Summer vacation provides a wonderful opportunity to visit new places, to explore interesting summer programs, and—no matter where you are—to dive into new and exciting books. It can be hard to carve out time for free reading during the school year, but the summer offers a chance to tackle a wide variety of narratives, ranging from light beach reads to complex, provocative classics. In the following list, we’ve rounded up some of our top reads for the end of the summer.
SUMMER READING AT ITS FINEST
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens: Equal parts coming of age story, romance, and murder mystery, Owens’s novel takes readers to the marshes of North Carolina, where young Kya Clark grows up alone among the gulls and bullfrogs. When a murder occurs in a nearby town, local suspicion focuses on Kya, whose isolation inspires confusion and distrust. Naturalists will appreciate Owens’s evocative depictions of marsh creatures and landscapes, while mystery aficionados will enjoy trying to solve the murder.
Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl: In this memoir, Reichl chronicles her experiences as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. As a recognizable writer for a well-known paper, Reichl quickly discovers that she has to visit restaurants in disguise in order to have a “true” dining experience. Intercut with recipes, reviews, and lavish descriptions of incredible foods (don’t read this book hungry!), Reichl’s “undercover” experiences are by turns hilarious and poignant. (Bonus: if you like this book, check out Reichl’s newest memoir, Save Me the Plums.)
Circe, Madeline Miller: The nymph Circe has a small role in The Odyssey, where she is best known for turning Odysseus’s men into pigs. Here, she gets an entire narrative to herself, as Miller reworks a series of Greek myths to tell the story of Circe’s life. Classics-focused students will particularly enjoy the many appearances by famous figures from Greek mythology, but readers won’t need a nuanced understanding of ancient history to appreciate this story about witchcraft, vengeance, and self-discovery.
Two Can Keep a Secret, Karen M. McManus: A young adult murder mystery that will keep you guessing, McManus’s second novel takes place in Echo Ridge, VT, a small town known for its scenic beauty and for the girls who disappear or are killed every few years. When true crime buff Ellery moves to town for her senior year of high school, she’s determined to solve the mysteries — but it starts to look like she might be the next girl to vanish.
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan: Both an adventure narrative and a meditation on racism and identity, Washington Black tells the story of George Washington “Wash” Black, an eleven-year-old slave growing up on a sugar plantation in Barbados in 1830. After being named the prime suspect in a murder, Wash flees the country with his eccentric new master, traveling to the US, Canada, and a remote Arctic outpost. Full of beautiful prose and fantastical adventures, Edugyan’s novel will appeal to history buffs and literature enthusiasts alike.
The Power, Naomi Alderman: We’ve recommended it before, but it’s worth mentioning again: The Power is a high-intensity Handmaid’s Tale for the modern era. Alderman’s novel has a simple premise: women around the world suddenly gain the ability to shoot electricity from their hands. This one change, which gives them exceptional physical power, has the potential to upend everything from gender norms to political systems. The ways it does—and, even more interestingly, does not—change women’s lives forms the basis of Alderman’s provocative page-turner.
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott: Ideal for aspiring authors, students who struggle with writing assignments, and everyone in between, Lamott’s book is an insightful, hilarious guide to tackling all kinds of writing projects. With advice on everything from first drafts and false starts to how to know when you’re done with a project, Bird by Bird is full of seasoned writing advice, fun anecdotes, and lots of good ideas.
Have you enjoyed these books? Do you have other works you’d like to recommend? Please let us know in the comments!
Do you want to improve your writing skills? Join us in our TTA Writing Center before school begins to get a boost on your writing abilities.