As a rule, I’m not much of a summer person – give me a crisp September morning over a blazing July afternoon any day. But one thing I can’t get enough of this time of year is the inevitable surge of fantastic new reads. Keep your Hollywood blockbusters (seriously, how many Transformers movies are we going to be subjected to?), and give me a cozy evening at my favorite local bookstore any day. best summer books
Just now, my bedside table runneth over, friends – especially since I’ve teamed up with my new friends at Diesel Bookstore, who are geniuses at helping me discover those lesser-known “indie flick” books that are serious gems. I can hardly wait to help you stuff your beach bag to brimming with any (or all) of my new favorites. This time, I’m breaking things up into two categories – Smart Reads and Beach Reads. Because, let’s be honest…when it’s August and you’re sitting by the pool, you don’t always want Shakespeare.
- An Unnecessary Woman– Rabih Alameddine: I promise you this: you’ll fall for the narrator of this incredibly well-written tale within the first two pages. The story of a eccentric, brilliant, flawed woman who survived the Lebanese Civil War by the most unusual means. And I’m willing to bet that lines like “My voice had no home until her” will have those of you who (like me) are powerless to resist great writing, hooked instantly.
- Euphoria – Lily King: If you’re a fan of Margaret Mead, you’ll fall for this book instantly. If you have no idea who she is, it may take you a chapter or two, but you’ll still love it. Set in the 1930s, it follows three anthropologists on their travels through Papua New Guinea, studying tribal civilizations and getting caught up in quite a bit of uncivilized behavior of their own.
- The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson: This one is devour-able enough to qualify as a beach read, but still manages to make you feel smart. Jonasson is a master of taking you on a hilarious journey, this time from the slums of South Africa to the throne of Sweden. I’m a sucker for a sassy female heroine, and Nombeko is quite possibly the sassiest of them all. From the moment she took a pair of scissors to a smarmy uncle making ungentlemanly advances, I was hooked.
- The Pearl That Broke Its Shell – Hashimi: A gorgeous story about a young girl living in Kabul who chooses to adopt an ancient Afghan custom that allows her to live as a boy until she marries. The tale is interwoven with the story of her great-grandmother, who did the same thing. Beautiful, heartbreaking and thoughtful, if you like Khaled Hosseini, this is a must.
- We Are Called to Rise – Laura McBride: I always fall for stories in which several unrelated tales weave themselves into one complex world, and We Are Called to Rise is the best version of that oeuvre I’ve found in a while. This is one of those books that gets under your skin…you’ll be thinking about it for weeks after you read the last page.
- A Paris Apartment – Michelle Gable: Last year, a perfectly-preserved Paris apartment was discovered after having been abandoned by a French socialite fleeing World War II in 1942. What would you do if you were the auction house expert assigned to fly to Paris and comb through all of those treasures? This easy read is the perfect balm for even the most serious case of wanderlust.
- The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles – Katherine Pancol: A girl power story about a middle-aged woman who takes her life back, while everyone who’s wronged her…well, you know. It’s not quite Revenge, but there are plenty of choice nuggets to keep you smiling.
- The Girls from Corona Del Mar – Rufi Thorpe: Easy and sweet, this is a coming-of-age story so spot-on, you’ll cringe with sympathy all along the way. Perfect for those of us who love stories where the separate lives of strangers converge unexpectedly to take a tale in an entirely new direction.
- The Corsican Caper – Peter Mayle: If I’m completely honest, I’ve never entirely warmed to Peter Mayle’s writing – it’s a little “forced fancy” for my taste. But that inherent snobbery plays to his advantage in this super quick read about an uber-rich Corsican gentleman trying to outsmart an uber-rich (and uber-scary) Russian mobster. It’s the third in a series, so if you love this one, you’ll know what to do next.
And of course, it wouldn’t be an SMC book list without at least one “eye candy” pick – this month, it’s The Inspired Home: Nests of Creatives. The editors of this gorgeously-photographed tome, Kim Ficaro & Todd Nickey, deliberately selected more obscure creatives over big names, opting to showcase people whose homes offer something genuinely unexpected, original, and unique to the homeowner. I particularly love this book for its focus on vignettes, rather than entire spaces: comfy little nooks within a larger space (much easier to recreate on the cheap!), designed with the hope that you’ll nestle in and feel instantly at home.
Tell me, friends…what’s on your reading list? I’m going to need new picks any day now, at the rate I’ve been burning through these gems!
Thanks for this awesome list! I added many titles to my Goodreads account. The title that stands out the most out of my recent books is the “The signature of all things.” I listened to it during my commute and not only is the writing excellent, the reader was brilliant too.
The best books I’ve finished recently are The Deepest Secret (Carla Buckley), We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler) and TransAtlantic (Colum McCann). Just finished The Temporary Gentleman and Lost for Words but was underwhelmed by both. Next up is either The Rise & Fall of Great Powers or The Blazing World. I hope you get to enjoy some great books while you’re taking a summer break!
Chouette: I was a little iffy on Signature of All Things, but I’m going to go back and take a second look if you loved it. Thanks!
Vanessa: I can always count on you for a list of good reads – so excited to add these to my list!
Yay! Always love adding your recs to my list. My goal for this year is to read 50 books… so far I’m at 32. Gotta get a little ahead before the holidays because I know I never have as much time as I think I will around the end of the year.