It’s officially summer and you know what that means. While traditionally, summer calls for chick lit beach reads and light hearted poolside novels, this book list is really going to mix things up. I think it’s safe to say this summer, and the events leading up to it, might be turning most of us into book nerds this year. My 2020 summer reading list includes a mix of adult fiction, nonfiction, young adult, and even a middle grade selection. I hope you enjoy it!
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Beach Read by Emily Henry
What would summer be without a beach read… and this one is literally called that.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible. But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.
So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.
But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.
Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I actually just finished this book a few days ago, and I gave it 5/5 stars. This is the third book from Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I have loved every single one. She is GREAT at character development and setting scenes. I really enjoyed this!
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.
When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Ask Me Anything by P.Z. Reizin
I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. I’m only a couple of chapters into it now. It’s definitely a unique perspective. I’m curious where this story will take me!
Wouldn’t it be great, in fact, if everyone had a team of smart machines to handle all the messy emotional stuff? When you consider how many quadrillions of hours of human drudgery have been eradicated by the invention of only the dishwasher, the washing machine and (ahem) the fridge freezer, is it absurd to imagine a scenario in which household appliances bring the same–yes!–genius to bear on the slow-motion car crash that is (for many young people) the romantic side of their lives? If they are content to leave their dishes, dirty linen and food refrigeration to smart technology, how much of a stretch for us to take care too of their emotional needs?
Chloe and Daisy Parsloe only have each other, since Daisy’s dad left for sunnier climes and a new family. But now Daisy is in her early thirties, she’s not doing brilliantly at work, her love life is haphazard (to put it kindly) and her elderly mum seems to be losing her mind… Daisy is also the proud possessor of a smart fridge, which keeps trying to help Daisy sort out her life by sending her texts to tell her that she’s out of milk, or that the pasta salad has gone out of date. What Daisy doesn’t know is that her smart fridge, like her smart toothbrush, microwave, tv, fitness tracker and laptop all want to help her smooth out her chaotic existence–and help her mother, Mrs Parsloe, stay independently living at home. Operation Daisy is about to make both the Parsloes’ lives much, much happier.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
I asked my husband to select one book on Black history that he would recommend starting with, from his collection. He choose this whooper of a book! This is not a typical summer read, in both topic or size/length, but I am really looking forward to reading it.
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.
From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.
Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray
I started this book back in 2017 when we were first talking about homeschooling. I kind of put it to the side and forgot about it, just choosing to finish reading it last week. I still wanted to add it to the list as a summer read for parents. This is one of those books that people feel passionately about enough to leave lengthly reviews, so there are no shortage of takeaways already available. The writing is clear; the book well researched. While it’s technically a psychology book, this is probably the best parenting book I’ve read to date. It challenged me to think of/treat my son like his own person and not an extension of myself. It focuses a lot on education with an emphasis on unschooling. I will definitely read this again in the future.
In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.
A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with our children, and start asking what’s wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children’s lives and promote their happiness and learning.
Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
I am a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell. I really loved Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Carry On — the first Simon Snow book. This is the sequel. It’s been 4 years since I read the original though… and I may need a refresher. Here’s the synopsis:
The story is supposed to be over. Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after… So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?
What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light… That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.
They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…
Quintessence by Jess Redman
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I cannot wait to read this Middle Grade book. I honestly feel like this age level teaches all the best lessons.
Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. Every day she feels less and less like herself.
Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town’s junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message: Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.
That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and with the help of some unlikely new friends from the Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of astronomy, a little bit of alchemy, and her whole self.
QUINTESSENCE is a stunning story of friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
This is my book club pick right now. If you’re not a part of any anti-racism groups right now, I highly recommend getting involved. I am looking forward to digging into this book with mine.
Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy–from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans–has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair–and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.