Happy belated Memorial Day, friends! We hope you all had a lovely weekend spent relaxing by the pool or somewhere outside surrounded by sunshine—because if, like us, you live in East Texas, you’ll be kissing the splendid sun goodbye until who knows when. (Why all the rain, Houston?!) Regardless of the gloomy weather, the hottest season is undoubtedly upon us—and that means much more time for reading!
Whether you plan on jet-setting off to faraway destinations or staying put for the summer, it’s imperative to have a number of good books at arm’s length to provide a mental escape at any given moment. Lucky for you, I’ve rounded up a list of ten great ones that you’ll want to get your hands on ASAP. So, without further ado, my recommended reads:
1. The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley
“In many ways my life has been rather like a record of the lost and found. Perhaps all lives are like that.”
This novel, you guys. Kristen gifted it to me for our 2nd annual book exchange last Christmas, and I can’t believe I waited so long to read it! The Book of Lost and Found has everything that strikes my fancy: exotic locations, romantic flashbacks to the roaring ’20s, love and loss, history and art, elegant names like Alice Eversley and Kate Darling (I’m a sucker for good character names), and so much more… It’s an altogether dreamy read, and I would recommend it to anyone. Definitely topped my list of all-time favorites!
2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
I had to include this popular tearjerker in the list for two reasons. One, the movie comes out in theaters this Friday (so you have about four days to knock it out, which won’t be hard to do). And two, it is a fantastic novel. Jojo Moyes will make you laugh, cry, smile uncontrollably, and even angrily fling the paperback across the room at some point (if you’re anything like me). But that’s what a good book does—it makes you feel something, and this book in particular will make you feel a thousand things. Me Before You tackles some very tough and controversial issues, and by the end, you can’t help but empathize with every single character. So grab a glass of wine (you’re gonna need it) and snuggle up to this riveting story about life, love, and the hardest kind of heartbreak.
3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”
Ever wonder what the world might look like if a pandemic broke out and caused the end of civilization as we know it? This intensely imaginative novel paints a disturbingly realistic—yet almost lighthearted—picture of the journey from a pre- to post-apocalyptic world, and captures so elegantly the strength of the human spirit through it all. There’s a reason Emily St. John Mandel’s novel is a national bestseller, but don’t take my word for it. Read the eye-opening story while sitting on a bench in your neighborhood park or on a long train ride through the country, in appreciation of this beautiful planet we call our home—but try to avoid diving into Station Eleven while traveling by plane… (Trust me on that one.)
4. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
“I knew that I could hate him all I wanted for the way he was hurting me, but I couldn’t ever stop loving him, absolutely, for what he was.”
If you’re an Ernest Hemingway fan, this fictional account of the writer’s life in post-war Paris, as told through the eyes of his first wife, is a must-read. I borrowed The Paris Wife from Kristen (noticing a trend here?), and although it took me a while to finish it, I’d like to think that my lengthy affair with this novel was simply the result of a desire to savor each expertly-crafted paragraph. Because truly, I did love it. McLain perfectly describes the glamorous and tragic atmosphere of the “Lost Generation” through mesmerizing poetic prose, but it’s the glimpse into the wildly passionate and often complicated relationship between Ernest and Hadley that will keep you coming back for more.
5. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”
To what end should one cling to the impractical dreams of their youth? Jess Walter’s gloriously stunning tale of human connection, unfailing hope, and shattered dreams is worth dropping everything to read right now. His story is original, comical and of course, heartrending—and the characters, in all of their flawed humanity, even more so. This is the perfect book to read while reclining on the beach, or you know, confined to your couch. 😉
6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”
In all honesty, I almost didn’t include this book. Everyone and their mother has already read it, so what’s the point? But also, frankly, the writing isn’t spectacular. It’s actually bordering on mediocre (something I definitely can’t say about any other book on this list), BUT the story is undeniably captivating. It’s the only mystery novel listed, and as far as thrillers go, this one’s a page-turner. The Girl on the Train was the first novel chosen by my book club to read almost a year ago, and it took me all of five days to finish (which, if you only knew how slow of a reader I am, you’d understand the significance of that statement). So if you’re one of the few who hasn’t yet devoured it, and you’re in the mood for something fast-paced, suspenseful and easily enjoyable, join the club! I’m betting it’ll be just what the doctor ordered.
7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
My book club is currently reading this historical fiction novel, which takes place in occupied France during World War II. I’ve not been able to snag a copy, but when I do, I’m looking forward to diving in. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, and I’ve heard only good things. What more recommendation do you need?
8. Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer
“She was a very good cook and also believed that color combinations of the food on your plate were important: ‘It isn’t very interesting to eat a plate full of white, therefore it can’t be very good for you either.’”
Audrey Hepburn has been an idol of mine for as long as I can remember. The story of her life—from her turbulent childhood in war-torn Holland to her journey through Hollywood as a famous movie star to her days spent selflessly serving underprivileged kids in developing countries—is incredibly fascinating to me, and I’m super excited to read about the intimate details of who she was as a wife and mother, written by one of the people that knew her best.
9. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know—because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.”
Okay, The Beautiful and Damned wasn’t recommended to me by anyone, but it is a classic after all. Annndd it’s been collecting dust on my bookshelf for ages now. Well, I’m finally resolving to read it this summer. Not because I feel obligated, but because I’m craving something dramatic, passionate… and maybe even a bit scandalous. Also because this passage has been in my head for years.
10. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”
Recommended to me by a friend (who is also an avid reader with a fabulous book review blog—check it out!), The Graveyard Book is another novel I’m hoping to check off my list this summer for several reasons. First of all, Neil Gaiman. (Master storyteller, no more explanation needed.) And second of all, I’ve been obsessed with graveyards since I was a small child. Put those two things together, plus the fact that Elise loved it, and I’m sold.
That just about covers it, folks! I hope you enjoy a long summer break of books, books, and more books.