You Won’t Be Able To Put These Summer Fiction Books Down!

“Books were a refuge and an escape for me … I could be anyone I wanted to be and I could go anywhere I wanted to go, so I went to the library. Everyday when I was in Kindergarten, I would walk to the library and stay there until night time, and then walk home. The librarian would give me half of her lunch–a tuna fish sandwich and a brownie!” -Viola Davis

Just like Viola, we love being tucked away for hours, immersed in a good fictional story. We read on vacation, in parks, under covers at midnight, and all summer long. We borrow and lend our latest favorites, not before gushing over juicy plotlines and writing styles (careful not to spoil endings!). We turn off the TV, let the to-do lists rest, and curl up on the patio for a quiet getaway. After all, summer is the perfect time to finally read that classic, or dive into something frothy and fun! Summertime reading has no rules—it’s for sheer enjoyment. 

On the more scientific side, when we read fiction, the occipital lobe of the brain is activated ( the area responsible for processing visual information.) When we imagine the worlds and characters an author describes, our brain helps visualize it. This muscle at work sharpens memory. Studies show that reading stories can increase our ability to communicate, reason, and stretch our creativity and ability to see connections between events. 

We know that December and May tend to be the busiest months for women, with the holidays and school days wrapping up (and not the most ideal time to get lost in the world of fiction.) But with summer break zooming towards us, the time for uninterrupted reading is now! 

We’ve rounded up 9 novels to take along to the park, beach, or the comfort of your favorite chair. 

What our friends are reading: 

“My summer reading suggestion: Pick a really famous, really long novel.” -Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Sense And Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense And Sensibility is a classic Jane Austen novel about two sisters with different views of romance. One is sensible, one is wildly romantic. The sisters experience love, romance, and heartbreak; moving through all the highs and lows of womanhood. 

“The technique of [Jane Austen’s novels] is beyond praise … Her mastery of the art she chose, or that chose her, is complete.” -Elizabeth Bowen, Irish-British Novelist 

Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers

Near the turn of the twentieth century, fiery Marta Schneider leaves Switzerland for a better life, determined to fulfill her mother’s hope. Her formative journey takes her through Europe and eventually to Canada, where she meets handsome Niclas Waltert. But nothing has prepared her for the sacrifices she must make for marriage and motherhood as she travels to the Canadian wilderness and then to the dusty Central Valley of California to raise her family. Marta’s hope is to give her children a better life, but experience has taught her that only the strong survive. 

“Her Mother’s Hope has all the meaty elements of a blockbuster.” ―Denver Post

 

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yōko Ogawa

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem―ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper―with a ten-year-old son―who is hired to care for the Professor.  And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities―like the Housekeeper’s shoe size―and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

“Alive with mysteries both mathematical and personal, The Housekeeper and the Professor has the pared-down elegance of an equation.” ―O, The Oprah Magazine

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her.”—USA Today

 

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. The magazine where Willa worked has folded; the college where her husband had tenure has closed. Their dubious shelter is also the only option for a disabled father-in-law and an exasperating, free-spirited daughter. When the family’s one success story, an Ivy-educated son, is uprooted by tragedy he seems likely to join them, with dark complications of his own. In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town’s powerful men.

“Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Unsheltered, will make you weep…But Kingsolver is also downright hilarious…Unsheltered is also a sociopolitical novel tackling real-world issues, especially how we humans navigate profound changes that threaten to unmoor us.” — O, the Oprah Magazine

 

Redwood Court by DéLana R. A. Dameron 

The baby of the family, Mika Tabor spends much of her time in the care of loved ones, listening to their stories and witnessing their struggles. On Redwood Court, the cul-de-sac in the all-Black working-class suburb of Columbia, South Carolina, where her grandparents live, Mika learns important lessons from the people who raise her: her exhausted parents, who work long hours at multiple jobs while still making sure their kids experience the adventure of family vacations; her older sister, who in a house filled with Motown would rather listen to Alanis Morrisette; her retired grandparents, children of Jim Crow, who realized their own vision of success when they bought their house on the Court in the 1960s, imagining it filled with future generations; and the many neighbors who hold tight to the community they’ve built, committed to fostering joy and love in an America so insistent on seeing Black people stumble and fall.

“A triumph . . . Redwood Court is storytelling at its best: tender, vivid, and richly complicated.”—Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times bestselling author of Red at the Bone

 

We Spread by Iain Reid

Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away years earlier, provisions were made for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many “incidents.” Initially, surrounded by peers, conversing, eating, sleeping, looking out at the beautiful woods that surround the house, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny—with a growing sense of unrest and distrust—starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling?

“[An] exquisite novel of psychological suspense . . . [Leaves] readers contemplating their own mortality and primed to see the sinister behind the mundane . . . This deep plunge into fears about growing old and losing control is unforgettable.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A family’s search for their missing scientist father leads them on an adventure through space and time, aided by supernatural beings. A Wrinkle in Time is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem. 

“An exhilarating experience.” ―Kirkus Reviews

We Spread by Iain Reid

Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away years earlier, provisions were made for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many “incidents.” Initially, surrounded by peers, conversing, eating, sleeping, looking out at the beautiful woods that surround the house, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny—with a growing sense of unrest and distrust—starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling?

“[An] exquisite novel of psychological suspense . . . [Leaves] readers contemplating their own mortality and primed to see the sinister behind the mundane . . . This deep plunge into fears about growing old and losing control is unforgettable.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

 

 

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