the sequel. She went public with her powers and now the media can’t get enough of her. Others find her powers strange and wrong and while dealing with this, there are also a bunch of strange murders that will likely ask for her attention as well.
If you’re done with fiction after this, you might consider these memoirs.
Maggie Nelson’s memoir is more than just a memoir. Genre-bending they even like to call it. A work of “autotheory” offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. The book is about Maggie’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge and tells everything from falling in love, through pregnancy and creating a family with someone who is gender-fluid.Nelson’s insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.
The Empathy Exams
Maybe not as much a memoir as a personal collection of essays, but we’re not splitting hairs here. The Empathy Exams starts with Leslie Jamison’s experience as a medical actor, paid to act sick for medical students to practice on. Her essays focus on our understand of others. By taking a closer look at pain, she uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.
And if you feel like learning more than you will from fiction, we also have non-fiction for you!
If you know Aziz Ansari as Tom from Parks & Recreation, you might expect this book to be filled with funny dating advice, but not a lot of substance. Instead Aziz wrote a book, together with sociologist Eric Klinenberg about the the pleasures and perils of finding love in our modern age. We have so many different options available to us when it comes to finding love and still most people are completely frustrated with how it all works. Modern Romance was written after extensive research from both Ansari and Klinenberg and is filled with interesting information about our romantic lives, but told in the very funny voice only Ansari can bring.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Jon Ronson has been meeting with people who got publicly shamed for three years. These are people whose shaming were high-profile, out there for everyone to see and join in on. A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice, but what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control. Ronson explores this new-found power with humor and honesty, hoping to open our eyes to the part we play in this ourselves.
And lastly, if holding a book is even too much for you to handle, consider these audiobooks.
Plum has the amazing job of answering fan mail for a teen girls’ magazine, but is biding her time there until she can get her weight-loss surgery. Plum thinks of herself as fat and knows it’s best not to be noticed. Being fat means being judged and she wants none of that. Then a mysterious woman start following her around, pulling Plum into an underground community of women living on their own terms. There Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with her past, her doubts, and the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a dangerous guerrilla group called “Jennifer” begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.
The People in the Trees
If Dietland is too funny for you and you’re looking for a heavier audiobook, we suggest The People in the Trees. It tells the story of young doctor Norton Perina who travels to a remote Micronesian Island to find a lost tribe. They succeed and not only find that tribe, but another which they call ‘The Dreamers’. These people turn out to live for a much longer time, even though they get progressively more senile as time goes by. Doctor Perina thinks a hard-to-find turtle might be the source of their eternal lives and finds one to kill it and smuggle its meat back to the US. His discovery leads to winning the Novel Prize, but doesn’t come without further costs. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.
If these aren’t enough for you, we also have two book bundles packed with summer reading. Go have a look and order those before your plane/car/bike/boat takes off for wherever you’re headed.
We would love to hear what you’re bringing with you on holiday and what you would recommend to others. Just leave your titles in the comments!