The Perfect Summer Reading List (25 Must Read Books!)

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 The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

RELAX, I’m not ordering you to read 25 books this summer (though, if you want to, by all means use this title as an excuse!) However, knowing the diverse ranges of most people’s reading preferences, I wanted to provide a list of the 25 best books I will personally be reading this summer– with some wiggle room that includes a few classic favorites, controversial picks, and the much-loved beach reads. Truth be told, this list is paralyzing to me. I’ve written summer reading lists the past few years and NEVER published them, simply because I wanted to read each and every book before recommending it. Which is rubbish, because I’d need to start in 2009 to accomplish that goal, at which point my picks would be outdated. Plus I’m a people pleaser, so I’d add a book to the list and then hear one person say the didn’t like it and off it went.

This year is different. You may hate these, you may love these. Each one is either on hold for me at the library, already read, or in my Amazon cart to be delivered as I finish the one before. These summer reading picks have been culled from reader recommendations, conversations with friends, ‘best of’ lists, and dog-eared pages from magazines.  All of the books are highly rated by customers on Amazon, and I’ve linked each one here so you can read more about it.  With those caveats in place, here goes nothing– the 25 BEST books to read this summer!

Beach & Poolside Reads

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge fan of traditional ‘chick lit’, except when it’s exceptionally well written and interesting. These seem to fit the bill for the latter category; highly rated books you can enjoy on the beach, at the pool, on the plane, or snuggled into bed with no alarm set for morning. Now, where’s my mojito and beach towel?

Amy & Rogers Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Perhaps it’s because I’m full of wanderlust lately, but the idea of a book about traveling cross country on a quest to find yourself seems like the perfect summer read. From Amazon: “One of the most touching, irresistible, and feel-good road trips I’ve been on in a long, long while. AMY & ROGER is a book to love.” –Deb CalettiThe perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

When I checked this book out of the library, I had no idea it was originally published in 1948 (and by the author of 101 Dalmations, no less!) This castle is no Downton Abbey, but still has it’s own twists and turns. It’s a charming story with a heroine you’ll adore, perfectly pleasant for beach reading and I found myself enjoying the story immensely. The writing may have an ‘old fashioned’ feel, but to me, that was part of the charm and a breath of fresh air. From Amazon:  “I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”–and the heart of the reader–in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

One Plus One and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Move over Diana Gabaldon, I have a new author crush. This one happens to be JoJo Moyes, whose popularity has been spreading like wildfire thanks to word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family alike (both my BFF and my mom both mentioned her to me, signaling a must-read author in my book). While I haven’t read these two novels (YET!) they are next on my list after getting sucked into her captivating book Ship of Brides (see below). I’ve heard both are outstanding!

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Little Beach Street Bakery  by Jenny Colgan

Love and baking. Sounds like perfection! This sweet story is perfect for summer escapism. If you had to start over in life, what would you do? Where would you go? Polly Waterford headed towards the sea (as would I) and started baking bread (wish I could). Full of beautiful imagery, you’ll have to see what Polly cooks up as she finds herself by the sea in an attempt to start over.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

My regionalism is showing here, but in my younger years I dreamed of running off to Nantucket for the summer and working at a restaurant without a care in the world. The main character in The Blue Bistro does just that, but along the way develops suspicions regarding several mysteries surrounding the restaurant, as well as the mystery of her future, too. Island life + summer + book = perfect beachy read.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jennifer Morgan

This book is probably not much more than glorified Kate Middleton fan fiction, but let’s admit it: who wouldn’t dream of meeting and falling in love with a handsome prince while at college, and being swept into the realm of romance and royalty beyond anything you can imagine? The next great American novel it’s not, but scores points for breezy readability for the beach crowd. From Glamour: “Every bit as engrossing as the real Kate and Will. . . . The pages turn as easily as a tabloid feature on the royal couple-and you’ll end up just as obsessed with Bex and Nick as you already are with Wills and Kate.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

 

Page Turners, Thrillers, and Mysteries

Beware, these books will be hard to put down once you pick them up! Clear the calendar and unset the alarm, you have a few late reading nights in your future.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This is on summer must-read list because the subject matter sounds interesting and who wouldn’t want to immerse themselves in a 24-hour bookstore? From Amazon: “Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Because Australia. 🙂 This book sounds like The Real Housewives of Australia, but with better kept secrets and deeper truths.  “The secrets burrowed in this seemingly placid small town…are so suburban noir they would make David Lynch clap with glee…[Moriarty] is a fantastically nimble writer, so sure-footed that the book leaps between dark and light seamlessly; even the big reveal in the final pages feels earned and genuinely shocking.” —Entertainment Weekly

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Accident by Chris Pavone

Another thriller from the author of The Expats (I book I somewhat reviewed a few years ago), this book promises to be full of twists, turns, spies, and high stakes. Guaranteed to be un-put-downable, so grab your favorite drink and settle in.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Apparently this thriller is similar to Gone Girl, which means that if it’s made into a movie, my husband will sit the entire time with a terrified look on his face too. From Amazon: “Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.” Which is a whole lotta words to describe one thing: PAGE TURNER.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartte

It’s hard to call a 700+ page novel a pageturner, but this epic sweep of the life of a child thrown into unforgiving circumstances is full of drama, bad decisions, and intensity. When a young boy is involved in a tragic event in NYC, he does something that will set the course for the rest of his life. You find out quickly what he does, but the untangling of the consequences takes years (and several late nights of reading) to unwind. This novel can be tough going as you’ll find the characters fairly unlikable, but this book was interesting enough to boost myself out of my typical genre comfort zone and you’ll be thinking of it long after you close the pages.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The story of a Nigerian immigrant in America, this story is full of intricate emotions as the main character may seem like she’s doing well to the casual observer but ‘culture shock, hardships, and racism she’s endured have left her feeling like she has “cement in her soul.” This highly rated and awarded novel is a powerful story of race and identity that we’d all do well to read and process. I’m personally saving this one for last, as a substantial bookend on a summer of mostly light reading.

From Bookforum: “It is not a stretch to say that her finely observed new book, which combines perfectly calibrated social satire and heartfelt emotion, stands with Invisible Man and The Bluest Eye as a defining work about the experience of being black in America.–Ruth Franklin”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

 

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is the perfect blend of learning something new and immersing yourself in a new life for a few hours. Here’s a few favorites!

Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Boston Girl makes this list for two reasons: first, I AM a Boston girl having grown up in the ‘burbs outside the city; and second, Anita Diamant wrote one of my all-time favorite books (The Red Tent) so I always grab her latest when it comes out. Add in humor and the similar themes that run through previous books but in the historical setting of a city I adore, and I’m hooked from page one. From People magazine: ““Diamant infuses [The Boston Girl] with humor and optimism, illuminating a wrenching period of American progress through the eyes of an irresistible heroine.” She’s a great writer, y’all. This should be on your list.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes

I’ll come right out and say it: I adored this book. The beginning took a little while to get into as there were several stories woven across decades, but once the Ship of Brides got underway the story became easier to follow. While the premise is based on fact– the Ship of Brides refers to the Australian brides who married WWII British soldiers and how they were transported to England via a 6-week voyage on an active aircraft carrier with 1,000 servicemen– the stories are ones you imagine may have played out while on board (and beyond). Count me at JoJo Moyes newest fan, this book was entertaining while being well written and witty as well.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

From the author of The Secret Life of Bees comes a powerful story of a urban slaves in Charleston in the early nineteenth century. From Amazon: “This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.” Really, my words can do no justice to the summary of this story so my advice is to just GO GET THIS HIGHLY RATED AND BELOVED BOOK!

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

On my wish list for ages, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel doesn’t pretend to be an easy beach read but instead thought provoking and beautifully written story looking at a familiar historical subject in an inventive way.  From the description: “the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Non-Fiction, & Memoirs

Reading non-fiction is like killing two birds with one stone: entertain yourself AND learn something new. Consider this your own version of summer school, but way more fun and much cooler.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larsen

This is the enthralling and true story behind the story of the sinking of the Lusitania. When I’m ocean side on vacation, I particularly enjoy reading stories of the sea as the salt air and breezes add depth to the setting in a way like no other. From Amazon: “Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

My friend Jenny sent me a link to this book on a dare, a “hey, read this and tell me if it’s worth it” taunt. After reading the Amazon reviews, I decided I’d learned enough about the concept simply from the summary. However, it haunted me– a book about decluttering and organizing, that offers simple but deep advice for changing habits and your life. From Amazon: “Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). ”

Damn you, Jenny. I bought the book. It’s now cluttering up my nightstand as I attempt to get through my book pile. 😉

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The Whole30: The 30 Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

After taking on the Whole30 diet in January, I can say I’m a huge fan (so much so I decided to do it again, I’m currently on day 14). It’s a challenge to say the least, but if your diet if full of bad habits (snacking, sugar addiction, processed food) or you’re looking to find health through food, this book will get you on your way– 30 days at a time. The whole plan is outlined in this book, with solid reasoning for each ‘rule’– plus the recipes are simple and delicious as you can see on my Instagram feed as I make my way through the plan, one day at a time towards better health. If you’re looking for great, clean-eating recipes you’d enjoy the cookbook section– not one meal has been less than delicious yet. BONUS: it’s incredibly readable and even humorous, making you feel as if the authors are on your side. DOUBLE BONUS: I’ve lost 15 pounds since January. Boo-yah!

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

So… I was banking on this being the laugh out loud book I was hoping for, but it wasn’t exactly that for me. That being said, even though I didn’t laugh as much as I expected, Yes Please was still full of great stories, humility, and advice from Amy’s always sharp and witty point of view. I particularly liked her chapters on being ‘middle age’ and stories from her years on SNL (plus her candor, bad language, and inside scoop on her life). Amy’s hometown borders mine, so her ‘townie’ stories REALLY hit close to home (and left me pondering if Amy Poehler may have, at some point, scooped my Bellybuster ice cream sundaes at Chadwicks). Confession: I read the entire thing in Amy’s voice, so I’m guessing the audiobook would be a (Red Sox) homerun.

From Amazon: “Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Embarrassingly honest essays by Sloane Crosley, who chronicles her adventures as she fumbles her way through modern life. Laugh (and cringe) out loud moments abound. I’m not sure I’d want Sloane as a best friend, but her book sure is entertaining. For fans of (a less edgy) David Sedaris. Perfect for lazy summer reading and second-hand embarrassment, I’m putting her second book on my wishlist too.

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross

This is a great bedtime book, as in, it may put you to sleep. That being said, it’s full of sound advice on parenting in the modern age, and how the excess of our generation is detrimental to our kids. It describes why we should limit the extra noise around us, whether that ‘noise’ is in the form of screens, clutter, toys, activities, and more. I especially appreciate the chapter on toys, and am on our second weeding of the toys using their suggestions as a framework. Great tips for which toys encourage the most imagination from our kids, and which to stay away from (and WHY!) From Amazon: “Today’s busier, faster society is waging an undeclared war on childhood. With too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time, children can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. Simplicity Parenting offers inspiration, ideas, and a blueprint for change.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

The $100 Start-Up: Reinvent the Way you Live, Do what you Love, and Create a New Future by

This book is especially timely for me as I carve out a new future for my career and family. As much as I loved teaching, I did NOT love the traditional hours and stress that came from that career. I’ve watched friends become wealthy through blogging, start-ups, and sharing Young Living— and it’s a true epiphany that you CAN do what you love and get paid for it! As my own income rises to above the level I earned as a teacher, I’m carving out a new path doing what I love and a future I never planned but sure do appreciate. Sounds like this book will have some great ideas and inspiration for the road less traveled, and help others do the same!

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

 

Runner’s Up:

Only because they haven’t been published yet, here’s two to pre-order before they debut this summer!

Got Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (to be published on July 14, 2015)

This recently discovered manuscript by Harper Lee, the one she originally submitted for publishing before To Kill a Mockingbird, is a historic literary event to say the least. Since Mockingbird is in my top five books ever in the history of ever, this will be a must-read for me as soon as it’s released– it might not be as good as the original, but who wouldn’t want to find out what happens to Scout and the rest of some of the most beloved characters in American literature?

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Modern Romance by Aziz Anzari (to be published June 16, 2015)

Aziz Anzari is hilarious. Not only hilarious, but SMART. I didn’t anticipate adding a book on romance and dating to my list, but no worries for my husband– it’s simply because this highly reviewed book promises to give insight into the social media culture we’re currently obsessed with, and hopefully help me navigate it with my own kids some day. Besides, relationships aren’t just about dating– I’m sure there’s gems to be had about friendships as well. From David Eggers: ““Modern Romance is just like Aziz Ansari himself—charming, thoughtful, reasonable, and able to distill the madness of the world into something both sane and wildly funny.”

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

Whew! Are you ready to get started? This list was such a labor of love… for the love of books, the love of summer, and the love of YOU!!!

Which of your favorites made the list? What am I missing? Now go grab your beach towel, a sandy spot, some sunscreen and get reading.

{hint: share this to your social media pages to save it– and see which books your friends love too!}

The perfect summer reading list-- 25 must read books this summer! Perfect for beach, pool, airplane, and snuggled in bed reading way past your bedtime.

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13 Comments

  1. Great list! i have from me to you sitting on my night stand. My question to you … when do you find the time to read???

    1. I’m a night owl and stay up wayyyyyy past my bedtime. That, and during car line while I wait what feels like hours to pick up my daughter. Gotta find the time when I can, haha!

  2. You have great titles on this list. I’ve read a bunch. Goldfinch and The Invention of Wings were both fantastic. I’m pinning, thanks!

  3. Well gee, thanks, Carrie. Now I have a dozen new books on my list! 😉

  4. Great list! I have a few of those books on my summer reading list! Now just have to find the time to get through the list!

  5. I can’t believe one of your comments was about the “Bellybusters at Chadwicks”. I went to the Waltham location all the time until they closed. I was just mentioning them last week and saying how much I miss them. Free sundaes on your birthday … all my family and friends went there to celebrate. Thanks for mentioning one of my fondest memories from days gone by. Now I go to Kimballs Ice Cream Farm in Westford for my guilty pleasures. i can still see in my mind, all the waiters running up and down the aisles carrying those bellybusters so all the customers could see them. Thanks : )

    1. We used to go to the Waltham location too! One of my birthday parties was there, we got a Bellybuster and everyone got to choose which flavors they wanted in it and then we all ate from the same gigantic bowl– which seems so gross now, but when you’re 8, it’s awesome! I’m from Bedford so after Chadwicks closed we’d either go to a farm in Carlisle or Bedford Farms. But nothing beats the nostalgia of the Bellybuster!! I was so happy when I read that part of the book, it brought back so many wonderful memories. 🙂

  6. i just finished the invention of wings, and i really liked it. sometimes books about slavery are so hard to read, despite them being good reads (like the kitchen house, did you read that? oy. i wanted to keep reading, but i didn’t want to know what happened next). this is lighter, if you will, than that. big little lies was such a page turner, for me, and the girl on the train, ugh. i wanted to love it, but found it repetitive and predictable. did you read the good girl, by mary kubica? better. i just finished a ya novel called i’ll give you the sun which was recommended.
    enjoy your summer reading!
    b

  7. oooh, you read my book loving brain! So many of my favorites on this list. Big Little Lies was fun and Invention of Wings was break-my-heart good. Americanah has been on my list for a while, but the next one up for me is Girl on a Train. (You’re the only other person I know who’s read I Was Told There Would be Cake and your description is spot on!)

    The list is so perfect, I added it to my Summer Survival list over at my blog!

    Happy Reading!

  8. My summer reading list has to have some romance!! I want to recommend the perfect romantic novel called “The Friend Request” by author Charles Soto (http://authorcharlessoto.com). The book has romance, suspense, comedy, drama; everything you could possibly want to entertain you this summer. I could not put it down. It is a Facebook love story that reconnects two high school sweethearts much later in life when they both seem to be reaching their breaking point. Carly is a hard working single mom trying to make the best life possible for her disabled child and Chase is a millionaire business owner who seems to have the “perfect” life until he finds out some pretty shocking news from his business partner (and brother) Sydney. The Friend Request is refreshing and fun and I can’t recommend it enough

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