As a kid, I loved the thrill of the last week of school. It wasn’t just the excitement of standing at the precipice of a new grade, an entire summer of freedom, and long, lazy days. There was something else I longed for…
The summer reading list.
I was curious to know what the required reading was but it was the optional list that really grabbed me. There’d be a list of anywhere from 12 to 20 books, of which we were supposed to pick just a handful. It was like choosing an ice cream flavor. There were always a few I could eliminate right away; anything that fell into the science fiction or fantasy genre was the book equivalent of sorbet (why bother). But the others… it was so. hard. to. choose.
If you’re having a hard time choosing a book to throw in your beach bag this summer (or if, like me, living in a land-locked state has you looking at your pool bag), here are some of my favorite summer picks.
They’re not so heavy you’ll forget what’s going on if you have to pause to re-sunblock your little people or fish around for the grapes at the bottom of the cooler, but substantial enough hold your interest.
1| Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld’s modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is genius. It’s wickedly funny and totally un-put-down-able.
2| Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
It’s about feminism, politics, and identity, but it’s also fast-paced, scandalous, and surprisingly light considering the heavy-ish themes.
3| An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
You might want to read this one with your sunnies on. (I prefer not openly cry in public, personally). It’s a tear-jerker and poignant commentary on race in America but it’s also compelling and juicy. You’ll wish you had time to read it in one sitting.
4| Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Your body may be on a chaise by the pool but your mind will be in New York circa 1960. If Mad Men and The Bachelor had a baby it would be this book.
5| You by Caroline Kepnes
If you’re into creepy page turners with nuanced characters and pitch perfect dialogue, this is your book. Read this by the pool, not right before bed, and you (probably) won’t have to worry about nightmares. But the nightmares are worth it. Kepnes is a master. (I’m currently reading her latest, Providence, which was just released in June.)
6| All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Okay this one is not light at all but it’s so damn good I can’t keep it off this list. I read it over a year ago and I still feel so connected to the characters. It’s a story of love and redemption and it makes you question your ideas of right versus wrong. This is another one you’ll want to devour all at once.
What books would you add to the list?