31 Flavors of Summer Reading: Classics and Beyond

Bookseller Madeline catches some rays while catching up on some reading.

Summer reading can mean many things to many people, and “beach read” is often a default this time of year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good beach read, no matter how you define it — but even while we can finally start to move around a bit more, let’s face it — not all of us are headed to a beach. Pool, maybe. Front porch, hopefully. Any place with a comfortable chair and some uninterrupted reading time? Most definitely. For this summer reading list, we asked our booksellers to think not only of summery (again, loosely defined) recent releases but also those big classics that loom large and, given some time, you might finally get around to opening up again. Or for the first time. Hope you enjoy.

Recommended by Ann

My Year Abroad: A Novel Cover ImageMy Year Abroad: A Novel

What I want for summer reading is a book I can’t put down and keep rushing back to. This shaggy tale of great adventure was exactly that. And it is brilliantly written, which is always a plus.

Recommended by Ann

Endless Love: A Novel Cover ImageEndless Love: A Novel

Sex, obsession, true love, bad choices, great writing, this book has it all. Forget that bad Brooke Shields movie. No, wait, you’ve already forgotten that.

Recommended by Karen

Florence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel Cover ImageFlorence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel

Set in Atlantic City in the summer of 1934, this is a family drama, both touching and humorous.

Recommended by Lindsay

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel Cover ImageThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel

I love a good bit of celebrity gossip as much as the next person, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve misjudged or been wrong about the private lives of celebrities — which is why I loved this book so much. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a fun read that will challenge your expectations at every turn.

Recommended by Sissy

The Assistants Cover ImageThe Assistants

Girls in the city steal a great deal of money by accident. Hilarity ensues.

Recommended by Brad

The Song of Achilles: A Novel Cover ImageThe Song of Achilles: A Novel

You’ve probably seen it everywhere lately. In this epic tale of glory, love, betrayal, and sacrifice, Achilles and his companion Patroclus take center stage as Madeline Miller dives deep into the text of The Iliad to explore how far the bounds of unconditional love truly extend. With a rich narrative, scenes that didn’t hesitate to rip my heart out, and characters that have stayed with me long after turning the final page, this is easily my favorite novel. Ever.

Recommended by Elyse

Nothing to See Here Cover ImageNothing to See Here

College friends, kids who spontaneously combust when upset, friendship, loyalty, trust. This book has it all.

Recommended by Hannah

East of Eden Cover ImageEast of Eden

My favorite classic of all time! Rich in detail, sweeping in scope, and breathtakingly masterful, Steinbeck’s ambitious novel exploring love, loss, and family is worth the read. These are characters you’ll never forget.

Recommended by Ben

Collected Fictions Cover ImageCollected Fictions

This collection of short stories is perhaps the best introduction to one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century — surreal, literary, and imaginative. Borges’s towering ability to blend magical realism, philosophy, myth and cultural commentary with surprising twist endings is on full display in this fantastic tome.

Recommended by Chelsea

Station Eleven Cover ImageStation Eleven

When people ask about my favorite book, I press this book into their hands. Read it. It’s a masterpiece.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Secret Life of Violet Grant (The Schuler Sisters Novels #1) Cover ImageThe Secret Life of Violet Grant (The Schuler Sisters Novels #1)

A woman receives a mysterious suitcase that belonged to her great-aunt, her family’s big secret. This compelling story moves between 1960s New York and WWII Europe, full of intrigue and romance. If this sounds like your perfect summer read, good news: It’s the first in a trilogy!

Recommended by Kathy

The Rose Code: A Novel Cover ImageThe Rose Code: A Novel

If you want a long book to lose yourself in this summer, this suspense-filled read fits the bill! Three young female code-breakers in WWII must root out the traitor among their group who is still on the loose and could cause irreparable harm to post-war Britain. I love this book!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Wild Women and the Blues: A Fascinating and Innovative Novel of Historical Fiction Cover ImageWild Women and the Blues: A Fascinating and Innovative Novel of Historical Fiction

Ambition in Jazz-Age Chicago’s glitzy nightlife alternates with a modern-day filmmaker trying to solve the secrets of the past in this fascinating novel.

Recommended by Rae Ann

Life After Life: A Novel Cover ImageLife After Life: A Novel

A woman born in 1910 dies repeatedly, before being reborn over and over. Each time she learns and grows as her life path changes and the world marches into WWII. An utterly unique and fascinating novel.

Recommended by Chelsea

Get a Life, Chloe Brown: A Novel (The Brown Sisters #1) Cover ImageGet a Life, Chloe Brown: A Novel (The Brown Sisters #1)

The book that made me fall in love with a whole genre I hadn’t seriously read before.

Recommended by Brad

Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel Cover ImageRed, White & Royal Blue: A Novel

If you’re looking for the perfect feel-good novel of the summer, you’ve hit the jackpot. Sworn enemies Alex (First Son of the United States) and Prince Henry of England must enter into a fake friendship to save political alliances between their respective countries … but falling in love was never part of that plan. Prepare to laugh, cry, and fall in love over and over again.

Recommended by Hannah

People We Meet on Vacation Cover ImagePeople We Meet on Vacation

Raise your hand if you miss traveling … yeah, me too. Emily Henry’s sophomore novel is whimsical and funny — the perfect summertime escape!

Recommended by Lindsay

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover ImageThe 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

A whodunnit with a surreal twist! Every day our narrator wakes up in a different body belonging to someone at an ill-fated party where Evelyn Hardcastle gets murdered every night until the mystery of her death is solved. If you ever wanted the show Russian Doll to have a baby with the film Gosford Park, this is for you.

Recommended by Sissy

My Best Friend's Exorcism: A Novel Cover ImageMy Best Friend’s Exorcism: A Novel

I’ve always spent summers in Charleston SC, and this ’80s scary romp is right on.

Recommended by Sissy

The Stone Girl: A Novel Cover ImageThe Stone Girl: A Novel

A girl-power thriller set in the Adirondack wilderness. The setting is so real it will cool you off instantly! (Paperback coming July 13, if you can wait!)

Recommended by Chelsea

The Likeness: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad #2) Cover ImageThe Likeness: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad #2)

A character-driven psychological thriller that captures you from the first page.

Recommended by Sissy

Pretty Things: A Novel Cover ImagePretty Things: A Novel

Who is the real con artist here? This smart thriller will keep you up all night.

Recommended by Sissy

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel Cover ImageThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel

Charleston, SC again. Grady has written a scary yet touching tribute to his badass mother. A must read for all tough moms!

Recommended by Ann

In Cold Blood (Vintage International) Cover ImageIn Cold Blood (Vintage International)

Do you like true crime? Guess what? Truman Capote invented the genre. No one did it better.

Recommended by Andy

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life Cover ImageBarbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Finnegan, a political writer for the New Yorker, turns his sights on the sport of surfing. This Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir chronicles the authors life long obsession as he travels the world looking for that elusive “perfect wave.”

Recommended by Steve

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Cover ImageThe New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Remember the “summer of reckoning” that came and went last year? Michelle Alexander’s treatise on the racist underpinnings of prisons and overpolicing was already a decade old at the time. Now, as then, it’s only a start, but sadly feels as urgent as ever.

Recommended by Sissy

Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays Cover ImageHere for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays

Truly there is no funnier man on earth! You’ll fall in love with R. Eric.

Recommended by Ben

Travels with Charley in Search of America Cover ImageTravels with Charley in Search of America

In this timeless travelogue, Steinbeck sets out on the road with his French poodle, Charley, to authentically experience the country he’s written about for decades. His conversations with strangers and musings on place highlight the loneliness and kindness at the heart of our national character.

Recommended by Ben

Desert Solitaire Cover ImageDesert Solitaire

Once dubbed the “Thoreau of the American West” by Larry McMurtry, Abbey recounts summers spent as the lone ranger of what is now Arches National Park, praising the necessity and beauty of nature while lamenting civilization’s disconnect from wilderness. Tuck this one in your backpack so you can read it while on a summer road trip out west!

Recommended by Brad

Lovely War Cover ImageLovely War

Set during the days of World Wars I and II and narrated by a host of Greek gods, Lovely War is the perfect choice for those looking to add a stellar historical fiction to the top of their to-be-read pile. With incredible relationships, tense and haunting scenes, and a narrative fit for the goddess of love herself, Lovely War is unforgettable.

Recommended by Brad

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) Cover ImageScythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)

In Neal Shusterman’s masterful dystopia, two teens living in a perfect world learn that great power comes with even greater consequences. Shusterman’s commentary on society, class, and power is incredibly thought-provoking and makes for a nail-biting and thrilling story.