I have no false pretense that I am some kind of expert in the reading category. Reading is a hobby, but I have several other things I enjoy. I read every night before bed, and more if I’m super compelled (or trying to cram in a book club read), but my books-I’ve-read-this-year-list usually fits on a notebook page. I adore the library, and rarely buy books (and almost never buy hardcover), so that affects reading patterns, too.
I would say that I read more than most friends I know, but far less than the hardcore book nerds of the internet.
All that is to say, if you are looking for brand new books, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading List, and if these picks don’t suit, you might really enjoy the same gal (Anne Bogel)’s podcast, What Should I Read Next? She asks guests about 3 books they love, one book they hate, and what they are reading now; then, she suggests 3 recommendations that they might like (to read next). Listen to a few eps and you will have a long list to books to-be-read (TBR for those in the know ;).
As for this post, it is just a completely subjective list of suggestions of not-particularly-new books that you might enjoy for your summer reading. Let me know what you are reading (and, what you think of these picks!) by commenting below, emailing me at email@example.com, or on IG or FB.
Commonwealth — Ann Patchett
In my experience reading her work, Patchett is about as reliable as it gets for solid, fiction writing. It is odd to say I loved this book, because the lives of those described in its pages are hard and complicated and unfortunate and plagued. But, in this family drama, there is beauty in the relationships among siblings; and, the book's capture of 1960s lifestyle, with its wife-swap and laissez-faire parenting had me right there with them.
(State of Wonder, if you haven't read it, would also not disappoint)
The Dinner — Herman Koch
Looking for a thought-provoking read? I saw a movie trailer for the film based on this Dutch novel, and I was so intrigued, I immediately put it on hold at the library.
The plot takes place over the course of meal at a fancy schmancy restaurant, with flashbacks amidst the courses. It is suspenseful, intriguing, and very dark. Knowing almost nothing about it, I was surprised throughout... and disturbed. I highly recommend reading with a friend, so you can discuss!
The Last Days of Night — Graham Moore
I am not generally keen on historical fiction, but this novel, penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter (for The Imitation Game) Graham Moore, is excellent.
Set in the late 1800s in NYC, a young lawyer (Paul Cravath) "takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul's client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?" (Goodreads)
I loved this book, with its short chapters each beginning with quotes about innovation, technology, and competition from Edison himself, as well as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and more. I think Moore is an outstanding writer, and that this book defies its genre.
Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil — John Berendt
I haven't read this book in ages, but when I think of summer, hot Savannah, GA seems like a much more apropos locale than other picks with chillier climes (Claire McIntosh's I Let You Go is a suspenseful read that would be a great beach read... except the whole thing — set in coastal Wales — feels so, well, cold.).
I suppose this is technically nonfiction (it was a Pulitzer Prize nominee in 1995), but the true crime mystery reads more like a novel, with characters so richly described, they seem too extreme to be real. But, truth is stranger than fiction, and you will find yourself pulled in by the Savannah strangers, indeed.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle — Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara — we can call her that, because this memoir is so personal —, a well-known novelist (The Poisonwood Bible), catalogues her year in Virginia living off the land of her own farm & her neighbors.
"This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air."
Don't be put off by the Goodseads reviews... I've read several food books, and on the scale of 1 to preachy, she is nowhere close to Michael Pollan or Eric Schlosser. Her story was compelling, maybe inspiring, but she was clear: this is her story, and she has no expectation of anyone else going whole hog (so to speak) with this highly labor-intense lifestyle. But, the little steps do count, and she will almost certainly motivate one or two of those in you, too.
Life from Scratch — Sasha Martin
It need not be said, I hope, that if you haven't yet read The Glass Castle, it should be required reading; certainly for life, but especially before the film is released this summer!
Life from Scratch features Martin's backstory that elicits echoes of The Glass Castle, though the book — subtitled "A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness" — is far more about her adult life, living to find peace in it all.
She embarks on a quest to cook a meal from every country in the world from her kitchen in Tulsa, OK, so the book becomes more of a "foodoir" with recipes included. If you are an aspiring foodie (she certainly wasn't when she began her quest), you will be inspired by her menus & kitchen adventuring; if you are a lover of memoirs, this should be another that you will enjoy.
Books I've recommended before, but I am again ('cause guess what: they are still outstanding!)
Unbroken — Laura Hillenbrand (nonfiction, autobiography, WW2)
Tattoos on the Heart — Greg Boyle (nonfiction, spirituality, compassion)
Bossypants — Tina Fey (nonfiction, essays, hilarious)
American Wife — Curtis Sittenfeld (fiction, politics, marriage)