31 Page-Turning Summer Reads

Sunscreen + sand + book = heaven. 
Sunscreen + sand + book = heaven.

Last week, my friend Allison shot off an email asking for reading recs from a big group of super smart, fun and well-read friends. I love reading, but go through phases of page turning mania, followed by reading droughts, usually due to lack or time or lack of ideas on what to read. While friends can’t help with the time issue, they can help with suggestions. Here’s an epic list of our current favorite reads.

PS Totally coincidently, today is Prime Day, meaning tons of exclusive deals for Prime members. You can try Amazon Prime FREE for 30 Days and get free 2-day shipping on great stuff. For example, all these books.

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Two Books that Look Eerily Similar:

All the Light We Cannot See  |  Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See  |  Anthony Doerr
The Light Between Oceans  |  M.L. Stedman
The Light Between Oceans  |  M.L. Stedman

1. All the Light We Cannot See

Will reading about WWII ever get old? Doubt it. Here’s the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose lives collide in occupied France.

2. The Light Between Oceans

A couple, living in a isolated lighthouse post-WW1, really want a baby. They can’t have one… and then a boat washes up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Instead of reporting said baby, they keep her… and things get complicated. Steven Spielberg is currently turning this into a movie, so you know it’s gotta be good.

Memoirs, Memoirs, Memoirs

Beyond the Surface  |  John Hargrove
Beyond the Surface  |  John Hargrove
Not That Kind of Girl  |  Lena Dunham
Not That Kind of Girl  |  Lena Dunham

3. Beyond the Surface

Because just watching Blackfish wasn’t horrifying enough! But for real, I heard it’s a gripping account of the behind the scenes stuff at Seaworld. PS Remember the 80s, when you didn’t realize Shamu was being tortured and that young, attractive trainers were fish bait?!

4. Not That Kind of Girl

Mixed reviews from our group (my friend Hil said, “eh, it is very coming-of-age-if-you-are-self-obsessed.”), but probably great for a beach or cabin.

Fun, Light & Effervescent (whatever that means)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?  |  Maria Semple
Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  |  Maria Semple
Yes Please  |  Amy Poehler
Yes Please  |  Amy Poehler

5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Helicopter parents, Seattle mudslides and a disappearing-reappearing genius. You’ll tear through it in a day or two.

6. Yes Please

Amy Poehler wrote it. What more do you need to know?

Kinda Mostly Based on History

11/22/63  |  Stephen King
11/22/63  |  Stephen King
In the Garden of Beasts  |  Erik Larson
In the Garden of Beasts  |  Erik Larson

7. 11/22/63

Stephen King’s epic novel about trying to prevent the Kennedy assassination. PS James Franco is all set to star in this mini-series.

8. In the Garden of Beasts

Erik Larson writes non-fiction like fiction, including actual quotes pulled from personal letters. This one is about the US Ambassador in Berlin in the years leading up to WW2. I loved this book.

Reallying Effing Long Books

The Goldfinch  |  Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch  |  Donna Tartt
The Luminaries  |  Eleanor Catton
The Luminaries  |  Eleanor Catton

9. The Goldfinch

A kid steals a painting. Then, other things happen for 700+ pages. My friend Lys calls this book “the most anxiety-inducing thing I’ve ever read. Pretty sure it shaved years off my life.” Our pal Flo added, “I had a perpetual feeling of being in elementary school and I hadn’t done my homework… the entire book made me feel like I was going to get in trouble!” But they did love it. PS This one won a Pulitzer Prize, which I used to think was called a “Pullet Surprise!”

I still call it that in my head.

10. The Luminaries

As Amazon summarizes: “It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand’s booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk.” What happens next? Lots and lots and lots and lots!

Two Books People Absolutely Cannot Recommend Enough!

Station 11  |  Emily St. John Mandel
Station 11  |  Emily St. John Mandel
Cutting for Stone  |  Abraham Verghese
Cutting for Stone  |  Abraham Verghese

11. Station 11

My very smart, funny friend Hil recommended this book, stating “everyone needs to read it.” Something about actors, art and a deadly virus that’s related to the Russians. It’s sounds so crazy, I just might read it!

12. Cutting for Stone

“The best book I read last summer.” – RB, friend of mine whose taste I trust. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Love, betrayal and randomly tied to Ethiopia

I’m Not Crying, Uh, That’s Just Sweat Rolling Down My Face.

Still Alice  |  Lisa Genoa
Still Alice  |  Lisa Genoa
Me Before You  | JoJo Moyes
Me Before You  | JoJo Moyes

13. Still Alice

You’ve probably already read this or bawled your way through the movie, BUT if you haven’t, pick it up. A heartbreakingly honest, first-person account of dealing with Alzheimer’s, love, family and why you need to feel gratitude for every GD day. It’s fiction, but it’s almost too real seeming.

14. Me Before You

As far as I can tell, every person who’s ever read this book cried like a little bebe, but can’t recommend it enough. I keep looking for it in the little libraries in my ‘hood (they are the best!), but haven’t happened upon one yet. Who wants to lend me a copy?!

Currently on my Nightstand

The Vacationers  |  Emma Straub
The Vacationers  |  Emma Straub
Room  |  Emma Donoghue
Room  |  Emma Donoghue

15. The Vacationers – Emma Straub

The Post family reconvenes in Mallorca, Spain for a few weeks of relaxation… or, more accurately, family drama.

16. Room – Emma Donoghue

I’ve got this one on deck! The premise gives me the willies: it’s written from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy who’s lived his entire life in the room where his mother’s been held captive for seven years. Chilling, but heard it’s amazing.

Young Adult Novels that Definitely Work for Regular Adults

Every Day  |  David Levithan
Every Day  |  David Levithan
Paper Towns  |  John Green
Paper Towns  |  John Green

17. Every Day – David Levithan

Every day, A inhabits a different body, living a new and different life. However, every day, A’s also in love with the same girl. Recommended by my friend who’s a 9th grade English teacher. Read it & share with your favorite angsty teen.

18. Paper Towns – John Green

A mystery from the dude who wrote The Fault in Our Stars.

Here’s an Upper: Stories About Death Row!

Just Mercy  |  Byan Stevenson
Just Mercy  |  Byan Stevenson
The Enchanted  |  Rene Denfeld
The Enchanted  |  Rene Denfeld

19. Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson, the lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, created a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.powerful & true story.

20. The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

One of my gfs said this was a “dark, mystical, quick read.” Amazon says, “For the narrator locked inside an ancient prison, waiting for death, life is full of magic… That the enchanted place is a death row matters less to him than the people he watches from the bars of his cage: the lady, an investigator hired to help the men escape execution; the fallen priest, brought by shame to work the row; and the kindly warden, who ushers men to death.” Reminds me of a Game of Thrones episode!

Two Books with Train in the Title

Orphan Train  |  Christina Baker Kline
Orphan Train  |  Christina Baker Kline
The Girl on the Train  |  Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train  |  Paula Hawkins

21. Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline

So apparently a large number of orphan children were sent from the east coast of the US to the midwest between 1854 and 1929. Some ended up with great families, others… well… not so much. This novel tells the story of the once orphaned Vivian Daly, who moves back east as an adult, bringing vestiges from the past with her.

22. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

I haven’t read this one yet, but am DYING to because it sounds like a modern version of my favorite movie, Rear Window. A girl on a commuter train sees a lovely couple breakfasting every day. They have the perfect life. And then one day, she sees something shocking. What happens next? I don’t know, but I want to know so bad! My friend RB called it a “major page turner.”

Epic, Global Love Stories

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats  |  Jan-Philipp Sendker
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats  |  Jan-Philipp Sendker
Americanah  |  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah  |  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

23. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats – Jan-Philipp Sendker

A love story set in Burma, spanning the 1950s through the present. The Cliffs Notes: A New York lawyer suddenly disappears & neither his wife nor his daughter Julia have any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Uh-oh… busted, New York lawyer man!

24. Americanah  |  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A love story taking place in Nigeria, London and America, written by an author I’m fairly certain Beyonce is obsessed with. And if Bae can make the time to read such things, I suspect we all should make an effort.

7 More Books I’m Too Lazy to Create Clever Subcategories For

Let the Great World Spin  |  Colum McCann
Let the Great World Spin  |  Colum McCann
Dear Daughter  |  Elizabeth Little
Dear Daughter  |  Elizabeth Little

25. Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann

A bunch of fictional stories from 1970s New York, all loosely tied to the French dare devil Philippe Petit’s very real (and totally nuts) hire-wire high jinx betwixt the World Trade Center’s two towers.

26. Dear Daughter –  Elizabeth Little

This summer’s answer to Gone Girl.

Life After Life  |  Kate Atkinson
Life After Life  |  Kate Atkinson
The Astral  |  Kate Christensen
The Astral  |  Kate Christensen

27. Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

My friend Lys says Kate Atkinson can do no wrong, and this book is just one of the many ways she proves it. This novel explores the question, What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

28. The Astral – Kate Christensen

A family livin’ their regular ol’ lives  in newly gentrified Greenpoint, Brooklyn… until all o sudden daddio, Harry, is suspect of cheating by wife, he’s thrust from his longtime home and into the wild of NYC.

Pilgrim's Wilderness  |  Tom Kizzia
Pilgrim’s Wilderness  |  Tom Kizzia
Summerlong  |  Dean Bakopoulos
Summerlong  |  Dean Bakopoulos

29. Pilgrim’s Wilderness – Tom Kizzia

Soooo right up my alley: This is a true story of a family, choosing to settle in the Alaskan wilderness. Find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

30. Summerlong – Dean Bakopoulus

Jonathan Franzen-ish. Kind of sad, but as one of my pals said, “kind of sexy, too.”

Rosemary's Baby  |  Ira Levin
Rosemary’s Baby  |  Ira Levin
The creepy cover art for the even creepier movie!
The creepy cover art for the even creepier movie!

31. Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin

This wasn’t on my radar for one million reasons… mainly because it came out 1967. Regardless, my friend Lys recently read it and this to say: “Totally wonderful and terrifying… and not because of Satan babies, but because of the ways women are manipulated and allow themselves to be manipulated. Still hits freakishly close to home in 2015. *shudder* Ladies, don’t let your fear of making a nuisance or “being difficult” hamper your instinct! You will end up impregnated by Satan… if only in the metaphoric sense!” EEEEEEK! Way scarier than the movie. PS I hate when the book cover is from the studio movie/TV show, so I had to add the creepy cover art from the movie.

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Please add to the convo: What are you reading this summer? More suggestions, please!

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Comments (22)

  • Kelsey Jensen 2 years ago Reply

    I started Luckiest Girl Alive on Sunday and I haven’t been able to put it down. Great Summer must!

  • nicole. 2 years ago Reply

    tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed aka Dear Sugar!!! It’s so fabulous to read right before bed and drift off to sleep knowing someone, somewhere, knows exactly what to say.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    i gotta read that!

  • marge 2 years ago Reply

    Nice Work, Mol! Bookmarking this immediately.

  • katie 2 years ago Reply

    I just read Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Told from the viewpoint of a teenager in the ’80s, it’s a tale of coming-of-age, the beginning of HIV/AIDS, sibling rivalry, etc. I read it in two nights and I feel never have time to read with two kids anymore, plus I tend to read more nonfiction when I do read. Delicious.
    Also Tiny Beautiful Things. Maybe the wisest book on the planet.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Excellent!
    Tiny Beautiful Things is added to the list in my brain.

  • Alyssa Tuma 2 years ago Reply

    Great write-up! Adding more and more to my list now!

    PS — PULLET SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!! I am DYING!!! (And will be calling it that forever and ever now.)

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    You won! SURPRISE!!!!

    Liz Scott 2 years ago

    AAAH I was just going to say my husband thought it was called that too and I thought he was SO WEIRD (he is so weird) but apparently he is not the only one! Rolling laughing. Surprise!

    And such a great list and your categories are hilarious. All the Light is one of my faves from recent years. I just finished Euphoria by Lily King, which someone else mentioned above and Burial Rights by Hannah Kent, both of which I adored and would highly recommend.

  • Alyssa Tuma 2 years ago Reply

    PPS — About halfway through In the Garden of the Beasts. Simply excellent.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    SO GOOD, right? That Erik Larson is a genius!

  • Maggie 2 years ago Reply

    I LOVED The Vacationers! Although I have to say that Paper Towns is probably my least favorite John Green book… I just bought Station 11 since a friend recommended it so I can’t wait for that one.

    I read Euphoria by Lily King recently and LOVED it. It’s about anthropologists living in Africa. It was just a flawlessly executed story. The last line was perfection.

    I recently finished Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi and am already hunting down the next book. It wasn’t especially original, per se, but I liked the story and I like the characters.

    Station 11 is next on my list! Just bought it on the recommendation of a friend.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Confession: I never ever read The Fault in Our Stars (didn’t see the movie either).

    Thanks for your recs. I’m definitely interested in Station 11 based on everyone’s review!

  • i'm clearly in a dark phase 2 years ago Reply

    Cannot echo the everyone-must-read sentiment for Station Eleven enough. If you ever need a total immersion of frothy fun (so, the exact opposite of Station Eleven), The Royal We by the Fug Girls is perfect.

    Others: Ana of California (a modern telling of Anne of Green Gables), Missoula (hella depressing but important, and meticulously researched & told), The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace (soooo good, sooooooo sad).

    And YES to Tiny Beautiful Things!

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    THERE IS A NEW ANNE OF GREEN GABLES-ESQUE BOOK???!!!! Why is that not everywhere?!

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Kathryn 2 years ago Reply

    Added several of these to my library request list – thanks! I’m always looking for fiction recommendations. Left on my own, I only pick non-fiction books.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    I am a non-fiction junkie!

  • Melanie 2 years ago Reply

    Ahh! Room terrified me, but I couldn’t put it down.

    This summer I’m going through the Outlander series. Steamy beach reads for sure.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    I like the sound of steamy beach reads 🙂

    Jen S. 2 years ago Reply

    Me too especially since as a college student I hitch hiked and did all sorts of crazy things…. it made me think – whoa, that could have been me!

  • Cindy 2 years ago Reply

    I love a good reading list!! I have a hard time sifting through amazon or book stores, then I just give up. I recently read two sci-fi (?) books, The Girl with All The Gifts–zombies but a little different more science and a bit of a twist, and The Martian–something I would not normally read but my husband got it and even though it’s FULL of technical science and NASA language it was totally a page turner and there was a good bit of humor in a totally desperate situation. Right now I’m about to read A Wilder Rose because The Little House books made me love reading as a child.

  • Miq 2 years ago Reply

    Let the Great World Spin is a beautiful book. And Where’d You Go Bernadette is hilarious. I’m reading Missoula by Jon Krakauer (wow) and was able to get my hands on an advanced copy of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (awesome).

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