Every summer for the past several years, I’ve been creating a summer reading list for myself of sorts. This year’s list was especially hard to choose, simply because there is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF out there right now, so while I usually try to keep my summer list to a dozen titles, I let this one swell to fifteen. There’s a little bit of everything in this year’s round-up: romance, family dramas, historical fiction, self-help, memoir…and I’m excited about every single one. Not everything on this list is a new release (because those are sometimes hard to get your hands on), but there are a few titles with publication dates later this summer, so just be aware of that.
The list is carefully chosen to be a good mix of several different kinds of genres and moods, and I also am pretty careful to mostly just include titles that have been highly reviewed by fellow readers with great taste, so I can try and guarantee myself (as much as possible) a stellar summer of reading. While my reading life this summer might be even more sporadic than usual (seeing as how I have a newborn and three other kids to take care of plus a flower farm to run), I find that the long summer days still tend to lend themselves towards more reading and less screen time and more permission to just read whatever I want, whenever I want.
Now, whether or not any of these titles will be great for YOU will be a different story, but I share them anyway in the hopes that you’ll find a few to swell your TBR list.
Note: There are affiliate links to the books mentioned below, which means if you choose to make a purchase through those links, I get a small commission on the sale at no extra cost to you.
Summer 2023 Reading List
I used to never read anything filed under the romance genre until I tried contemporary romance and found (at least some of) it to be witty, fun, and usually about a whole lot more than just the love story. And now, whenever I’m looking for a lighter read that screams summer, romance is often the first genre I find myself reaching for. Funny how things change! This particular buzzy new release is one I discovered through my beloved Book of the Month subscription (which is my favorite way to treat myself). Romantic Comedy is the story of a script writer who has sworn off love. When she starts writing comedy sketches on the phenomenon of gorgeous female celebrities dating average joes and riffing that it could never happen in reverse (where a male celebrity would date an “average” woman), she meets Noah Brewster, a hunky pop star, and they immediately hit it off. I’ve heard this is hilarious, witty, and tender all wrapped into one.
I try to make my summer reading lists approximately half fiction and half nonfiction, and this particular nonfiction pick is at the top of the list for a reason. I’ve got mixed feelings about reading most parenting books, but I like that this ISN’T a parenting book — it’s a book about families, and they’re not the same thing. In this highly discussable read, Feiler explores the idea that too many books explore why so many families are DYSfunctional, but hardly any books actually look into how highly successful and happy families actually function. Feiler looks at the topic from a variety of angles and disciplines, including interviewing how the military builds camaraderie from people who start out as strangers, applying successful business management techniques to common family issues, and more. Full disclosure: I just finished this one, and it’s fantastic.
So this one doesn’t come out until August, but I’m intrigued enough by Ann Patchett’s work that I’m putting it on here anyway. Here’s the thing for me about Patchett’s writing — it’s absorbing and vivid and character driven, which are all major positives for me. However, when it comes to her endings? They’re usually pretty hit or miss. But even when I didn’t love the ending she chose, I still like her books overall because the experience of reading them is so strong for me. In this latest release, three grown daughters finally start to learn the truth about a long lost famous love that their mother had fallen for years before they were born, which causes them to look at their own lives and loves with fresh eyes. Patchett portrays relationships and family dynamics extremely well, so I’m eager to get my hands on this in a few months.
I’m a personal finance nerd anyway, but I’ll especially get excited when I hear about a personal finance book that’s getting a lot of buzz. As Housel puts it in the beginning of this, “Two topics impact everyone, whether you are interested in them or not: health and money,” and I’m all about trying to make sure my relationship with money is impacting me in the most positive way possible rather than stressing me out. Most personal finance books are more of a “how to” guide, but this actually dives into the psychology of why we act how we do around money, as well as how to make that psychology work for us rather than against us. I’ve already started this one, and so far I’m finding it completely fascinating.
I read Walls’s moving memoir The Glass Castle several years ago, and it left a huge impact on me. I was unaware that she’d written any fiction until this title cropped up as a Book of the Month selection a few months back, and I hastily added it to my box so I could see if her fiction could hold as much weight as her nonfiction. This novel is set during Prohibition times and is about the daughter of one of the most notorious men in town — Duke Kincaid. Years after she is cast out of her father’s house after causing a tragic accident, she returns to try and reclaim her place, discovering and uncovering secrets and truths all along the way. I’m a touch nervous to read this because I’ve heard that it’s absolutely heart-wrenching, but I liked The Glass Castle enough that I’m willing to give it a shot. Oh, and a bonus fun fact: Walls based some of the plot of this book around the story of King Henry VIII and his family.
One of my husband’s dreams is to run an animal rescue, so when I started hearing a lot of positive reviews of this heartwarming memoir about the unexpected turn the author’s life took when her mother passed away and left a newly formed animal rescue in her wake, I was intrigued. The author also dives a bit into her past and how she came through some tough obstacles, such as being a single parent and having an abusive father. While this could veer to the sad, the author herself said this about the memoir: “Although there are some sad parts (as life always is), there are lots of laughs. My mom was ‘good nuts’ so she always found humor in everything.” This was highly recommended by a few of you blog readers, as well.
Historical fiction has always been a favorite genre of mine, and I especially enjoy reading books within the genre that specifically look at the roles women played during the time period portrayed. I love the premise of this book, which is that of three women who band together to lift spirits during wartime by finding ways to sew and repair wedding dresses despite severe rationing. This sounds cozy and uplifting (despite its bleak historical setting), and it basically sounds like the sewing version of The Kitchen Front, which is the last novel by Ryan that I read (and loved). And for me, I’m all for it.
This memoir by Britain’s oldest living nanny sounds absolutely charming, like Mary Poppins but even better because she doesn’t seem quite as intimidating :). After Ashford had her heart broken twice during WWII, she vowed she would never fall in love again and would instead devote her life to caring for the children of others. This book covers her decades of experience being a nanny, and I’m interested to read not just about her actual experiences nannying children for all those years, but also about all the rigorous training she had to go through beforehand. I’ve heard that the writing on this isn’t great and leans towards being overly sweet and sentimental, but that the story itself is what makes it worth picking up. I’m intrigued enough to give it a shot, anyway.
I read Better Than the Movies last year by Painter, and overall found it to be a delightful, absorbing, fun read, so when I’d heard she’d written another one, I was definitely willing to give it a shot. The tagline for this is “a teen girl has the worst Valentine’s Day ever–only to relive it over and over again.” This is very much a retelling in the style of the movie Groundhog Day, but hey, when a narrative device works well once, it often can work well again. Summertime for me is all about plenty of lighthearted reads with a solid sense of humor, and this should deliver just that.
When I had readers telling me that this was one of the very best books they read all last year, I sat up and paid attention! Nayeri’s memoir covers his family’s terrifying escape from Iran in the middle of the night to his own attempts to fit into the brand new culture of an Oklahoma classroom that was often more hostile than inclusive. He also includes the rich family legacy he brought with him, which helped mold him into the person he’s become. I’ve heard this is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, and that it will, more than anything, leave you thinking long after you’ve finished the last page.
Mysteries (particularly murder mysteries) are very much NOT in my usual wheelhouse of books to pick up voluntarily, but when I read the premise of this lighthearted story, I quickly realized that this was not your typical mystery by any stretch of the imagination. Vera Wong is a sixty-year-old tea expert whose detective skills generally only go so far as snooping around online to see if her son is dating anybody yet. But when she finds a dead man in the middle of her tea shop one morning, she’s sure that her detective skills will be just as good as what any police officer could do, so she puts herself on the case. My friends on Goodreads say that this is much more about the bringing together and uniting of people than it is about the murder mystery, but that sounds like just the kind of thing I’d be interested in anyway.
I purposely steer clear of reading too many parenting books just because they have a tendency of making me feel like I’ll never measure up, but I do like to read a new one about once a year or so just so I can read about some of the latest research that’s been done and possibly add a few more strategies for effective child-rearing into my tool belt. This particular book has been around for a handful of years now, but it’s one that has interested me since I first heard of it. Basically, the writers of the book (a neuropsychologist and motivational coach) started noticing in their practices that even the most top-performing kids were coming to them overly stressed and filled with anxiety. After diving into the research and looking at case studies from their own practices and others, they discovered that one of the most effective ways to raise more resilient, stress-resistant kids was to give them a much greater sense of autonomy over their own life. All of my Goodreads friends who have reviewed it have rated it highly, with some even going so far as to say it’s one that “every parent should read.” Duly noted.
As a book lover, one trope that will never get old for me is books about books. In this new release, novelist Erica Bauermeister dives into the idea of how the same book can affect different people in completely different ways, and yet in the end help us all to realize we’re more alike than different. This novel is the story of how one book affects nine readers and its author, and how it changes all ten for the better. This sounds like a celebration of the important role that reading and books can play in our development and our lives, and that’s always a grateful reminder for me to have.
Ever since I first read Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I knew I’d probably read pretty much everything she wrote thereafter. One of my favorite nonfiction formats is when an author combines research with personal experience and experiments (aka, when they seek to apply the latest research to their own situation), and that is exactly what Rubin excels at. This new release talks about how a routine trip to her eye doctor left Rubin realizing that she often lived so much in her own head that she failed to fully appreciate the beauty of her five senses, which is definitely something I’m guilty of doing far too often as well. This book is a deep dive into each of the five senses, as well as ways you can enhance your enjoyment and noticing of each. I’ve already started this one, and so far, it’s off to a great start.
This was a Book of the Month pick from just last month, and although I’d never heard of it before that point, it seemed like it would be right up my alley. The premise is that the reclusive author of a famously beloved children’s book decided to finally publish a new novel…but only release a single copy. He holds a contest in which five major fans must compete to try and get their hands on it, but the twist ending he has in mind will change all of their lives forever. This sounds like pure bookish fun, and I’m all here for it.
Now it’s your turn! What’s on your reading list for this summer? Have you finished anything good yet? Let’s talk books!