There’s never enough time to read — until the summer, when long, warm days suddenly demand a good book and little else. But which titles to turn to first? For inspiration, we asked 10 popular authors what they’re planning to read this summer and why.
I’m looking forward to “Shadowplay,” a novel about Bram Stoker by one of Ireland’s finest writers, Joseph O’Connor. And I’ll be first in line for the new Kate Atkinson novel, “Big Sky.” I’ve been holding on to “An Orchestra of Minorities,” by Chigozie Obioma, for a long plane journey. I have one coming up to New Zealand and intend to lose myself in Obioma’s beautiful prose throughout the flight.
A few of the books I plan to read this summer — remembering the old adage “Man plans, God laughs” — include “Neon Prey,” by John Sandford (the latest in his Lucas Davenport series); an advance copy of “The Dutch House,” by the sublime Ann Patchett (which comes out in September); Moby’s memoir “Then It Fell Apart”; and “Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family,” a cookbook full of great wisdom and greater recipes that the Coben family has already been enjoying. I’m not a huge rereader, but I think it’s time I revisit two of my favorites: “Bird by Bird,” by Anne Lamott (the most enlightening book on the creative process I’ve ever read), and Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral,” which may be the closest thing to a perfect novel.
I loved the other books in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, so I’ve really been looking forward to reading “A Prince on Paper.” With a playboy prince, a fake relationship and Alyssa’s excellent storytelling and character development, I know I’m in for a fantastic romance. “Pride and Prejudice” is probably one of my favorite books ever, so I’ve been anticipating the modern, gender-swapped twist “Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors,” by Sonali Dev. It features a neurosurgeon heroine and a chef with rough beginnings, which I find thoroughly delightful. Jasmine Guillory has taken the romance community by storm with her smart and charming novels, and “The Wedding Party” promises to be another hit. With a secret romance between enemies who become lovers as their best friend’s wedding approaches, I’m anticipating barbs, banter and plain good fun.
The summer months are when I do the bulk of my books’ illustrations, and I’ll spend at least 12 hours a day listening to audiobooks. I try to line up my selections in advance so I can jump from one to the next. Here’s what’s in my queue so far: Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus” (I loved “Sapiens”), Ray Dalio’s “Principles” (I’ve started it a few times, but this time I’m really going to commit), and Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg’s “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results” (I listen to this one every two years). For fiction, I’m going to lose myself in James Michener’s “The Covenant” and Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko.”
This summer I’m looking forward to reading the German novelist Jenny Erpenbeck’s “Go, Went, Gone” — I thought her previous novel, “The End of Days,” was magnificent — and Dorthe Nors’s “Mirror, Shoulder, Signal.” I know very little about Nors and haven’t read her work, but the novel looks intriguing and it was pressed into my hands by a person with good taste. There are also a couple of essay collections that I’m looking forward to reading, by writers who I mostly only know through their fiction: Jonathan Lethem’s “The Ecstasy of Influence” and Marilynne Robinson’s “The Givenness of Things.” Also, something I aspire to do this summer is read more poetry.
I’m very excited to read “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi. His work through his books and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center is so vital in today’s sociopolitical climate. As a society, we need to start treating antiracism as action, not emotion — and Ibram is helping us do that.
Summer seems like the perfect time to dive into something big, so I’m looking forward to “The Old Drift,” by Namwali Serpell. Everything I’ve heard about it makes it sound like one of those rich, totally absorbing epics that invade your waking hours and your dreams. And speaking of diving, I’m finally catching up on William Finnegan’s surf memoir, “Barbarian Days,” because . . . summer. (At least I’ll be able to surf vicariously.) A book I keep hearing great things about, “Grief Is the Thing With Feathers,” by Max Porter, will round out my summer reading. If I can squeeze in one more book, I’m planning to reread “Absalom, Absalom!” just to keep my Faulkner fresh; it’s perfect for a steamy, sweaty late August read.
I love reading outside, in the shadow of the mountain, maybe next to the creek. So, the first days of summer inspire me to grab a book, a small picnic and find the perfect spot. First, I look forward to finishing “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng. Next on my list are two nonfiction choices: “Educated,” by Tara Westover, and “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama. I often return to classics and am excited to reread John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and to read “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston, which, for one reason or another, I missed along the way.
This summer, I’m excited to read “Leading Men,” by Christopher Castellani. Tennessee Williams is featured as one of the characters. I’ve had it recommended to me by multiple people whose opinions I trust. I’m also looking forward to “The Air You Breathe,” by Frances de Pontes Peebles, which came out last year. I’ve heard it compared to Elena Ferrante. And at the top of my list is Therese Ann Fowler’s new book, “A Well-Behaved Woman,” about the Vanderbilts. After her novel “Z” about Zelda Fitzgerald, she became a must-read author for me.
My first reading project this summer will be a rereading Salvatore Scibona’s “The Volunteer.” I raced through it a few weeks ago because I was so eager to find out what happened next, but now I want to give it the closer attention that such dazzling writing deserves. Also, I’d like to study how he made his decisions about which information he wanted to reveal, and when. After that, it’s on to more of Bill Bryson’s “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” (the special illustrated edition). I’ve been dipping in and out of it since Christmas, and already I’m chock-full of astonishing facts about how we all ended up living the way we do.
Angela Haupt is a writer and editor based in Washington.