Best Summer Reads

Now that we are already in May with the weather hopefully getting better (come on Chicago, it should not be 40 degrees in May), I thought I would post a list of my top picks for summer reading.  While I still read serious books this season, it’s also a great excuse to reach for something lighter and fluffier that doesn’t make you think too much or leave you feeling unsettled for days (I’m looking at you, American War).  However, they also have to be engaging enough to capture and keep your attention despite all of the distractions as you read outside.

I broke this list up into three types of summer reads: fluffy, not fluffy but still light, and mysteries.

Fluffy – These books are light as air and a delight to speed through, especially in one afternoon at the beach.

  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Rating: 4 stars
    • This was so much fun to read!  I loved the descriptions of the extravagant fashion and the outrageous lifestyles Nick’s family and friends live.  Plus the whole not-the-right-class romance plot was entertaining to read as Rachel tried to survive amongst the pretentious and insufferable world of high society.
  • Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel. Rating: 4 stars (also mentioned in my Worst Workplaces list)
    • What do you do if the guy you gave up your PhD program and moved to Paris for dumped you at the baggage claim in Charles de Gaulle? If you’re Kate Pearson, you stay in your pajamas for months, only moving to order takeout or alcohol.  Through her overbearing but well-intentioned sister, Kate is forcefully shoved out of her rut into a job as an admissions counselor at a private prep school in NYC.  Despite having no experience whatsoever, she braves the chaos of admission season, from pretentious kids to insane parents, and starts to figure out what she wants from her life.
  • How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Rating: 3.5 stars
    • While the main character was extremely annoying and seemed to be totally oblivious to her own privilege (she has parents who were willing to pay for her and her child to live in a nice apartment in San Francisco and didn’t have to look for a job), I loved her snarky and hilarious observations on mothers’ clubs in the Bay area. It’s so ridiculous, over the top, and snarky in the best way.

Not fluffy but still light – these books aren’t as fluffy as the last category, but are still great summer reads because of their fast paced plots and hilarious observations on life mixed in with slightly more serious stories.

  • Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey.  Rating: 3.5 stars
    • Another question for you:  What would you do if you weren’t sure about your long-term relationship and the reclusive Brazilian author you have been translating for years goes missing? If your first though is to hop on a flight to Brazil, then you should meet the main character, Emma.  You’ll have plenty of time to get to her know as you read this crazy but delightful book.
  • Where’d Yo Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.  Rating: 4 stars
    • Bernadette is also a woman with no current direction in her life (it may be a theme in my choice of books).  She is a devoted mother to her daughter Bee, but she feels stifled under the weight of unfulfilled potential, repressed artistic skills, and the general attitude of the mothers in her Seattle neighborhood.  When she goes missing it’s up to her daughter and husband to understand her in order to find and bring her back.
  • Startup by Doree Shafrir.  Rating: 4.5 stars, review
    • I finished this in one day and loved it. While it covers serious topics like workplace harassment and the still skewed gender expectations for parents (ex: moms are the ones who have to be flexible with their work day to pick up the kids), there’s enough commentary on the weird millennial hijinks like morning raves and snapchat flirting to put it on the summer list.

Mysteries – these are summer reads because of their engaging plots and less disturbing tones, unlike gory or psychological thrillers.

  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  Rating: 4 stars
    •  Joining the inaugural cruise of a luxury yacht for work is everyone’s dream (it’s definitely mine). However, it quickly turns into a nightmare for Lo Blacklock when she witnesses someone being thrown overboard from the cabin next to hers.  When she reports it, though, she finds out that there was no one in that cabin and no one is missing from the ship.  This mystery takes you aboard a luxury cruise as Lo interviews the wealthy passengers to get to the bottom of what she saw.
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  Rating: 4.5 stars
    • I love the entire Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, and the first book is definitely impossible to put down no matter what distractions are happening on whatever beach you’re at.  It has gothic Barcelona, a bookstore, a secret library, and a mysterious author whose works are being destroyed.

Any other books to add?  What’s in your summer TBR pile?  Let me know in the comments!

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