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.
* * *
Two Books that Look Eerily Similar:
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.
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
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?!
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)
Helicopter parents, Seattle mudslides and a disappearing-reappearing genius. You’ll tear through it in a day or two.
Amy Poehler wrote it. What more do you need to know?
Kinda Mostly Based on History
Stephen King’s epic novel about trying to prevent the Kennedy assassination. PS James Franco is all set to star in this mini-series.
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
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.
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!
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!
“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.
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.
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
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
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!
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. A 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
* * *
Please add to the convo: What are you reading this summer? More suggestions, please!