Book Recommendations, Reading

Summer 2021 Reading List

books to read in summer 2021

Even though I haven’t been reading as much as usual this year, I’m still as excited as ever about putting together this (now annual) summer reading list for the blog!

In case you’re new here, none of these titles are ones I’ve read yet, but rather they’re the books that I’m most excited to get my hands on this summer because for me, they embody some part of the ideal summer reading experience, whether that’s a lighter tone, a fast-paced plot, or a book to get utterly lost in.

While my summer reading lists often skew towards recent publications, this list features a decent mix of backlist titles and hot-off-the-press new releases. Often I only have access to new releases via my Book of the Month subscription (since that’s one of the few book luxuries I afford myself—other than that, I stick to the library or the hundreds of unread books I already own) because the town we recently moved to has a VERY small library with a fairly limited selection (though I will say that they are good at ordering in new titles when requested, so I will probably be putting in a few of those!).

If you want to see former years’ summer reading lists, you can find them here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016

On to the 2021 list!

Note: There are affiliate links to the books mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchase made through these links at no extra cost to you.

2021 Summer Reading List

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Romance will never be my #1 favorite genre, but if the book in question isn’t JUST about the love story and has good writing as well as some depth (and minimal to no super-steamy scenes), I’m willing to give it a try. I was quite impressed with Henry’s hit from last summer — Beach Read — and loved how it combined an absorbing plot, a decent sense of humor, and some relatable life challenges, all without veering into the “too fluffy” OR the “too serious” zone. I’m hoping that this latest release will hit similar notes — this one is about two polar opposites who have always stayed in The Friend Zone, even though they take an epic summer vacation together every year. Until two years ago, that is, when everything was ruined and they haven’t spoken since. However, Poppy wants to give it one more chance, and this time, she’s determined not to screw things up. I was thrilled when Book of the Month announced this as one of their monthly selections, because that meant I got it for a steal!

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

This is one I got sooooo excited about the second I heard about it. Even though it’s set during WWII — a historical time period I’ve been a bit burned out on for awhile now — the premise is just too good (and different enough) that I couldn’t pass it up. Picture this—-it’s two years into World War II, and morale and food supply could both use some bolstering, so the BBC comes up with a cooking competition meant to help housewives learn how to deal with food rationing. The grand prize? A job as the show’s first-ever female co-host. This book follows four different women as they enter the competition, each of whom desperately wants to win more than anything. I just got my hands on this from my local library, and I am chomping at the bit to get started on it!

Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart

Here’s a backlist title (published in 2007) that had never made it onto my radar until I got into flower farming, and now I see it everywhere. This book is a behind-the-scenes look at the billion-dollar flower industry, from the geneticists and horticulturists working to invent new hybrids, to the farmers and florists who grow and sell the blooms. What will be fascinating is to read this and compare it to the flower industry today, which has actually shifted quite a bit over the past four or five years. While the subject matter could by dry and dull in the wrong hands, I’ve heard that this is a quick, fascinating, and often funny read that will forever change how you view the flowers around you.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Okay, so this one actually doesn’t hit shelves until September, but considering I’m often doing my summer reading into the fall (because my library holds take awhile to come in), I’m keeping this here! (Plus, after reading and LOVING All the Light We Cannot See, I’ve basically committed myself to picking up anything that Doerr publishes.) This latest release covers a LOT of ground, from stories set in the distant past (Constantinople in the mid 1400’s), the present, and the future. All the protagonists in all the different time periods are coming of age in difficult circumstances, and even though I don’t know how Doerr is going to manage to pull off intergalactic travel AND The Middle Ages, if anyone can do it, he can. I literally will probably read everything this man publishes at this point (plus it helps that the early reviews on this are FABULOUS).

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

I always intend to read more young adult and middle grade fiction, but I’ll admit that they always seem to be pushed to the bottom of my stack (which is a pity, considering I can usually polish one off in an afternoon or two). However, after I kept seeing this one crop up over and over and over again in my Goodreads feed (usually with a 5-star review attached), I figured I’d better sit up and pay attention. Reading the premise on this one immediately calls to mind The War That Saved My Life (as they both involve children being evacuated to live in other homes with other families during WWII), but as I loved that book and as this one comes highly recommended, I’m willing to give it a shot.

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

Seeing as I’m currently in the middle of Tweet Cute and am thoroughly enjoying it, I was pleased to find that Emma Lord had another book that just came out, and one about a subject I’m endlessly fascinated with, to boot. Abby is just a typical teenager trying to navigate the waters of adolescence and get her long-time crush and best friend Leo to notice her in that way. To help him along, she signs up for a DNA service…and then ends up finding out she has a sister she never knew existed. A sister who is an extremely well-known influencer on Instagram, in fact. This story covers how the summer unfurls after the Big Discovery, which will only lead to yet other discoveries along the way. I think this will have a much different feel than Tweet Cute, but I’m excited to pick this one up!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

While I didn’t obsess over Daisy Jones and the Six as much as the rest of the world seemed to, I DID enjoy the experience of getting caught up so completely in the story that I basically couldn’t do anything else until I’d finished it. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a must-read author for many, so I figured I’d give this latest release a shot to see if it shoots her to “must-read” status for me, too. Malibu Rising is a story about four siblings, all of whom are not only extremely well-known and fascinating to the public at large, but who are also all the children of a legendary singer. Every year, the Rivas throw an epic summer party, and this year seems like it’s going to be no different—until all the family secrets get outed and everything goes up in flames. This sounds like it might have plenty of unlikable characters in it (a la The Nest), but if the story is good enough, that doesn’t matter to me.

Wilding by Isabella Tree

Many years ago, I read an article in the Oprah magazine about a couple who bought several hundred acres of wasteland and converted it back to a lush oasis where thousands of species ended up flourishing in protection (many of which had nearly become extinct). The article captivated me like few articles had, and I not only clipped it, but I made my husband read it as well (who was also fascinated), and both of us have spoken of it many times since. So, when I saw this 2021 release about a British couple that did something similar, I knew I was all in. Part memoir, part journalism (I’m thinking this will remind me of Animal Vegetable Miracle, but obviously I’ll have to read it to see if that’s accurate), I’ve heard this is a surprisingly absorbing and quick read that will have you thinking long after you’ve closed the last page. I just ordered this one to have in my personal library, and I can’t wait for it to get here!

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Meissner shot to the top of my “authors to watch” this last year, when I finished both As Bright As Heaven and The Last Year of the War by her. Meissner is a historical fiction writer who covers different time periods and places in almost every one of her books, and in this latest novel, she takes us to the early 1900’s in San Francisco, where a devastating earthquake has just ripped through the city and upended lives everywhere. I love how Meissner often explores themes of female friendship and motherhood in her novels, and this one seems to be along those same lines. It’s also worth noting that of all my friends on Goodreads who have read it, not a single one has given it less than 4 stars, which is a good enough recommendation for me!

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

Usually there are a few titles every summer that fall solidly into the “uplifting, feel-good story that’s not a rom-com,” and for this summer, this one’s it. Lenni and Margot meet at an art class at the hospital, where they are both long-term patients in separate wards. Together, they make the discovery that between the two of them, they’ve lived 100 years — Lenni 17 of them, and Margot 83 — and together, they make the goal to paint the century they’ve lived. I’m thankful that this one is listed as “disarmingly funny,” because I already have a feeling that it’s going to make me cry my eyes out.

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

This is a YA romance that involves a girl who doesn’t believe in love anymore after she starts seeing visions of how relationships start and end, a boy who is adventurous and daring and not afraid of taking chances, and the ballroom dancing competition that brings them together. What’s not to love, especially as I’ve been mildly obsessed with ballroom dancing for ages? Sounds like the perfect kind of quick summer read to me! (And I’ve been meaning to read a book by this author for ages anyway, so I figure I’ll start here and work my way back.)

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Every year, I try to put a “wild card” pick on here—something that makes me stretch a bit out of my usual reading comfort zone. And every year, that stretch pick seems to be fantasy (or in this case, Greek mythology). Now, I’ve been meaning to read Circe for AGES (and still plan to), but since this is the newer, shinier title, I’ll likely get to it first. This latest book in the slew of novels that are bringing the lesser-known myths to life covers the story of Ariadne, who betrays her family by helping Theseus–prince of Athens–kill the blood-thirsty Minotaur (her brother). I’ll admit that I don’t know much about classic mythology at all, but I’ll also admit that this will be my preferred method of learning more about it :).

Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown

And finally, we need to wrap up the list with a solid nonfiction pick by an author that landed himself on my “forever watch” list with his smash title Essentialism, which literally has changed how I view focus and productivity forever. I’ve heard some people say that his first book covers WHY you should learn to focus your efforts only on the most important things, and that this book covers HOW. All in all, most early reviews are saying this is a solid follow-up and some have even compared it to Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is another life-changing read for me. Altogether, I’m thinking I’ll probably just buy this one from the get-go since I’m thinking it’s going to be one I want to own!

What books are YOU most excited to read this summer? Help to explode my TBR list even further and add them below!!

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