Whether your summer plans involve lounging on a breezy beach, kicking it in a cabin in the mountains, road tripping across the US, or just sprawling on a blanket on the grass of a local park, summer is the perfect time to step back from your busy life and sink into a great book. These ten novels, ranging from tales of teenage rebellion to unputdownable historical fiction to powerful portrayals of difficult issues, would make for great summer reading!
1. The Fever by Megan Abbott. A mysterious illness sweeps through the female students at a suburban high school, sparking confusion and hysteria as the parents search for answers. Megan Abbott is a master at writing teen girls, and The Fever is a gripping, unique novel about the stresses young women feel and the way society silences them.
2. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. After her friend is shot in the head through the window of a railroad saloon in 1876, a French burlesque dancer sets out on a quest to solve the murder and bring the killer to justice. Based on a real unsolved murder, Frog Music is a sweaty, gripping romp through a boomtown San Francisco populated with unforgettable characters.
3. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. Nine years after her survivalist father takes eight-year-old Peggy to a dilapidated cabin in the woods and tells her the rest of the world has been destroyed, she finds her way back to civilization and the mother she left behind. This expertly crafted novel unravels her experience while making keen observations about family secrets.
4. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Right outside the gates of her father’s palatial Haitian estate, Mirielle is abducted and held for ransom. She is held captive for 13 days, during which she suffers horrible brutalities — but her struggle doesn’t end when she is released. Devastating and poetic, An Untamed State is a thought-provoking contemplation of privilege and desperation, damage and recovery.
5. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. Sick of her boring, virginal self, 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a top-hat-wearing badass who is always up for drinks, cigarettes, and sex. But how long can she keep up this facade before it all comes crashing down on her? How to Build a Girl is filled with cringe-worthy teen moments; sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll; and, ultimately, a celebration of dorky happiness over hip cynicism.
6. The Shore by Sara Taylor. This collection of linked short stories, set on a cluster of barrier islands off the coast of Virginia and spanning generations, introduces readers to a vibrant cast of characters. A novel as harsh and beautiful as the land it is based on, The Shore is an atmospheric ode to the bonds of family and the unshakeable feeling of home.
7. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh. During the sweltering summer of 1989, an idyllic suburban neighborhood is rocked by the rape of a 15-year old girl just down the street from her home. Decades later, her childhood neighbor reflects on that summer and the roller coaster years that followed. My Sunshine Away is at once a gripping whodunnit and a beautifully rendered coming-of-age story.
8. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. Beginning ten days before Hurricane Katrina and ending the day after, Salvage the Bones follows Esch, a pregnant, love-starved 15-year-old. It’s a haunting, gorgeously written coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Southern poverty and one of the greatest natural disasters to hit the U.S.
9. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. At a summer camp for artistic teens, Jules falls in with a group of friends who change her life. This novel follows the Interestings through the decades as some of them find success in their artistic endeavors, some struggle to make it in their creative fields, and others are forced to abandon the arts. Wolitzer has fascinating things to say about art, envy, and life-long friendships.
10. Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood. Broken into four sections, this slim novel gives voice to each of Ernest Hemingway’s wives: Hadley, Fife, Martha, and Mary. These vibrant individuals are fascinating in their own right, but together they also paint a compelling, nuanced portrait of one of America’s greatest authors. For compelling historical fiction, look no further.
What are your favorite books to read during the summer?