Past Summer Reading Guide audiobooks

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.
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This tough and tender coming-of–age story is Part Grapes of Wrath and part Huckleberry Finn, while mirroring The Odyssey’s narrative. The tale centers 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 in a canoe. Their little band by turns encounters kind strangers and others all too willing to exploit vulnerable children. For those of you who say my husband Will is your book twin: he loved this. An epic story, beautifully told, and one that contains perhaps the finest setup-and-payoff sequence I’ve read in years. Content warnings apply. For fans of Krueger’s Ordinary Grace and Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions.
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This weird and wonderful story focuses on a powerful Southern political family with one tiny problem: when their kids get mad, they spontaneously combust. The husband is angling to become Secretary of State, and may even run for president one day—but if the truth gets out, his career is over. And so the family calls on an unlikely candidate to step in as a nanny-of-sorts: an estranged old friend with a troubled past who has no idea what she’s in for. A surprisingly poignant meditation on friendship and motherhood, hopes and dreams, triumph and defeat, and a story about becoming your own person, and forming your own family—whether that’s the one you’re given, or the one you find. This is a SHORT book, so if you need some momentum in your reading life, this could be the ticket.
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This WWII novel tells the story of Nancy Wake, the unsung French Resistance leader who was #1 on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list by the end of the war. The real Nancy was larger than life; bold, bawdy, and brazen—a woman who, as the only female among thousands of French men, was not only respected as an equal, but revered as a leader. The story is set during WWII, yes—a setting the author says she came to kicking and screaming, because there are a lot these days—but at its heart this is a story of friendship, and of love. Nancy leaps off the page with her Victory Red lipstick, snappy one-liners, and incredible bravery. Riveting.
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In the second of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, which can be read in any order, detective Cassie Maddux is pulled off her current beat and sent to investigate a murder. When she arrives at the scene, she finds the victim looks just like her, and—even more creepy—she was using an alias that Cassie used in a previous case. The victim was a student, and her boss talks her into trying to crack the case by impersonating her, explaining to her friends that she survived the attempted murder. The victim lived with four other students in a strangely intimate, isolated setting, and as Cassie gets to know them, liking them almost in spite of herself, her boundaries—and loyalties—begin to blur. A taut psychological thriller that keeps you guessing till the end.
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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. Don’t miss Jenner’s 2022 novel Bloomsbury Girls, out May 17; audiophiles should know Juliet Stevenson narrates. For fans of Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Charlie Lovett’s The Last Book of the Grail.
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Renowned travel writer Bryson takes to the Appalachian Trail in this laugh-out-loud travel memoir. After returning to America after 20 years in England, Bryson reconnects with his home country by walking 800 of the AT’s 2100 miles, many of them with his cranky companion Katz, who serves as a brilliant foil to Bryson’s scholarly wit. A superb hiking memoir that skillfully combines laugh-out-loud anecdotes with serious discussions about history, ecology, and wilderness trivia. Droll, witty, entertaining.
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The Poet X author Acevedo dedicates her new novel in verse to the memory of the lives lost on American Airlines flight 587, the passenger flight that crashed en route to Santo Domingo from JFK on November 12, 2001. Taking this historical event as her leaping off point, Acevedo tells the story of two teenage girls—one in New York, one in Santo Domingo—who are shocked to discover they are sisters in the aftermath of the crash, when the truth of their father’s double life was unceremoniously revealed. The girls tentatively bond as they explore the love—and pain—they share. A lyrical, heartfelt exploration of what it means to discover secrets, to find family, and to discover your own hidden resources in the face of great loss, and surprising joy.
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This inspirational memoir's epigraph bears quotes from Maya Angelou and Christina from Grey's Anatomy, which gives you a good idea of what you'll find inside. Rhimes is the queen of Thursday night tv, creating and producing smash hits like Grey's and Scandal. This time she's telling her own story of how her sister issued her a six-word wake-up call—You never say yes to anything—and the year of YES that followed. I saw parts of myself all over this and absolutely loved the last chapter when the author discovers what her big year was really about. Heads up for audio lovers: Rhimes reads her own work for the audio version. Published November 10 2015.
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Don’t be fooled by the cheery cover; I loved this book, but it’s no rom-com. January is a 29-year-old romance writer who no longer believes in happily-ever-after. Demoralized and broke, she moves into the beach house she inherited when her father died, hoping to lick her wounds and finish her current manuscript. But then, in a cruel twist of fate, she discovers her neighbor is the beloved literary fiction writer Augustus Everett, her college rival (and crush), whom she was hoping to never see again. It turns out Gus has troubles of his own, and so the two make a bet to get their writing back on track: January will try her hand at the “bleak literary fiction” that Gus writes, and Gus will write a romance novel. A warm and delightfully meta take on love, writing, and second chances.
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A new literary mystery, scavenger-hunt style, from the author of The Bookman's Tale and First Impressions. Arthur is a staid and steady—perhaps a trifle boring?—old-school Brit; Bethany is a techie American who's come to his English library to digitize his beloved ancient manuscripts. Arthur's smitten, yet quite concerned—will she interfere with his personal quest for the Grail? Books, romance, and literary high jinx—what's not to love? Publication date: February 28.
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In this delightful follow-up to The Friend Zone, bestie Sloan gets her own story. After an adorable (and extended) meet-cute involving a stray pup, Sloan strikes up a flirty text thread with the dog’s owner, who’s out of the country for work. These texts turn into emails, and then hours-long phone calls; the two haven’t met in person but the connection is undeniable. It’s the first time Sloan has felt excited about anything since her fiancé died two year ago. But can a touring musician make a relationship work—and does Sloan even want it to? You’ll have more context if you read The Friend Zone first, but this novel absolutely stands on its own. Heads up: there’s a steamy open-door scene or two here.
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At age 16, Starr Carter has lost two close friends to gun violence: one in a drive-by; one shot by a cop. The latter is the focus of this novel: Starr is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer. She is the sole witness. Thomas seamlessly blends current events with lower-stakes themes common to teens everywhere, with great success. Fun fact: the title comes from a Tupac lyric. Publication date: February 28.
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I was a little skeptical when I first picked this up: I mean, a tell-all “documentary” about a fictional 1970s band? It took Taylor Jenkins Reid about three pages to win me over, with her fast-moving storyline and characters so convincing I had to google again to make sure the band wasn’t really real. The plot revolves around Billy Dunne, the tortured, talented lead singer for the Six, and Daisy Jones, the beautiful, soulful girl with a troubled past who catapults the Six to fame when she begins singing—and writing—their songs. Daisy and Billy’s chemistry is electric, and fans can’t get enough of it. We know from the beginning that the story is about why the band broke up, and the reasons are both expected and hold a big surprise, unfurled in an engrossing story of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.
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I can't do better than my bookstore-owning friend Holland to sum this one up: Imagine The Help meets Comic Con, and you've got this story about right. Talented graphic novelist Leia finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after a drunken one-night-stand at a comic book convention. She doesn't know the father's name, but he looked awfully cute in his Batman suit. As Leia absorbs the knowledge that she'll soon be a mother to a biracial baby, she is summoned home to Alabama to do what she can for her struggling family—her stepsister's unraveling marriage, her grandmother's worsening dementia, and a shocking secret hidden in the family attic. This is a fast-reading, big-hearted novel that tackles Serious Issues really, really well—while spinning a terrific story.
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