The One with the Summer Reads

Long gone are the days when summer meant freedom to spend hours listening to my Walkman with the most difficult decision being what time to take a dip in the pool. So when I pick up a summer book, I like to keep things light. Fun setting, interesting characters, thoughtful plot, but nothing that distresses me as a reader.

Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project, by Graeme  What fun! Highly intelligent, socially awkward Don Tillman is associate professor at a university genetics department. (Reminding me of Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory.) Don is looking for a wife, and he decides to go about it in a very methodical way. He develops a very thorough questionnaire, but gets nowhere. Enter Rosie. She’s “not suitable” as Don would say. She meets none of his criteria. But, as a friend, he decides to help her find her biological father since he has extensive knowledge of DNA testing. Romance and hilarity ensue. If you’re taking a long car ride this summer, this is a perfect choice as an audio book.

Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. Admittedly I’m a sucker for novels about bookstores and bookstore owners, but A.J. Fikry is my favorite to date. I wanted to pack my bags and move to Alice Island. While I loved the bookstore and island setting, the characters are the most memorable part of the story. Even the minor characters are endearing and charming. They feel like people you might know. This was a book I couldn’t wait to get back to and I find myself thinking about the characters long after I finished.

The VacationersThe Vacationers, by Emma Straub. The Posts and their friends are off for two weeks in Mallorca. It should be the vacation of a lifetime — Franny and Jim are celebrating their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, Sylvia is off to Brown in the fall — except things are not going well for anyone. But when seven people stay in the cottage for fourteen days secrets and old hurts are going to bubble to the surface. How much information each character chooses to reveal and what they choose to keep hidden and how they choose to reveal the secrets of the others in the house kept me hooked. The opening pages are a bit slow, but stick with it — you’ll be rewarded!

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie–who is 600 miles away–because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die.

2 AM at the cat's pajamas2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, by Marie-Helene Bertino. True, this story takes place on Christmas Eve Eve, but nonetheless it’s a great summer read. Madeline Altimari is a smart and independent nine-year-old girl who just wants to sing. She’s not allowed to sing at the school pageant and she’s determined to get to The Cat’s Pajamas to make her stage debut. I loved Madeline’s sassiness. Sarina Greene, her teacher. is recently divorced and, despite her better judgment, accepts an invitation to a dinner party, where she knows she’ll run into her former flame. The dinner party scene was one of my favorites in this book. Then across town, at The Cat’s Pajamas, Lorca is about to lose his club. The fines from numerous violations of city codes are mounting and he doesn’t have the money to pay his debts. This was an entertaining and light read.

And two I plan to read this summer: 

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. I can’t technically recommend this because it doesn’t release until July, but this has to be the most highly anticipated book of the summer. The story picks up 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird as Scout returns to Maycomb and her father, Atticus. From the jacket copy: “Scout struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.” Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird.

Little Paris BookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. Okay, another novel about a bookstore. But a bookstore — on a barge — on the Seine? Yes, please. Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened. Releases in June 2015.

Any summer reads you’d recommend? Share in the comments. 

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27 comments

  1. Hi Jackie. I agree that Harper Lee’s book is a MUST. I am so excited to read it. Of course we’re all going to be wondering if it has the same narrative force of Mockingbird. Comparisons are inevitable, I suppose. 🙂 Have a great weekend too. –Patti

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  2. Perfect timing for the recommendations – I’m headed on a trip soon and I’ll need something to fill the time at the airport.
    The Rosie Project sounds fun and light after my most recent reading spree on witches.

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  3. Very much want to read The Vacationers, Jackie. Hopefully this summer. I wish I could just go to an island and catch up on all the books I want to read.
    Harper Lee’s new novel has to be the most anticipated book in years – can you imagine publishing after so long, and after a giant of a book like TKM?!

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    1. Alice Island?? 🙂

      I know Go Set a Watchman will have a different feel. The sequels are tough, but since she wrote this one first… fingers crossed. You know, even if she never published another word, I would still consider her one of the most accomplished writers of the 20th century.

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    1. The Little Paris Bookstore sounds like such a delightful story. I’m looking forward it. Good for summer reading, but also good to snuggle up when it’s cold outside in your neck of the woods. Let’s compare notes after we’ve both read it.

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  4. I’m really enjoying We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner We Can Change the World by Ellen Gustafson. It’s nonfiction but a smooth read and a fascinating subject (for me anyway).

    I’m a bit nervous about Harper Lee’s book (though I will definitely read it). I have the feeling her decision not to publish it was well-reasoned and I’m suspicious of the motives of those who are now bringing it out. Still, it’s her story and I’m anxious to see what she did with it.

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    1. I’ve had similar concerns about Harper Lee’s new book. I feel like there must have been reasons why she hadn’t published it in the many years since To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m still looking forward to reading it — i think everyone is! 🙂

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  5. This is a very cool post! I’m so glad you decided to put this together so that I can catch up on some awesome reads…after I finish reading Wild I got the Vacationers on deck! Thanks so much. I always look forward to your lists. 🙂

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  6. Rosie and Cat PJ have been on my list! I loved AJ Fikry; the characters were so wonderful. I enjoyed the Vacationers and I really liked Rachel Joyce’s writing style and language. I’m going to look into the Little Paris Bookshop, thanks!

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    1. AJ Fikry was my favorite book of the past few months. The main plot is so straightforward, but you’re right that the characters made the story marvelous. It will definitely be on my year-end best list. 🙂

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  7. You know what I need? I need that time-twisty device that Dumbledore gave Hermione in Harry Pooter and the prisoner of Azkhaban so she could be in two places at once and take that class that conflicted with her schedule. Only I would use it to give myself extra hours to read, read, read all these great recommendations! Sigh. I literally have 400 something books on my to-read list….and counting….=)

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  8. Wow, Jackie, I had just added AJ Fikry to my summer reading list this past weekend, based on my writers’ group recommendations! And now I’m adding Little Paris Bookshop, because I feel just like you do about bookstore settings. I want a second career as a Book Prescriber!

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  9. Many of these books I’ve enjoyed, but some are unfamiliar to me. The Rosie Project proved entertaining with its quirky love story.

    I am reading The Girl on the Train currently, which is packed with suspense and a fast moving story.

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