The 2018 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide

The 2018 Summer Reading Guide is here. This year’s guide contains 25 (soon to be 26) titles that are perfect for the beach, pool or backyard. But just for fun (and just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that) I’m narrowing the choices down to 5 total. (Minimalists and decision haters, rejoice!)

These top 5 titles are hugely entertaining, have broad appeal, and cover a wide variety of topics, themes, genres, and perspectives. Despite their variety, they all have two crucial things in common: they’re really good, and they embody what a summer read should be. They’ll keep you turning the pages, sure, but they also have substance—and I hope you’ll find them wonderfully thought-provoking and discussable.

I’ve listed my top 5 in order, by publication date. Later this week I’ll release a categorized version of the Summer Reading Guide. Stay tuned!

The Widows of Malabar Hill
by Sujata Massey
Easy to read but hugely discussable, and based on an actual groundbreaking woman of history. Perveen Mistry is Bombay’s first female solicitor, employed by her father’s respected firm to handle contract and estate work. When her father’s Muslim client dies, he is tasked with executing the will, but the three devout widows live in full purdah: they “stay behind the veil,” and must not be seen by men. When the father and daughter duo discover irregularities in the estate documents, Perveen resolves to speak with the widows, because—as a woman—she’s the only one who can. Perveen is determined to protect their interests, not just because of her legal obligations but because of a disastrous past marriage, where she experienced firsthand the cruelty women are forced to endure under the law.
Toss in a murder investigation, and you get a tightly-crafted mystery, a vividly-drawn multicultural setting, and a plucky heroine fiercely taking on the challenges of her time.  Publication date: January 9.


The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah
Easily one of the best books I’ll read all year; my husband loved it, too—and that’s saying something. It’s 1974, and Leni Allbright’s father Ernt, a former Vietnam POW, suffers from terrifying PTSD. The family moves to Alaska in search of a fresh start, but they’re utterly unprepared for the harsh reality that greets them. As Large Marge says, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next…. Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” But Large Marge doesn’t yet know Leni fears the violence in her home more than the brutal landscape. As winter draws near and darkness closes in, Ernt’s mental health deteriorates, with disastrous consequences for the family and community. Yet Leni will find a way to survive—and maybe even thrive.
This riveting coming of age story features a fabulous setting, amazing female leads, and ultimate redemption. But wow, is it tense in the meantime. A Book of the Month Club selectionPublication date: February 6.


I'll Be Your Blue Sky
I’ll Be Your Blue Sky
by Marisa De Los Santos
In her latest novel, Marisa de los Santos returns to the characters she first introduced in Love Walked In. (This book stands alone; no need to read the previous books first.) The day before her wedding, Clare has cold feet. Enter Edith, an elderly stranger Clare connects with instantly, who nudges Clare to cancel her wedding to a man who scares her. Not long after, Clare receives notice that Edith has died, and bequeathed her a strange gift—her house. Clare seeks refuge there after her nonwedding, and soon learns hints of the past role the house—and Edith—played in a “relocation system” that served women fleeing domestic violence in the 1950s. The story flips back and forth in time between Clare’s current romantic dilemma and the 1950s mystery.
This is the sequel I didn’t know I wanted, easy to read while covering serious emotional territory, packed with literary references that will warm book lovers’ hearts. Publication date: March 6.


A Place For Us
A Place For Us
by Fatima Farheen Mirza
I adored Mirza’s slow-burning debut about an Indian-American Muslim family, which skillfully probes themes of identity, culture, family, and generational change. “I am to see to it that I do not lose you,” reads the epigraph (Whitman), and the story wonders if, despite our best intentions, one might nevertheless wound someone they love deeply enough to lose them, forever. The story opens with the oldest daughter’s wedding: the bride scans the crowd for her beloved yet rebellious brother, hoping he’ll appear despite being estranged from the family for years. Through a series of flashbacks, and in rotating points of view, Mirza examines the series of small betrayals that splintered the family, skillfully imbuing quotidian events—a chance meeting at a party, a dinner conversation about a spelling test—with deep significance, showing how despite their smallness, they irrevocably alter the course of the family’s life. The last section, told from the father’s perspective, is a stunner—but grab the tissues first.
If you, like me, love literary novels that read like page-turners, this is the summer read for you.  Publication date: June 12.


What We Were Promised
What We Were Promised
by Lucy Tan
The guide doesn’t typically include books published after July 4, but this immersive debut which glides smoothly between cultures is way too good to leave out. After twenty years abroad, the Zhens return to their native China to take up residence among Shanghai’s nouveau riche. But deep unease lies behind the façade of their pampered lifestyle: husband Wei finds no satisfaction at work, wife Lina spends her days shopping and lunching, and both miss their daughter, who attends school in America. When Wei’s long-lost brother reappears, he stirs up a host of long-buried emotions, forcing Lina to revisit past choices she hid from her husband. A second story line follows Sunny, the Zhens housekeeper and nanny, who also faces difficult choices about what she wants from her friends, her family, and her future. The backdrop of contemporary Shanghai and a national festival highlights how the family embodies China’s current conflicts and complexities: rich vs poor, urban vs rural, old vs new values.
A compelling story of class, culture, regret, and anxiety about the road not taken.  Publication date: July 10.


We are reading three of these titles together this summer in the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. We’re about to release our Summer Syllabus, which makes this a terrific time to join—you don’t want to miss the new Get More Out of Your Library class or our book club discussions with Maria De Los Santos and Sujata Massey.

Don’t miss it!

Click here to visit the full 2018 Summer Reading Guide. Enter your email address on the page to get your free printables—a one-page guide and summer reading bookmarks—and to enter the giveaway to win your choice of any five books from the Summer Reading Guide.

Happy browsing, and happy reading!


Leave A Comment
  1. Meghan says:

    Thanks for the short list; it really helps me to decide my first picks from your wonderful summer lists! I just ordered The Great Alone and A Place for Us!

  2. Colleen says:

    Does “I’ll Be Your Blue Sky” stand alone or is it necessary to have read the previous book to really enjoy it?

    • Anne says:

      If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll have those fun moments of recognition that come with knowing characters and connection. But this is a bonus, not an essential. Hope that helps!

  3. Christine says:

    Help, readers! I managed to snag The Great Alone from the library; however, I’ve not had a chance to start it. Now I have two days remaining. Is this the kind of book I’d love to tear through tonight and tomorrow evening, or should I surrender it back to the library and wait until I really have time to savor it?
    Thank you!

  4. Faith Raider says:

    Thanks for this list Anne! I get into decision overload with the longer list… plus my request list at the library can only be so long…
    “I’ll Be Your Blue Sky” is SO good!! I tore through it in 24 hours and loved every page.
    I read maybe 1/3 of “The Great Alone” before it was due back at the library. Will request it again for sure. It is so beautiful.

  5. Rose says:

    I love Maria de Los Santos and glad it’s stand alone. I’ve read Love Walked In but so long ago I don’t remember it!

  6. Annette Silveira says:

    Three of these five are on my TBR the long list. I’m very excited and need to get my hold requests in at the library.

  7. Sarah says:

    Hi Sachi,
    I’m sure you’ve read it, but I couldn’t help thinking about The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane for you!

  8. Sheree says:

    Argh, I *must* get around to reading The Great Alone – I feel so out of step with the world, it seems like everyone I know has read it and loved it! Clearly, I’m in need of a minimalist list – does it count as being indecisive if you see a recommended reading guide and simply decide to read *all* of them? 😉

  9. Kimiko says:

    Thank you! My home doesn’t thank you, because I’ve spent all week sneaking time to read “The Widows of Malabar Hill” and I’m back here now, since I finished it and want more! It’s summer, right? Almost? Can’t wait for “The Great Alone” to get here.

  10. KirstenNB says:

    I loved I’ll be Your Blue Skies! I actually listened to the audiobook and just couldn’t “put it down”.
    I’ve gotten The Great Alone from the library a few times, but always when I’m in the middle of listening to something else. I’ll have to put it back on my priority list.
    Thanks for the great recommendations!

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