2021 Team Best Books of Summer
Keeper of the Lost Cities

Keeper of the Lost Cities

From Donna: I’m obsessed with this series. The first book focuses on a twelve year old girl, Sophie, who learns she’s actually an elf. When taken by elves to another world full of creatures, she realizes her history is quite complicated, and she’s got magical powers to wield. Featuring a ton of action, adventure, and edge-of-your-seat-excitement, this series also has a lot of emotional heft. The kids at Sophie’s new magical school deal with stress, anxiety, grief, and relationships making for a layered page-turner. I recently heard these books might also be adapted for the screen, as directed by Ben Affleck. I've devoured each one in a couple of days and can't wait to see what comes next for the characters. More info →
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Crow Lake

Crow Lake

From Will: I judged a book by its cover (and the first line of the jacket description), and I was rewarded. That first line: "Here is a gorgeous, slow-burning story set in the rural 'badlands' of northern Ontario, where heartbreak and hardship are mirrored in the landscape." Most of the action takes place in a small farming community where the Morrison siblings discover their love of zoology and the world around them—and the surrounding farm families deal with tragic events. Great nature writing and a slow building tension made this story of a broken family not only one of my favorites of the summer but the whole year. More info →
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The Summer Book

The Summer Book

From Chelsey: If, like me, your reading taste is on the moody, contemplative side this season, add Tove Jansson's short novel in translation to your TBR list. In a series of short vignettes, we follow Grandmother and her young granddaughter Sophia as they live on a small island in the Gulf of Finland. Some scenes are hilarious (when Grandmother says a bad word in front of Sophia simply to distract her) and some scenes are dark and poignant (when Sophia questions Grandmother about life, death, and grief after losing her mother). Jansson's vivid nature descriptions of the island in the summertime swept me away; the charming and oh so real characters will linger with me for the rest of the year. More info →
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My Side of the Mountain

My Side of the Mountain

From Brenna: I've enjoyed revisiting formative books from my childhood this season, and most of them have held up surprisingly well for me as an adult! This Newbery Honor Book follows Sam Gribley, a boy who's tired of living in New York City and wants an adventure. When he declares he's running away from home, his father shrugs it off, but after reading survival books at the library, Sam journeys all the way up to the Catskill mountains. Relying on his knowledge and instincts, he lives in a hollowed-out stump, learns how to forage and fish, and spends an entire year living alone in nature. I put on nature sounds for ambience and read this charming novel cover to cover in one sitting. I can't wait to pick up the rest of the series soon. More info →
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A Psalm for the Wild-Built

A Psalm for the Wild-Built

From Shannan: Chambers dedicates this novella to anyone “who needs a break.” I definitely was in need of a break when I read it, and it was a balm to my weary soul. The intriguing premise involves a nonbinary tea monk who embarks on a personal quest and meets a robot, the likes of which haven’t been seen by humans for a few hundred years. If you would like to escape to a quieter and gentler world, this is the pick for you. One of my favorite quotes was “it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that or earn it. You are allowed to live.” I'm so glad this is the first in a series; I cannot wait for the next iteration. More info →
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God Spare the Girls

God Spare the Girls

From Anne: I couldn't resist this new release after Anne Helen Peterson mentioned it in Episode 284: I need an irresistible read this summer. I'd describe it as The Book of Essie meets Olympus, Texas. McKinney's debut novel is set in the insular small town of Hope, Texas where evangelical megachurch pastor Luke Nolan is both revered pastor and local celebrity. But this is really the story of his daughters, Abigail and Caroline, who find themselves at a crossroads when information about their father comes to light and throws their core beliefs into question. Part coming of age story, part family drama, this modern story of community and identity completely drew me in. More info →
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Olympus, Texas: A Novel

Olympus, Texas: A Novel

From Ginger: When Will and I recorded our conversation, this Summer Reading Guide selection was next on my TBR list. Now that I’ve read it, it moved lists from my TBR to my top books of the year. I know the year is only half over, but I’d have to read some awfully good books for this to get booted. When I mentioned that it cracked my top ten to a friend earlier this week, she said to me, “so that means I should not read it, right?” She knows her own reading life well. I replied with a resounding “don’t touch it” in her case because if you’re not in the mood for a big messy family story, steer clear. Love is complicated in this web of siblings, marriages, neighbors. I’ll take my own "real life" relationships nice and simple please, but I’ll take my novels nice and complex. More info →
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Sing Anyway

Sing Anyway

From Leigh: Do you ever start a debut and think to yourself, “where has this been all my life” and then you get real excited to see where an author’s career goes from there? That is exactly how I felt from the start of this contemporary romance novella, featuring Sam, a nonbinary history professor, and Lily, a veterinary receptionist, who meet at a karaoke bar. I was immediately swept away into Sam's karaoke experience when their friends don’t show up for their usual night out. But this turns out to be Sam’s gain because it means their only focus is on Lily, another regular who knows how to rock a song and can make a killer dress that suits her fat body perfectly. The way the chemistry built between these two! The scenes—the characters—felt so alive to me. I wanted to put Sam and Lily in my pocket or go on stage and join them in a song or two. Note: this one is open door (and really packs some steam!). More info →
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