Since signing off social media, I’ve had a lot more time to spend reading novels. Picking up a book instead of my phone has been such a positive switch in my day. It’s one of those things that you think, oh, I never have time to do that anymore, but suddenly I have a surprising amount of free minutes throughout my day. Instead of feeling drained or like a time waste, I get to relax and feel like I finished something that made my brain work in a healthy way, instead of perpetuating a negative habit, like endless scrolling.
Reading novels is one of the things I have loved since childhood. This is a list of the books I’ve loved lately in case you’re on the hunt for some good summer reading. My favorite time to read has been in the evenings on our screened porch after tucking the kids into bed and while I’m nursing Theo, although he is getting increasingly distracted the older he gets. You’ll also see the ones I’m still thinking about from last summer (so you know they’re good) and what’s on my nightstand right now.
Along the Infinite Sea, by Beatriz Williams
An epic story of star-crossed lovers in pre-War Europe collides with a woman on the run in the swinging 60s. I couldn’t put this one down, and now I’ve got the rest of Williams’ books on hold at the library, starting with A Hundred Summers. (Note: a little steamy at times)
Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen
Quindlen is a writer who understands the complexities of modern women’s lives, and I love how she not only weaves a good story but also makes you think about your own life along the way. I’d read her memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (two thumbs way up) and found myself nodding along with almost everything she wrote. She is insightful, smart, and a generation ahead of me, so I love to hear how she views the world. Reviews on Amazon say her other novels are better, but this was the first one I’d read and I liked it.
The Best of the Best from Last Summer
I’m still thinking about how glad I am that I read each of these. Be sure to add them to your list.
The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
Two sisters struggling to survive and fight back in Nazi-controlled France. I kept thinking, “What would I do if I were them?”
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
This book won a Pulitzer Prize for good reason. The chapters switch between a French girl and German soldier whose lives become tangled together during WWII. The author spent 10 years writing this novel, and it is both intricate and beautiful.
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Samson
A romantic comedy with depth and heart. I loved this story about a brilliant, socially inept professor who decides it is time to find a wife. I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud at parts, and even Bill Gates said it is a novel worth reading.
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
This young adult novel is a spy’s confession to her Gestapo captors, and it is also one of those books that is impossible to put down. The historical fiction is woven with subterfuge, desperation, and humanity. Halfway through the book there is a huge twist. Don’t forget to grab the sequel.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
The first of the young adult Lunar Chronicles, this series weaves classic fairy tales into a sci-fi future Earth and four strong heroines emerge. The books are easy, fast-paced, and well written. The entire series is out now, so you’ll have 5 books in total to read. Be sure to have the whole series on hand: Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Fairest (a book about the series villain).
Read Everything by These Authors
Sometimes I go on a little kick, where I’ve read a really good book and then I work my way through an author’s entire collection. It’s nice to know what you’re getting into and to have a few books to plow through in a row. I’d argue that binge-reading is so much more satisfying than binge-watching tv series.
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have Jane Austen on this list. She has six novels and I’ve read them all several times. Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma are my favorites, but they are all worth reading because of Austen’s masterful way of describing society, individuals, and daily life. And do yourself a favor and grab these clothbound hardcovers, which are so, so pretty. I have mine on a shelf in our “Lego” room.
If you’ve always wanted to read these classics, but feel intimidated, I’d highly recommend reading A Jane Austen Education along with each novel. The author (a guy!) is writing his dissertation on Jane Austen, and not only does he give a little primer on each novel, but he writes about how each novel taught him a lesson about his own personal life. It’s really good and I learned a lot from it!
The magic of Moriarty’s books is the way she understands women. There is always something dramatic in the storylines of her books, and yet I can still relate to the women in her books. In fact, her writing almost makes you think she can read your mind and just put words to your gut reaction.
This spring, I finished all of Allen’s books, back to back. They aren’t classics, as each story set in the South has an improbable splash of magic thrown in, an insatiable sweet tooth, and a heavy-handed use of adjectives. But they are whimsical and romantic, and I’m always hooked after the first page. You can probably guess how the happy ending might turn out, but it’s the quirky way Allen gets there that is half the fun. Do yourself a favor and read them with a bar of chocolate.
While Rowell is best known for her young adult novel, Eleanor & Park, my favorite is Attachments. If you liked the Jim & Pam romance in The Office, you’ll love it too. If you wish you graduated from Hogwarts, her novel Fangirl, will be right up your alley (Diagon Alley, that is).
On My Nightstand
The jury’s still out, but I’m hoping these are all winners!
Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfield
(because Jane Austen.)
The Summer before the War, by Helen Simonsson
(I’m missing Downton Abbey.)
A Window Opens, by Elizabeth Egan
(like a Bridget Jones’ diary.)
Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
(because WWII stories are always captivating.)
A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams
(the first book on this list really was that good.)
p.s. There’s a new Jane Austen movie, Love & Friendship, that just came out based on her earliest work, Lady Susan. It’s getting rave reviews, and I’m hoping to get an afternoon alone to go see it soon!