Book Recommendations, Reading

Summer 2024 Reading List

This will be my 7th official summer reading list, and it’s one of my favorite book round-ups of the year. Rather than most of my round-ups, which usually only include titles I’ve read in their entirety, my summer reading list is a curated blend of books that I’m particularly EXCITED to read next and that hit all the various reading moods of summer for me, which range from the romantic (but not totally fluffy) to the motivated (gotta get some personal development in!) to the page-turning fiction for those afternoons that are simply too hot to go out and weed.

Past Summer Reading Lists: 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018

Some of the titles below are distinctly slower, but I’ve made sure to also mix in plenty of choices for those rare stretches when I can sit down and read a book over a span of about 24 hours. Basically, I try and anticipate all the possible moods I can, and I’m careful to only include titles that have come highly recommended by various readerly sources I trust. Does it mean that every single one of them will be a home run? Not necessarily.

But then again, sometimes that’s not what I’m really looking for.

So here it is, the official Summer 2024 Reading List! I would LOVE it if you would drop a comment below to let me know which books are on YOUR must-read list for this summer!

Note: There are affiliate links to the books mentioned below.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

The premise of this sounds utterly bizarre, but something I learned from Remarkably Bright Creatures last year was that sometimes, in the right hands, bizarre can really work. Honestly, I never would have picked this up on my own based on the flap summary, but I’ve heard enough buzz from readers with similar taste that I’m willing to give it a shot. Basically, this is a story of a newlywed couple who receives some devastating news soon after the marriage — the husband has a rare diagnosis that will mean that within the year, he will turn into a great white shark. As he and his wife struggle with the transformation over months, his metamorphosis triggers old hurts of hers, and she is forced to wade through layers of grief, hurt, and loss as she is forced to push on despite it all. Some of the people I follow on Goodreads described it as “gorgeous but fully accessible” and that they “can’t believe this works, but it really does!” Super weird sounding I’ll admit, but we’ll see how it goes!

Funny Story by Emily Henry

For better or worse, Emily Henry seems to have become synonymous with summer reading for me, simply because I’ve read her latest release (or tried to, anyway) every summer for the past handful of years. Her books are actually a bit hit or miss for me, but she nails her dialogue and also writes a highly readable beach read, so I’m keeping her on the list. Basically, her books hit the classic fun romance trope, but I do like that her characters usually have a little more depth to them than some rom-coms. This particular one is about how the main character gets dumped by her fiance and then becomes roommates with the fiance of her old fiance’s ex. Sounds fun enough.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

This is one I’ve owned for quite a long time (and even started!), but I just kept getting distracted by newer and shinier reads and so therefore never made it back to it. I personally love a good time management book, but this one definitely puts a different spin on the concept — rather than just focusing on how to eke the most productivity out of every last minute, this is all about framing your time through the lens of your whole life (aka, the average human will only live for about four thousand weeks, so how are you going to best spend that time?). I remembered highlighting multiple passages in just the introduction to this, so I think this one’s gonna be a five-star read.

The Women by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah’s another hit or miss author for me, but even with her misses, she can definitely still spin a page-turning story, which is why I’m willing to keep giving her stuff a shot (even if the endings or the way certain things play out in her books isn’t always my favorite). I’ve heard excellent reviews of this latest release, and even though the Vietnam War isn’t my favorite time period to read about, it IS one I’m generally a little less familiar with (when compared to, say, WWII or The Great Depression), so for that reason alone it should be a nice change of pace from a lot of the historical fiction I’ve read over the past several years. In this story, Frances (“Frankie”) comes from a family of decorated war heroes (all men) and never thought that she herself could follow in their footsteps, having thought that her only destiny in life was playing a traditional role in the home. After her brother is deployed, she decides to volunteer as part of the Army Nurse Corps, and encounters overwhelming scenes and experiences that change her worldview forever. And when she returns home — in many ways, the “decorated war hero” she wondered if she could ever be — she finds that bravery is often needed just as much in unexpected places and situations back home as she goes back to a nation divided.

Breaking Bread with the Dead by Alan Jacobs

Sometimes now that my days are filled with planting and harvesting and selling flowers amidst raising our four kids, I can almost forget that I graduated with a degree in English. But then I encounter a book like this one, which is a deep dive into why it’s worth studying the classics and ancient texts (as well as tips on how to enjoy them better), and I am reminded that yes, I am still fascinated by topics that probably bore the socks off the average person, ha ha 🙂 Joking aside, however, Alan Jacobs *does* approach the subject in a way that will engage most literary-minded readers, and when I found myself already pulling out my highlighter upon reading the introduction and first few pages, it made me all the more excited to dive back into the English major part of my personality that’s been buried for far too long now.

The Bookbinder by Pip Williams

This one wasn’t even in my radar until I saw it pop up as an add-on option through my Book of the Month subscription, and when I looked up the reviews and premise, I immediately added it to my box for the month. If there’s one thing that most bibliophiles just can’t resist, it’s…books about books 🙂 Set during WWI, this is about twin sisters who work in a book bindery at the university press, one of whom wants nothing more than to work with the other girls and have fun, and the other of whom dreams of being able to have the opportunity to seek higher education and actually study the books they’re binding, not just put them together. When refugees arrive in the town, both girls face difficult decisions involving the balance of your own expectations for yourself vs. others’ expectations, as well as the pursuit of knowledge and both the danger and power that it can bring. I haven’t heard a ton about this yet, but the overall reviews thus far have been high, and it definitely has the potential to be a hit for me. (P. S. If books are your love language and you have an interest in getting the newest releases in hardback for a great price, I have LOVED my Book of the Month subscription. Our library is tiny and often doesn’t get new releases for years, so this has allowed me to have access to many of the latest new titles for a good price and has introduced me to a lot of other great books, too. You can skip however much you want if you’re not interested in the books that month, and there’s no minimum that you have to purchase over the course of the subscription. If you want to get your first hardback for $5 (shipping is always free), you can go through my referral link HERE.)

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Here’s one that was recommended to me ages ago (probably from about the time it was released in 2013!), but it always got pushed aside by the new and the shiny. However, considering how much of my own life now revolves around plants, nature, and the turning of the seasons, I think this is going to be a home run read for sure. This memoir blends together the author’s journey in the traditional scientific world of botany with the traditional indigenous wisdom of her people, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. I mean, when a book has well over 100,000 ratings on Goodreads and has an overall star rating of over 4.5 (impressive, indeed!), you know it’s probably going to be worth checking out. I’m excited to see what this one has to teach me, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing all sorts of snippets from it on my farm’s social media account, to boot.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See

For many years, I listed Lisa See as my favorite author, and while I might not classify her as such anymore (mostly just because I’ve found other authors that I enjoy even more and that are a little less formulaic-feeling in their work), I do still enjoy her ability to bring to light lesser known periods of history, especially as they pertain to women. She definitely has a penchant for delving deep into the many intricacies of women’s relationships with each other, and this book fits right in line with that. This is about a young woman who learns midwifery from her grandmother, who is one of the very few female doctors in China. When she is sent into an arranged marriage and forbidden to practice medicine by her mother-in-law, she has to learn to forge her own destiny, along with the help of the women who raised her and stood beside her. Fair warning: Lisa See’s work is not for the faint of heart, as she doesn’t shy away from topics like war, rape, miscarriage, loss, etc. Trigger warnings apply to this one, I’m sure.

Tranquility by Tuesday by Laura Vanderkam

In the preface to Breaking Bread with the Dead (mentioned above), I highlighted this thought: “Thought, and indeed life as a whole, is like a winding stair; you keep revisiting the same points, the same themes, but at higher levels of experience.” I’ve read the majority of Vanderkam’s books, and all of them touch on the same topic (productivity and time management), but I continue to want to read new things she puts out because I find that she often does so from “higher levels of experience” with each one. Besides, as with many things in the self improvement realm, I find that if I want to continue to get better at something, I need to continue to focus on it, even if some of the ideas do get repetitive. I like that instead of just focusing on straight productivity, this new title from her focuses on how to make sure you find time for what matters most, not just on how to get the most work done in the least amount of time.

Table for Two by Amor Towles

Amor Towles is definitely up there among my favorite authors, and even though a collection of short fiction is not typically my thing, he’s a brilliant enough writer that I’m definitely willing to give it a shot. According to the book jacket, this collection contains six stories based in New York City and a novella that’s set in Golden Age Hollywood (told from seven different points of view). Every summer, I try to include at least one pick that’s a bit out of my comfort zone genre-wise, and this is definitely going to fit the bill for that. (I did a similar thing the other summer with The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green and was totally blown away, which is why I think it’s important to keep trying new things!)

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Along with letting myself indulge during the summer on the more buzzy books in the book-o-sphere, I also like to take this chance to peruse over my TBR list on Goodreads and see if there are any titles that have been sitting there for awhile, just biding their time for the right mood to strike. Such is the case with this book, which I honestly can’t even remember where I first heard of it. Naturally anything involving growing and gardening and flowers is automatically going to be more interesting to me considering my profession, but I particularly love the concept of restoring old historical gardens to their former grandeur, which is basically how this book starts out (and then eventually connects five different women’s stories over various time periods, all of whom are connected by the garden in question). This title has gained a decently high overall rating on Goodreads and I’m always looking to try out new authors, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

We all have our random niche topics that we for some odd reason are drawn to and want to constantly learn more about, and one of mine is learning how to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I read all sorts of blogs and books and watch various YouTube channels on the topic, and it’s a concept I find endlessly fascinating. While Lee does bring in several scientific and psychological concepts in order to prove her points, I believe she also brings in a lot of specific strategies via her designer background on how to curate your space and your life for a more joy-filled existence. Several of my friends on Goodreads have rated this favorably and others less so, so I’ll be curious to see if this resonates with me or not. (P. S. If we’re not friends yet on Goodreads, go ahead and add me! I love “meeting” you all over there!)

The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

I’ve only read one other book by Katherine Center (and coincidentally, it was one of her lowest-rated ones), but I know a lot of fellow readers with somewhat similar tastes tend to like her stuff, so I’m willing to give her another shot. (Plus I need a few more lighthearted titles on this list!) This is her latest release — it actually doesn’t come out until June — and it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind by stepping out of traditional romance trope territory (enemies to lovers, in this case). However, rom-com tropes work for a reason, and if nothing else, I’m expecting this just to be a bit more of a fun “fluff” read anyway. Basically this is the story of how a little known but talented screenwriter gets called on to rewrite the romantic comedy script for one of her screenwriting heroes, except his script is totally terrible, and he wants nothing to do with her or her help (oh, and he doesn’t believe in love). What’s a girl to do, but make him fall in love with love, even if it means, naturally, maybe, falling in love with her? Should be fun, at any rate.

Slow Productivity by Cal Newport

Going right along with those tried-and-true themes of both productivity AND learning to find the joy in the process/ordinary, this latest release by one of my favorite nonfiction self-help writers was one of the first to make it onto this year’s summer reading list. I find myself thinking of concepts from his other books all the time (specifically, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism), and this promises to be in the same vein. I think this will be especially timely for me because now that we’ve taken our flower farm to a full-time business that needs to fully support our family, it’s possible for Matt and I to literally work all the time, so I’m hoping this will give me some good strategies and reminders to set ourselves up in a way that we won’t be hurtling straight towards burnout.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

Last but not least is this somewhat sleeper hit that I ordered as an add-on to my Book of the Month subscription once I started reading the buzz on it. This was a Goodreads nominee for Best Historical Fiction last year, and it sounds totally intriguing. Here’s the premise: two sisters are evacuated to the countryside in England during WWII, and the oldest (Hazel, a teenager) spins magical tales of fantasy and adventure to comfort her younger sister (Flora, 5) to help them get through the experience. When Flora mysteriously goes missing, Hazel blames herself, carrying the blame and guilt for decades into her adulthood. Suddenly, 20 years later when Hazel is working at a bookstore, she unwraps a package of a mysterious book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars, which is all about the fantastical world she’d spun for her sister decades earlier. This premise smacks strongly of having a similar vibe to The Thirteenth Tale, which I overall really enjoyed, and so I’m excited to dive into this one.

Okay, now it’s your turn!! What are YOU excited to read this summer?!

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