For me, memories of summer, both as a child and adult, have as much to do with books and stories as screened porches and fireflies.
Whether it was my assigned reading in school or juicy summer reads on carefree vacations in my 20s, I’ve always loved to devour books in the summer months.
While I may spend much of my current summer days slathering on sunscreen, changing swim diapers, and doling out snacks, I still make it a priority to find time to read. More than ever, I rely on the worlds that await me in books. They provide escape, comfort, and entertainment during the 75th living-room viewing of Minions.
Whether it’s during a midnight breastfeeding session, while your kids play in the backyard, or in your car while you wait for camp to let out, I urge all mamas out there this summer to do a little summer reading.
To help get you started, here are my 10 all-time favorite summer reads. There’s a little bit of everything here, from light to serious, funny to sad. The only common denominator is that you won’t want to put the book down. So, dive in and start reading!
1. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Read this gossipy sendup of the elite, upper echelon of Singapore’s high society families before the movie comes out in August. It’s fun, bubbly, and decadent. It also straddles just the right line between affection and disdain for the oversized, uber-wealthy characters who populate its world.
2. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
I read this satire of Upper East Side parents for the first time when I was a babysitter. 15+ years later, it’s grown both more relatable (the ridiculous preschool prep, the playdate politics) and more poignant (the ease with which parents can forget that the only thing their children really want from them is love and attention).
3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Your summer plans may not include an epic romance that travels from the picturesque islands of the Amalfi coast to Hollywood. But with this beautiful, deftly told novel, you can at least live vicariously through its star-crossed lovers.
4. My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe
A true story of one WASPY man’s quest to purchase and run a successful convenience store to pay back the debt he owes his Korean mother-in-law. It may seem like an unlikely subject for a bestselling book. But this memoir is laugh out loud funny, culturally insightful and improbably heartbreaking.
5. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
British naturalist Gerald Durrell’s memoir about his eccentric, colorful childhood growing up on the Greek island of Corfu is an absolute classic. Whether you love nature, dream of traveling the Greek islands, or simply love stories of large, quirky family dynamics, you’ll find something here to enjoy.
6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett’s novels always feel like little magic tricks. They are slender at first glance but upon closer inspection, contain a dazzling, dizzying universe in their compact spines. Bel Canto, about the improbable relationships between a group of young terrorists and their hostages taken at an embassy dinner, is pretty near flawless.
7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
There are a lot of “epic” WWII novels. But this 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner, about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths intersect in German-occupied France, manages to dazzle with both its sweeping scale and gorgeous intimacy. The inner lives and dreams of Doerr’s characters are drawn with as much painstaking beauty and detail as entire continents in turmoil. It’s so good it hurts.
8. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver’s classic about a family of evangelical Baptist missionaries in the pre-independence Belgian Congo. She so deftly inhabits each of her characters voices and paints a vivid, indelible portrait of one family’s tragic unraveling amidst the backdrop of a country and world on the verge of staggering change.
9. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon’s sprawling, irresistible novel tells the story of two young cousins in 1930s Manhattan and their attempts to create a comic book superhero. This book is big, bold, and beautiful. It’s a saga about friendship, family, and the fundamentally American dreams of escape and reinvention.
10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This exceedingly well-researched book tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cervical cancer cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in modern medicine. Skloot focuses on Henrietta’s children and present-day family. She discovers they live in poverty despite the fact that their mother’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions. It’s a fascinating medical story in and of itself. But it also brings up important issues relating to the juncture of race, ethics, and medicine.
Those are my favorite summer reads, the ones I go back to time and again. But I’d love to hear yours! Please share in the comments!
∗All book cover images sourced from Amazon.com.