Every year we recommend a long list of books to read during the summer. We try to put a little something in there for everyone, ranging from beach reads to horror, to nonfiction and romance. Feel free to scroll to whatever category you’re looking for or read them all if you have the time!
New fiction that makes you look great at the beach
Read if you enjoy: Sad, but heartwarming stories about family like The Middlesteins.
What is it about: A young woman moves back home to care for her father who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Ruth recently broke off her engagement, and when summoned back home by her mother, she finds the situation much worse than she had realized. While her father is losing his mind, Ruth tries to fight it with anything she can get her hands on. A handsome former student of her father starts to help out and together they take it a step too far.
Read if you enjoy: The Circle by Dave Eggers, but thought it was lacking in sex dolls and interspecies romance.
What is it about: Hazel now lives together with her father and Diane, his extremely lifelike sex doll. But it’s still better than the alternative, her marriage to Byron Gogol, CEO and founder of a monolithic corporation hell-bent on making its products and technologies indispensable in daily life. For over ten years she allowed him to track her every movement and vital sign, but engaging in a mind-meld with him was a step too far.
Her new life with her father is incomparable to her old life and Byron starts threatening her into coming home. Hazel needs to figure out how to live a life of her own away from all of them.
Read if you enjoy: Dept. of Speculation, but are kind of tired of reading about white women.
What is it about: Thandi is an outsider wherever she goes. Raised in Pennsylvania by her mother from Johannesburg, she feels caught between being black and white, American and not. When she loses her mother, Thandi needs to learn to live without the person who heavily shaped her existence. Told like a memoir in vignettes, the story of Thandi will leave you an emotional mess.
Actually stories for all ages, but you get the point
Read if you enjoy: Magical stories and are still on the lookout for the new Harry Potter.
What is it about: Twelve-year-old Sunny is born in New York, but lives in Nigeria. And if this doesn’t make her different, then being an albino and incredibly sensitive to the sun will do so.
Once she befriends Orly and Chichi, Sunny gets caught up into the world of the Leopard People, where your worst flaw becomes your greatest asset. Sunny’s magical abilities start to awaken and together with her friends she tries to track down Black Hat Otokoto, a man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children.
Sam J. Miller
Read if you enjoy: a little magical realism with your stories about eating disorders.
What is it about: Matt hasn’t eaten in four days because it keeps his mind clear. It gives him the power to see things he shouldn’t, to listen to other people’s thoughts and maybe even the ability to bend time and space.
He is hell bent on using these newfound powers to figure out how Tariq bullied his sister Maya into leaving while trying to keep many kinds of hunger at bay.
To read before the next installment comes out
Because you know you want to get caught up in the hype
Read if you enjoy: The romance of old cities and the excitement of revenge and murder.
What is it about: A young girl loses her family and promises to take revenge. Training in the fine arts of murder and seduction, Mia prepares for the day where she can kill her enemies. She finds herself at The Red Church, a Hogwarts like school where instead of magic they teach you murder.
Read if you enjoy: Animals more than people.
What is it about: Ants are plotting to take over the world. With human extinction as their final goal, a race of intelligent ants called The Colony has been building an army for thousands of years. Their utopia will be free of human violence and exploitation.
The Colony has been using strange technology to transform animals into high-functioning two-legged war machines, rising up to kill their masters. Housecat Mort(e) is the most prolific war hero who takes on dangerous missions, not for the cause, but to try and find his friend – a dog named Sheba.
Sometimes words are just not enough
Catherynne M. Valente
Read if you enjoy: getting angry about women being second-rate citizens in comic-land.
What is it about: A series of linked stories from the point of view of female superheroes, the wives, and girlfriends of superheroes and anyone else who’s ever been ‘refrigerated’. All women who’ve been killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.
Read if you enjoy: Gothic, family narratives of Flannery O’Connor or Carson McCullers.
What is it about: Short stories that are visually very impressive, but are also highly experimental. Some are just a single page while others are short stories. Poetic rhythms — a coin flip, a circling Ferris wheel — are punctuated by elements of melancholy fantasy pushed forward by character-driven, naturalistic dialogue.
For those days where you alternate reading and napping
Read if you enjoy: Lena Dunham, as this is the first publication of Lenny.
What is it about: A collection centered on a community of immigrants who’ve traded their lives as artists in China for the constant poverty of 1990’s New York.
Zhang examines the pull and push of family and history from the perspective of young girls struggling to define themselves.
Read if you enjoy: True Blood without the vampires and True Detective without the creepy serial killer.
What is it about: Ten classic stories depicting the underside of life, deep down in the American South. They’re filled with murder and grotesque but comical situations that might seem a little bleak at times. O’Connor is one of the most prolific writers of the South and a master of short stories.
Even if you’re not going on vacation, you can still travel to far away lands
Read if you enjoy: Outlander mixed with that one episode from Charmed where they traveled back in time.
What is it about: In modern-day New York there’s hardly any magic left. The magicians that are still around, hide in the shadows and can’t leave the island because once they do they’ll lose their power and their lives.
Esta is a thief raised to steal magical artifacts from the Order that created the Brink – the barrier around New York – by manipulating time. Her final job is to travel back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order to destroy the Brink. But Old New York is full of gangs and secret societies and still crackling with magic.
Read if you enjoy: hard-boiled star crossed lovers living in a page turning thriller.
What is it about: FBI agent Will Brody remembers an explosion, a lethal shock wave and then wakes up without a scratch. The building is still ruined, but his team is gone and Chicago is abandoned. His welcome committee to the afterlife are people holding machetes.
At the other side, Claire McCoy stands over Will’s body. Also working for the FBI, she hasn’t slept well in weeks because a terrorist has claimed eighteen lives and created panic across the nation.
But Claire and Will were in love and since death seems to just be the beginning, all that matters to them is how to get back to each other.
Fill the summer with your wildest technological dreams and forget about reality
Read if you enjoy: cyberpunk and Trainspotting and have a strong stomach.
What is it about: Vurt is a feather and a drug, one that comes in many different colors for many different uses: legal Blues for lullaby dreams. Blacks, filled with tenderness and pain, just beyond the law. Pink Pornovurts, doorways to bliss. Silver feathers for techies who know how to remix colors and open new dimensions. And Yellows–the feathers from which there is no escape.
Desdemona is trapped in Yellow, by a feather few before her, have dared to take. Her brother is willing to risk everything to save her, and to do so he needs to find the one thing no one is willing to sell him.
Read if you enjoy: that one end credit from The Avengers where they all eat kebabs.
What is it about: In a small Midwestern town, two Asian American boys bond over their outcast status and a mutual love of comic books. Meanwhile, in an alternative or perhaps future universe, a team of superheroes discusses modern society during their lunch break. Between black-ops missions and rescuing hostages, they swap stories of artistic ambitions and share their thoughts on the inescapable grip of market economics.
Because I can only deal with horror when she is shining and danger seems far away
Read if you enjoy: old-school fairy tales that scare you more than enchant you.
What is it about: Apollo and his wife Emma just had a new baby. But quickly she begins to act strange and shows no interest in her son. After Emma commits a horrific act, she vanishes into thin air. Having lost his wife and child, Apollo starts to look for both of them and ends up on a forgotten island in the East River of New York.
Read if you enjoy: getting freaked out by spiders and psychological horror.
What is it about: It is a sunny summer Sunday in a remote Swiss village, and a christening is being celebrated at a lovely old farmhouse. One of the guests notes something strange, a blackened part in a new window frame. The wise old grandfather who has lived in that house his whole life starts to tell a story that takes one chilling turn after another. Some call this book a foretelling of Nazis, while others say it’s the forefather of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Either way, it’s supposed to chill you to the bone.
Either to get ahead on your 2017 reading challenge or for those with a short attention span
Read if you enjoy: monster stories and feel like they should also deserve to fall in love.
What is it about: It all starts with the radio. Dorothy’s husband, Fred, has left for work, and she is at the kitchen sink washing the dishes, listening to classical music. Suddenly, the music fades out and a soft, close, dreamy voice says, “Don’t worry, Dorothy.” A couple weeks later, there is a special interruption in regular programming. The announcer warns all listeners of an escaped sea monster. Giant, spotted, and froglike, the beast—who was captured six months earlier by a team of scientists—is said to possess incredible strength and to be considered extremely dangerous. That afternoon, the seven-foot-tall lizard man walks through Dorothy’s kitchen door. She is frightened at first, but there is something attractive about the monster. The two begin a tender, clandestine affair, and no one, not even Dorothy’s husband or her best friend, seems to notice.
Read if you enjoy: getting lost in a powerful voice and just want to finish a book in an hour.
What is it about: The story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, trying to figure out who she is and who she will become. Esperanza moves to a house on Mango Street, but even though it’s much better than where she lived before, it’s still run down and not at all what she dreamed off. Told in a series of vignettes that are equally heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Put on a name tag and pretend to be someone else for a day
Mandy Len Catron
Read if you enjoy: Modern Love by Aziz Ansari and are interested in the 36 questions that will make you fall in love.
What is it about: Based on the New York Times essay ‘To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This’, this memoir explores romantic myth and how it limits us. In a series of essays about her life and that of her family, Catron studies our need for love from all aspects and shares many of her own antics when it comes to finding intimacy.
Read if you enjoy: Blue by Joni Mitchell and you’ve called this song your jam more than once.
What is it about: Bluets is about depression, divinity, alcohol, and desire. Thrown in are some famous people like Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday and Leonard Cohen. While the idea of Bluets was to write something insightful about the color blue, Maggie Nelson ended up facing the painful end of an affair and a dear friend getting hurt. This made the book a lot less light and a lot more painful, trying to answer how beauty can play a role in times of grief.
For those of us who prefer to live in the past
Read if you enjoy: stories that challenge your idea history and show that life is just a little more complicated than you previously thought.
What is it about: On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads her future in a cup of coffee. She sees some good and some bad and decides to keep her predictions to herself. But soon the lives of her family are uprooted, first by the Six-Day War in 1967 and then again when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990. The story of a family scattered across the world, trying to navigate their burdens and blessings far away from home.
Read if you enjoy: stories about strong and artistic women dealing with tragedy.
What is it about: Amelia Gray tells a made up story of real life dancer Isadora Duncan. She became known as the mother of modern dance but also had to deal with a terrible loss as both her children drowned in 1913.
The accident cracked her life in two, on the one hand, she was a brilliant young dancer that traveled the world and on the other a heartbroken mother on the edge of insanity.
Summer lovin’… happens mostly in books
Ernessa T. Carter
Read if you enjoy: Anything Molly Ringwald, but want her to be a little more edgy.
What is it about: Davidia Jones is nerdy, raised in poverty and abused by her alcoholic mother and horrible father. She gets bullied in high school, and when a lesbian trucker comes along, she runs away to Hollywood. Here she gets to redefine herself and live the life she dreamt off until James, the rich hot boy from high school, walks into the nightclub where she works. He doesn’t recognize her and falls head over heals for the overhauled Davie. But instead of this being a straightforward love story, Davie is out for some sweet revenge on her road to self-empowerment.
Read if you enjoy: K dramas for one, but also definitely for lovers of contemporary YA romance.
What is it about: Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president and it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. However, she’s never had a boyfriend and is a disaster when it comes to romance. When the hottest boy to have every existed walks into her life, Desi decides to accept this challenge. Armed with her ‘K Drama Steps to True Love’, she goes after the moody and elusive artist Luca Drakos and shenanigans ensue.
Because your holiday is the perfect time to get informed
The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions
Read if you enjoy: long titles and getting worried about the end of the world.
What is it about: A new research suggests that climate change played a big role in our planet’s most extreme catastrophes.
Our world has ended five times: it has been broiled, frozen, poison-gassed, smothered, and pelted by asteroids. In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen explores Earth’s past dead ends, and in the process, offers us a glimpse of our possible future.
Read if you enjoy: being alone more than being with people.
What is it about: The story of a man who lived alone in the woods in Maine for 27 years, just because he preferred to be on his own.
Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts and disappeared into the forest. For almost three decades he lived there, not talking to anyone and struggling to get by. Living in a tent, even through brutal winters, he found ingenious ways to store water and food. He stole from nearby cottages and was finally arrested for theft. The book is based on interviews with Knight and also details his return back to society.
Read if you enjoy: College novels, women in science and coming of age stories.
What is it about: The unnamed narrator is three years into her graduate studies at Boston University. Tormented by her failing research, she’s reminded of the expectations by her fellow students, her advisor and above all, her Chinese parents. But there’s another, non-scientific question looming over her head: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make build a life before finding success on her own. So she embarks on a journey to find out what it is she really wants and this time she won’t the answer in a textbook.
Andrew Sean Greer
Read if you enjoy: sappy love stories that aren’t about pretty young things.
What is it about: A failed novelist is about to turn fifty when his ex-boyfriend invites him to his wedding. Instead of going, he accepts a series of invitations to attend half-baked literary events around the world. In an attempt to run away from his problems, Arthur Less travels around from Paris to Morroco, to India and the Arabian Sea. Somewhere along the way, he turns fifty, somewhere along the way he loses his first love, but somewhere along the way he also finds his last.
You can buy these and many more books on Bookdepository and Bol.com. If you do it through our site, you’ll support us and our book-buying addiction. Let us know in the comments what other books you’ll be reading this summer and if you need more inspiration, then take a look at our Summer Reading Recommendations from last year!