Summer is the best time for reading, and now that it is July and several 80-degree (and 90-degree) days are officially in the books, it’s time to get serious about our reading lists. The right book can make or break your whole summer vibe—so I present this list of some of my favorite books so far this summer. Even if you are still eyeing your winter TBR pile, it’s time to dust off your beach bags (or shake off last year’s sand) and fill it with these refreshing reads.
What says summer like a pool? This feel-good novel follows two women who develop an unlikely friendship at the local pool that is going to soon be closed. Rosemary’s life and community have centered around the pool (the “lido”) in her neighborhood in Brixton, while Kate is assigned to write about it. This book is emotional and refreshing, and is the perfect poolside companion when you want to brighten up your day with sunny characters and a heartwarming story.
If you missed one of last summer’s biggest books, it’s not too late. Delia Owens’s beautiful novel WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is about a young woman who lives alone in the wilderness. Named Kya but often referred to as Marsh Girl by the locals, she is immediately a suspect when a scientist is found murdered. CRAWDADS is a beautiful, deeply moving book about resilience and loss, and the connections we have with nature and each other.
Lisa See’s latest novel features the female divers of Jeju Island, who dive into the ocean with minimal equipment and harvest food to eat and sell. It is a culture and time period that See expertly illustrates, while focusing on two of the “baby-divers” within a culture of women. Young-sook and Mi-ja are inseparable as children and as baby-divers, but war, family, and tragedy drive them apart. THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN is one of the best works of historical fiction this year, and a moving story of loss, forgiveness, and love.
A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.
Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.
Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.
This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.
No summer would be complete without a heart-pounding book from Stephen King. THE OUTSIDER follows a murder investigation after an 11-year-old boy’s corpse is found in the park. But as the investigation continues and begins to unwind, it becomes clear that no one is who they say they are, and nothing in the town is as it seems. It’s unsettling and gut-wrenching, and you won’t be able to put it down no matter where you’re reading it.
This novel by Pulitzer Prize finalist Susan Choi, about a performing arts school in the 1980s, is intense, riveting, and endlessly entertaining. Expertly written, it has a meta element that makes us consider why exactly we turn to fiction —to escape from reality or to expose it? Choi smartly weaves these thought-provoking questions into a narrative of a teen love story with an unforgettable plot twist.