The Books of Summer by Rebecca Howard

As I write this, we are experiencing the first full-fledged summer weather of the season—highs in the mid-90s, a light south wind, and a cloudless, expansive sky.   This is the summer I love.  Don’t talk to me in July when it’s too hot to be outside at 10 p.m., and you have to put booties on your dog when you take her out for a walk, so she won’t burn her paws crossing the street.  No, today is the perfect summer day—made for lazing poolside (friends with pools, call me!) with a great novel.   

The definition of a perfect summer read is different for everyone.  There are all kinds of lists to help you select, and I’m personally fond of NPR’s annual list.  For me, a summer read is entertaining, light but not without substance, and on the short-side—maybe around 300 pages or so.  These are some titles that I’ve enjoyed and you might consider for summer days:

Habits of the House and Long Live the King by Fay Weldon
The first two titles in the Love and Inheritance Trilogy (the third to be released in December), these novels are delightfully Downton-esque (made-up word) in style and subject.  Lovely and entertaining historical fiction for those of us missing Maggie Smith. 

Kind of Kin by Rilla Askew
Askew tackles the thorny issue of immigration through the lens of a rural Oklahoma community.  With humor, charm, and a great deal of compassion, Kind of Kin explores complex moral issues without moralizing. 

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
At first glance it would seem that this novel is a fictionalized biography of Louise Brooks (Think Paris Wife or Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald—also excellent summer reads if you are so inclined), but it is not.   Rather, it is the story of Cora Carlisle—a respected and proper townswoman living in Wichita, Kansas whose life is radically altered when she agrees to chaperone a young Louise Brooks on a trip to New York City.  A life and love affirming novel. 

Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
If you are one of the 5 people who have not yet experienced this tightly plotted, psychologically intense, and fast-paced page turner, check it out this summer.  Christine begins each day without any recollection of her past.  What she recalls throughout the day vanishes by the next morning.  To help herself, she keeps a journal but discovers one morning that she’s written: “Don’t trust Ben,” who is her seemingly devoted husband.  A fresh twist on the old amnesia device. 

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
Wife 22 is the name given to Alice Buckle when she volunteers to participate in a marriage survey.  Witty, smart, and delightful, Wife 22 is a perfect romantic comedy in the tradition of Elinor Lipman. 

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
A story about love that is not a love story, Cresent follows the lives of Sirine, a chef in a Lebanese restaurant in an Arab-American community of Los Angeles, and Hanif, a Baghdad exile who is a college professor and new to the area.  A richly detailed, lyrical story that celebrates community, storytelling, ritual, and hospitality. 

What is your idea of a perfect summer read? 

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