June 7, 2011

What Was Your Best Summer Read Ever?

I have a memory of lying in the sunshine on a towel spread over the small patch of gritty, damp sand beside Square Lake, my wet hair dripping over my shoulders. I was reading a thick hardcover copy of Valley of the Dolls (no jacket) checked out from the library. I can remember other hot afternoons that summer whiled away in front of my bedroom window fan reading about El Morocco, cocktails, smart suits, and the scandals of young women in 1960s New York. It was heaven.

It’s been awhile since I read a summer book that utterly enveloped me. Right now I have a Buddhist text and a stack of New Yorkers on my bedside table, and neither of them are sweeping me away–out of my head, out of my life, and into another world entirely. Let’s put our heads together for a Pink of Perfection Ultimate Summer Reading List. What was the best summer book you read? We’re not talking trash (at least, not necessarily)–we’re talking compulsively readable, the kind of book that can occupy you for hours in a hammock or in the beach breeze so that you look up hours later and realize––well, look at that––it’s time for a gin and tonic.

I need one of those. (The book, I mean. Though the drink doesn’t sound too shabby, either.)

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  • MJ: I remember the summer I spent days on end out by the pool reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was such a delicious summer read!7 years ago

  • Chelsea: The Time Traveler’s Wife! Best book I’ve read in years. Seriously couldn’t put it down–luckily I was at the beach and didn’t have to 😉7 years ago

  • Janet: I was totally into the Hunger Games trilogy last summer. I went camping with Mockingjay (the final book in the trilogy) and was completely engrossed, to the point that I barely remember anything else about the camping trip!7 years ago

  • Carrie: For me it’s Vonnegut. In particular, Cat’s Cradle or Slaughterhouse Five. In each of these books I am endlessly entertained by Vonnegut’s sarcastic humor.7 years ago

  • megan: this is my dream post today!
    i was thoroughly enamored of the hunger games trilogy, too. i can’t remember the last time i sat and read a whole book in one sitting.
    last summer, i read and loved atmospheric disturbances by rivka galchen.
    i’m dying for summer reads!7 years ago

  • Hilary: I am powerless against the pull of travel/food memoirs, particularly those involving Italy. Marlena de Blasi, an American chef, has written several memoirs of her spur-of-the-moment marriage to a Venetian & her subsequent life in the land of la dolce vita. She’s a sensualist, unabashedly attached to her adjectives, and the food writing is exquisite. The books are: A Thousand Days in Venice, A Thousand Days in Tuscany, The Lady in the Palazzo, and That Summer in Sicily.7 years ago

  • Julie: A few summers ago, I read MEMBER OF THE WEDDING and THE MOVIEGOER. Both are small in size (I like lighter books in the summer for some reason — easier to tote around to the park and beach maybe?) and set in the South, which just feels appropriate during warmer months.

    I love this game. Can’t wait to check back and see what everyone else recommends!7 years ago

  • La Chapstick Fanatique: Some books I have read over the summer that I couldn’t put down: A Thousand Splendid Suns, the David Sedaris books, Are there Vodka Its Me Chelsea, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and The Girl that Played with Fire.

    I feel like there are a few more but I just can’t remember right now.

    http://lachapstickfanatique.blogspot.com7 years ago

  • I’m completely with you, Chelsea. I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife so much. It was the first time in forever I remember my eyelids literally drooping and me just not wanting to stop reading and go to bed.

    Oooh, I have heard so much about The Hunger Games! You guys really make it sound awesome.

    And Hilary: yeah, this lady sounds totally delicious and transporting.

    Julie, Love the idea of reading books set in the south in the summer!7 years ago

  • Anjali: Possession by A.S. Byatt, picked up in a used bookstore in Chiangmai, read on beach in Phuket. It totally made me forget about the obnoxious topless tourists (it wasn’t a topless beach) and the huge life change ahead of me (moving halfway around the world). It was perfect.7 years ago

  • Becca: I have 3…and as of late I haven’t been able to find a book to duplicate the “best ever beach read” feeling…looking forward to reading your comments for new suggestions 🙂

    My 3 faves:
    1) All-time favorite book ever: Love in the Time of Cholera
    2) Summer Sisters (read when I was a teenager–great beach read!)
    3) Middlesex7 years ago

  • Kit: Good question. I love to re-read Haruki Murakami in the summer, maybe you’d like him too.
    Other titles: the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrson, The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (it will make you laugh and cry at the same time), anything by Nicole Krauss.7 years ago

  • Jen: Right now, I’m in deep with East of Eden, and it definitely meets your criteria!7 years ago

  • El: I read To Kill a Mockingbird every July. Lots of summer vacation tom(the rabid dog)-foolery. Strong narrative, quaint but sage southern-y dialogue, and likeable characters all make for mostly propulsive reading. As it is only June, and I’ve not yet pulled out my copy of TKAM, I’m reading The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. Provincetown, Cape Cod, beachy, life-long love story tends to the poetic, so you gotta pay attention. (Soundtrack: Real Estate and Beach Fossils.)7 years ago

  • Chrissy: Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda- stayed up ALL NIGHT to finish this one. I think they made it into a French film- so looking forward to somehow seeing it.

    Juliet by Anne Fortier- suspense, mystery, romance- my only complaint was that the whole story wrapped up too quickly.

    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

    And anything set in the south. I just started Promise Bridge by Eileen Clymer Schwab- so far so good!

    I LOVE historical fiction- some good long juicy reads include The Memoirs of Cleopatra and Helen of Troy- both by Margaret George.

    I’m also looking forward to making a list of these comments and taking it to the library! Happy Summer!7 years ago

  • Andrea: In high school I was obsessed with Victoria Holt novels. I would check them out of the library four or five at a time. They are very formulaic, (young girl has hard life, becomes a governess, mystery and adventure ensue) but hard to put down.

    I spent the majority of one summer holed up in my room reading Gone With the Wind.7 years ago

  • Kristina: Barbara Kingsolver’s Southwestern tales always feel like summer to me. I especially loved “The Bean Trees.” Even “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” while non-fiction, was so fitting at a time when all things green are coming to fruition.

    I have a very vivid memory of being holed up in the house one rainy summer day and reading “The Amityville Horror” while both my parents were at work. Terrifying!

    “The Laws of Harmony” by Judith Hendricks was utterly enchanting.

    And I definitely have to second (third, fourth, and fifth!) the recommendation of “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Just incredible.7 years ago

  • Ewa: Jen, I’m totally with you! East of Eden was my perfect Easter read a few years ago, unputdownable!

    My last summer was sponsored by “The Southern Vampire Mysteries” – thanks to Kim, who wrote at some point that she loves the series.7 years ago

  • Katie: The Time Traveler’s Wife is amazing, but you’ve already read it. My other favorite summer book is “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. It is the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read and is full of summertime and drama and love. And last summer I read “The Prince of Tides”, and though it is a heartbreaking book, the discriptions of food and summer are stunning. Pat Conroy is my new author love.7 years ago

  • Chrissy: Ooooo… sorry- I checked my Facebook visual bookshelf thingy and had to add a few more:

    historical fictions- A Love Divine by Alexandra Ripley, The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Cappella, and HIGHLY recommend Woman of A Thousand Secrets by Barbara Wood7 years ago

  • Planet MarTay: The Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood was one of my favortie summer reads. Last year, I read Slauterhouse Five, while lounging on the beach. Although, I enjoyed the book, there were some scenes that were not conducive to lazily lounging on the beach. This year, I took Hocus Pocus to the beach. @Carrie – I’m a sucker for Vonnegut, too!

    I’m looking forward to diving into Chelsea Handler’s new book, “Lies that Chelsea Told me.” Her other two books were hysterical!

    I love reading some of the other comments. Seems like my book list will be expanding with some of the other suggested favorites!7 years ago

  • Erin: YES, YES, YES on both the Time Traveler’s Wife and the Hunger Games trilogy. I’ll add Bossypants for this summer – it’s a great, easy, entertaining and relaxing read. Who doesn’t love Tina Fey? 🙂7 years ago

  • Donna: “The Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. The first 3 or 4 times I read this 800+ page book, I walked up and down stairs while reading, crossed streets while reading, took the subway instead of driving so I could read, stayed up till 3 reading…you get the point. It is totally engrossing, escapist literature that defies genre pigeon-holing. It’s a swashbuckling historical fiction time travel story with some interesting biology and some really hot sex thrown in. Get past the first 40 or so pages (while they’re in boring old 1945) and you’re in for the adventure of a summer. (Much more than that, really. The book is the beginning of a series and it’s changed who I am as a reader.)

    Be warned, the hero Jamie might have you looking at your husband and comparing him in a negative light. Just remember, Jamie’s fiction, Hubby’s warm and real.

    AND, if you don’t go an buy an expensive bottle of Scotch to put in your tea after reading it, you’re a stronger woman than I.7 years ago

  • Jen: I also have 3 that meet the criteria. Love summer beach reads.

    1. Anna Karenina – read it in high school for summer reading and it might be time for reading #2 by now.

    2. Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons – literally read this on the beach and was so upset when it was over because I missed the characters in my daily life.

    3. East of Eden – read this one summer after college in between waitressing shifts on a lawn chair behind my little apartment complex and got a great change of scenery.7 years ago

  • Jessica: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
    The Help
    South of Broad Pat Conroy
    Prodigal Summer Barbara Kingsolver7 years ago

  • Janae: I really, really liked One Day by David Nicholls. It’s coming out as a movie this summer, too (which I honestly have mixed feelings about). I couldn’t put it down once I got into it – it made me laugh and cry, and I was sad when it was over.7 years ago

  • Melissa: “East of Eden” has to be my favorite book I have ever read. Felt like I lost a best friend when I finished that book. You just loose yourself completely in that book, it is wonderful!!!7 years ago

  • jiji: The Piano Teacher- if you want to be transported to another place, time then this book is perfect. It takes place in 1950s Hong Kong. There’s love. Intrigue. History. And bonus: it’s a quick read!7 years ago

  • Kelly: Hi, Sarah! I have lurked on your site for awhile now, but your post made me peek my head out! I have 2 I think you’d love, judging by the poetry that you often post on your site, which almost always resonates with me. “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin and “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk instantly come to mind as intoxicating summer reads. Enjoy.7 years ago

  • Kelly: I totally second Outlander! You will not be able to put that one down, certainly.

    The Southern Vampire Mysteries (a.k.a. the Sookie Stackhouse books) are perfect summer reads.

    I’m currently reading The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone and am absolutely loving it. It’s set in the South in July, and there’s all sorts of crazy stuff going on with fun, eccentric, complicated characters popping in and out.7 years ago

  • Alaina B.: Right now I’m reading “Gone With The Wind” for the first time and I am completely engrossed. Highly recommended! (Plus, mint juleps and lemon verbena are mentioned quite often, which makes it feel quite summery.)7 years ago

  • The Flying Quiche: Such good suggestions already!! *opens amazon wish list and starts adding*

    A few that I can remember not wanting to put down are: Pillars of the Earth- Just so engrossing and I love anything with a historical setting.
    Papillion- Fantastic book based on a true story (!!!) of a man wrongly imprisoned in French Guiana in 1931and his escape. Completely riveting.
    Gone with the Wind- I might just have to re-read this one. I think it is the definition of a GOOD summer read!
    If you like sci-fi: Ender’s Game is short, powerful and a classic.
    I’m currently reading The Sharper your knives, the less you Cry about a woman’s true experience going to the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Paris. It’s helping me decide whether to go there myself! And it’s a pretty lovely read too.
    Happy ready to everyone!7 years ago

  • The Flying Quiche: And I meant- Happy Reading!!~7 years ago

  • Ann: Unfortunately, I experienced my best summer reads as a child. I have a distinct memory of devouring L.M. Montgomery’s Emily trilogy over the course of three days the summer before 6th grade. As an adult, I’m rarely able to slip into that all-encompassing mindset. However, a few books that have come close are The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and The Likeness by Tana French.7 years ago

  • Can I just jump in here to say how amazingly wonderful this list is!?!7 years ago

  • Diane Carol: I’ll ditto on “The Colony” – I’ve been re-reading that book for years! I also read Firefly Lane (I think?) – great beach read….actually sat in a beach chair in Lake Michigan (yes, IN) and finished it in a day and a half…..crying and laughing all the way. Summer Sisters is a great one too! Just this past weekend I read The Kitchen Help (excellent), and Pollyanna (what a dear sweet read!)….Those are the “light” ones. Some heavier (but fabulous) ones: Those That Saved Us and Shades of Grey (I “think” that’s the name…..) both excellent – hard to read, but I couldn’t put them down.7 years ago

  • J: I like to read books either set where I am, or written by people from there. Hence, all of my suggestions are British…
    -A.A. Milne’s Two People
    -Edmund De Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes
    -Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
    -All David Lodge books (go for David if you want insight that will crack you up – my latest “tube book” was Deaf Sentence and I’m sure other commuters thought I was absoultely mad, as I gave up stifling my laughter around page three. His books are perfect for popping into a picnic or beach bag, or for reading at night in a hot flat when you can’t sleep, even with the fan blowing on your head)
    -Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures
    -Philippa Carr’s (who is also Victoria Holt) Daughters of England series7 years ago

  • Sarah: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

    After Dark by Haruki Murakami

    Both of these novels are fascinating, unique, smart, and totally engrossing. They have a tenderness about them, too. Loved every page!7 years ago

  • Aidan: One book that held me utterly captive is Garbo Laughs, by Elizabeth Hay. It’s about a family, and the relationships they have with each other and old movies, and how these movies, relationships, and anxieties affect their lives. A wonderful portrait of a son’s relationship to the world and his mother…they interact through movie nights and fights over whether or not Frank Sinatra was the be all and end all. The language is sublime, and there’s a moment you can kind of see coming, but then something happens that makes you literally double take. In literary form. Double read? I have given this as a gift many, many times.7 years ago

  • Katie: So many great ideas!

    I love The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series – perfect beach reads as they’re set in summertime, and there’s a new one coming out next week!

    I may also have to reread Gone with the Wind…it’s been a long time. As for others…hmm…I’ll have to think about it!7 years ago

  • Drew!: “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” by Tom Robbins-best summer read ever! This book is infinitely better than the ill fated movie. It has all the fun of a rebellious female road trip (hitch hiking no less) coupled with all the off handed inappropriateness that Tom Robbins is famous for.

    Kristina-I am with you on Barbara Kingsolver. Have you read the Poisonwood Bible?

    Chrissy-Hunting and Gathering looks awesome, it is on my list

    X7 years ago

  • Max Othermoxx: David Copperfield. Seriously. Just beautiful and a fun read. And about something really important. I know Dickens sounds heavy (or maybe just to me), but it is really very much just a gripping storybook. I finished it and started again from the beginning because there were characters I want so much in my life.7 years ago

  • Carrie Ann: Love this!

    Here are a few I’ve enjoyed recently that seem to fit the “summer read” bill. Thank goodness for Goodreads…without it I would never remember what I’ve read.

    The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart

    Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (just saw her do a reading last night, she is such a rock star!)

    Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

    The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

    The Laws of Harmony by Judi Hendricks7 years ago

  • Wendy: Jasper Jones, an Australian novel by Craig Silvie. It’s amazing- I’ve not known anyone who had been able to put it down. Think To Kill A Mockingbird meets early 60s small town coming of age story. Clever and brilliantly written.

    Otherwise I read The Great Gatsby every summer (the boredom! The mint juleps!), I also vote for Anna Karenina, and try to shove as many Jane Austens in as possible as well.

    Great topic. I’m about to need some serious winter escapism so will use everyone’s recommendations too!7 years ago

  • Katherine: Oooh this is a fun post! Okay my favorite sweep-me-away book right now is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. I had to force myself to stop reading it at 1 am just to get some sleep! Other lighter faves of the moment: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant and The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin. My favorite of all time is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.7 years ago

  • Liz: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is incredibly engaging. I read it twice within a year because I just love it. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is great, but it is short. I will second the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.

    Miss Understanding is funny and sweet; Bitch is the New Black is a hilarious, true version of the shopaholic books.

    I’m definitely going to scan through this list and add all these books to my reading list!7 years ago

  • Ashley: The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Fantastic book, and the movie makes me cry my eyes out every time.

    White Noise by Don Delillo.
    Run by Ann Patchett.

    I, too, loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Awakening.
    Great list!7 years ago

  • Erin: Wow! What a tremendous list! Thank you for suggesting this, Sarah. I second the Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett (just finished Run), David Lodge, Love In the Time of Cholera recommendations. Water Music by TC Boyle had me floating along with the characters on the endless river. I’m trying to think of one that really gripped me, couldn’t put it down book. I’ll think about it and get back to you.
    P.S. Now I’m dying to read East of Eden and Time Traveler’s Wife!7 years ago

  • deanne: Love this list!!! I just put a hold on Garbo Laughs at my library. Yay!7 years ago

  • Sara Rose: -Valley of The Dolls (REREAD EVERY SUMMER)
    -The Elegance of The Hedgehog (so amazing)
    -Sputnik Sweetheart
    -Trashy novels by Mary Kay Andrews- yum and fun!
    -This summer I’m starting out with Stephen King’s Memoirs on Writing, Karma by Cathy Ostlere (IT IS AMAZING AND YOU NEED TO READ IT), and about 50 million other books. I’m sure I can add to this list but . . . I need a gin and tonic.7 years ago

  • Ruth Maassen: Lovers of Time Traveler’s wife, don’t miss Audrey Niffenegger’s second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. I’ve read David Copperfield so many times, it’s part of me. Two great writers of historical fiction are Rose Tremain and Geraldine Brooks. Lee Child’s thrillers never fail to transport me for the hours that I can’t put them down (they’re maybe a little bit TOO thrilling).7 years ago

  • Ruth Maassen: Cairre Ann, I loved Gods Behaving Badly. Wicked! I’d never heard of anyone else who’d read it.7 years ago

  • Rebecca: I have to reinforce recommendations of The Hunger Games, Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, One Day, and anything by Ann Patchett (Bel Canto in particular) or Barbara Kingsolver. Yes!!

    Some of my favourite summer reads that I absolutely fell into were years ago: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, and The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. My favourite classic read of the past few years is definitely The Count of Monte Cristo, hands down, and a book I recently read that is just absolutely gorgeously written is Plain Kate by Erin Bow.

    I love love LOVE these book recommendations! My poor library holds list is going to grow exponentially, I can feel it…7 years ago

  • Elizabeth: I find I prefer mystery series, so my choice would be the next one in any of the series I follow. My favorite humorous mystery authors would be Parnell Hall who writes the Puzzle Lady series and the Stanley Hastings series. Also Janet Evanovich who writes the Stephanie Plum series and the John Cepak series by Chris Grabenstein.

    For non-stop action mystery I like David Baldacci and his Camel Club series. For a more supernatural mystery I like Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files and of course JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series, and the Secondhand Spirits series by Juliet Blackwell. Also E.J. Copperman and the Haunted Guesthouse series.

    For a cozier type mystery I enjoy Jo Dereske’s Miss Zukas librarian series and I just started a new series by Ron and Janet Benrey about the Royal Tunbridge Wells Tea Museum.

    Examples of police procedurals would be Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series and Margaret Maron’s Sigrid Harald series. A British police series would be the Bryant and Mays series by Christopher Fowler.

    There are just so many. If you a series reader I suggest joining fictfact to keep track of your reading…it is not just for mysteries.7 years ago

  • aleda powell: Some of my favorites………..
    A Fierce Radiance
    The Red Tent
    Murder on the Orient Express
    For me the list actually goes on and on, but these are a few of my consistent go to’s.7 years ago

  • Alaina B.: I just had to second “David Copperfield” and suggest “Bleak House,” another awesome Dickens read. (It’s also been adapted into a very arty, modern BBC miniseries starring Gillian Anderson, among others…) And speaking of gin and tonics, has anyone else been seduced by the “Vesper” martini? I discovered it when I had a bottle of Lillet in the fridge that needed drinking…Stiff, but refreshing!7 years ago

  • Cassandra: The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard – set in a country house in Britain during WWII. Follows the lives of the young cousins who come find themselves living together to escape London. There are four of them (three of which are more readily available) and they are fantastic. I wish I hadn’t read them yet, so I could experience them for the first time!7 years ago

  • Kathy: I wholeheartedly agree with everyone on The Hunger Games Trilogy. If you haven’t read them, you simply must! Last summer, I got into Karen White. She sets many of her novels on lonely islands off South Carolina and the like. I started with The House on Tradd Street…they are an easy to get into and perfect summer reads. I just started her new one, The Beach Trees.7 years ago

  • Crystal: Years ago, when I worked in a bookstore I had The-Summer-of-Strong-Southern-Women and “Charms for the Easy Life” by Kaye Gibbons is still one of my favorites. “A Virtuous Woman” also by Kaye Gibbons is also fabulous but I have trouble reccomending it as a summer read since I cried, out-loud, in public, through much of it! For out-right escapism, not to mention laugh out loud moments Peter Mayle “A Year in Provence”. A more recent find is Kate Morton, especially “The House at Riverton”. And any time I want to get out out of my own head I go to Fairacre via Miss Read, “Village School” is the first in this charming series. Thanks for all the great suggestions! Off to load up my Kindle!!7 years ago

  • Rachel: I don’t have any favorite summer reads. but I’m currently reading Wht the internet is doing to our brains The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.
    Also, i disovered zine on another blog and it’s beautiful, inspiring, and a quick read. They have a blog as well.
    I recommed you buy it for everyone you know.
    . You can also buy it at Etsy.
    Thanks for the recommendations I’ll add to my list!
    http://spoonfulzine.com/?page_id=1147 years ago

  • Beth/SouthernBluestocking: The swooners: Anything by Jennifer Crusie. Her latest (Maybe This Time, Don’t Look Down, and Agnes and the Hitman are absolutely wonderful. Have read each countless times.)

    The abroads: Anything by Frances Mayes. I prefer these in the hammock while swigging from a cheap bottle of wine. Under the Tuscan Sun is a perennial favorite, but Bella Tuscany and A Year in the World are also quite frabjous.

    The sets: I love to reread Joanne Dobson’s (an academic mystery series), Carole Nelson Douglas’ (her Irene Adler series), Iain Pears’ (his art history series), Dorothy Sayers’ (I could absolutely crawl into the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane books. Love.)

    The others: Anything by Toni Morrison, Nancy Mitford, Michael Cunningham, or Neil Gaiman

    Enjoying everyone else’s suggestions!7 years ago

  • Allyn: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb is perfect summer easy reading to me. And my teen years memory of reading a book in a hammock one summer was The Bell Jar… amazing!7 years ago

  • Anna: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver!7 years ago

  • Kim: A couple of summers ago I re-read all the S E Hinton books one after the other – boy was I sad when I was finished!
    (The Outsiders; Tex; That was Then, This is Now; Rumble Fish).
    I can also highly recommend Nancy Mitford’s `Love in a Cold Climate”, and Rosamund Lehmann’s “The Weather in the Streets”.7 years ago

  • sonya: 1. Any and all of the “Ripley” novels by Patricia Highsmith (the first was “The Talented Mr. Ripley, but she wrote several more with the same character). Reading them was like taking an armchair vacation, I couldn’t put the book down. Highsmith is a phenomenal writer.

    2. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. An amazing portrait of NYC, a page turner which I also could not put down until I’d finished it.7 years ago

  • BeijingBean: Lots of good books on this list. Some good reads that could make you feel like the most sane person ever OR make go nuts.

    Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh

    ANYTHING by Chuck Palahniuk; Invisible Monsters and Survivor

    House of Leaves bye Mark Z. Danielewski

    Jonathan Ames’ books are lighter reads than those listed above, but still neurotic (in a good way).

    I never post, but am an avid reader of this blog. Simply couldn’t pass this thread by. Cheers!7 years ago

  • brie.: the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime – mark haddon

    a fine balance – rohinton mistry

    fall on your knees – anne marie macdonald

    a staggering work of heartbreaking genius – dave eggars

    the drifters – james a michener

    such a great list and a great idea – will be adding these to my to-read list!!!7 years ago

  • Laura: My fondest ‘summer read’ was from the summer I was 22, while camping on an East coast beach with friends, I read ‘Summer Sisters’ by Judy Blume– and spent the entire trip devouring every page. One of my absolute favorite memories is laying on a beach blanket at about 8pm as the sun was setting (my FAVORITE time to be on the beach!), finishing that book. I’ve tried very hard to replicate the ‘perfectness’ of that evening since!
    Don’t let Judy Blume fool you- this book is for adults. Spoke so true to female relationships & love & love lost. Enjoy! And have a wonderful summer.7 years ago

  • Laura: Oh- and, can’t forget ‘Beach Music’ by Pat Conroy!!! A must-read for sure.7 years ago

  • LuxeBytes: I will probably never forgive myself for reading this, but right now I’m devouring the Motley Crue memoir, “The Dirt.” I may need a round of antibiotics and a flea bomb when I’m done.7 years ago

  • Katherine: My perfect summer books are “Goodbye Columbus” by Phillip Roth and “Bonjour Tristesse” by Francoise Sagan. Love the movies too.
    7 years ago

  • Andie: Garlic and Sapphires

    My favorite Ruth Reich book! She’s such a fantastic food writer..perfect for the beach.

    Everything is Illuminated

    Jonathan Safran Foer’s writing is actually laugh out loud funny.


    Lisa Moore’s short story collection about sex and marriage is amazing. She’s my favorite Canadian author

    The Once and Future King by T.H White.7 years ago

  • Ebony: Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
    Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
    I agreed with She’s Come Undone or anything by Wally Lamb

    oh dear, I so want to be on a beach right now…7 years ago

  • Alison: Well, the last book that I read that I couldn’t put down was “The Custom of the Country” by Edith Wharton. Wharton is so satisfyingly articulate about phoney people, it really hit the spot. It’s also not in her usual tragic vein, which I think makes it more “summer friendly.”7 years ago

  • kristen: Mm, any/all of the “Anne of Green Gables” books, Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”/”Galapagos,” Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow,” Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End,” and now, this summer, Aimee Bender’s “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.”


    (Great post! Thanks for gettin’ me thinking about this.)7 years ago

  • Amanda Block: It’s so funny, Valley of the Dolls is the book that immediately springs to mind.7 years ago

  • Antonia: As soon as I read the title to today’s post I thought to myself, “It would have to be Valley of the Dolls.” Love it!7 years ago

  • KatelynLikesThis: When I read Judy Blume’s “Summer Sisters” back in highschool one summer.7 years ago

  • Cadi: OK, so all of my favorites are listed on here, but I do have to thank everyone for giving me the summer reading list I’ve been craving. So many titles I’ve never read (and I’m sad to say one of those is Valley of the Dolls, I’m on my way to the library to get it this morning!).7 years ago

  • Jill Marie Codere: well i would have to say my favorite summer read would be The Great Gatsby. I’ve always loved this book and it’s the perfect romantic story to read while relaxing on a beach blanket…
    I did enjoy the Sisterhhood book…but only the first one!
    Time for me to renew my love with books!!7 years ago

  • Designing Diva: I have a huge stack of books from all the used book sales I go to throughout the year – nothing comforts me more than knowing I have books on demand! I always loved
    Victoria Holt/Philippa Carr, Rosamund Pilcher (finally I am going to see Cornwall for myself this fall!), and of course, the ultimate Agatha Christie. I have read all of their books, most more than once, and they are my go-to books for easy summer reading.7 years ago

  • Nicole: I loved Cane River by Lalita Tademy! It is a great historical fiction and I could not put it down!!!!!!!7 years ago

  • Michelle: I highly, strongly, completely recommend the following:

    The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

    River of Hidden Dreams by Connie May Fowler

    Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson

    Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry

    Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin

    Night Shift by Maritta Wolff

    Trust the recommendations for Time Traveler’s Wife, The Thirteenth Tale, The Red Tent, Bel Canto….all great reads!7 years ago

  • Dana: I second the recommendation of “The Sparrow” by Mary Dora Russell–it’s amazing. Some of my other favs: “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier (best beach read ever!), “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen (if you haven’t already read it–it might be the great American novel), “The God of Small Things” by Arundahti Roy, all of Calvin Trillin’s books, and I like to reread “A Moveable Feast” every summer.7 years ago

  • Maureen: Designing Diva- I LOVE Rosamunde Pilcher, the Shell Seekers is one of my favorite books. Sometimes when I am in a quandary, I think “what would Penelope do?”

    Trying to think of favorite summer reads, but all I can come up with is books I love all year round.

    The Flavia De Luce mysteries are new to me this year, and seriously some of the best books I have read in a while. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in the series. Alan Bradley is the author.

    I do remember being sick one summer day, and my mother bringing home a paperback she bought for me- The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. Thus started my love of all things King Arthur related, and I love the rest of her books too. I still re-read the Crystal Cave every few years, such good writing.

    Just finished The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore, quite good, and I think it would be a good summer read. Also, anything by Elizabeth Berg is wonderful. Especially the ones with her teenage protagonist, brought me right back to the summers of my youth. I think Durable Goods is the first one. Love this list, I will print it out and take it to my library!7 years ago

  • Sasha: I have to say that I got really into both “The Comedians” and “Our Man in Havana” by Graham Greene last Summer! Both are set in the Caribbean so make great Summer reads, and if you haven’t read “Our Man” it’s both hysterical and enthralling with adventure packed in to boot! I might have to pick up one of Greene’s again soon!7 years ago

  • Anita: You sure have open a book of worms here. LOL

    Last year I read all of Katherine Center’s books, Bright Side of Disaster, Get Lucky and Everyone is Beautiful. Good fast reads, but very enjoyable.7 years ago

  • Lizzy: Everyone must read The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall. Unbelieveable beach reach!!! And I second Summer Sisters!7 years ago

  • L: I don’t think The Hunger Games trilogy can be recommended too many times. I adore Madeleine L’Engle (maybe some of her adult novels instead of her Wrinkle in Time or Austins books, though all of them are wonderful) and Robin McKinley, and have recently been devouring authors like Joshilyn Jackson and Sarah Addison Allen for a dose of southern magical realism.

    This is a fantastic list – I’ll come back and look through when it’s time to pack for my honeymoon!7 years ago

  • jackie: Great post and list! Love it. I’ll be home with a newborn this summer so hopefully will have time for reading…that’s how I envision it anyway.. 🙂

    I wonder if I would enjoy the time traveler’s wife if i already saw the movie? what do you think?

    i have to suggest Kathryn Harrison’s Poison.Set in Spain in the 1700s during the Inquisition…an engrossing read.

    also love anything by jeanette winterston and milan kundera.7 years ago

  • Dane: Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens – a light read, but engrossing and funny.7 years ago

  • Kanesha: Thanks for all these great suggestions, y’all! My summer reading list is GROWING!
    I loved Cane River, Nicole. Nice suggestions.
    Other great summer reads for me were:
    -White Teeth (Zadie Smith)
    -Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel)
    -The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende)

    Thanks, Sarah, for getting this going.7 years ago

  • Elizabeth: Okay, first of all I have to say that I REMEMBER that afternoon, sitting on the beach, you reading Valley of the Dolls. Pretty sure that’s why I read it. Good memories…
    Anyhow, I’ve read a couple great ones so far this summer:
    On the Outskirts of Normal, by Debra Monroe
    Oh the Glory of It All, by Sean Wilsey
    Both memoirs, beautifully written and highly entertaining.
    Enjoy!7 years ago

  • susan: i am currently hyper-engrossed in ‘the immortal life of henrietta lacks’ by rebecca skloot. it’s an incredible read. another great book i just wrapped up is ‘what the dog saw’ by malcolm gladwell. i can’t recommend it enough. its a collection of his essays ‘greatest hits’ throughout his career at the New Yorker. very worth looking into.7 years ago

  • darcy b.: wow, what great titles! i’ve made note of many of them. i’m surprised no one has said v.c. andrews–don’t judge me! i remember being in junior high and loving all of the soap opera drama. i also spent summers in junior high reading stephen king. great for staying up late…

    but…if you read one book on this list, read this one!: atonement by ian mcewan. probably my favorite all-time book as an adult. and perfect for summer, as you will see. the movie was ok, but the book was engrossing. all of his stuff is.

    i can’t wait to sit on the porch, drink some iced tea and get reading!7 years ago

  • ekf: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    and Le Divorce by Diane Johnson7 years ago

  • Cindy J.: I have to agree on the Dickens – I spent most of my summer vacation last year reading Great Expectations and got some very funny looks at the hotel pool with my nose in my thick hardcover book! This summer it will be Bleak House.
    For something a lot lighter (and a little more trashy :-)) I enjoy Elizabeth Noble.7 years ago

  • Hannely: I guess I’m late to the party, but I have a feeling more people than me are going to have this list bookmarked, so I thought I’d add a couple more suggestions.

    I always find that when I’ve read something I love, I want to read MORE, so I’d like to suggest two book sets.

    First is Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat,” which is a hilarious summertime Victorian comdedy. Then you can follow it up with “To Say Nothing of the Dog,” a just-as-funny science fiction/sendup of Victorian literature/satisfying romance than play off of Three Men in a Boat. It’s a must-read!

    My other suggestion is to reread “Little Women,” which is always a good choice, right? After you’ve done that, check out “The Little Women Letters,” by Gabrielle Donnelly, which just came out this month. It’s a sequel of sorts, which sticks Jo March’s great-great-grandaughters in contemporary London. It’s perfect, satisfying, and surprisingly touching chick lit.7 years ago

  • Catherine: Getting here after 97 comments is like hearing about the world’s best party- the next day. I’m SO sad but happy too because I’ve made copious notes.

    I read so much it’s hard to narrow things down but I remember that Stephen King’s The Stand had me both freaked out and mesmerized in college during summer vaca- could not put it down and then could not turn out the light to go to sleep!

    Another great one- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Loved it- but don’t EVER watch the movie. Dreadful.

    Another awesome post- thank you so much!7 years ago

  • BookishBex: Just a few that I’ve loved: The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, The English American by Alison Larkin, Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch…..I could go on and on!7 years ago

  • Lily: Hands down, Life of Pi. Thanks for taking me back!7 years ago

  • Elen: “The Weight of Water”, “The Pilot’s Wife” and “Seaglass” all by Anita Shreve. In August Ellen Baker’s new novel “I Gave My Heart to Know This” will be out and can’t wait to read it. Her first novel, “Keeping the House” is a very good read! Also “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott” by Kelly O’Connor McNees is also very good.7 years ago

  • Mariah: Last summer I took Edith Wharton’s “The Buccaneers” with me on vacation to Rhode Island…I had no idea the first half was set in Newport with wealthy young women spending lazy summer days socializing in this glamorous resort location. By day I toured the areas and by night read about characters that were living out their social dramas where I had walked.7 years ago

  • BookishBex: I just finished Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok last night- great read!7 years ago

  • Sue K!: MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA by all time great historical fiction author Margaret George. You will be captivated by the first page as you are engulfed into Cleopatra’s world of the Mediterranean region!!! Pick up a copy – you’ll love it!7 years ago

  • Abbey: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, and has some pretty racy sex scenes between her and W.7 years ago

  • Had to jump in here with a recommendation that hasn’t been mentioned. Sophie’s Choice is thoroughly engrossing, and captured every bit of my imagination. (I’ve never seen the movie.) Plus, a lot of it takes place in Brooklyn in the summer. Definitely one of my top 5 favorite books. (Of course, it’s also so upsetting I almost had a panic attack on the subway while I was reading it once––but that’s a testament to how GOOD it is!)7 years ago

  • Renee: I echo the Outlander and Hunger Games recs, as well as the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries (Murder Must Advertise & Gaudy Night are my faves). Georgette Heyer’s work (mysteries and romances) is fun, and I love well-written YA Fiction (Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, Robin McKinley) for poolside reading.

    Right now I’m also reading books from Persephone, a British republisher of forgotten early to mid 20th century novels by women. They’re quirky and fun, though a little pricey. I also stock up on graphic novels for something different (recent recs include Guy Delisle’s travelogues Pyongyang and Burma Chronicles).

    I could go on forever, but I’ll stop with just three more recs: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, and anything by P.G. Wodehouse. Thanks for posting this!7 years ago

  • Carla: I just finished reading Girl in Translation. So, so, so, good! Check it out.7 years ago

  • happy: have to add 3 more-
    Hawaii- James Michner
    A tree grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith
    North & South- J Jakes7 years ago

  • Jessica: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan- it was so good!7 years ago

  • Gwen: Beach Music by Pat Conroy – I first read this over the summer of 2001, and have reread it most summers since

    The Traveling Pants books, especially the just-released final one

    Delirium by Lauren Oliver

    Anything by Sarah Dessen, who writes the most perfect summer YA novels (that every adult woman I know also adores) – especially The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride

    The Help by Kathryn Stockett (which you’ve likely read? but if not, it really is worth the hype)6 years ago

  • Katy: “Tender at the Bone, Growing Up at the Table” by Ruth Reichl is a great summer read. A memoir by the former food critic for the NY Times, it tells how she came to love food. It’s really funny, and there’s recipes! I think I read it the first time in 2 days – you won’t be able to put it down, either, I promise.6 years ago

  • aphazia: Here are books that I think are perfect for summer:
    -The Princess Bride
    -Anything written by Sarah Addison Allen, Alice Hoffman, Elizabeth Berg, David Sedaris, Ruth Reichl and David Levithan
    -I loved Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
    -One Day by David Nicholls
    -Eat My Globe

    I enjoyed this thread! 🙂6 years ago

  • Jessica: I’m so in love with The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum and I can’t put down her new one, After You. They remind life should be difficult in order to find our way to joy. 🙂6 years ago

  • Shauna Dalton: Great ideas! I thought I’d throw in this underrated summer gem. The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard.6 years ago

  • aafrin: I loved thrillers from James Hadley Chase, so many summers ago that I can’t even fathom, but I particularly remember his novel “Tiger by the Tail” – I was so engrossed in it that I screamed loudly when a friend touched me to ask a question. Couldn’t put it down until finished.

    Recently I read “SHANTARAM”, a novel based on the life of its author, Gregory David Roberts, who escaped from an Australian prison and fled to India. It’s about his experiences while living in Mumbai. A good read, now supposed to be made into a movie with Johnny Depp in the central character.

    Very recently I also read a book “Girls of Riyadh”, a novel by Rajaa Alsanea. The book, written in the form of e-mails, recounts the personal lives of four young Saudi girls, and describes the relationship between men and women in the conservative Saudi-Arabian Islamic culture. Really a very engrossing read, could put it down until finished.6 years ago

  • Book Links: 08/03/11 - PopBetty: […] both A Cup of Jo and Pink of Perfection asked their readers for book suggestions. And notmartha linked to a Metafilter list of […]4 years ago

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