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Summer reading is here! Here are 10 books your book club should consider to read this summer.
I have to say, summer reading is my favorite season! There are SO many books that publish during the time of May-August. It’s by far the biggest time of the year for the publishing industry.
Like I did with my huge must-read book club picks for 2021 list, I spent a lot of time evaluating which books to choose for this article. For some book clubs, summer reading means a lighter book that goes with a cocktail by the pool. For others, it’s all about the thrillers and suspenseful type stories. And then, there are those who prefer to read more literary type books year round.
So this list has all of the above and more! It features a diverse set of authors covering all kinds of topics and genres. There is something for everyone on this list. BTW, if you haven’t check it out, be sure to read my summer list from last year as well.
Here’s the 2021 list in order of pub dates.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (May 11)
I actually just finished People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry and I so enjoyed it (check out my review here)! I actually liked it more than her novel last year, Beach Read. For those who want a lighter type story, People We Meet on Vacation is a great pick. It’s a love story between two best friends who can’t admit to themselves and each other how they truly feel. It also features all kinds of vacations and will make you want to book a trip ASAP. Here’s the full synopsis:
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.
Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
The Guncle by Steven Rowley (May 25)
Ahh, I’m so excited that Steven Rowley has a new book publishing this year! If you haven’t read his novel The Editor yet, add it to your list immediately. His novels have a wonderful combination of humor and heart. So no doubt The Guncle will make you laugh and maybe even cry too (truly!). Here’s the full synopsis:
Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is, honestly, overwhelmed.
So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled acting career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting–even if temporary–isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.
With the humor and heart we’ve come to expect from bestselling author Steven Rowley, The Guncle is a moving tribute to the power of love, patience, and family in even the most trying of times.
The Invisible Husband Of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley (May 25)
I have to say The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley is one unique story! The story follows a widow who pretends her dead husband is still alive. And not only that, the entire town goes along with it as well. My book BFF Sarah Slusher of Really Into This highly recommended this one and said it’s a fantastic summer read! Here’s the full synopsis:
Piper Parrish’s life on Frick Island—a tiny, remote town smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay—is nearly perfect. Well, aside from one pesky detail: Her darling husband, Tom, is dead. When Tom’s crab boat capsized and his body wasn’t recovered, Piper, rocked to the core, did a most peculiar thing: carried on as if her husband was not only still alive, but right there beside her, cooking him breakfast, walking him to the docks each morning, meeting him for their standard Friday night dinner date at the One-Eyed Crab. And what were the townspeople to do but go along with their beloved widowed Piper?
Anders Caldwell’s career is not going well. A young ambitious journalist, he’d rather hoped he’d be a national award-winning podcaster by now, rather than writing fluff pieces for a small town newspaper. But when he gets an assignment to travel to the remote Frick Island and cover their boring annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he stumbles upon a much more fascinating tale: an entire town pretending to see and interact with a man who does not actually exist. Determined it’s the career-making story he’s been needing for his podcast, Anders returns to the island to begin covert research and spend more time with the enigmatic Piper—but he has no idea out of all the lives he’s about to upend, it’s his that will change the most.
USA Today bestselling author Colleen Oakley delivers an unforgettable love story about an eccentric community, a grieving widow, and an outsider who slowly learns that sometimes faith is more important than the facts.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (June 1)
The Washington Post calls The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris an edgier Devil Wears Prada. The buzz is really strong with this one and it said to be a combination of social commentary and a thriller. The story follows two black women who meet and connect among the white publishing industry. But not all is what it seems…here’s the full synopsis:
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (June 15)
I’m sure most of you have read the The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I consider it one of the best thrillers of the past couple of years. I thought it was crafted so well. As you can imagine, there’s very high expectations with his latest novel, which promises another creative and twisty premise. The Maidens is a murder mystery that combines Greek mythology and obsession—all in the backdrop of Cambridge. Here’s the full synopsis:
Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike―particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.
Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.
Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?
When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything―including her own life.
You can order the book on Amazon here—but just a warning, it looks like the top review from Publishers Weekly might contain a spoiler (which, come on, people) so if you do click the link, just avoid the top review before the synopsis.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel (July 6)
I so enjoyed last year’s The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel. She’s becoming my go-to for WWII historical fiction. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is pitched as Defiance meets Where the Crawdads Sing where a young woman who was raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees. Here’s the full synopsis:
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).
Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung (July 13)
Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung is marketed to fans of The Farewell. It follows a young woman from one of Hong Kong’s “astronaut” families who was separated from her father after China regained control of Hong Kong from the British. After his death, she seeks to find answers to unresolved questions. I’m sure it will be quite moving. Here’s the full synopsis:
How do you grieve, if your family doesn’t talk about feelings?
This is the question the unnamed protagonist of Ghost Forest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong “astronaut” fathers, he stays there to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Canada before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.
As she revisits memories of her father through the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.
Buoyant, heartbreaking, and unexpectedly funny, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese-Canadian astronaut family.
We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz (July 13)
I’m a huge fan of Andrea Bartz’s novels! She writes extremely clever and witty thrillers (The Lost Night and The Herd). In We Were Never Here, the story follows Emily and her best friend, Kristen. They’re having a great time on their reunion trip, until Emily stumbles upon a murder scene that Kristen says was self defense. However, it’s a similar scene to last year’s trip. I expect another twisty, entertaining ride with this one! Here’s the full synopsis:
Emily is having the time of her life—she’s in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of the trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she brought back to their room attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year’s trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can’t believe it’s happened again—can lightning really strike twice?
Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving headfirst into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their cover-ups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can Emily outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom—even her life?
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fannone Jeffers (July 27)
There are some books where you read the synopsis and you immediately know you have to read it. The kind of novels that will most likely stick with you for a long time. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fannone Jeffers is that kind of novel. It follows the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era. Here’s the full synopsis:
The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.
Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.
To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.
Songbirds by Christy Lefteri (August 3)
The author of the highly acclaimed The Beekeeper of Aleppo returns to the literary scene with her latest novel, Songbirds. The story follows the disappearance of a Sri Lankan nanny and how the most vulnerable people find their voices. It will be one of those novels that will be talked about for years to come. Here’s the full synopsis:
Living on the island of Cyprus, Nisha is far from her native Sri Lanka. Though she longs to return home, she knows that working as a nanny and maid for a wealthy widow is the only way to earn enough to support her daughter, left behind to be raised by relatives.
Yiannis is a poacher, trapping the tiny protected songbirds that stop in Cyprus as they migrate each year from Africa to Europe and selling them on the illegal market. He dreams of finding a new way of life, and of marrying Nisha.
But one night, Nisha makes dinner, an aromatic dahl curry, for the family who pays her: Petra and her daughter Aliki. Then, after she cleans the kitchen and tucks Aliki into bed, Nisha goes out on a mysterious errand, and vanishes.
When the police refuse to pursue the case, Petra takes on the investigation herself, a path that leads her to Nisha’s friends—other workers in the neighborhood—and to the darker side of a migrant’s life, where impossible choices leave them vulnerable, captive, and worse.
Inspired by the real-life disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus, Christy Lefteri has crafted a poignant, deeply empathetic narrative of the human stories behind the headlines. With infinite tenderness and skill, Songbirds offers a triumphant story of the fight for truth and justice, and of women reclaiming their lost voices.