There’s nothing like diving into a light, frothy beach read (something more substantial works, too!) — preferably with sand between my toes and the sound of waves breaking on the shore in the not-too-far distance. Of course, the beach isn’t an actual requirement for some good ol’ fashioned summer reading. I’m just as happy parking myself somewhere cozy on a warm lazy day, finding an escape with each turn of the page. Wherever you find yourself over the next few months, let these books serve as inspiration for your own reading to-do list.
*All seven book picks include the official teasers from Amazon*
- Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself. Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths.
- Hunger by Roxane Gay
Bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet — sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors — doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through….
Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
- Startup by Doree Shafrir
Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business–in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn. Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news. Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. The exhausted mother of two and failed creative writer is trying to escape from her credit card debt and an inattentive husband-who also happens to be Katya’s boss-as she rejoins a work force that has gotten younger, hipper, and much more computer literate since she’s been away. Before the ink on Mack’s latest round of funding is dry, an errant text message hints that he may be working a bit too closely for comfort with a young social media manager in his office. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As the fallout from Mack’s scandal engulfs the lower Manhattan office building where all three work, it’s up to Katya and Sabrina to write the story the men in their lives would prefer remain untold.
- All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey
Mixing Didion’s affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke. A cultural critique and a finely wrought fan letter, interwoven with stories that are achingly personal, All the Lives I Want is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard. But it is, above all, a paean to the celebrities who have shaped a generation of women–from Scarlett Johansson to Amber Rose, Lil’ Kim, Anjelica Huston, Lana Del Rey, Anna Nicole Smith, and many more. These reflections aim to reimagine these women’s legacies, and in the process, teach us new ways of forgiving ourselves.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
- Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly — thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
I’ve already read Rich People Problems, the third and final installment in Kevin Kwan’s trilogy, and it was just as delightfully frivolous as his first two novels. Back story? Kwan serves up an outrageous look into the lives of ridiculously rich Asian socialites. It’s best if you start with Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend before cracking open Rich People Problems. All three are fun, lighthearted, and completely removed from any reality that most of us live in — in the best sense possible.
The Secret History is one of my favorite books ever, ever, ever, and I’ll take any opportunity to sing its praises/recommend it to others. Author Donna Tartt is the master of pacing and character development. Together, along with lush language and a vivid New England backdrop, she weaves an unforgettable story of a group of eccentric college students who, under the tutelage of an enigmatic classics professor, develop a new way of looking at — and thinking about — the world. Moral lines are blurred, someone dies, tensions run high, and nothing can ever return to “the way it was.”
Full disclosure: I am finishing Emma Straub’s The Vacationers right now. More than a handful of people have told me that it is a quintessential “summer read,” so I’m finally jumping on the bandwagon. If you judge this book solely by its cover (title withstanding), it screams, “summer getaway!” Without revealing too much, I’ll say this: I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and I think you will, too. The basic plot line: an American family jets off to Mallorca for a two-week vacation, wherein familial and romantic relationships prove complex and tangled. What family vacation is without its ups and downs, amiright?!
My final honorable mention is not light and fluffy. It’s a quick read, yes, but it is not your typical beach read. Paul Kalanithi’s writing debut and memoir-in-one, When Breath Becomes Air, is a touching personal meditation on life, death, what it means to be hanging in the balance, and ultimately, what it means to live a meaningful life in the time we’re given. I finished this in one sitting. Have a tissue handy.
Photo: Instagram user mintshake