Most people look at the summer months on the calendar and fill in the days with vacations, outdoor plans, and long weekends with friends. Book people do this, too, but they also tend to fill in their calendars with epic reading goals. Long plane ride planned? Perfect for the family saga you’ve been meaning to dive into. Girls trip with party hats and mimosas? Must be time to pull out the friendship-gone-wrong suspense thriller. Stopping by a historic site on your road trip? Time for a critically acclaimed historical narrative. But whatever pages you end up turning, it’s always a shock by the time August arrives—how will you get through your summer TBR by the end of the season? Hopefully this list of my favorite recent books will help guide you through these last few weeks of summer reading.
When it’s 95°F in New York City, the idea of a lido—an outdoor swimming pool—sounds like heaven! In MORNINGS WITH ROSEMARY, an octogenarian widow Rosemary finds solace in daily swims at her local London lido, but is devastated when she learns the pool is the target of a developer’s plans to shut it down for good. Rosemary befriends local journalist Kate, and together they campaign to save the lido. It’s a charming story, both the women’s friendship and Rosemary’s own romance that began at the lido generations earlier, and a perfect poolside read.
Nothing better than spending all summer in nature, especially if you have the option to go hiking! In ON TRAILS, essayist Robert Moor explores an idea he became captivated with while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail: the paths beneath our feet. Weaving his own nomadic adventures with philosophical meditations and eclectic research, Moor follows this inquiry from the creation of mountain trails to national highways to information pathways like the Internet. It’s an informative and unforgettable read that will make you look at the world with new eyes.
One of my favorite books this month, and quite possibly this whole year! A stunning debut following the lives of two couples as they fall in love, marry, and eventually meet when the two husbands become copastors of a Greenwich Village church. The novel details the greatest tests of faith and devotion and leaves the reader thinking about the true meaning of love and belief.
I love when a novel leads me to another, which is exactly what happened after finishing THE DEARLY BELOVED. I was curious how other fiction dealt with matters of faith and big-picture questions of love and humanity, and happily picked up Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. GILEAD written as a long letter from an aging Iowan reverend to his young son, begun first as a way to leave words of wisdom but becomes the story of their family’s history and meditations on life’s challenges, from morality to joy to inheritance and creation. Like THE DEARLY BELOVED, it’s not a religious book so much as a work willing to tackle the heaviest of topics with grace and light.
As much as everyone is reading all summer, there’s definitely a lot of binge-watching going on too! Queen Sugar is a critically acclaimed drama produced by Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, but everyone should read the novel on which it’s based regardless of whether you’ve seen the show. Set in modern-day Louisiana, it follows a young widow, Charley, who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane plantation near her father’s hometown following his death. She returns to the area with her son in order to work the cane and is met with what seem to be insurmountable obstacles: modern racism, neglected lands, diminishing funds, even a bitter half-brother who believes the land should be his. Charley is a feminist firecracker of a heroine and faces everything this new world has to throw at her with grit and determination.
In QUEEN SUGAR, an African American woman from Louisiana unexpectedly inherits 800 acres of sugarcane land in Louisiana. But those who doubt her say that cane farming is a white man’s business and she struggles to keep up with the demands of a declining farm and a family.