Airplane Survival

Summer Book Recommendations?

Can I ask you guys for a specific type of book recommendation? Our new baby is due in about a month (eeps!), and one thing I’m really looking forward to is rocking him or her while reading a good book. When Toby was a newborn, I remember having those little pockets of reading time, and it was so lovely. (Including a few times in the middle of the night; I’d click on the light, breastfeed him and read magazine articles from 4-5 in the morning:) But, since I’ll most likely be sleep-deprived, I’m trying to find books that are light and easy to read but still well-written. Like smart beach reading.

If you’re looking for the same thing, books that fall into this category that I’ve enjoyed in the past include: The Glass Castle, Heat, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Bossypants, Operating Instructions, Mindy’s hilarious book and Ghost World.

Do you have any summer reading recommendations? I’d love to hear…Thank you!!!

(Photos of people reading on the subway by Ourit Ben-Haim for her brilliant blog, from last summer)

  1. My favorites are Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner; I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith; and a really great quick YA one is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. So funny and smart!! Also loved Where’d you go Bernadette & the Fault in our Stars. Oh, a great parenting book is the Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. I think about her ideas ALL the time with my kids. Best wishes for your family with the new baby!!!

  2. Marcelo in the Real World (Similar to Curious Incident of the Dog…)

  3. I saw a couple of mentions in the comments for The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It’s such a lovely, thoughtful and interesting memoir and one of my favorites.

    Also good is “These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine” by Nancy Turner. It’s adventure, historical fiction and love story all rolled up into one, and such a fun but still emotionally invested read.

  4. I haven’t read Bernadette yet, but I just put it on my wishlist and read the synopsis.

    It reminds me of Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl – I read this years ago for the first time, recommended it to everyone I knew and still go back and re-read it.

  5. Night Circus was a great escape book – love it

  6. N says...

    The Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty is young adult literature but it’s such a great read and study of character development.

    I just read The Turk Who Loved Apples by the former NYT Frugal Traveler, Matt Gross and it was fantastic!


  7. I recommend the Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz. Really fun books about a family of private investigators in San Francisco. I read the most recent one on maternity leave last summer (“Trail of the Spellmans”) but I’d recommend starting at the beginning with “The Spellman Files.”

    I also recently read “Where’d you go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple and really enjoyed that.

    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog.
    Congratulations and happy reading!

  8. The Island by Victoria Hislop!
    It takes place in Greece. You can feel the wind and the sun on your skin! Great summer read!

  9. Oh yesss, I second that! I read all the other books of the Flavia de Luce series, too. Each book made me want to read more! Alan Bradley is a genius!

  10. I strongly suggest reading Summer in Maine. This book is absolutely great. It’s a family novel about how strong the influence of family really is, and how you can’t escape it. And about loving but not always liking your relatives :)

  11. I would highly recommend Tara Road by Maeve Binchy. It’s not short, but it focuses on a woman from young adulthood through marriage, as well as all the people in her life in Dublin, Ireland. It took me a bit to get into it, but by the end I was so invested in each characters’ life! I felt like they were my family :)

  12. E says...

    I don’t think that anyone has recommended “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” yet, so I will – it is absolutely fantastic.

    I devoured it like I used to devour books when I was young… when life seemed less hectic and summers stretched on and on.

  13. Where’d You Go Bernadette is hilarious. As someone who recently moved to Seattle, I can tell you that the funny tidbits about life in the Emerald City are pretty accurate. Perfect quick read, and one that you can set down after a feeding and not feel like you lost your place when you pick it back up for the next round. Enjoy!

  14. “Secrets of a Spiritual Guru” by Tamara Lee Dorris! We just read it in my book club and we could hardly put it down! Here’s her website,, it’s definitely worth checking out! Thank you for your book suggestions.

  15. Loved the Night Circus too! It was so good!

  16. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

  17. I’m sure you’ve gotten tons of rec’s for books in these comments so far. I write a weekend book review each Friday for my blog. Even if you don’t get a chance now, stop by in a few weeks when you need another book! Here’s the direct link to the read page, where all my book reviews hang out together.

  18. I just finished Reconstructing Amelia and it was great! Hope you do a books roundup after some reading. ;)

  19. Lunch In Paris – it is tooo entertaining! It’s the author’s biography about how she fell in love in paris (after a one night stand haha!) but each chapter has a recipe as well. It’s really funny!!

  20. Agreed! Such a great read!

  21. The Tales of the City books by Armistead Maupin. They take place in San Francisco and are witty and easy — I actually always describe them as smart beach reads :).

  22. Where’d You Go, Bernadette was GREAT!

  23. Hello Jo! You must be so excited about the new baby, I wish you all the best. I’d definitely recommend Christina Koning’s “Undiscovered Country”. It’s a story about a tropical childhood, inspired by the author’s time as a British child in Venezuela after the second world war. Having had a tropical childhood myself, I identify so much with it. It has a bit of intense depth, but is mostly a wry account through an eleven year old tomboy’s eyes. You can find it here:

    Take care and have a lovely week!

  24. I recently went on vacation and brought Sedaris’ new book along with Kelly Oxford’s hilarious book, Everything Is Perfect When You’re A Liar. Highly recommend both of them!

  25. David Sedaris books.. especially When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Laugh-out-loud hilarious!

  26. David Sedaris books.. especially When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Laugh-out-loud hilarious!

  27. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn was great. Anything by Matthew Reilly would also be easy to read. I’d recommend starting with Hovercraft Racer, Contest or Temple

  28. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. One of the most enchanting novel I’ve ever read. But then again, it’s too hard to put down once you start reading it, so may not be good when your little one needs your attention 24/7. But if you haven’t read it, and you love beautiful stories, this is IT! =D

  29. Been dying to read this and so glad to hear so many of you raving about it. Definitely making it my next read. Also on my list is “I Married Adventure” and “Building A Guidebook for Better Girls”. Anyone read either?

  30. these past few months I’ve been loving The Paris Wife, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (this is a MUST READ), the Outlander series, and I’ve just added Beautiful Ruins to my summer read list.

  31. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. The story stuck with me for a long time after I read it, and my mind still goes back to it after nearly 3 years. I guess you could say it’s about finding your destiny but that’s sort of reductive. What touched me is the journey to get there. It’s brilliant. It’s like the reader is learning life lessons through the hero’s journey. Worth your time.

  32. Did you mean RJ Palacio? (At first I thought you meant RC Sproul, whom I love.) If it’s the one about the child with a deformity, I’ve heard such great things about it. I think I’d love to read it for myself.

  33. Did you mean RJ Palacio? (At first I wondered if you meant RC Sproul, whom I love.) It’s about a child born with a deformity right? I’ve heard great things about that book. I think I’ll read it for myself even though I don’t have kids. :)

  34. The Straight Man, Richard Russo. Maybe I just love it because it reminds me of my college English department, but some of the scenarios the protagonist gets into are so hilarious!

  35. Relish – a graphic memoir about FOOD!
    Anything by Lorrie Moore or Jennifer Egan — I can’t recommend those two authors enough! also, if you liked Curious Incident…, I would recommend Joe Meno’s The Boy Detective Fails. So GOOD!

    Happy reading and rocking.

  36. I’m reading “The Power of Habit-Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” (Charles Duhigg) right now and it’s really interesting and informative!

  37. Our book club absolutely loved Paris Wife by Paula McLain – which tells the story of the love affair between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson. Plus, it’s set in 1920s Paris. What could be better?

  38. Another vote for Gone Girl! It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t put it down and found it pleasingly well-written. It’s smart, different and even maddening–a definite beach read! Also, Diabetes with Owls (or anything by David Sedaris) because it’s so easy to read in small (breastfeeding session) chunks!

  39. I normally read contemporary literary fiction and business books (yes, quite a contrast), but during and just after my pregnancy with twins I became completely addicted to the English Regency period novels by Georgette Heyer (1902-1974). Influenced by Jane Austen, she wrote these historical / romance novels with incredibly accurate details of the period. I probably read at least 30 of the novels as they were light and fun plus easy to read when you’re sleep deprived.

  40. I thought I had posted my latest read but I don’t think it went through. I just finished Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary. Its a hilarious book on raising kids, which seemed approproate while waiting for my first kiddo to be born. It’s a quick read, funny, sarcastic, honest… I highly recommend it. Boing boing had an excerpt of it the other day which is what made me buy it in the first place.

  41. I love the Auntie Mame stories by Patrick Dennis. It’s a good read, plus it’s a lot of fun without being silly. Whenever I am feeling a bit under the weather, I read them again.
    Also I like a good spy story, like the ones by Le Carré, William Boyd or Graham Greene (“Our Man In Havana” is a real page turner and a good laugh).
    And finally, on quiet peaceful nights, the best is D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley !

  42. ‘The Summer Book’ by Tove Jansson (creator of the Moomins!).
    The story of a little girl staying with her wise, eccentric grandmother on an island in Finland. Beautifully written and so imaginative. Really evokes memories of summer and being a child for me…

  43. Also Stiff. It’s a really strange book about cadavers, but it’s FASCINATING! I recommend it to everyone. Mary Roach is such an entertaining writer, and I can’t wait to read her latest, Gulp.

    Also, thanks for asking the question–now I have about 500 new books to add to my own reading list :)

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  45. I Capture the Castle is one of my favorite books, and it would be perfect to read in the summer, and in the early morning hours. It’s written by Dodie Smith, the author of 101 Dalmations, but is nothing like it other than it’s quite British. It is wickedly funny, sentimental, and breezy. In fact, I want to re-read it again now!

  46. In a single waiting for baby to be born and not sleeping evening, I just started and finished Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary. It’s a super funny, honest, sarcastic book about parenting that had me laugh out loud enough times I woke my husband. Highly recommend it.

  47. In a single waiting for baby to be born and not sleeping evening, I just started and finished Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary. It’s a super funny, honest, sarcastic book about parenting that had me laugh out loud enough times I woke my husband. Highly recommend it.

  48. Someone mentioned The Glass Castle which is really fabulous. Also another book by the same author, Half Broke Horses, is also so wonderful.

    Really light – The Art of Racing in the Rain. such a lovely, light story about a dog and his owner, hard to put down.

    Lastly, Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, NYC chef is excellent. Maybe you’ve been to her restaurant, Prune?


  49. “Frances and Bernard” by Carlene Bauer. Two writers meet briefly at an artists colony in 1957, and begin deep friendship that spans many years. The story is told through their letters to each other and to their close friends.

  50. My favorite nursing-reading is Agatha Christie mysteries. Light and fun, but still feels like ‘literature,’ and the suspense helps keep me up. I just finished the complete Miss Marple short stories.

  51. So many good suggestions here. I’d add We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson. The perfect novella.

  52. Any of Mary Roach’s books…they give you science and laughs. If you enjoyed Blink (one of my favs), you’ll like her stuff too. She is my absolute favorite author.

  53. Any of Mary Roach’s books…they give you science and laughs. If you enjoyed Blink (one of my favs), you’ll like her stuff too. She is my absolute favorite author.

  54. I recommend The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood.

  55. I recommend The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood.

  56. I love these book posts! Am adding some of these to my to-read shelf on Goodreads!

    I would like to highlight The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon as my favorite book of the last decade.

    To add to the wonderful suggestions— The History of Love by Nicole Kraus (the wife of Jonathan Safran Foer who wrote Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close). It is the best love story… I physically hugged the book when I finished it, cried a little, and then immediately read it again.

  57. Yes, yes, YES to Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series! I was going to suggest these as well, for pure entertainment. Flavia is one awesome, witty, whip-smart girl and her mystery-solving exploits will leave you chuckling. I think there are 5 books in the series now. Enjoy! I’d read them again!

  58. Have read the Night Circus TWICE now. LOVED it.

  59. ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. ‘How to Be a Woman’ by Caitlan Moran. ‘Better’ by Atul Gwande. I also have just started reading old copies of ‘Cooks Illustrated’ magazine.

  60. ‘How to Be a Woman’ by Caitlan Moran – Amazing! ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed – Easy, fun, inspiring!

  61. Love Does, East of Eden, The Thirteenth Tale (amazing), anything Tom Robbins, Poisenwood Bible, and Love 2.0. My top picks for anyone anytime anywhere.

  62. I loved The Fault in Our Stars but I have to say that it would have been too emotional for me after just giving birth. I cried at the drop of a hat and I think it would have been a bit much for me during the hormonal imbalance of those first months.

  63. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

  64. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
    Marvelous writer. Also her Behind the Scenes at the Museum is wonderful.

  65. When I was on vacation recently, I read The Night Circus in 2 days. It’s a very fun, fast read.
    I also really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches, which is the first novel in the All Souls Trilogy.
    It is historical, romantic and definitely a page turner.

    If you haven’t read Lonesome Dove, it is a must! It is 1,000 pages but you will never want it to end. One of my favorite books of all time.

  66. I read Merivel in the breastfeeding hours (Rose Tremain’s follow up to Restoration, if you’ve not read it.) Both are hilarious. An eccentric english physician in the court of Charles II. Might appeal to your English roots. Such a great, funny and sweet character. And so cleverly written.

  67. JB says...

    If you’ve already read Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan is another witty summer read people are comparing to it, but a little bit lighter and more uplifting. It made me laugh out loud with a lot of fun pop culture references and comparisons of Shakespeare heroines to modern day leading ladies, interspersed with the story of a jilted 30-something woman (also a Shakespeare professor) reinventing herself at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Could be nice for late nights and early mornings with the baby!

  68. I love these posts, I get so many great ideas for my reading list!

    I just finished “Reconstructing Amelia” by Kimberly McCreight which was just fantastic. I looked forward to my train rides everyday this past week knowing this book was in my bag.

    It looks like I might need to move this Bernadette book up to the top of the list, so many people here liked it~

  69. Yep. If you haven’t already gulped up ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ (and then pretty much all of the cool stuff John Green does on the internet) I highly recommend.

    For some reason I’m on a YA kick and reading ‘Among Others” (I think Nancy Pearl recommended both of these). The jury’s still out on it.

  70. YES! Eleanor & Park was great!!!

  71. YES! definitely agree. Eleanor & Park was great!!!

  72. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin was BEAUTIFUL, as well as Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel and Best Comics of 2011 (Edited by Alison Bechdel) are also wonderful if you’re looking for comics.

  73. This is awesome. I am always looking for a new book and the ones listed are my kind of books. I would recommend the Ken Follett book – Fall of Giants. It reminds me of Downton but more complex. It is huge (over 1000 pages) but addictive. I would get it on a kindle to save your arm from falling off. Of course, your arm will already be falling off from carrying your little bundle around. :) After you finish Fall of Giants you can start on Winter of the World which is the second in the century series.

  74. The Night Circus was amazing!

  75. I need to bookmark this page! I have already put a bunch of books in my to-read list, and I haven’t made it down the list yet. Here are mine to add (most are listed above)!
    Beautiful Ruins
    Barbara Kingsolver books–Flight Behavior, Bean Trees, Poisonwood Bible (I’ll have to look into Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!)
    Tana French 3-part series–murder mysteries
    Gone Girl–a little slow at first, but then it takes off and you can’t put it down.
    State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

    I’m currently reading The Interestings–I’m only halfway, but it is pretty good so far.

  76. Just finished “Z:A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald”…read it on a long haul flight to South Africa and it was easy to read and entertaining…if you are into Fitzgerald and Hemingway and the 1920s it’s great..I loved the Paris Wife and this falls in that category…also sheds a new light on Zelda as told from her perspective. Fun, entertaining and relatively light reading!

  77. I just finished the next pick for my book club. It’s a YA book called “Flipped”. It may be a little too juvenile for some, but it’s a hilarious way of looking at how boys and girls see each other in those early teen years. There were parts that had me laughing out loud!

  78. Just finished Meg Wolitzer’s ‘The Interestings.’ A little big but not ‘heavy.’ ;) Good luck!

  79. I enjoy reading those compilations of short stories that come out every year. I intend to pick up the Best American Short Stories of 2013 (at amazon here: for some light reading at the pool or the beach. I know it might be sort of lame, but the Harry Potter series is always good even for us wise grown ups. :) Oh, anything by Barbara Kingsolver (Prodigal Summer is good for summer, obvi.) and Sue Monk Kidd (both Secret Life of Bees and Mermaid Chair are excellent for summer). When in doubt pick up an Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot mystery.

  80. I agree with nomadic gnome…I just started reading Wild : From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and I cannot put it down! Highly recommend it.

  81. anything by norah ephron. :)