Summer Book Club Picks: 11 Novels Guaranteed to Enliven Discussions

July 19 2022
Share Summer Book Club Picks: 11 Novels Guaranteed to Enliven Discussions

Is your book club looking for its next discussion-worthy page-turner? Check out these eleven titles, guaranteed to keep every member of your group engaged and your next meeting thought-provoking. Better still, each of these reads is handpicked to scratch that midsummer itch, bursting with emotionally poignant charm, beautiful locales, and wistful nostalgia. Don’t have a book club yet? Use one of these must-discuss reads to jumpstart a summer book club all your own.

Tracy Flick Can't Win
by Tom Perrotta

In this insightful stand-alone sequel to ELECTION, Tracy Flick is an assistant principal at a public high school in New Jersey. Hardworking Tracy is eager to secure her promotion when the current principal announces his retirement. But she’s also juggling her grade school daughter, a needy boyfriend, and being on the Selection Committee for the Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame. As a colleague starts a determined campaign for a star quarterback with a sordid past, Tracy must revisit her own history to confront her present. This is also Book Club Favorites' July discussion pick so you know it's bursting with juicy themes and topics you'll want to chat about.

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Tracy Flick Can't Win
Tom Perrotta

Tracy Flick is back and, once again, the iconic protagonist of Tom Perrotta’s Election—and Reese Witherspoon’s character from the classic movie adaptation—is determined to take high school politics by storm.

Tracy Flick is a hardworking assistant principal at a public high school in suburban New Jersey. Still ambitious but feeling a little stuck and underappreciated in midlife, Tracy gets a jolt of good news when the longtime principal, Jack Weede, abruptly announces his retirement, creating a rare opportunity for Tracy to ascend to the top job.

Energized by the prospect of her long-overdue promotion, Tracy throws herself into her work with renewed zeal, determined to prove her worth to the students, faculty, and School Board, while also managing her personal life—a ten-year-old daughter, a needy doctor boyfriend, and a burgeoning meditation practice. But nothing ever comes easily to Tracy Flick, no matter how diligent or qualified she happens to be.

Among her many other responsibilities, Tracy is enlisted to serve on the Selection Committee for the brand-new Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame. Her male colleagues’ determination to honor Vito Falcone—a star quarterback of dubious character who had a brief, undistinguished career in the NFL—triggers bad memories for Tracy, and leads her to troubling reflections about the trajectory of her own life and the forces that have left her feeling thwarted and disappointed, unable to fulfill her true potential.

As she broods on the past, Tracy becomes aware of storm clouds brewing in the present. Is she really a shoo-in for the Principal job? Is the Superintendent plotting against her? Why is the School Board President’s wife trying so hard to be her friend? And why can’t she ever get what she deserves?

In classic Perrotta style, Tracy Flick Can’t Win is a sharp, darkly comic, and pitch-perfect reflection on our current moment. Flick fans and newcomers alike will love this compelling novel chronicling the second act of one of the most memorable characters of our time.

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We Are Not Like Them
by Christine Pride & Jo Piazza

Jen and Riley have been best friends since childhood. Now, Jen is expecting her first child and Riley is on track to become one of the first Black news anchors in Philadelphia. But when Jen’s police officer husband is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teen and Riley is set to cover the story, their friendship will be tested beyond anything they’ve ever experienced before. A propulsive exploration of race in America, WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM is a gripping look at the personal consequences of systemic violence.

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We Are Not Like Them
Christine Pride & Jo Piazza

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

Named a Best Book Pick of 2021 by Harper’s Bazaar and Real Simple

Named a Most Anticipated Book of Fall by People, Essence, New York Post, PopSugar, New York Newsday, Entertainment Weekly, Town & Country, Bustle, Fortune, and Book Riot

Told from alternating perspectives, this “propulsive, deeply felt tale of race and friendship” (People) follows two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event.

Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.

But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.

Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them takes “us to uncomfortable places—in the best possible way—while capturing so much of what we are all thinking and feeling about race. A sharp, timely, and soul-satisfying novel” (Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author) that is both a powerful conversation starter and a celebration of the enduring power of friendship.

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The Shore
by Katie Runde

Brian and Margot flip houses with their daughters Liz and Evy in the tourist town of Seaside. But Brian’s behavior has become increasingly erratic after he develops a brain tumor. In the fallout, Liz starts a flirtation with the wrong guy. Meanwhile, Evy falls for her best friend and begins posing as a middle-aged woman in a grief support chat room frequented by her own mother. Finally, Margot faces an impossible decision, one that might result in leaving Seaside all together.

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The Shore
Katie Runde

Set over the course of one summer, this perfect beach read follows a mother and her two daughters as they grapple with heartbreak, young love, and the weight of family secrets.

Brian and Margot Dunne live year-round in Seaside, just steps away from the bustling boardwalk, with their daughters Liz and Evy. The Dunnes run a real estate company, making their living by quickly turning over rental houses for tourists. But the family’s future becomes even more precarious when Brian develops a brain tumor, transforming into a bizarre, erratic version of himself. Amidst the chaos and new caretaking responsibilities, Liz still seeks out summer adventure and flirting with a guy she should know better than to pursue. Her younger sister Evy works in a candy shop, falls in love with her friend Olivia, and secretly adopts the persona of a middle-aged mom in an online support group, where she discovers her own mother’s most vulnerable confessions. Meanwhile, Margot faces an impossible choice driven by grief, impulse, and the ways that small-town life in Seaside has shaped her. Falling apart is not an option, but she can always pack up and leave the beach behind.

The Shore is a powerful, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting novel infused with humor about young women finding sisterhood, friendship, and love in a time of crisis. This big-hearted family saga examines the grit and hustle of running a small business in a tourist town, the ways we connect with strangers when our families can’t give us everything we need, and the comfort to be found in embracing the pleasures of youth while coping with unimaginable loss.

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The Daughter's Tale
by Armando Lucas Correa

When eighty-year-old Elise receives a parcel of letters written by her mother during World War II, she is spurred to uncover the story of Amanda Sternberg. Living in Berlin in the 1930s, Amanda is forced to flee with her two daughters after her husband is taken to a concentration camp. Following Amanda to the South of France and into a Nazi labor camp, THE DAUGHTER’S TALE is a story of insurmountable love, sacrifice, and survival based on the real-life massacre of a French village in 1944.

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The Daughter's Tale
Armando Lucas Correa

From the internationally bestselling author of The German Girl, an unforgettable, “searing” (People) saga exploring a hidden piece of World War II history and the lengths a mother will go to protect her children—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls, We Were the Lucky Ones, and The Alice Network.

Seven decades of secrets unravel with the arrival of a box of letters from the distant past, taking readers on a harrowing journey from Nazi-occupied Berlin, to the South of France, to modern-day New York City.

Berlin, 1939. The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the South of France. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is inter­rupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.

New York, 2015. Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Her mother’s words unlock a floodgate of memories, a lifetime of loss un-grieved, and a chance—at last—for closure.

Based on true events and “breathtakingly threaded together from start to finish with the sound of a beating heart” (The New York Times Book Review), The Daughter’s Tale is an unforgettable family saga of love, survival, and redemption.

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Summer Darlings
by Brooke Lea Foster

In 1962, Heddy Winsome leaves behind her Brooklyn neighborhood to nanny for a rich and seemingly perfect couple on Martha’s Vineyard. Since her Wellesley scholarship has been revoked, Heddy is determined to endear herself to her employers and their society friends. But the longer Heddy stays on the island—and the deeper entrenched she becomes in a summer romance with a local boy—the more she realizes that a house on the right street doesn’t guarantee happiness in this enchanting, page-turning debut.

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Summer Darlings
Brooke Lea Foster

“Filled with 1960s nostalgia and a host of deftly drawn characters” (Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer), Summer Darlings pulls back the curtain on one mysterious and wealthy family as seen through the eyes of their nanny—a college student who, while falling in love on Martha’s Vineyard, is also forced to reckon with the dark side of privilege.

In 1962, coed Heddy Winsome leaves her hardscrabble Irish Brooklyn neighborhood behind and ferries to glamorous Martha’s Vineyard to nanny for one of the wealthiest families on the island. But as she grows enamored with the alluring and seemingly perfect young couple and chases after their two mischievous children, Heddy discovers that her academic scholarship at Wellesley has been revoked, putting her entire future at risk.

Determined to find her place in the couple’s wealthy social circles, Heddy nurtures a romance with the hip surfer down the beach while wondering if the better man for her might be a quiet, studious college boy instead. But no one she meets on the summer island—socialite, starlet, or housekeeper—is as picture-perfect as they seem, and she quickly learns that the right last name and a house in a tony zip code may guarantee privilege, but that rarely equals happiness.

Praised as “a perfect summer book packed with posh people, glamor, mystery, and one clever, brave, young nanny” by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer, Summer Darlings promises entrance to a rarefied world, for anyone who enjoyed Tigers in Red Weather or The Summer Wives.

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Florence Adler Swims Forever
by Rachel Beanland

In this poignant family drama, Esther and Joseph have always spent the summers with their daughters Florence and Fanny in the small apartment above their bakery in Atlantic City. This summer, in the midst of World War II, Florence is training to swim the English Channel and has captured the attention of an heir to an anti-Semitic hotel. Fanny is facing a high-risk pregnancy, and Joseph is housing a woman he recently helped escape from Germany. When the worst happens, Esther is forced into a series of lies that may destroy them forever.

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Florence Adler Swims Forever
Rachel Beanland

“The perfect summer read” (USA TODAY) begins with a shocking tragedy that results in three generations of the Adler family grappling with heartbreak, romance, and the weight of family secrets over the course of one summer.

*A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice * One of USA TODAY’s “Best Books of 2020” * One of Good Morning America’s “25 Novels You'll Want to Read This Summer” * One of Parade’s “26 Best Books to Read This Summer”

Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home.

Now, Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.

Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence.

When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.

“Readers of Emma Straub and Curtis Sittenfeld will devour this richly drawn debut family saga” (Library Journal) that’s based on a true story and is a breathtaking portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy.

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The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
by Jamie Ford

In this kaleidoscopic, multigenerational tale, poet Dorothy Moy has spent her life channeling her inherited trauma and bouts of depression into her art. But when her daughter starts exhibiting similar tendencies, Dorothy decides to agree to an experimental therapy that suddenly allows her to have intimate connections with the generations of women in her family who came before her, everyone from a nurse serving the Flying Tigers in China to a young girl quarantining in San Francisco during an epidemic.

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The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
Jamie Ford

The New York Times bestselling author of the “mesmerizing and evocative” (Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet returns with a powerful exploration of the love that binds one family across the generations.

Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.

As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.

Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.

As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.

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The Years That Followed
by Catherine Dunne

In 1966, seventeen-year-old Calista falls head over heels for the intense and wealthy older man Alexandros. After a whirlwind romance, she agrees to leave her home in Dublin to move with him to Cyprus, where she experiences a cold reception from his family. Meanwhile, Pilar is desperate to escape her life of poverty in Extremadura. After moving to Madrid, she meets charming Petro, whom she knows she cannot be with as she’d like to. But soon tragic events will bind these two women to each other in unimaginable ways.

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The Years That Followed
Catherine Dunne

Acclaimed international bestseller Catherine Dunne’s thrilling US debut is the story of two wronged women bent on revenge at all costs, and “a page-turner that’s both poignant and satisfying” (Booklist).

Revenge is sweeter than regret…

Dublin. Calista is young, beautiful, and headstrong. When she falls in love with the charming, older Alexandros and moves to his native Cyprus, she could never imagine that her whirlwind courtship would lead to a dark and violent marriage. But Calista learns to survive. She knows she will find peace when she can finally seek retribution.

Madrid. Pilar grew up with very little means in rural Spain and finally escaped to a new life. Determined to leave poverty behind her, she plunges into a life of working hard and saving money. Enchanted by an older man, Pilar revels in their romance, her freedom, and accruing success. She’s on the road to achieving her dreams. Yet there is one thing that she is still searching for, the one thing she knows will make her truly happy.

Sweeping across the lush European backdrops of Spain, Greece, and Ireland, The Years That Followed is a gripping, modern telling of a classic story. As two wronged women plot for revenge, their intricately crafted schemes send shockwaves through their families that will echo for many generations to come.

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Imperfect Delight
by Andrea De Carlo

Milena is the artistic creator behind Provence’s most unique ice creams. She has a solid bond with her partner, Viviane, however she is uncertain about the new fertility treatments she is about to undergo. Meanwhile, in a nearby airfield, a famous British rock band prepares a charity concert also meant to celebrate the third marriage of their lead singer, Nick, despite Nick’s concerns that his relationship has lost its spark. As Milena and Nick find themselves thrown together over the course of three days, chaos ensues in this charming and heartwarming novel.

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Imperfect Delight
Andrea De Carlo

For fans of The Hundred-Foot Journey and The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman, a moving and charming novel from the beloved international author of Two Out of Two that follows two entirely different people struggling to make sense of their futures amid the beauty of Provence, France.

It’s fall in Provence, a season that combines the first chill of winter with a final stretch of warmth that is a last taste of summer. To mark the end of the season, at the local airfield a famous British rock band, the Bebonkers, will hold a concert that is both for charity and to celebrate charismatic lead singer Nick Cruickshank’s third marriage. Preparations are in high gear, everything coming smoothly together under the tight supervision of Aileen, Nick’s bride-to-be.

In town, there is also a gelateria run by Milena Migliari, who creates, develops, and produces one-of-a-kind ice cream with artistic precision. Milena, who has bid adieu to men, now lives with Viviane. Milena’s relationship with Viviane is solid and unwavering, in stark contrast to the delicacy of her ice cream. In a few days Milena will undergo fertility treatments, but she is not entirely convinced. She hesitates to confess her thoughts, however, as does Nick, who wonders when his relationship with Aileen lost its original spark.

And so, a British rocker and an Italian artisan find their fates on a collision course and in the space of three days, the chaos intensifies resulting in an inevitable and exhilarating final encore.

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The Lake House
by Marci Nault

In this tender debut, two women strike up a friendship built from the desire to make a home in a small lakeside community. As a teenager, Victoria made a pact with her friends that they would never leave their hometown. Now, fifty years later, Victoria returns from a career in Hollywood, trying to face the consequences of breaking that bond. Meanwhile twenty-eight-year-old Heather has left her controlling fiancé and decided to settle down after years of globetrotting, but the suspicious locals don’t trust newcomers. Together, Victoria and Heather discover the secret to starting over.

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The Lake House
Marci Nault

A heartwarming debut novel about the unlikely friendship between two outcasts of different generations who, in struggling to move on from the past, discover love, healing, and family in a charming New England lakeside community.

Achingly tender, yet filled with laughter, The Lake House brings to life the wide range of human emotions and the difficult journey from heartbreak to healing.

VICTORIA ROSE. Fifty years before, a group of teenage friends promised each other never to leave their idyllic lakeside town. But the call of Hollywood and a bigger life was too strong for Victoria . . . and she alone broke that pledge. Now she has come home, intent on making peace with her demons, even if her former friends shut her out. Haunted by tragedy, she longs to find solace with her childhood sweetheart, but even this tender man may be unable to forgive and forget.

HEATHER BREGMAN. At twenty-eight, after years as a globe-trotting columnist, she’s abandoned her controlling fiancé and their glamorous city life to build one on her own terms. Lulled by a Victorian house and a gorgeous locale, she’s determined to make the little community her home. But the residents, fearful of change and outsiders, will stop at nothing to sabotage her dreams of lakeside tranquility.

As Victoria and Heather become unlikely friends, their mutual struggle to find acceptance—with their neighbors and in their own hearts—explores the chance events that shape a community and offer the opportunity to start again.

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The Sea Gate
by Jane Johnson

While attempting to get her late mother’s affairs in order, Becky discovers a letter from an elderly cousin, Olivia, asking for help in repairing her home. Becky answers the call, traveling to Chynalls to find the beloved house crumbling and Olivia stuck in a facility until it is safe to return. As Becky begins to renovate the house, she discovers much more than chipping layers of paint; hidden within the house are long-buried secrets and deception that took place during World War II.

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The Sea Gate
Jane Johnson

A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.

After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.

Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.

As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...

A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.

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