This year’s guide includes 30 titles—or 42, if you got the expanded edition—as well as tips on how to get more out of your summer reading and my favorites from past guides. But just for fun (and like we’ve done since 2014, believe it or not) I’m narrowing the choices down to five total. (Minimalists and decision haters, rejoice!)
It’s never easy to choose just five titles to spotlight, but this year was torture, because there are so many great books in this year’s guide. That being said, for this minimalist edition I strove to select titles that were highly engaging, skillfully written, and wonderfully discussable.
These stories will keep you turning the pages, sure, but they also have substance. While easy to read, these titles are wonderfully thought-provoking and discussable.
Speaking of discussable: it’s no coincidence that three of these titles are Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club selections. We’re reading This Tender Land in June, The Last Train to Key West in July, and The Jane Austen Society in August. I’m thrilled that each author will be joining us to chat; click here for the full calendar.
I hope you enjoy this short and sweet summer list, and I’d love to hear more about your own summer selections in the comments.
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Part Grapes of Wrath, part Huckleberry Finn: this tough and tender coming-of-age story focuses on four Minnesota kids during the Great Depression, whose respective situations become ever more impossible due to human cruelty and circumstance. After a tornado demolishes the last of life as they know it, they realize no one is going to save them—and so they make a plan to save themselves that starts with escaping down the river. This is one of my husband Will’s favorite books of the year. A great story, beautifully told. More info →
In this standalone novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, three women’s lives become entangled over the course of Labor Day weekend, 1935, when the storm of the century slams into Key West. The story is told from three perspectives, that of three different women who seem to share little in common, but whose lives are about to intersect in ways no one could foresee. Helen is a Key West native, poor and pregnant, fleeing her abusive husband. Mirta is Cuban, newly married to a man she barely knows, and just beginning her honeymoon. And Elizabeth, who’s come south on a dangerous search for a long-lost loved one. A captivating novel about a little-known historical event. More info →
This charming debut is sure to delight Austen fans. Jane Austen lived out her last days in the sleepy village of Chawton, and in the days just after World War II, her legacy still looms large. Times are hard, and we meet several villagers burdened with their own private sorrows, who are doing what they’ve always done: turning to the works of Austen for solace. When a local business attempts to buy the Austen property and raze her cottage, the villagers band together to preserve her legacy. At one point, a character muses that Austen’s works present “a world so a part of our own, yet so separate, that entering it is like some kind of tonic.” The same can be said of Jenner’s wonderful book. More info →
Finally, a follow-up to Bennett’s smashing debut The Mothers—and it's worth the wait. Identical twins Desiree and Stella grew up in a town so small it doesn't appear on maps. They're closer than close, so Desiree is shocked when Stella vanishes one night after deciding to sacrifice her past—and her relationship with her family—in order to marry a white man, who doesn't know she's black. Desiree never expects to see her sister again. The twins grow up, make lives for themselves, and raise daughters—and it's those daughters who bring the sisters together again. It's a reunion Stella both longs for and fears, because she can't reveal the truth without admitting her whole life is a lie. Bennett expertly weaves themes of family, race, identity, and belonging into one juicy, unputdownable novel spanning five turbulent decades. More info →
Jemisin’s new urban fantasy, packed with explosive energy and astonishing worldbuilding, is the first installment of a planned trilogy. Every city has a soul, and the great cities of civilization—like Rome, Athens, São Paolo—finally reach a point when they come to life. Now it’s New York’s time to be born, but the city itself is too weakened by a gruesome attack to complete the process. If New York is to live, five people—or, more precisely, five avatars, one for each of the city’s boroughs—must rise up and unite to evade, and then destroy, the creeping tentacles of their opponent, the amorphous power personified by the Woman in White. Jemisin layers her fantasy upon a deeply realistic modern-day New York. A wild and wonderful ride, fantastically inventive and imaginative. More info →
What’s on your summer reading list? And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above books in comments.