I wanted to start this post by telling you how summer is the perfect time for reading: lazy days by the pool, weekend road trips, cool nights on the patio.
But then I realized I’d say the same thing about winter reading: free afternoons wrapped in blankets on the couch, evenings by the fire, early to bed because it’s so dark out there isn’t really anything else to do.
There’s really not a bad season to consume books is what I’m saying. Maybe just different books for different seasons? I could argue for and against that.
Just read books.
Bottom line: just read books.
Here are books I’ve read recently that moved me, kept me up all night, or still haunt me even after I’ve returned it to the library:
(Edit note: I’m having some technical issues with my site right now. If you can’t see a review or the text seems off, it’s being worked on and should be back to normal soon. Hopefully.)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Oh, Eleanor. You’ve probably read this one already or at least heard of it. It’s a bestseller and Reese Witherspoon picked it for her book club. But when too many people rave about something, I’m suspicious and avoid it. Don’t ask why, I just do. But now I’m here to tell you to read this beautiful book as soon as you can. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is wonderful and funny, sad and shocking. There were times I didn’t like her (she’s so rude!), but as the story progresses, we get glimpses of the broken pieces and by the end, you cannot help but love her. And the ending! the twist! Gah, read this right now please and thank you
Educated by Tara Westover
We read Educated for book club in late winter. This memoir is about Westover’s unconventional childhood growing up in the Idaho mountains with a mentally ill father and family. The Westovers are anti-government, live off the grid Mormons who do not school their children. Her childhood is violent, abusive, and hard. These stories will feel unbelievable at times; Westover’s resilence is encouraging and hopeful. After our book club talk, we all spent time stalking the family online. I hope this isn’t the last we hear from Tara Westover. She is still young and has a lot of healing to do, and I’m hopeful she can reconcile her past with her present in a way that doesn’t feel so damaged.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Dorothy showed up to book club, handed me this book, and said she thought I’d like it. She was right. My Sister, the Serial Killer is a short, dark read about Korede and her beautiful younger sister who keeps killing her boyfriends. Korede is smart and plain and often overlooked, and when her sister starts stabbing her boyfriends in “self-defense,” Korede helps her clean up. But the bodies are starting to pile up and Korede can’t keep this up, especially as her sister sets her sights on a kind, gorgeous doctor Korede works with. This is a quick read, but creepy and good too
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
This books haunts me. The story starts out with two rookie cops who quickly become intertwined through proximity, family, violence, and trauma. The cops’ children, Pete and Kate, are the main characters and the book follows them from the beginning of their parents’ relationships to their eventual marriage and their own family. In between is heartache, addiction, bad choices, and childhood wounds. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t know what I was picking up when I grabbed Ask Again, Yes off the shelf at the library; it looked interesting, and it was on the display case. I’m a sucker for display case books. About halfway through, I realized the parallels to real life for me were, at times, too much. I have never read a book and felt moved to contact the author, but the way Keane writes about childhood trauma, a mentally ill mother, a father who abandons his family, a son who keeps it together until one day he can’t, and alcoholism was too real to be made up. I just want to ask her how she knows, how she knows what it all feels like. How does she know what you think when it all happens and how, how did she know? This is fiction that feels like real life; fiction that has to be written from experience. I sobbed through some chapter. This hurt to read, but it was good and beautiful too. I would never have the words to write what she did so well, and I’m glad this exists in the world.
Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner
Since I left the classroom, I’ve been skipping young adult novels, but for this I am asking for forgiveness. Thankfully, a friend got me a subscription to a monthly YA book club and they’ve been showing up on my doorstep this year forcing me to read them again. Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is a fun book about high school best friends as they try to balance senior year, new relationships, and expectations. I was a little hesitant to read a book about female friendship from a male, but Zentner did a good job of writing smart girls who don’t just have sleepovers, pillow fights, and obsess over boys. This is a book that reminds me how good YA lit can be and you don’t have to be a teenager to enjoy it.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Born a Crime is a moving account of Noah’s childhood growing up in apartheid in South Africa, hidden because his mother was black and his father was white. He was not literally not supposed to exist. When he’s still a boy, apartheid ends and his world changes forever. I loved Noah’s stories, a mix of history, commentary, humor, and lessons, his writing style and his intelligence make hard topics accessible and relevant. A few people told me to listen to the audio book for this one because Noah reads it, but the waitlist was too long at the library. I read the book, but if you have the ability to listen, I bet it would be even more wonderful than the already-wonderful book…if that’s possible
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Look, I know I’m late to this party. Whatever. If you haven’t read The Glass Castle, please read it. It’s along the same memoir genre as Educated, but a different family, a different mental illness, and a different outcome. I’m drawn to memoir because I write a lot of it, but even if that’s not your thing, this book about a family growing up in extreme poverty and constant transiency is engaging and interesting. (Also, there’s a movie, but I haven’t seen it. I’m normally against books made into movies, but if it shows up on Netflix, I might watch it.)
Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
This isn’t a life-changing YA book, but it was fun to read and I consumed it in one weekend. It’s the common plot of a dorky girl and a bad boy falling in love. Nothing surprising, but why I loved Call It What You Want so much is because of the topics and minor characters. Things this book addresses that would be good for kids to read: the main character is in a platonic friendship with a gay character and it’s not made weird; there is a lot of discussion between characters about privilege and money and the haves and have nots; and there is a crime in town that wrecks a lot of lives and forgiveness is a huge component of this story. The story might be a little basic, but the details aren’t and this would be a great book for high school kids to read and discuss. There are a few make-out scenes, but nothing too risky or inappropriate.
Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
Marisa De Los Santos writes good summer reading. I wouldn’t call it chick lit because the term holds so many negative connotations, but if chick lit were not looked down on , this would be a good example of why it’s wonderful and you should be reading chick lit. Adult love and relationships and heartache and family, a vacation read that could also just keep you up late on a school night. I accidentally picked up the sequel to Love Walked In years ago and read it before I realized it was not a stand-alone book. When I started this one, it sorta annoyed me because there is a lot of internal dialogue from the main character and I felt it was unnecessary, but once I fell into the rhymth of the characters and De Los Santos’ writing style, I really enjoyed this book. Just fun fiction that makes you sad when it’s over.
Have you read anything amazing lately? Tell me about it!
(Also, if books are your thing, I send out a monthly book email to subscribers telling you what you should and shouldn’t be reading. I read a lot and I love talking about it! You can sign up here to receive the book email.)
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.