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What’s the Best Thing You Read This Summer?

Grace Kelly reading a book

What books have you read over the past few months? I’ve finished exactly one book this summer, and even though it was 832 looong pages it was totally worth it…

After seeing endless glowing reviews (“It’s not hyperbole to call this novel a masterwork — if anything that word is simply just too little for it,” one proclaimed) and getting the same recommendation from friend after friend for a couple of years, I finally made A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara my summer reading project. It was incredible — both the book and the experience of focusing on just one book.

I don’t have a Kindle, so I lugged my brick of a book everywhere. It took up all the space in my bag on weekend getaways, preoccupied me during beach days (I felt like this), and when we went on a family trip to Portugal my husband dutifully toted it in our shared carry-on. My three-year-old wanted to know “How many stories” my book contained, and approximately every 25 minutes on our flight from New York to Lisbon he gently poked me with a fistful of Silly Putty and asked, “Do you want to read your grown-up book now?” Yes. Yes, I did.

This was the first summer of my life, since reading Gone With the Wind with rapt attention in 1987, that I’ve tackled just one big book. Have you ever done that, or set yourself up for a summer reading project? My friend M. spent much of the summer reading poems because she missed studying them in college. And a few years ago, my sister assigned herself epic cookbooks like Larousse Gastronomique and The Kitchen Diaries.

I love the idea of making a reading goal and going for it! This list by Italo Calvino always makes me laugh:

Sections in the bookstore —
– Books You Haven’t Read
– Books You Needn’t Read
– Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
– Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
– Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
– Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
– Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
– Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
– Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
– Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
– Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
– Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
– Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
– Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
– Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
– Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
– Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
– Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
– Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them

What about you? I’d love to hear which books you loved this summer, or which ones you’re hoping to squeeze into the last few weeks of long days and warm nights.

P.S. The most beautiful thing you’ve ever read and 10 great thrillers.

(Top photo of Grace Kelly by Howell Conant.)

  1. one summer i finally tackled anna karenina, it was long and sometimes i wanted to quit, but i’m so glad i stuck it out. this summer i’ve been enjoying ALL of the easy reads after a reading hiatus after my firstborn.

    i was actually working on my summer reading list blog post today, i’ll try to post it this week if anyone’s interested: http://www.katelynryan.com

  2. Love when you ladies do these book posts! I just shared my summer reading list on the blog (better late than never). It’s been a bit of a busy summer, so my summer reading has been pretty much non-existent compared to previous summers.

    Favourite reads so far this summer:

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

    Finished this YA novel last week and I can’t stop thinking about it! It’s the engaging and devastating, yet empowering and hopeful story about Hermione, the captain of a high school cheerleading team who is raped at summer training camp. Johnston focuses on how Hermione deals with the aftermath and fights to regain control of her life with the support of family, friends and therapy. I love that Johnston never portrays her as a victim. Beautifully written, thought provoking, and necessary.

    Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

    This one was highly recommended by the CEO of Indigo Books (the big bookstore here). A mother and son spend an afternoon at the zoo. As closing time approaches, they hurry to the zoo’s exit. But the mother witnesses something shocking as they near the gates and what she sees has her running for her life and doing everything she can to protect her son. I raced through this in a few days. It’s beautifully written and well executed.

    Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

    I’ve been dying for the release of this one and I’m happy to report it doesn’t disappoint. Laugh-out-loud funny and relatable.

    Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson

    I shared my thoughts on this memoir on Instagram. I flew through it in 24 hours one Sunday. I could not put it down! It made me laugh, cry, and think. It’s so beautifully written, wise, unapologetic, 100% authentic, and so very inspiring. Henson shares her childhood growing up with a single mom, her experience as a single mother herself, her path to Hollywood, etc. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time!

    Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

    I devoured this YA novel in 24 hours earlier in the summer. It was beautifully written, funny, moving, and enlightening. It opened my eyes to the world of the unsighted and I can’t recommend it enough!

    Currently reading and loving:

    The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – Beautifully written historical fiction about a network of female spies. I can’t put it down!

    Spaceman by Mike Massimino

    Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco – Written by Obama’s Former Deputy Chief of Staff. It’s hilarious!

  3. Tara says...

    Bad Feminist was a great read.

  4. Jane says...

    2 books that I read this summer that I really liked were The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal had an interesting format, but I found myself laughing and agreeing to almost everything she said. The Secret Keeper had great character development and had me hooked early on.

  5. The Summer Before the War – especially if your like me and missing Downton Abbey!

  6. Lilka says...

    I finished A Little Life this past spring and while I thought some of the writing was exceptional and the story very moving, I don’t think it’s a masterpiece. It often felt to me like a book that was thinking too far ahead to things like movie rights or television syndication. Though I agree that the book is affecting–it stays with you for a long time (which is not necessarily proof of genius). Books that are masterpieces (for me): The Passion of G.H. (Lispector), The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck), H is for Hawk (MacDonald), The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner), Austerlitz (Sebald)

  7. Alex says...

    It was my summer of non-fiction (except Persuasion because Jane Austen). The most intriguing was “Tending The Heart of Virtue” all about how stories are imperative for our children’s development of moral fiber. But the wandering enjoyment I had from naturalist Roger Deakin’s “Wildwood” was comforting as a summer breeze.

  8. Renee says...

    My favorite book this summer was Eight Hundred Grapes.

  9. Kirt says...

    I was unimpressed by most books I read this summer. The best one of the bunch was very very good: Killers of the Flower Moon and the birth of the FBI. I highly recommend it– if you’re “into” non fiction/history.

  10. I love a few romance novels (Nora Roberts, of course) mixed in with more classic literature. I just finished the easy read Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Capote and it was SO inspired. What an amazing writer! I also really liked The Gift of Fear, though a little chilling, felt like important reading. I’m hoping to churn through a few more classic reads before the summer is out!

  11. A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon

    A collection of this poet’s varied work. She seemed like someone I would like to be in community with – grounded, observant, and wise.

  12. Ramune says...

    Haha this reminds me of the summer when I came back from study abroad in Italy. I was exhausted, broke, and depressed (about being back in Florida). I worked at a dead department store cosmetics counter… and read Les Miserables. It was even more depressing than my summer and awfully loooong. Now I laugh at myself but then I was really suffering in life and in reading.

  13. I’m loving a book of short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi called “The Thing Around Your Neck.” Also enjoyed “What We Lose” by Zinzi Clemmons.

    • I was just about to write “Americanah.” It’s a hefty book to take both hiking and on the bus every day, but it was very much worth it.

  14. I spent the summer reading Prince of Tides! Carried that large book around with me because I couldn’t put it down :) There were so many moments of literary genius • movie was wonderful but nothing like the book!

  15. Love these posts! I’m starting my fall reading list now, so perfect timing!
    This summer was my most successful summer reading ever. Every book I read, I loved. I love mixing it up, serious and funny or light.
    -Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran (engrossing story about immigration set in the Bay Area)
    -A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
    -Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (I’ll read anything by him)
    -All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
    -According to a Source by Abby Stern (candy)
    -The Assistants by Camille Perri (also candy)
    -The Price of Illusion: A Memoir by Joan Juliet Buck (the editor of Vogue UK, gripping)
    -Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
    -All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (a surprise and by far my favorite book of the summer or maybe ever?!)
    -The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (late to it and glad I finally did)
    Currently reading Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Next up is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I bought my mother a year subscription to the Book of the Month club which is fun and amazing and she gives me the books she’s read. Pachinko is one of them.

  16. Ashley says...

    I read The Invisible Bridge this summer and if you like WWII novels and enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, you’ll love it.

  17. DIANA says...

    Where did you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
    I can’t put it down!

    • Nicola says...

      I looooooved that book! I was constantly laughing out loud, and also could not put it down. I recommend that one to everybody!!

    • Val says...

      I read this book after seeing these comments. It was a funny and light read. Just what I needed. I kept thinking that Cate Blanchett would make a great Bernadette. Turns out she really is going to be in the movie version.

  18. Emily says...

    Some of my favorites this summer: the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Currently reading: Telegraph Ave. by Michael Chabon. I’ve heard a lot about A Little Life but for some reason I feel resistant to reading it!

    • Kay says...

      I’m currently reading the second book in the Neapolitan series. These books feel like they were written to be devoured in the summer!

  19. Janice says...

    I remember a summer when I lugged a heavy hardcover back and forth to the beach: “Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein,” by Brenda Wineapple. I learned so much about art, artists, and the history of the era from that book and I highly recommend it. In the last few months I read the four Elena Ferrante Naples novels (loved them, they are intense and say a lot about Italian politics, womens’ friendships and family expectations), and Sherman Alexie’s memoir about his mother, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” Loved it. Love him.

  20. Julie says...

    I’m reading Rebecca because so many people recommended it on the Thrillers post. I’m absolutely loving it!

    • Rebecca says...

      I’ve been given at least 3 copies for birthday presents! Luckily I love it too! The perfect level of creepy

  21. Nina says...

    Arundhati Roy’s second novel just came out: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Her first one The God of Small Things (which was published twenty years ago) is still among the best books I’ve read in my life (and I’ve read quite a lot which is also part of my job). I’m short of words to describe how it feels reading Roy…

  22. Liz says...

    I try to switch back and forth between educational, historical, or informative nonfiction books and fun, compelling, or emotional (and way quicker to read) fiction. I’m a huge history nerd so this summer’s books are indicative of what my rotation usually looks like. I read Ronald White’s “American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant” and Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale.” American Ulysses was amazing and inspirational and I learned so much. I could not put down The Nightingale and it made me cry at least 6 times.

  23. I read an autobiography of a Chinese-born female filmmaker and artist, called Once Upon a Time In The East, and seriously it’s so inspiring. Ok. I read it in January, so it’s not summer technically. But I still think it’s the best book I’ve read so far this year.

  24. I’ve been listening to a lot of great thrillers on audible — it’s such a treat because you can listen anywhere!! Still House Lake, Behind Closed Doors to name a couple. I also loved Where’d you Go Bernadette! These are some of my favorite posts if only for the comments section! So many books to add to my Goodreads account :)

    • Julia says...

      ” If only for the comments section” – that’s exactly where I got inspired more than once! Until now I was never disappointed from your or your blog readers’ recommendations!

  25. Rosie says...

    Another large book, read mostly while I held my sleeping newborn: The Luminaries. This is the greatest book I’ve read in some time. Based on New Zealand during the gold rush, it is clever, fascinating, and beautiful.

    • Diane says...

      Yes! A great read.

    • Marlena says...

      I agree! Probably one of the best books I’ve read in years. :)

    • Twyla says...

      I’ve started reading this and am finding it hard to get into. I’ve heard your enthusiasm and won’t give up on it!

    • Lindsay says...

      I can’t get into The Luminaries, sadly, and I own it, and want to like it. Are the first pages representative of the rest of the book?

  26. Hands down the best book I read this summer (that makes my top 3 favorite ever, possibly!) was Lilli De Jong by Janet Benton. I read it while nursing my 8-week-old baby, and felt so much empathy for Lilli.

    A deeply moving, beautiful account of the strength and fortitude of a mother and child. A tale of the injustices, sexism and hardship of an unwed pregnant Quaker woman in 1883 Philadelphia that weaves beautiful prose on mothering an infant with rich historical-based fiction. I couldn’t put it (or my own baby) down.

    “Live up to the light thou hast; and more will be granted thee.”

    “So little is permissible for a woman, yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

    • A friend just told me about your lovely comment, Marissa Rapone–so I’ve popped in to say thank you! :-) Janet Benton

    • JessicaD says...

      This community is so amazing! Fantastic book recommendations, authors popping in… so wonderful!

    • Yulia says...

      I just finished listening to Lilli de Jong on audio! The story is a beautiful one and I grew to love Lilli, who strives earnestly forward through her travails. I remember the passage containing the last quote you wrote, Marissa. It brought a lump to my throat. What an amazing first novel!

  27. Colleen K says...

    I tried a few books out this summer that didnt enthrall me, but I’ve just began reading “Those Who Save Us” by Jenna Blum. It was released in 2005 but was recently recommended. If you enjoy WWII books, this is a good one for you (added bonus, its protagonists are strong women).

    • Ashleigh says...

      I read Those Who Save Us when it first came out – so good! Poignant and haunting. Made me cry several times reading it, and makes me a bit teary just thinking about it over a decade later! Enjoy.

  28. MrsD says...

    Seabiscuit! A great underdog story. Laura Hillenbrand’s descriptions of the races had my heart pounding rooting for him!

  29. In Spring, I as listening to a podcast where the narrator listed off the great works of literature he’d read, as if to evidence his full life. The authors were all men. It made me realize how skewed our education is just by virtue of how many more male authors there are, and … sexism. So I decided I’d read only women for a year to balance things out. Whenever I hear about a good book by a man and am tempted to deviate, I remember how sad I felt that day hearing all men’s names on a list of “the best books ever written”. Some favorites so far:

    Shrill – Lindy West
    The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf
    Postcards from the Edge – Carrie Fisher
    Make Me A Woman – Vanessa Davis
    Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto

    • George says...

      I try and keep my reading lists balanced 50/50 with gender. My boyfriend mainly reads non-fiction, and I think he’s read perhaps one non-fiction book by a woman in the last 5 years…

      Some of my recent favourites to add to your recommendation:
      – Lily King – Euphoria (novel based on real life anthropologists living in Papua New Guinea)
      – Doris Lessing’s autobiography (part 1) – she grew up in wartime Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia)
      – Barbara Kingsolver – The Prodigal Summer. Kingsolver is well known and deservedly so, this is set in rural Virginia and chronicles nature with passion and detail
      – Sarah Moss – The Tidal Zone. Contemporary UK novel (I’m English) about how a family responds when one of their children has a medical emergency/ difficult diagnosis. Told from the point of view of a stay at home dad, portrays modern parenthood with clarity
      – Elaine Storkey – Scars Across Humanity. This is not a beach read….it comprehensively documents violence against women across the world. Firstly makes you realise how rare women’s experiences in the west are compared to the majority of the world (where misogyny is so much more pronounced), but that there is still so much more to do.

    • Calley says...

      In a similar vein, my goal for my summer reading has been to read books written by people of color. In the past few months – LaRose, A Little Life, Rich People Problems, No One is Coming to Save Us, Pedro Paramo, The Underground Railroad, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

  30. I really enjoyed the memoir Spectacles by Sue Perkins (the British comedian, half of duo Mel & Sue that presented Great British Bake-Off TV show for several years). Very entertaining.

  31. Fiona says...

    This summer we sat down with the nieces and nephews and asked for their favorite books, so us adults could read them too and talk about them with them (I feel its such a lovely way to get to know the inner life of someone else). My 10 year old nephew fell hard for the Percy Jackson books, and now there are 5 of us hooked on the stories! I will be switching back to more “adult” books later in the fall, but with so much going on in the world, it’s been really lovely to read something so exciting and funny and simple for a few months!

    • Kim says...

      I love this!

  32. Gentleman in Moscow. A long book for me (I’m a fairly slow reader), but I loved it.

    • Sarah says...

      His first book was also pretty amazing!

  33. I’ve had a great reading summer. I’m a big reader and this summer has been no exception. I think the two that stand out to me most so far are Song of the Lark by Willa Cather and Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Just finished the latter yesterday. Very striking.

  34. Maria says...

    Confiteor (Confessions) by Jaume Cabre, 736 pages and I loved every single one of them. I dragged it everywhere, beach, home (1st floor, upper floor), garden, park for 5 days and read whenever had the chance (I have twin girls 21 months old so you get the picture). I even stay asleep late nights to finish it. It worth it.

  35. Rebecca says...

    I got a hardcover copy for $1 at a library book sale and lugged it around a weeklong vacation this summer. Cried finishing it on the flight home!

  36. Laurel says...

    A little Life was the most heartbreaking, best book I’ve read all year. That story has stayed with me and I still think about Jude as if I knew him. So so good.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Totally feel the same way!

    • Life-changing novel. Seriously, I would re-read it, if I didn’t think it would make me a huge mess!

  37. Ciara says...

    I am in the last throes of a PhD, so I read long and complex academic pieces everyday. So it was an absolute joy to devour ‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill. I loved his manner of story telling, his political undertones, and the dark humour. Also, it had a pretty satisfactory ending!! I loved it! :)

    • This one of my favorites too! So engrossing.

  38. Ingrid says...

    I just finished “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo and absolutely loved reading it, before that I enjoyed “The aftermath” by Rhidian Brook which is right now obviously just made into a fim with Keira Knightley in one of the lead parts, – I found that out just now when I was looking up the title/author….
    Now I am back into the second compilation of stories of The Famous Five by Enid Blyton, great reading even for a supposedly grown up ;-)
    Enjoy you reading summer and the good thing is when summer turns into autumn days will be shorter and the temperatures colder so what does one do ? Stay inside cuddled up with a book …..

    • shanze ahmad says...

      Squawk! (That’s the sound that came out when I read your comment) Love the famous 5. We couldn’t get them here in the states, I have such great memories of buying a few copies to bring home from summers in Pakistan.

  39. Hannah says...

    Lexi, just so you know, it’s now your fault that I bought yet another book. ;) It’s not like I have a stack of books waiting to be read, or anything like that…

    That said, while cleaning out my mother’s basement after a minor flooding incident, I stumbled across a series of books (fantasy) I loved as a teenager. Intrigued, I read the first two … and realised how awful they are. Now I have to wonder what my 15-year-old-self was thinking.

  40. Jenn S. says...

    My 2017 reading goal is 100 books and all these recommendations are awesome! My favorite books of 2017 so far are “My Last Continent” by Midge Raymond and “To The Bright Edge of the World” by Eowyn Ivey. The first one left me with major book hangover in that I just sat and stared at the cover for a good five minutes after finishing it. It was really interesting to learn about modern travel in Antarctica, something I might not have chosen to learn about otherwise. The second I feel should be required reading for every military spouse or any spouse who has to deal with long separations and going through the toughest of days without your partner to lean on. The female lead is amazing!

  41. Alice says...

    A Little Life is one of my favourite books EVER. I’ve read it twice, and while the second read was actually really difficult (knowing what’s coming is so hard), I loved it both times. I genuinely, though, read it in ONE DAY the first time- on a sun lounger on holiday last September- because I just couldn’t put it down.
    I’m reading See What I Have Done currently, which I’m not really enjoying… but have also read The Cuckoo’s Calling, Julie and Julia, Notes on a Scandal, The End We Start From and Hot Milk in the last couple of months. All SO GOOD!

  42. Nigerian Girl says...

    I read and loved:
    Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
    Hunger by Roxane Gay
    The Story of the Night by Colm Toibin
    Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
    Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

  43. Laura C. says...

    I do have a kindle, Lexi, it is the best thing. This Summer, so long, I have read “The Lion Tamer” by Camilla Läckberg and now I’m on my second romantic novel, and I have also Marie Kondo’s book, which will be my next!

  44. sara says...

    Oh, I can really relate to that feeling. A friend and I had this sort of project going on in spring as we both read 4321 by Paul Auster. We both bought it as a hardcover and took it to a girls-trip to the canary islands. It was huge, but it was worth it.
    We went with another friend who wad laughing at us a lot. Haha. But we felt quite sophisticated taking the book to the beach…which is quite embarrassing. As it wasn’t Dostojewski.

  45. Lucia L says...

    I finished Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. All three books are super funny. I also read “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith. It’s been on my to read list forever and I’m so glad I finally read it. It was like “Cold Comfort Farm” meets E.M. Forster. I loved it.

    • Juliet says...

      I Capture the Castle is probably my favourite book and the book I always come back to when I’m feeling under the weather or stressed or sleepy. Not much happens but everything happens and Cassandra has such a good narrative voice!

    • Love the Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy! Such fun brain candy that always left my mouth watering for Singaporean treats.

  46. Lisette says...

    Hi, I haven’t been reading this summer at all! I felt too busy adjusting to my life as a mom of two kids ?. But I’ll definitely read this book you’re recommending and make it a reading project (it sounds way cooler than just reading a book ?)! XX

  47. Julie says...

    The book that has stuck with me is Willie Parker’s Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. He is a beautiful writer, a spiritual and compassionate man, may we all learn from him. I want to give it to everyone, it’s lovely.

  48. I made reading “The Infinite Jest” by Foster Wallace my summer reading project after a few years of “I really don’t have the time to dive into this”. I made it! I wish I had done it earlier!

  49. Denise says...

    I love all the comments and have added so many to my Goodreads lists from these recommendatons. My summer favs have been: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (the absolute best of the summer and possibly my whole year), Twenty Boy Summer (fun, nostalgic), The Dressmaker (adored the film and loving the book), The Last Bus To Wisdom (not my favorite Ivan Doig, but his last, and still very good), and Martin Marten although I read the latter in the Spring. I’d put Martin Marten right up near the top as well. I feel it so.

  50. Sophie says...

    I loved A Little Life. It killed me, but in a good way.
    Other faves this summer:
    Aquarium
    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
    The Radium Girls
    The Leavers (perplexing and heartbreaking, but so good)

    • Nicole says...

      I loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine! Such an adorable and quirky story!

  51. I love this list it is exactly the kind of thing I want.You are doing great <3. I loved reading Fugitive Pieces it is written so beautifully.

  52. Liz says...

    I’ve been reading some incredible books with my older boys this summer. (They are 10 and 8.)

    Everything by Wendy Mass, but right now with the eclipse just happening, I recommend Every Soul a Star.

    And one we just finished last night, All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor. Just fantastic.

  53. bargib says...

    The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich has surpassed every book I’ve read this summer. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

    • Yulia says...

      This is one I really want to read. Her chronicle of the Chernobyl aftermath was gripping too–have you read it? There is something so heartbreaking about people giving voice to their experiences.

    • bargib says...

      Yes! Voices from Chernobyl really is gripping. The humanity, suffering and resilience within the stories had me both hooked but also, interestingly, taking small breaks. It’s a true gift to be able to read and know these intimate lives. The Unwomanly Face of War is much the same in that sense.

  54. Chika says...

    Reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson was life-changing for me, to the extent that I’ll never view capital punishment in the same way again. I was really surprised that this book with its heavy subject matter kept me wanting to read it so much. I also read The Mothers, The Expatriates, Big Little Lies, and Hilbilly Elegy, and although good reads, none were ones I’d recommend as whole-heartedly as Just Mercy…worth owning!
    (just borrow the others from the library if you’re cheap like me ;) )

    • Liz says...

      I second Just Mercy as a life changing read. I got to hear him speak last fall and he was even more inspiring in person!

    • B says...

      I felt exactly the same way about this book and was also blown away by hearing the author speak. And generally speaking, mercy is a much underrated value these days.

  55. Tracy says...

    Sorry for posting multiple comments, but The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs is WONDERFUL. Thank you for the recommendation here. Reading it I longed to be her friend – that was the best book I’ve read this summer. You wouldn’t think from the subject matter that it would be uplifting, but her spirit really made it that way.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so well put, tracy — i completely agree.

  56. Emily says...

    I finally got to The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom) this summer. What an inspiration their lives were! I also thought Magic Hour (Kristen Hannah) was a beautiful, easy summer read.

    • Elle says...

      Oh The Hiding Place is one my most favorite books. Incredible subject matter but I also love the writing. Corrie and her family were true heroes.

  57. Bailey says...

    – She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
    – The First Bad Man by Miranda July

    • Sam M. says...

      She’s Come Undone is my favorite book ever written. I re-read it every few years because it’s such an incredible story.

    • Olga says...

      @Bailey @Sam M. She’s Come Undone is a masterpiece. It’s also one of my favorites. I enjoy Wally Lamb’s other work too but this one is his best so far

  58. Elise says...

    I have read five books in the last 7 days – I’m on summer break (grad school) and have got to get in as much non-school reading as possible! The reason I read so many is that they have all been amazing!!
    Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle (late to the game on this one, but it brought me to tears multiple times)
    The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova – I had never heard of her so this was an unexpected surprise and I LOVED it
    Happiness by Heather Harpham
    Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
    Young Jane Young (not as good as the others, but a quick and fun read).

    A few others from this summer:
    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
    The Best We Could Do – graphic novel, not usually what I choose but it was quick and so meaningful
    The Stars are Fire
    The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

  59. Andrea says...

    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi!!!!
    And why is a sweet story: for years, my favorite author has been Jhumpa Lahiri. Before my birthday, my husband did tons of research on her, trying to figure out whether she’s been working on anything that will be coming out soon (she hasn’t), or if she has any uncommonly-heard-of published work that I don’t already own (she doesn’t). He moved on to reading message boards of other Lahiri-lovers and what they’ve also loved, and found that many of her readers also devour Ngozi Adichi’s writing. So he got me this novel? (as well as the short published essay, We Should All Be Feminists, based on her TedTalk ??). IT IS MY NEW FAVORITE NOVEL, HANDS DOWN. (Especially if you’ve loved anything written by Lahiri,) it’s a must-read!!

    • Omg I’m also a Lahiri nut! Every year I reread her books because I’ve never encounter such flawless writing, though I never knew about these message boards for fellow Lahiri lovers. Ha. I’ll have to check them out. :)

  60. Kristina says...

    A Little Life is the best book I’ve ever read. It truly is a masterwork. her characters are phenomenal and her pacing is on point. I wept reading that book and was devastated when it was over. I’ve recommended it to everyone, even though I realize it isn’t the type of book everyone would like.

    The first book I read after having my twins last fall was Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. It was a really good book, but it is so memorable because it was the first time in a long time that I sat down and really did something for myself. I think it will always be special because of that. Reading is so powerful!

    • Yvonne says...

      I feel the same about “A Little Life”.

  61. Charmaine says...

    A Stitch of Time by Lauren Marks! It’s a personal account of the language loss she experienced after she had a stroke. She doesn’t use quotation marks because she can’t be sure whether or not what she meant at the time was what she actually said. Same goes for whether she’s recalling correctly what other people had said to her at the time. Made me realize how much people take language and communication for granted. I’m a speech-language pathologist and it’s completely changed how I interact with and understand the stroke patients I see at work. I think it would be interesting for anyone who hasn’t heard of a language disorder!

  62. Tracy says...

    Thanks for so many compelling suggestions – I’m excited to get to the library to pick a few up (yay, paper books!). I really enjoyed Moonglow by Michael Chabon (although The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is my favorite book by him – also Wonderboys is really good). His stories are truly inventive, but at a time when some writers are lauded for stories with clever ideas, but that aren’t truly well written, it’s such a pleasure to read really beautiful prose.

  63. Kellyn says...

    Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply is the best book I’ve read this summer – and I know because it’s the one I read the quickest :-)

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      It was great. I also read that book in a day this past spring.

  64. Amy says...

    Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend! Inspired by the mid century memoirs of Frances Conway.

  65. Joanna says...

    Ok, so reading the comments here is dangerous. My Amazon cart is full to bursting now.

    I made it a New Year’s resolution to read at least a book a week, and I’ve been tearing through at least two or three a week this summer. The weather’s been perfect for reading outside!

    My top picks have to be:
    – Magpie Murders – read this 500 page monster over the course of the afternoon. I couldn’t put it down!
    – Travels with Charley – an old favorite I reread every year. It makes me want to pack up my car and go roadtrip
    – A Man Called Ove – heartwarming story about a grumpy old man. They made a movie out of it, too!
    – The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova’s newest book and it’s just as good as her earlier ones. I’m just a sucker for a good historical novel.

    • Elise says...

      The Shadow Land was amazing!! Should I check out her other books as well?

    • Sarah says...

      A Man Called Ove is such a great read!! I laughed and cried. Recommended to my dad and he loved it too.

    • Amy says...

      Love the Travels with Charley recommendation!! Haven’t thought of this one recently but read it years ago and was thouroughly delighted.

  66. Kay says...

    I read a few books over the course of this summer and the 2 that I recommend to everyone is You by Caroline Kepnes (it is creepy and twisted in the best of ways) and Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (because Mindy just gets it, the way your best friend just gets things.)

  67. Hunter says...

    I set out with one big book in mind (Infinite Jest) and when I wasn’t feeling it two months into summer I chucked it in favor of 6 shorter novels + memoirs, my favorite of which was Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore! Such a fun and whimsical read.

    • Kirsty Magallon says...

      Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore was the first book I read this year, and still my favourite book of the year. I’ve been recommending it to absolutely everyone.

  68. sooz says...

    I am an avid reader and a full-on career high school English teacher, and I have told my students since A Little Life was published that it commanded a place in my top five novels of all time. I. Love. It. Almost more than any other novel I have ever read (other than the other four that occupy that top five status — To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, All the Light We Cannot See, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The end). I know that there are novels out there that justify the same breathtaking response — old and new — but this one is beyond almost everything I can conceive. And yes, I’ve read it two more times…

    • bargib says...

      Completely agree on All The Light We Cannot See!

  69. Claire says...

    I read an Elizabeth George mystery over the summer, and next up on my list is Sherman Alexie’s autobiographical “You Don’t Have to Say you Love Me”, about his relationship with his mother.

  70. Nicole says...

    Ugh I hated A Little Life. So much so that I even wrote a review in Amazon (mostly because it was being hyped for what I thought were in the end all the wrong reasons). I think a few other reviewers really got it right when they called it ‘tragedy porn’. All of the darkness in the book wasn’t realistic and felt like it was purely to keep the reader turning the pages. Distasteful if you ask me.
    Man I guess the raving about that book still gets me worked up! Haha, I guess to each his own but it still does bother me honestly as someone who has a family member who struggles with mental illness- the way the book used pain and portrayed depression in such an inaccurate way. Ugh I need to stop now and get off of my soap box :P

    • Lila says...

      I felt the same. I was traumatized, seriously.

    • Stephanie says...

      I also felt the same and still can’t understand all the raves.

    • Alice says...

      I understand the “tragedy porn” thing, and agree that the book isn’t for everyone- but I have to disagree when you say it’s unrealistic. For example, as someone who has depression herself, Jude’s actually is quite similar to mine- I remember thinking “That’s just like me…” at some points when his struggles were described. But horses for courses :)

    • Justine says...

      Agree completely. Way too much. Unlikeable characters and unbelievable plot.

  71. Erin says...

    I haven’t read ‘A Little Life’ but the reactions to it reminded me of my favourite novel ‘Cutting for Stone’ by Abraham Verghese. It has been a number of years since I read it but the characters still haunt me.

    • Claire says...

      that’s a good one!

    • Maggie says...

      I too still think about that book!

    • Helen Ng says...

      One of my favorites. It also has been a number of years since I read it so thank you for the reminder that I should reread it!

    • Ndy says...

      Cutting for stone is my favourite book too. Love it. I have gifted it to friends. For those who like All the lights you cannot see, Half blood blues by Esi Edugyan is of similar genre and my other all time favourite book. One of the things I look for in books is how it is written and how the story is told. It can be a deal breaker for me even if the story is good. Frankestein by Mary Shelley is another all time fave book that I read time and time again. Really it is mostly because of how it is written.

  72. Loribeth says...

    I’ve been trying to learn more about communication this summer, specifically about how to communicate scientific ideas better.

    – If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? by Alan Alda: Oh man this book taught me so much about communicating (interpersonal and educational) all while making me laugh. Cannot recommend enough to anyone interested in being a better communicator.
    – Not A Scientist by Dave Levitan: Super interesting breakdown of how politicians misconstrue ideas about science to their own advantage. Everyone should read this, now is the time to be calling politicians on their bullshit and this book teaches you how to do it!

  73. Jessica says...

    So many great comments here! Some of my long-time favorites have already been mentioned, but my top three of this summer are:
    The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova (Dracula! European locations! History! It’s an English major dream come true)
    Life after Life, Kate Atkinson (so engrossing–couldn’t put it down)
    84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff (the most charming, delightful book in the world)

  74. Isabel says...

    I’m currently reading “The Shadow of the Sun” by
    Ryszard Kapuscinski and I’m amazed that I had never heard of this book or this author before. It is extremely beautiful and such an honest picture of Africa with its lights and its shadows. I highly recommend it.

    • Laura says...

      Oh my god, Ryszard Kapuscinski is the best. Even though so much of his work is older (journalism from the 60s and 70s), it is timeless. Try Travels with Herodotus next.

  75. Val says...

    I read Pachinko this summer. It was interesting and I got into the story. It was a little sad though.

  76. Sarah says...

    From the YA bookshelf, ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas is an excellent read. It was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and as characters develop and the plot unfolds, Thomas’s social commentary is clear and thought provoking. As a white woman of relative privilege, it left me grateful for strong fiction to help me open my eyes and mind a bit more.

    • Ashley says...

      You wouldn’t by chance happen to be a librarian?

    • Louise says...

      100% agree. It’s a must read. The best book of the year in my opinion. And it’s witty which helps as it’s a deep subject to make light.

  77. Caroline says...

    Oh, I just finished A Little Life 2 weeks ago! I’m now having a bit of a reading break to get over it, because Oh My God. What an amazing book. I’ve recently moved to Australia but I knew 2 of my friends at home in the UK had read it, so in the particularly tough bits I kept messaging them in the middle of the night their time because I needed someone to know what I was going through! It made me think of that Joey sketch from Friends, when he puts a book in the freezer when it gets too tough to read. Incredible.

  78. Lili says...

    I read American Pastoral which has so much critical acclaim and Phillip Roth and blah blah blah I thought I would love it (it won the pulitzer!) but TBH I didn’t… oh well. Even when I ready a book I don’t like I’m rarely ever sorry.

    • Nora says...

      I read that ages ago (like 15 years) and still remember how much I hated it. Totally pointless.

    • Lili says...

      Thank you!!

  79. Becca says...

    I got swept up in The Misfortune of Marion Palm – a very interesting book about Brooklyn, appearances and family. I do think it was wrongly advertised as it is not a comedy.

    I also loved Becoming Nicole – such an honest and raw peak into one family’s transgender journey.

  80. Ellen Anderman says...

    Not long, and a fast read, with two rather adorable characters on a “road-trip” in 1870 Texas – endearing as all get out: News of the World by Paulette Gilles.

    • Lila says...

      I loved that book! I found the writing absolutely beautiful. It’s not unusual for me to read 50 or more books a year and that one was one of my favorites.

  81. Elizabeth says...

    I read it years ago but always recommend ‘Etty Hillesum : An Interrupted Life’. It is an underappeciated book and she is an unsung hero in many ways. I read ‘Life in a Jar’ by Jack Mayer this summer which was fantastic.

  82. Alex says...

    Oh man, I can’t wait to sit down and really take some time to read through all of these comments for new book recommendations!
    My top 3 this year so far would be:

    – Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
    – Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
    – The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (So quirky and funny!)

    • Ellen Anderman says...

      I loved Three Day Road, and grieved for its characters.

  83. Diana McNeill says...

    I’m so glad people write reviews about books. I was intrigued to read A Little Life after your description, but once I read (SEVERAL) reviews about it being the most depressing book EVER, I will gladly abstain.

    • Sarah says...

      I was put off by the reviews too. But in the end, I decided to give it a go and found it one of the most life changing reads. It’s a book that affects everyone differently so I’d recommend just trying it. You might hate it. But you might fall in love with it …

    • Nicole says...

      Im on the ‘hate it’ side and vote you don’t read it. Doesn’t live up to the hype if you really get past the shock and consider elements of good writing. I just wrote this in a different comment so not to be redundant but it is accurate to say that book was tragedy porn

    • Carine says...

      It’s not worth it.

  84. Anita says...

    One summer I set myself the goal of reading Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’. It remains the lengthiest book I’ve ever read but was absolutely worth it – fantastic read!

    • Helen Ng says...

      My ex said he would take me to see it on broadway if I read the book. I bought it without realizing how long it was but I will tackle it one day despite no longer being with said boy.

  85. Sarah says...

    Welcome to the A Little Life club!! I feel like once you’ve read it, you immediately gain membership, and you’ll never forget Jude again (although Willem was my love). Have you seen the tote with the boys names on it? I really REALLY want it. My favourite book this summer : This is How It Always Is (a beautiful and funny novel about a family with a transgender son).

    • betsy adams says...

      this is how it always is” is so well written and thought provoking…a age turner.

      at home in the world ” by TSH Oxeinreider was fantastic as well…especially if you are a mother who loves to travel..

      arrowood is an easy but very good mystery

  86. Karen says...

    I had a feeling you were talking about A Little Life. I read it last year, and it was so good I was in book withdrawal for months, everything I read afterwards felt like a disappointment.

    The Crazy Rich Asian series are great summer reads.

    • Lucy says...

      Agree–it took me ages to recover and get into anything else. It was absolutely epic. I’ve never been so engaged with characters.

  87. Danielle says...

    Congratulations! I loved that book and am always pleased to hear others enjoyed it :)

  88. jeannie says...

    I just reread “The Bright Hour” by Nina Riggs which I couldn’t stop thinking about after I first read it. It is smart and funny and so real – heartbreaking and inspiring at the the same tome. I totally love that book.

  89. Kelsey A says...

    Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker! I read it every night with a big glass one wine. It was a hysterical, fun, boozy read. As with my glass of wine, I was sad when I finished. :)

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Awesome! We did a piece with her this past spring, in case you missed it: ‪http://cupjo.co/2oOkbEG ‬

    • Sharon says...

      I also loved Cork Dork! I only read it because of the feature by COJ. Great writing style. I felt like I was learning about wine but also entertained and satisfied at the same time.

  90. I’ve made it a goal this year to get through 50 books. I write this as someone who has completely neglected reading for the last ten years. I’m writing a lot more nowadays and that’s all thanks to my amazing reading list which grows with friend’s recommendations every day.

    I’d recommend The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith. I’ve been feeling really lost and powerless lately. It helped give me a lot of perspective on where I am and where I’m going.

  91. Peggy says...

    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy…..every day during lunch till I finished it!

  92. It’s not summer in my part of the world but over recent months I’ve enjoyed…
    Storyland, by Catherine McKinnon
    The Return, by Hisham Matar
    A Separation, by Katie Kitamura
    The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
    The Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose
    Insomniac City, by Bill Hayes
    Pages for Her, by Sylvia Brownrigg
    Outline, by Rachel Cusk

    • I *loved* Outline.

    • pdx mama says...

      I also LOVED outline…. Cusk also wrote Transit, which is similar in concept and equally good.

  93. JP says...

    I’ve been eyeing this book for some time… but I don’t know if I can handle it!! My favorite summer book ever was The Goldfinch. Currently, trying to get through Middlesex. Wish me luck!!

    • Nicole says...

      Middlesex is one of my top 5 books of all time. Bear through the slow beginning. It is totally worth it!!

    • Kay says...

      The Goldfinch is going to be my fall book. I love having big, thick books keep me company when the days get dark quickly. ( Rereading this sentence, it may seem like “books” is a euphemism for penis, but I promise you, I actually mean real, literary books.)

    • Liz says...

      Middlesex was the best book I read this summer. MAJOR withdrawals since finishing it. I hope you love it!!

    • Kate says...

      Loved both Goldfinch and Middlesex….both stick in your memory for years afterwards.

      I agree, not sure I can take too much “negativity” at the moment. The world is a bit too heavy to take on sorrow in my relaxation time.

      What do the Goldfinch/Middlesex lovers recommend?

    • Shannon says...

      Kate–The Secret History, also by Donna Tartt, was incredible (not sure if that’s the right word, but it’s stuck with me for years) if you haven’t already read it.

    • Veronica says...

      I’ve never made it through Middlesex, and my sister in law told me something interesting recently. She is intersex, and she hated the book, because it implies untrue things about the causes of the condition. It totally made me rethink the novel and it’s message.

    • JessicaD says...

      Kate – I feel like Michael Chabon books kind of fall in Middlesex/Goldfinch territory, at least with respect to complex storytelling and great writing. I love all three authors, anyway!

  94. Jess V says...

    I agree that A Little Life is a masterpiece, and exceptionally well written – but a caveat should be included that it was also the most intense, emotional book I have ever read. I have never read trauma, tragedy, and depression more intensely described. I usually always have a book on the go, but I had to take a break from reading for a couple of months to recover from the experience of reading this book, and what it brought up for me.

    • Megan says...

      I had to stop reading it.

    • Sophie says...

      Same, i never finished it…far too difficult emotionally

  95. ‘I Was Told to Come Alone’ by Souad Mekhennet. Amazing.

  96. I love reading through the comments! The one that stood out was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

    • I read that earlier this summer after hearing about it here. It’s beautifully written and I’ve told several people about it. I get most of my book recommendations from you ladies. Thanks!

    • Sarah says...

      Yes! Homegoing – So good.

  97. kirstin says...

    It’s winter here for me… but the best books I have read lately include Burial Rites – deeply moving wonderfully written account of the final execution in Iceland. Her writing makes to never want to finish the novel. I have been reading Spurling’s biography on Matisse. Also wonderful. I started but had to take a break, from The Birdman’s Wife. And I am looking forward to Lincoln in the Bardo.

    • Courtney says...

      I also really enjoyed Burial Rites! Couldn’t put it down.

  98. Netsky62 says...

    All of the Lianne Moriarity books. I liked them all, but especially Big Little Lies which the HBO series is based on. I think she really gets mothers of young children & the dynamics of marriage. She also always has a mystery that doesn’t get solved until the end which is kind of fun.

    • Sarah Walker says...

      Yes! I’ve just finished binge reading all her books too! You are spot on.

      I am currently reading The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances which feels very much like her writing.

      I have also just read Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things which seems particularly poignant in light of recent events. It was very thought provoking.

      How great are all of these comments? I love Cup of Jo!

    • Sarah says...

      I’m reading the Husband’s Secret right now…

  99. Amy says...

    Seemingly an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t like A Little Life. I’m a lesbian, my friends are predominantly gay, and we unanimously felt like it was gratuitous. Someone here mentioned it should have ended around page 550 and I agree – I don’t need every story to be a happy one, but the level of violence the author submitted her protagonists to felt so unnecessary! I don’t get much out of seeing sorrows I’ve been proximate to re-played and blown out of proportion. The last big reading project I undertook were the Ferrante novels, which were such an incredible processing of class politics in recent Italian history. But as a queer woman, the last truly important book I read was Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, which was so affirmative in mapping out the possibility of a non-normative family structure, and has been so crucial to many of my close female friends for that reason.

    • Robyn says...

      I totally agree with you about the gratuitous violence. It almost became ridiculous to the point that I felt like I didn’t care about the characters any more because it was just so over the top and unbelievable. Will definitely check out the Argonauts – sounds good.

    • Liana says...

      Amy and Robyn, yes I agree! I was often just thinking ok, what happens next *eye roll*. But I can’t put a book down once I’ve started it! I think I’ve only ever. It finished one book ever.

      I also finished the Ferrante novels this summer and I don’t know what about it that I loved, but the descriptions of Naples and Italy pulled me in for sure. The fourth one was not my favourite though.

    • Lee says...

      Ferrante and Nelson’s books top my best recently read list as well, it’s hard to find anything else I can devour so enthusiastically!

    • Nina says...

      Fully agree! Far too long and mid-way through I also thought hello, so unnecessary the intensity of violence and then it all became rather kitch and unconvincing… Ha, and yes, I also LOVE Elena Ferrante.

  100. Hunger by Roxane Gay.

  101. Francesca says...

    Tin Man. Our Souls at Night. Both absolutely beautiful.

  102. Kara says...

    Favorite non-summer-reads that I read this summer: Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi; Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson; and Strangers Drowning, by Larissa MacFarquhar.

    • AJ says...

      Yes to Just Mercy!! Phenomenal!

    • Courtney says...

      Just Mercy was incredible! Highly recommend that book to all.

  103. I finally read Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas this summer and it totally lived up to the hype.

  104. Lauren says...

    I LOVED A Little Life! It’s heartbreakingly beautiful and I keep trying to get my friends to read it just so someone else can bear the burden of it with me.

  105. Kim says...

    I’ve read a ton this summer and enjoyed the majority of the books I’ve read, but one that sticks out to me is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I think it’s because I didn’t have huge expectations for it, and it surprised me. It made laugh and also tear up a few times.

    • Barbara says...

      I loved that also! A fun quirky read.

  106. Christine says...

    My favorite book of the summer is “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann. It’s essentially a really good, really long New Yorker article; outstanding journalism and a fascinating story.

    Other favorites:
    – “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard (about President Garfield)
    – “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah (a memoir)
    – “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles (novel about a young woman in late 1930’s NYC by the same author as A Gentleman in Moscow)
    – “Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld (so fun!)

    • Rachel Adrianna says...

      I LOVED “Rules of Civility”!

  107. Nicole says...

    I recently enjoyed Hunger by Roxane Gay, which is one of the most honest and vulnerable books I’ve read. Also just finished We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby after seeing it here and found it okay but not absolutely hilarious. For a funny memoir, nothing beats Mennonite in a Little Black Dress for me. I absolutely loved that book.

  108. Tone Almhjell says...

    I read quite a few this summer, but my favorites were Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Both literary sci-fi novels by brilliant women.

    • Meredith says...

      Tone, I absolutely love your books! I work in the children’s department of a library, which is where I found The Twistrose Key. I love recommending them to our patrons! Keeping an eye out for any future books :)

    • Ashley says...

      Yes! I came here to recommend both of these books. I’m currently reading the last book in The Fifth Season trilogy and trying to read slowly to make it last as long as possible. I liked N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy too.

      For a completely different kind of fantasy/sci-fi, I very much enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

    • Rebecca says...

      Total agree on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel (Susanna Clarke.) ! Brilliant read

  109. I read one of my faves again this summer. It’s a German book called “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”, but I think there might be an English version of it, which is “Christiane F- We children of Bahnhof Zoo”. I really liked it when I was younger even though it is a harsh topic (drug use in the 70s). Maybe you would enjoy it as well :)
    Have a nice day :)

    • Christine says...

      Yes, I read that in English when I was in university in the US in the early 80s. The title was something like Christiane F: A Girl of the Streets. Very good book. I wonder if it’s still in print in English.

  110. I just finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and it was fantastic. So much so that I passed it on to my husband (he and I rarely like the same books) and he loved it, too. Super interesting interpretation on where technology could take us, and 80s flashbacks!

    • Claire says...

      I loved Ready Player One, it was so fun to read.

    • Heather says...

      I did not like Ready Player One. It felt like an endless pointless cataloging of obscure 80’s nostalgia.

    • Claire says...

      we loved Ready Player One in our house too!

  111. Kate says...

    I carried a hardcover copy of The Goldfinch around with me one summer. It was gripping and somewhat heartbreaking at times, so I found I needed to read only bits at a time, but I still carried it everywhere. Worth it in the end.

    • Tone Almhjell says...

      That was my favorite last summer, too. I devoured it.

  112. danielle says...

    Books I’ve loved: The Light We Lost, A Man Called Ove, The Dollhouse and Miss You!

  113. I am finally reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck after a lifetime of hearing my mom profess that it is her favorite book. And yeah, holy shit, it’s gorgeous. Many times I have found myself reading a sentence over and over because it’s so breathtaking. Steinbeck’s writing style is not over-done, not too flower-y, not self-indulgent, just deeply honest about the rawest bits of what it means to be human and alive. He breaks your heart with what he implies by the things he chooses not to say.

    • Francesca says...

      Absolutely love that book. Had to read it for book club and was blown away. Grapes of Wrath is also a favourite.

    • Yulia says...

      I love Steinbeck and have an almost visceral memory of losing myself in East of Eden one hot summer day five or six years ago. I had the flu and stayed in bed all day with the ceiling fan on and the windows open, drinking San Pellegrino and eating sugar cookies and sweating. The heat of my fever, the turgid summer air and the slowly moving fan, the cold water, the doughy sweetness of the cookies–and that story pulling me along page after page.

    • Nicole says...

      Ahh my favorite book too!! Savor it!!

    • bargib says...

      Completely agree. Completely immersed myself in it last summer and it still comes back to me from time to time. Has definitely stayed with me.

  114. Maria says...

    I’m on the third Outlander book, and it’s the best so far! Impossible to put down. Definitely can’t read it before going to bed, you’ll never get sleepy.

    • Claire says...

      Outlander is seriously the best. Have you tried the show at all? Next season is the Voyager one and I’m so excited.

    • Char says...

      I also got on the Outlander train this summer… just started the fourth book. So fun! That said, they’re pretty fluffy, so I think I’m ready for a more challenging read next.

  115. AJ says...

    I second all the love for A Little Life. Heartbreaking and beautiful, this book has stayed with me for a long time. Also recommend:
    – Fever Dream! (I read it in one sitting. Scary. Disturbing. Thought-provoking)
    -The Bright Hour
    – Commonwealth

  116. jaclyn says...

    I finally read the People’s History of the United States and much like the Omnivore’s Dilemma, it ruined my life.

  117. Evie says...

    Kevin Kwan Rich Asians Trilogy
    The Argonaunts – Maggie Nelson
    I know how she does it – Laura VanderKam
    and currently Bluets- Maggie Nelson
    This summer, I decided to go back to my childhood tradition of checking out all the summer books from the library. I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that goal, even though I had to wait for library loans on two of the books.

    • I loved Bluets! A friend gave it to me for my 30th birthday, and it was so beautiful.

  118. Jules says...

    I love reading, but with three little boys (4, 2, and 8 months) I am usually too tired at the end of the night to read. I love historical non-fiction because I’m a big history nerd, but I’ve been looking for a positive, more lighthearted fiction book. I don’t want to read about murder, death, destruction, or depression. We see enough of that in the news.

    I recently started reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. It’s about Lewis & Clark’s expedition and it’s very interesting!

    • Hannah B says...

      Have you tried Sarah Vowell’s history books? They’re nonfiction but hilarious, even about dark topics. Her book about Presidential assassinations, Assassination Vacation, is really terrific, as is the one about the Pilgrims, The Wordy Shipmates. She is a delight!

    • Taylor says...

      Hello twin ;) I feel the same way about trying to find time to read with three kids (almost 4, 2 and 5mo). I have found that audiobooks are saving me- I can listen while doing necessary tasks (i.e. Laundry). My husband always knows when I’ve gotten hooked on a new book or podcast because our laundry is done and folded! ? Which otherwise doesn’t happen.

  119. TNelly says...

    Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel – wished I had read it years ago. Great book, challenged all my thoughts on sex and marriage. I listened on audible and was glad to hear it in the authors voice. Highly recommend.

    • Sandra says...

      Thanks for the reminder! This is on my Kindle but I didn’t read that much of it. I think listening to it would be much better.

  120. Neena says...

    I am currently reading ‘A Little Life’– what incredible writing! Sometimes I find it hard to read only because it can be so heartbreaking, but it is so beautiful. Some additional novels I read this summer that I’d recommend were ‘The Idiot,’ ‘Rules Do Not Apply,’ and ‘Lincoln in the Bardo.’

    • We’ve read all the same books this summer! I pretty much got all my recommendations from Jo and from Man Repeller. :)

  121. Before I even finished reading your post I wondered if it was A Little Life, simply because that was my book this summer too! I actually *just* finished it last week, and I cannot remember the last time I was so deeply invested and emotionally struck by a book. I kept telling my husband how sad it was and he would ask me, “Then why are you still reading it?” and I would say, “Because it’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever read.” It immediately moved into the top 5 books I’ve ever read in my lifetime.

    In a sort of similar vein of books I’d heard recommended a million times and then definitely lived up to the hype was The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I absolutely adored that book.

    • Meghan says...

      The secret history is my favorite book of all time. It’s a book you can revisit every few summers.

  122. Sara says...

    I always like the comment sections on these book posts because I find so many good recommendations from kindred spirit readers. I have read 50 books so far this year and hope to match last year’s 75. I would recommend:
    Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
    The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill
    The Nix – Nathan Hill
    Himself – Jeff Kidd

    • Christine says...

      OH! The audio book of Lincoln in the Bardo is amazing, even if you are not one for audio books.

  123. I immediately thought of A Little Life! It is THAT good isn’t it? You just made me wanna read it again! I finished it last summer, it was all tattered by the time I was done.
    I am now reading The Emperor of All Maladies – a Pulitzer gem. Also very long but captivating!

  124. Irati says...

    I read Swing Time by Zadie Smith, and I really loved it!

  125. Debi says...

    A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towels was such a delightful read!

    • I’m reading this right now and have been really surprised by how delightful it is!

    • Jeanne says...

      Thank you! I was just about to ask if anyone has read Gentleman in Moscow. I loved Rules of Civility and was thinking of picking this one up.

    • Elin says...

      I second this! Now reading “Rules of Civility,” and really enjoying it as well.

    • Natasha says...

      Ooh I just downloaded this but haven’t started it yet! Glad to hear a good review :)

    • Leah says...

      Also just finished this! It took me a little while to get into, but by the halfway point I was hooked. I just traveled to Moscow in March, so it was especially interesting to read this novel having been there. And there is a lot of history subtly thrown in, which made me very interested to learn more about the time period in Russian history.

  126. Misha says...

    I read this book this winter and when I finished, I genuinely mourned for the characters. They were such a presence in my life for several months that I felt like I had lost friends. And the writing! The writing was so touching, so haunting, so beautiful. I don’t think I have ever been so impacted and touched by a book. I still miss those characters and I think about re-reading it. But then I think that no experience can compare with reading it for the first time and diving into their world so fully that first time. It truly was a masterpiece.

  127. Kara says...

    I finally made it to the top of my library’s hold list for Hillbilly Elegy this summer. Perfect timing for cultivating compassion for people in this year’s political dramas, and a good read too. A Wendell Berry book would be a good chaser.

  128. Melanie says...

    Usually I finish one book and am excited to immediately pick up the next, but I recently re-read Crossing to Safety and had to just sit and ponder once I finished. I am head-over-heels in love with the way that Stegner weaves the truths of the human experience with incredible language in such an understated way.

    I read a lot of new release thrillers and semi-fluffy fiction at the beginning of the summer, but then I got hungry for substance, so I’ve been enjoying classics for the past month or so.

    I’ve heard so, so many good things about A Little Life, but I’ve also read about some of the themes, and I just don’t think I can do it.

    • Janet says...

      Crossing to Safety is the favorite book of my kind of long life. I’ve read many, many books since but nothing can beat it.

  129. well now I’m so intrigued by this book, as I’m always on the hunt for the one that you want to press in your chest and memorize. I’m just not sure I can commit to it

  130. Amanda says...

    After moving states (and leaving my beloved book club behind ::silent sobs::), I recently joined a Meetup book club and it’s pushing me to read things I wouldn’t otherwise…. Our first book was “Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America,” which started out a total snooze, but got me hooked as soon as the serial killer was introduced (morbid, I know) and drew me in with its novelistic approach to nonfiction. I read the last half in one sitting!

  131. Rebecca Sunde says...

    “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton. I couldn’t put this down (read the eBook on my phone) even while walking in NYC. At times, I had to stop just to let the jaw-dropping truth of her words sink in and remember to breathe.

    • Jane says...

      Yep, that’s a good one there.

  132. I hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter books (despite being aged appropriately when they came out) and I started book 1 July 4th weekend. I’m on book 4 now and totally hooked!

  133. Robin says...

    I had a similar experience the summer I read Infinite Jest. Lugging the book around is part of what I remember most about reading it! A much quicker read from this summer that I loved – All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

  134. Franny says...

    I read A Little Life this summer, too! It was by far the most beautiful piece of literature I’ve ever read. I haven’t been able to find a book since that compares. Any suggestions?

    My Absolute Darling is hitting shelves next week – I’ve heard it’s a great comp to A Little Life. I’m excited for it!

    xo

    • Twyla says...

      I haven’t read A Little Life – but the way you describe it is exactly how I felt about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I was so sad to finish it. No book since has come close.

  135. Erica says...

    Currently finishing book 6 (A Breath of Snow and Ashes) of 10 books of the Outlander series. It’s been 2 years of reading the same series, since each book is ~900 pages. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started, but it’s worth it.

    • Erin in AZ says...

      YES! So good! I listened to the audio books as well. It really helped with all the Gaelic pronunciation.

    • Claire says...

      I just started reading Outlander this year and I love them so much. I’ve read up to Voyager but I want to slow down and enjoy them. I bet it will take me around 2 years to read them all also!

  136. Dee says...

    Ha Lexi. At first I thought, how did that book last her all summer, I devoured it in a week… and then, ah yes, a three year old.

  137. PAMELA J. DECKER says...

    I’ve read a lot this summer and the best thing I’ve read was a book I believe was recommended on this blog – Self Help by Lorrie Moore. Such beautiful and thought provoking writing. Loved it so, so much!

    • Lindsey says...

      All the hearts here – this book is one of my top five. I love Lorrie Moore!

  138. CF says...

    As an avid, devout, reader–I HAD to add “A Gentleman in Moscow” to my top ten favorite books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read thousands)! Something about it! Not sure if it was the timing in my life; sometimes how a book will strike us is really dependent on timing–do you agree? But, it really struck me with such wisdom. I fell head over heels in love with the Count. Personally, I think it’s a must read! I love these posts! I get so many book ideas from them–thank you, and keep them coming! XO

    • Sophie says...

      That book is one of my all-time favorites.

  139. Shruti says...

    The Hate U Give was my favorite summer read this year. So relevant to our times, with excellent characters and a powerful message.

  140. Sarah says...

    I finally did the Ferrante tetralogy this summer at the same time my partner read the Cixin Liu trilogy (Three Body Problem, etc). Big projects for sure and well worth it for both of us. It was nice to take on a long read together since we we were on the same page: put the kid to bed fast and immediately break out the books.

  141. Maire says...

    I have consumed so many books this summer, but the best ones were The Light We Lost, The Futurists (which are both in a similar vein of NYC settings/white people problems/relationship struggles which is for whatever reason my favorite thing to read), Give A Girl A Knife (a most wonderful love letter Midwestern culture and foodways), Salt Houses (a multi generational family novel set in the Middle East), and Priestdaddy (also kind of a love letter to the Midwest but also about family and religion). For any romance fans out there, I now understand the hype around Christina Lauren’s books. I just finished Beautiful Bastard and it was fantastic. This summer I have also consumed so many Sarina Bowen books (Brooklyn Bruisers series and the Ivy Years are to die for!) as well as Jaci Burton’s Play By Play novels and the newest Karina Halle.

    • Amy says...

      Seconding the recommendation for Salt Houses!

  142. Em says...

    I guess without realizing I’ve been tackling one book per summer for the past 3 years. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch was first, then The Secret History and now The Little Friend. First two were incredible, third one… i’m struggling. But I have a few dwindling summer evenings to finish so I’m still hopeful!

    • sarah says...

      I have done the exact same thing! Ditto on The Little Friend….i finally gave up.

    • Meghan says...

      Give up on “the little friend.” It pales in comparison.

  143. Giulia says...

    I read ‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’ by Madeleine Thien and it was excellent!

  144. I’m a huge reader (about 7 books a week..I read fast and obviously, it’s my true joy!). I thought A Little Life was the best book I read last year. Yes, it was tragic and difficult to read but it was so well written. This year, my favorites have been Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Faithful by Alice Hoffman, The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood, This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (incredibly well written and insightful), and Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I also LOVE the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. One of the few series of books I’ll read again and again. The movie does them no justice.

    • Melanie says...

      Woah, I thought I was a big reader (1-2 books per week). How do you ever get through 7! That’s so awesome.

    • jen says...

      Big reader here too — had to smile at Lexi’s reading one big book. I’m reading Swamp Fever about the 2016 election. Well written and so sad.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hahah, OK. But A Little Life is the length of 3-4 typical books and is a very difficult read!

  145. Kara says...

    A Little Life is without a doubt one of the best and hardest books I’ve ever read. I finished it almost two years ago and it still stays with me.

    And I love the Goodreads Challenge! I make a goal to read 20 books every year and still haven’t made it – I usually only read 14-16 books – but this year I’m actually on track! I’m on my 16th book! I love the idea of doing it as a competition with your partner though… 2018 goals.

    As for books read this summer that I enjoyed:

    Lilac Girls
    Watch Me Disappear
    32 Yolks
    A Saint for All Occasions

    I’m currently reading Stay With Me, which just came out and is excellent so far. I picked up We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby last week and I have to say, I had a really hard time getting into it and enjoying it. I had to put it down halfway through but I hope to pick it up again after I finish Stay With Me.

    • Jill C. says...

      I too have the book We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and for the life of me I can’t get into it either! I just told my friend last night that I am giving up on it as I keep bringing it with me everywhere (currently I am on vacation at the beach) and I still don’t have it in me to pick it up and read it!

      I did love reading You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein – it really made me laugh.

    • Sandra says...

      I am reading We Are Never Meeting in Real Life too. I’ve been kind of hot and cold with it. At some points I’ve been reading and thinking what a great writer she is and how much I’m into the book, and then other points I kind of fizzle out on it. I finally took a break and will probably pick it up again soon.

    • Ana says...

      I also love Goodreads challenges! I just love goodreads in general, it’s my favorite way to discover new books. I set a 24-book challenge this year (2 per month) and I’m ahead of schedule!

  146. Sasha says...

    Here’s a long book I would skip, The Goldfinch. I think it could very easily have been a much better book if it was edited down considerably. I was enthralled by the initial plot line (terrorist attack, stolen painting) but also found myself muttering “good grief” & just wishing it would eventually get somewhere. I listened to it on audio, and I listen at 1.8 speed, so I felt like I wasted less time than I would have reading….But still, at the end I felt cheated.

    • Giulia says...

      Totally agree. The plot was great, but it just dragged on and on….

    • Laura says...

      agree! i read it (rather than listened) and it had the same effect on me. loved the secret history though.

    • I agree too! I just didn’t get the hype of it.

    • Lisa says...

      So agree – good plot, it has stuck with me and I still think about it, but I kind of dreaded reading that book. It was SLOW.

    • Beth says...

      Oh I loved the goldfinch! Felt like a modern Dickins book. Yes it was long but I felt like each section was a different book all interconnected. Vivid characters, funny and poignant. Different strokes….

    • Ana says...

      Oh my gosh! I ADORED the Goldfinch! I know it got mixed reviews but man, I just loved it. It took me a few weeks to read (it’s 800 pages) and during those weeks, I felt like I was swallowed up and consumed by the book. It totally transported me.

    • YES! Agree x100. I was so bored through most of it, and reading it felt like such a chore… I couldn’t wait to finish it so I could read something else. When I see comments (and there are several) saying they loved A Little Life AND loved Goldfinch in the same way, it makes me not want to try A Little Life…

    • Heather says...

      I loved The Goldfinch. You have to let go of the promise of a gripping narrative in Donna Tartt’s books. She often introduces some dramatic element and then the rest of her books are a slow, deliberate exploration of the emotional experience of the protagonist. This is just her writing style. Once you let go of being thrilled and sink into being present with the protagonist, the skill of her writing is a pleasure.

    • Miri says...

      Agree on disliking the Goldfinch. I listened to the audio book and found it painful to listen to – repetitive, with unsympathetic characters who do the same thing over and over. I kept going and powering through because of all of the hype. But for me, there was no payoff. In my opinion, the book desperately needed better editing. I finish every book I read or listen to and after 35+ hours of listening to the Goldfinch, I couldn’t even bear the last couple of hours. I googled the ending. But, conversely, I LOVED a Secret History – a beautiful, compelling and much tighter read.

  147. So many great reads this summer! I’ve loved Sweetbitter, Every Kind of Wanting, Lily and the Octopus (sad dog book but real good and has funny parts), Where’d You Go Bernadette, Today Will Be Different (really loving Maria Semple if you can’t tell), Just Mercy (really gripping book about one lawyer’s experience working for death row inmates; feels timely and I could not put it down), Swing Time, and Fifteen Dogs (SO good and unexpected). Happy reading!

    • Amanda says...

      Lily and the Octopus! So good, but so hard to recommend to people because…sad dog book. I full-on cried reading it but it was SO well written and like you said, parts of it were just delightfully fun.

    • Lisa says...

      Sweetbitter! SO good. Thanks for the reminder.

  148. Another runner-up for its brevity and easy to finish in a sitting was ‘Mothering Sunday: a Romance’ by Graham Swift. Check it out!

  149. A Little Life is an excellent book – I remember reading the last 100 pages in a coffee shop and feeling like an idiot for picking a public place where I would surely cry. It was worth it. While a bit extreme – so many horror stories packed into one life – it was a rewarding tale of love, friendship, redemption and forgiveness.

    I’ve become a crazy reader in recent years. Since the beginning of this year, I have completed 63 books, averaging about 500-800 pages per week. But I can happily name a few from the summer:
    -What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
    -The Moth Podcast presents All These Wonders
    -Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America by Ibram X. Kendi (This is how our history should be taught.)
    -Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
    -Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose
    -Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    Happy reading. Once you get used to carrying the weight of a heavy book around at all times, it becomes an easy-to-maintain practice. I encourage you to keep it up.

    • Melody Rowell says...

      Homegoing was AMAZING! I also read a lot, and I can’t remember the last time I was so completely enthralled with a book.