To me, summer and reading go together like cold piña coladas and a beach. And if you combine all four of those things, you pretty much have my ideal vacation. But sometimes it can be hard to know what book to read, especially if you’re browsing Amazon or the aisles of Barnes & Noble two days before you leave for the beach. To make your life a little easier, here’s my mini summer reading guide: seven books that are the perfect companions to some relaxing time in the sun (or at night after the kids are in bed). Be sure to check out the DMB contributors’ book picks from last year too!
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
An old maid at 27 (!!!), Anne Elliott’s family is suffering from reduced means—18th-century code for “a lot of debt and no money.” Enter Captain Frederick Wentworth: successful, handsome, and Anne’s fiancé from 8 years before. Anne broke off the engagement after her mentor advised her against the match. What ensues is a classic Jane Austen love story with all of her noted wit and sharp observation.
What I love about this book: As I get older, I’ve grown to appreciate the quiet, steady love between Anne and Wentworth. This is also one of Austen’s shorter novels, easy to finish while spending a few days at the beach.
2. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
If you’ve been seeing or hearing the word “enneagram” a lot and wondering what the fuss is all about, or if you’re obsessed with the MBTI and love languages, this book is for you. Stabile and Cron lay out the basics of this fascinating personality typing framework and then detail each of the 9 numbers with engaging explanations and examples. If you’ve already read this, be sure to check out the follow-up, The Path Between Us.
What I love about this book: The writing is pretty funny, which I found surprising for the genre, and the chapter on my number (1 here!) was probably the first time I’ve felt like a personality typing system truly “got” me. And that knowledge has been so helpful in my day-to-day life.
3. The Dry by Jane Harper
Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns home during an intense drought to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke, who allegedly killed his family and then committed suicide in a case that has shocked the small Australian town of Kiewarra. But Luke’s parents are not convinced that their son did it and ask Falk to look into the case. The novel goes back and forth in time from the present-day investigation to Falk’s time spent as a boy in Kiewarra and spins out to inevitably reveal that things are never as they seem.
What I love about this book: The mystery pulled me in and kept me up way past my bedtime because I had to know how it all ended.
4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Antisocial, scarred (physically and emotionally), and awkward, Eleanor lives alone, following a strict routine and minding her own business until the day she and a coworker stop to help an elderly man who has fallen in the street. As she opens her heart to new friendships and experiences, Eleanor’s tidily compartmentalized world is blown open as she learns that your past doesn’t determine your future.
What I love about this book: Sometime you just need something to restore your faith in humanity. This heartwarming and funny book does that.
5. The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Emma and Zadie have been best friends since they met in medical school. Now wives, mothers, and successful doctors, their friendship is put to the test when someone from their past comes to town and old secrets are revealed. This is an engaging and funny story about the power of female friendships, with a very Grey’s Anatomy-esque vibe.
What I love about this book: The characters are all really likeable and the story wasn’t annoyingly trite; I devoured this one in two days.
6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Shaker Heights is a perfect town full of perfect families. Elena Richardson is thriving in that perceived stability until the day single mom and artist Mia Warren arrives, throwing the comforting predictability of Elena’s life and family off balance. The women come to heads when they land on opposing sides of a heated custody battle that ensues when a white couple tries to adopt a Chinese baby, and Elena is determined to bring Mia’s past and secrets to light, no matter the cost.
What I love about this book: This novel is smart but also compulsively readable. It’s easily one of the best five books I read last year.
7. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell
O’Farrell’s memoir consists of 17 near-death experiences, everything from encephalitis as a child to drowning in the ocean as an adult. It sounds much more maudlin than it is; O’Farrell’s work is a powerful celebration of humanity, motherhood, and what it means to be alive. This is also excellent on audio.
What I love about this book: O’Farrell’s writing is gorgeous and moving. I rarely cry, but this memoir brought me to tears several times.