1.White Teeth by Zadie Smith
White Teeth follows the unlikely reunion of two friends and WWII veterans, Archie and Samad, stumbling through their respective midlife crises as husbands and fathers in North London. Smith weaves together history, happenstance, humor, and disaster with ease, transporting you from the beach right into her novel’s vibrant and chaotic multicultural milieu. White Teeth is so wonderfully complex and compelling — a truly unforgettable read.
2.Shades Of Grey Jasper Fforde
Shades of Grey is set in a dystopian future where social status is dependent on which color you can see. Eddie Russet, a young Red, teams up with Jane Grey to uncover East Carmine’s greatest conspiracy. Fforde fills his work with incredible imagination, humor and heart — I highly recommend it.
3.The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett
The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett is an amazing piece of British literature — all about the ‘what-ifs’ in life and where we might have ended up had we made a single different decision. This book should definitely be on your reading list this summer if you enjoy contemporary romance and books that really make you think!
4.Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, is hands down the book to read this summer. It’s full of enough sex, death, and magical realism to keep readers fully entertained. It has deep literary seed, with a touching story of love and loss and growing up.
5.The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
A psychological thriller about a girl named Rachel who witnesses a shocking event which inserts her into the lives of strangers. The book is a real page-turner with lots of twists, amplified by the shifting perspectives of the three main characters. Hard to put down!
—Sarah Jane of Raleigh, NC
6.A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
A Hundred Summers unfolds in 1930s Seaview, RI, a wealthy summer community preparing for disaster. As a massive hurricane churns northward, Lily Dane must try to reconcile the emotional storm that is her own life — complicated further by the arrival of Budgie and Nick Greenwald, her former best friend and former fiancé. Lily’s story soon becomes one of love, betrayal, fun in the summer sun, and plenty of scandal, making A Hundred Summers a great and engrossing beach read.
—Sara Lynott of Westerly, RI
7.The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is a such a unique narrative about a young boy, Daniel, who finds a book he loves and sets out to track down the author. But he soon finds that someone else is also hunting the same books — in order to destroy them. The Shadow of the Windbecomes an adventure that Daniel could never have dreamed of, introducing him to characters both wonderful and terrifying along the way. This book is splendidly written — and incredibly quotable too!
8.Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The story in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is interesting: It’s about a woman preparing for a party and everything she thinks about throughout her day, from her youth up until the present. But what really makes this book so perfect for the beach is the beautiful stream-of-consciousness prose. Thoughts, impressions, and memories lap around you like gentle waves; scenes dissolve into each other like sand castles melting away. You will get lost in this book, you will often find yourself gazing out over the water while you read it, plunged deep into thought. And you will love it.
9.The Martian by Andy Weir
This is the story of funny, smart, and incredibly resourceful astronaut Mark Watney who gets stranded on Mars. You will not be able to put this book down, which makes it perfect summer reading to me. The movie comes out in November, which is another reason to pick this up this summer.
You should read The Martian by Andy Weir! I actually got the recommendation from BuzzFeed, so you’ve probably already read it, but it’s too good not to share again. Read it on the beach and you’ll feel just like Mark Watney adrift on the desolate landscape of Mars. Not exactly, but you get the idea…
10.The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is not light summer fluff but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in years. It is set in WWII in Nazi occupied France, following two sisters in their separate struggles for survival, love, and freedom. To be honest, it’s not my typical book choice and I’m not even sure why I picked it to listen to on Audible.com, but I was so glad I did. I’ve recommended it to several fellow readers and they’ve all found it to be as powerful and emotional as I did.
11.Push by Sapphire
This was one hell of a ride through Harlem and the life of Precious, a teenager who has been abused by the system and her parents. Over the course of the book she learns to read and write and overcome the trauma of her life to move toward a more hopeful future. I couldn’t put this book down. The way it was written — following Precious’ thoughts and actions in stream of consciousness that mirrored her literacy ability — was just amazing. What a moving, and disturbing, story.
12.The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The women behind Go Fug Yourself play off their celebrity- and royal family-reporting chops to present a fictitious take on “normal girl falls in love with British prince.” Their book is cute, well-written, and perfect for summer. I read it while traveling for work (and found myself wishing meetings would end so I could continue reading). I’m not a chick-lit girl, and only bought the book because of my devotion to the Fug Girls, but I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it.
13.The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach
My number one summer reading recommendation is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Harbach’s only novel, which took nearly a decade to write, is one of the most well-crafted works of literature in recent history, from the beautiful prose to the soulful character development. It combines everything wonderful about summer: baseball, romance, great literature, and the serene and wonderful setting of northern Wisconsin, a place very near and dear to my heart.
14.Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen
If you’ve ever been worried about fitting in, Mona in the Promised Land is definitely for you. Mona, a Chinese-American, and her immigrant parents move to the well-to-do New York suburb of Scarshill in 1968, and the story chronicles Mona’s adventures in figuring out who she is. The book is incredibly funny, which makes it an amazing summer afternoon’s read — but all the questions the story raises, and everything Mona tries to tackle in the course of the plot, will give you food for thought long after you’ve finished it.
15.The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
I read The Solitude of Prime Numbers a couple of moths ago and I can’t get over it. Seriously, it’s a gorgeous book about that too-common plight: Two people fall in love with each other but can’t be together because life. But the writing is so beautiful and you truly can’t put it down until you’ve finished. I know this was already included in a “Books You Need To Read In Your 20s” post, but I can’t stress enough how much this book should be read by everyone.
16. The Night Prince Series by Jeaniene Frost
Jeaniene Frost’s Night Prince series is my absolute favorite. It’s about Vlad Tepesh, the most powerful vampire in the world. Of course, there’s Leila, the human heroine who gains supernatural powers after an electric meltdown — she can now see into the future and reveal people’s darkest sins with just a touch. But can she overcome her fears to join forces with Vlad and save the world from ruin? You’ll have to read to find out.
17.Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Most people want to read fiction during summer, but sometimes you need a change of pace. That is why I would STRONGLY recommend Ashley’s War. It is about a special ops team of women who served in Afghanistan. The women were put on the ground alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers because it was believed that they could form relationships with individuals (mostly women) that the male soldiers were unable to reach. The story told in this book is truly inspiring. Furthermore, I feel like it is helping create a greater sense of feminism in the military. I think that young women will be moved by this book which will teach them that they can do absolutely anything. Ashley’s War is a remarkable war story (and one of the very few that showcases women on the battlefield). So go get it and enjoy!
18.North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
One book that I absolutely love is North of Beautiful by Justina Chen. The story follows Terra on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and the search for just what defines true beauty. Hers becomes an artistic, inspiring, cartography-filled trip that stretches from the Pacific Northwest all the way to China. A great read for the summer that will totally transport you to a different place.
19.The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
OMG if you haven’t yet read Louise Erdrich, you definitely should. The Beet Queenis one of her finest books, about two abandoned siblings who are separated from each other as young children. Mary ends up in Argus, ND, while Karl returns to a Catholic children’s home in Minnesota. Over the next forty years, we see how their separation and resulting journeys shaped them into drastically different people. Erdrich’s dark humor and rich characterizations combine to create a perfectly entertaining and provocative summer read.
20.Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Set in 1987, Tell The Wolves I’m Home is about a girl whose uncle dies from AIDS and how she becomes friends with his lover. It’s a very thought-provoking novel about how times have changed when it comes to the stigma of AIDS and homosexuality. Especially with the changes that are happening now across the world, it’s important that we look back on the progress we’ve made. Happy reading!
21.The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The one book(s) everyone should read this summer is The 5th Wave (series). It’s the first in a trilogy by Rick Yancey and will be a movie starring Chloë Grace Moretz next year. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel following the few remaining humans after waves of an alien invasion have eliminated 99% of the population. Yes, it’s classified as “young adult,” but so were The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner series — so give it a chance!
22.The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
I recommend the beautifully haunting The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell. The novel intertwines the stories of three women as their lives are changed by the unraveling of a long-kept secret. At its heart, it is a story of loss and survival, but it also bears an undercurrent of intrigue and anger. I finished reading it last February but it’s just one of those stories that stays with you for a long, long time.
—Igal Jada San Andres
23.Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is like nothing else I’ve ever read — a complex tapestry of history, memory, and poetic prose that envelops and stays with you forever. Sethe has escaped slavery and great tragedy to raise her remaining daughter safely in Ohio, only to be haunted and tormented by the echoes of trauma she carries within her. In Sethe’s horrific struggle, Morrison has captured the plight of a nation forever grappling with its past. Certainly not a light summer read, Beloved is undoubtedly an enthralling and important one.
24.Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I can’t get enough of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This is the story of a WWII nurse who accidentally travels back in time to 18th century Scottish Highlands to find a life of danger, survival and, yes, love. This book is a must-read for the hopeless romantic who enjoys being transported to a time where honor and loyalty are prized above all. And talk about a leading man — you can’t meet Jamie Fraser without totally swooning and maybe even logging onto Orbitz to book the next flight to Scotland! I’m only on Book 2 of the series, but I cannot put it down!!!
25.Written In Red by Anne Bishop
This is an urban fantasy with a new twist on the Supernatural, centered around a 24-year-old escapee from an institution and how she learns about the outside world and the Others who control it. The narration shifts between humans, shape-shifters, Others, and beyond, allowing Written In Red to unfold in endlessly surprising ways. Definitely worth checking out!
—Sandra V. Marte
26.The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Okay, if you’re looking for a light-hearted, easy-breezy beach read, this isn’t it. But itis the perfect book to totally transport you (and your heart) to a different place. After the 1973 fall of the Shah, Amir must flee Afghanistan, leaving his childhood friend Hassan behind. Years later, Amir attempts to reconcile the traumatic moment in which he betrayed Hassan and unwittingly altered both their lives. Over the course of the novel’s many climactic, heart-wrenching twists and turns, we see that there is always hope — and redemption — in the truth.
27.The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races won a Printz honorary award for excellence in young adult writing in 2012 — and for good reason. On the island of Thisby, flesh-eating horses emerge every year from the sea where they are captured and raced by daring islanders. Sean Kendrick has won the races for the past four years and longs to buy his freedom and beloved horse this year, but Puck Connelly — the first girl to ever enter — must win in order to keep her family together. And how can you not love a book that begins, “It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die”?
28.Panic by Lauren Oliver
The book that I am most excited to read this summer is Panic by Lauren Oliver. I have read her past books and they were very good. This one is about two seniors, Heather and Dodge, slated to compete in the annual game Panic. Dodge is fearless; he has a secret that will motivate him to win. On the other hand, Heather does not think of herself as brave. But when she finds something — and someone — to fight for she will find out how courageous she really can be.
29.War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy
1) Because only in the summer does one have time to give 1,500 pages the concentration they deserve.
2) Because of Pierre, who believes in possibility, and Prince Andrei, who believes in virtue, and Natasha, who believes in love, and Princess Maria, who believes in redemption.
3) Because it is a great love story, AND a thesis on faith, AND a philosophical tract on death, AND an incisive anatomy of how easily patriotism seduces us into abandoning cherished principles.
4) Because of Tolstoy’s profound regard for the human heart and soul.
Note: Submissions have been edited for clarity and length.