Today I’m sharing a list of the best books I read this summer.
I share these roundups at the end of every season, and then I’ll do a year-end list too with my most favorite reads of the year. For “real time” updates, you can sign up for my Friday morning newsletter where I share what I’m currently reading each week. And for more book lists and a bunch of mood-based book recommendations, head to my bookshelf.
I love remembering where I was when I was reading a book. I think it’s so special that certain books have marked certain periods of my life:
The Paris Wife, Atonement, and Revolutionary Road? Late night stolen pages when I should have been studying in college. The Age of Innocence, Madame Bovary, and Catcher in the Rye: my “catching up on the classics” era while working at Google (the first time). An American Marriage, The Rosie Project, and Educated: A few of the many titles I devoured on my new Kindle as a red-eyed, nap-trapped, first-time mom. (This was before the term “nap-trapped” was trendy, and I just thought something was wrong with us. I wish I could hug that tired mama).
Anyway, I’ll always think of our Europe trip when I think of Homecoming or our 8th anniversary in Minneapolis when I think of Cloud Cuckoo Land.
This list ended up looking less beachy than my summer roundups usually do. I did make my way through a handful of beach reads like I do every year, but none of them wowed me enough to make the list.
We have a few cozy mysteries, some family dramas, and a book I think every parent should read.
“Home, she’d realized, wasn’t a place or a time or a person, though it could be any and all of those things: home was a feeling, a sense of being complete. The opposite of ‘home’ wasn’t ‘away,’ it was ‘lonely.’ When someone said, ‘I want to go home,’ what they really meant was that they didn’t want to feel lonely anymore.”
Jess is a journalist from Australia who has been living in London for 20 years. She travels back home to Australia after receiving news that her grandmother who raised her has fallen and taken a turn for the worse. Upon arriving in Australia, she discovers her family’s connection to a tragedy that occurred in Adelaide in the 1950’s. Jess works to uncover the truth about the Turner family tragedy and her grandmother’s role in the mystery.
This book started off slow, but the last 100 pages were spellbinding, and there were a few crazy twists that I didn’t see coming at the end.
I was totally geeking out about the setting of this book. My sister played basketball in Adelaide after college, and Tyler and I went to visit her when I was pregnant with Char. The area is stunning, and many of the beaches and landmarks she brought us to are featured in this book. (Check out my guide here, LOL!).
“He remembered being a kid, all the things he felt capable of, all the streets and avenues that branched away from his body, all the possibilities. But in the end you can only have one life. One at a time, at least. You could turn, you could pause for awhile, but you couldn’t go down two streets at once. The things they didn’t end up doing, the places and people they decided against, all defined them as much as anything else, in the way negative space defines a photo or a song. The lives they didn’t lead were there, too, always with them. Only recently did he begin to see the shape those choices had made.”
The story takes place in a suburb of NYC, where a married couple’s years of heartbreak and disconnection come to a head over one stormy winter weekend. This novel is character driven, and not a lot happens, so fair warning. It’s a deep dive on a broken marriage, a reflection on growing up with someone. I found it utterly fascinating.
I LOVE this author (I also recommend Ask Again, Yes). Her ability to develop characters and capture family dynamics is unrivaled.
“WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE IS BETTER THAN WHAT YOU SO DESPERATELY SEEK.”
This sweeping novel weaves together three different storylines which all take place in different time periods: one in the 15th century Constantinople, one in 2020 in Idaho, and one in the future, aboard a spaceship.
Anthony Doerr is a genius, and I find myself still thinking about the ending. This book took a bit of effort. It’s long, and honestly, a lot of the first 100-200 pages went right over my head. I’m so glad I stuck with it, though, because the ending was insane. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed this more than All The Light We Cannot See.
“She loved knowing why things happened, because if she did, it was quite possible she could keep them from happening again.”
This book is set in England and follows the story of Hazel and Flora Linden, sisters who are evacuated from London to the countryside during WW2. One day, Flora vanishes from the forest outside their foster home. Hazel and their mother spend the next 20 years desperately searching for Flora, continuing their search long after the local detective moves on. One day, Hazel comes across a new American novel called Whisperwood. She flips through the pages and realizes that this is her Whisperwood, the secret fairytale world she and Flora imagined together, a sacred source of comfort through the darkest days of the war. Hazel returns to the details of Flora’s case and works to find out how someone else, let alone an American author, could have come across their secret, shared story.
I often find historical fiction a little cheesy (it’s a “me” problem), but I loved this book. This would be a great addition to a fall reading list. The descriptions of the moody English countryside sent me into a STATE.
“The painful things you were certain you’d never be able to let go? Now you’re not entirely sure when they happened, while the thrilling parts, the heart-stopping joys, splintered and scattered and became something else. Memories are then replaced by different joys and larger sorrows, and unbelievably, those things get knocked aside as well, until one morning you’re picking cherries with your three grown daughters and your husband goes by on the Gator and you are positive that this is all you’ve ever wanted in the world.”
The book is about a woman named Lara who owns and runs a cherry farm in Michigan with her husband, Joe. When all three of their grown daughters return to the farm in the spring of 2020, Lara tells her daughters the story of her romance with the famous movie star, Peter Duke. The book bounces back and forth between Lara’s story and the present day.
This book is enchanting, heartwarming, and so special. I toted it around the house with me from room to room like a newborn baby. I loved it so much that I wish I could read it again for the first time.
“This is not a book about teaching a child how to read; it’s about teaching a child to want to read. There’s an education adage that goes, “What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn.” The fact is that some children learn to read sooner than others, while some learn better than others. There is a difference. For the parent who thinks that sooner is better, who has an eighteen-month-old child barking at flash cards, my response is: sooner is not better. Are the dinner guests who arrive an hour early better guests than those who arrive on time? Of course not.”
My mom–who taught middle school English for decades–recommended this book to me a few months ago. This book covers the science and data behind reading aloud to children of all ages and has been enormously inspiring to Tyler and me. We’ve read with the girls since they were born, but this book has inspired us to incorporate books and reading even more into our daily routines.
The more I learn about parenting in this day and age, I’ve realized that a lot of this boils down to two things: get your kids outside and read to them. My friend Amanda has raised three of the brightest, most brilliant kids I know. I remember asking her once like 5 years ago how she did that–how EXACTLY did she manage to produce three geniuses. She shrugged and brushed me off but I, of course, pressed her until she finally said, “I just read to them constantly.” That always stuck with me.
The first half of this book talks about cultivating a love of reading in kids of all ages, and the second half is actually a full treasury of read aloud books. This book is so, so important, and I highly recommend it to every parent I know.