If you’re anything like me, you think summer is made for reading. But nothing is more frustrating than picking up the latest (and much-hyped) new release to find that even though it’s a bestseller, it’s not the right book for you.
How do you enjoy the hits without wasting time on the misses? Enter the summer reading guide. For the eighth year running, I’ve read hundreds (literally, hundreds!) of new releases to prepare this year’s guide, thinking of you all the while, and now you’re holding the end result in your hand. I’ve compiled my favorite summer titles in one compact, user-friendly guide that whittles the overwhelming array of readerly options down to these 30 titles, with the tastes of Modern Mrs Darcy readers in mind.
I began putting out these summer guides in 2012, and it’s always interesting to see how the book offerings vary from year to year. In some years, I had a hard time finding books I LOVED, and really had to dig to find titles I felt deserved a spot. In others, I had plenty of wonderful titles to choose from. Never has that been truer than in 2019. Curating this year’s guide was brutal, because never have I read so many great books that I’d be happy to include in these pages. I intended to include 25, but couldn’t bear to cut those last five, so 30 it is. (For those for whom 30 is way too many, don’t miss the Minimalist Guide in these pages, where I share my 5 top summer titles, and yes, choosing just 5 was sheer agony!)
Every book here has earned its spot, and I’ve personally read them all, front to back. I can vouch for them, and answer any questions you have. If I didn’t love a title, I didn’t include it here—even if I suspect most readers will enjoy it.
If you find something great in the Summer Reading Guide, would you spread the book love? Share on your favorite social media platform or with your favorite bookish friends. Our official hashtags are #summerstooshort—because summer is too short to read books you don’t love—and #IdRatherBeReading, because we’re all book lovers here.
(For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere—I can’t tell you how much I love your Instagram photos of you reading the books in this guide while curled up by the fire. You’re not forgotten.)
Readers, I hope you find a book (or twelve) you LOVE on this list. Happy summer, and happy reading!
WHOLLY UNEXPECTED LOVE STORIES
FAMILIES ARE COMPLICATED
I've never included a middle-grade novel in a Summer Reading Guide before, but this modern version of The Parent Trap earned its spot: it's exactly the kind of delightful read I'd eat up by the pool or on an airplane. This collaboration between two highly successful authors—one who primarily writes for kids, the other for grown-ups—is about two twelve-year old girls who live on opposite coast who strike up an unwanted correspondence after they discover their dads fell in love at a building conference and are secretly dating. This is not good news to either of them, as they make clear in the ensuing emails that comprise the book. And then it gets worse, when the girls are forced to attend camp together because their fathers went them to become friends. Things go horribly wrong in more ways than one, but there's not a single page here that doesn’t feel fresh, funny, charming, and real. A feel-good story for readers of all ages.More info →
To millions of Americans, Abbi Hope Goldstein is known as simply "Baby Hope"—the subject of an iconic 9/11 photograph that shows her being carried to safety while Tower 1 collapses in the background. Abbi is 17 now, and her face remains instantly recognizable. For her own painful reasons, Abbi wants to enjoy one final carefree summer while she can, as an anonymous camp counselor, not as a 9/11 icon. But then she meets Noah, a teen with his own devastating 9/11 history, who knows exactly who she is, and wants her help finding answers that have long eluded him about that tragic day. Her subject matter may be heavy, but Buxbaum's light touch makes this both emotionally resonant and surprisingly funny. A great story, well told, for teen and adult readers.More info →
If you love dysfunctional family novels, this is one doozy of a story—and a must-read. When two rookie cops who meet at the NYC Police Academy strike up a friendship, it sets in motion a tragic chain of events that echo through the decades, through the lives of their children and their children’s children. I found this book exceptionally difficult to read—it’s depressing and dark and triggers abound—yet I was eager to find out what would happen next to these doomed families, and the astonishing developments of the last 75 pages vaulted this to my best-of-the-year list. A poignant story of grace, forgiveness, and redemption, for fans of Atonement and Little Fires Everywhere.More info →
When their mother dies, three British-born Punjabi sisters are tasked with fulfilling her dying wish: returning to Punjab to make the pilgrimage she never could. The sisters were never terribly close, and now that they’re older, don’t get along at all—but how can they refuse their mother’s last wish to scatter her ashes in her homeland? They’re all dreading the trip, but once they’re together, they find it’s not as bad as they feared, and they begin to understand one another once again. But each sister is keeping a serious secret, and it’s unclear if when revealed, those secrets will cement the sisters’ relationship, or destroy it. This novel deals in serious issues—love, sisterhood, grief, immigration—but the high zany factor keeps the mood light.More info →
This much-anticipated novel from the author of Girl in Translation is part suspenseful mystery, part family drama, and inspired by a real-life tragedy in Kwok’s past. The story begins when her family discovers Sylvie—the beautiful, confident golden child of her family—visits the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother, and then vanishes. As her family searches for her, we learn about the family’s complicated past and Sylvie’s own upbringing as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, first in Netherlands, then in New York. Her sister’s pursuit reveals a series of increasingly startlingly secrets, but no easy answers. Compulsively readable, with an ending I didn’t see coming. For fans of Everything Here is Beautiful and Everything I Never Told You.More info →
In the ten years she’s known her, Lucy has never felt her mother-in-law Diana approved of her—an especial disappointment because she’d hoped Diana would finally be the mother she’d never had. Yet she’s distraught when the police show up to announce that Diana has died by apparent suicide—and even more so when they reveal that the evidence points to possible murder. As we get to know the family members, we discover each of them had a motive to harm Diana, and stood to benefit from her death. The story is told alternately from Lucy and Diana’s points of view, so we get to understand what’s going on in their minds, and how badly they misunderstand each other through the years. But is it badly enough to lead to murder? A wholly satisfying domestic mystery, perfect for Liane Moriarty fans, that kept me guessing till the end. I devoured this on audio.More info →
The night before Abi turned 16, her brother vanished. That same year, she begins to receive strange packages in the mail: chapters from an odd little self-help book called The Guidebook. Those chapters provided hope when she needed it, and have always felt intimately connected to her brother’s unsolved disappearance. When, at age 35, she’s invited to a retreat on a remote Australian island to learn the truth about The Guidebook, she can’t say no. The truth is bewildering, but for the first time in years, hope does begin to glimmer again. The style is quirky and playful, the sense of humor wry. Gravity is sad but heartwarming, tender and funny, a little familiar yet wholly original. For fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Nine Perfect Strangers.More info →