Summer has unofficially begun in the United States (Memorial Day was May 25), so I thought it’d be fun to give you my 2015 summer reading list to start your barbecue, beach and flip-flops season off with a bang.
These are the books I’ve read since Jan. 1. I would have read more by now, but I started watching “Bloodline” (it was super good), which took time away from reading.
1. “The Goldfinch“
This is the best book of the year and will be hard to beat. It earned the Pulitzer Prize for fiction because of its superb writing. When my mom finished it, she said, “It was like a symphony of words that jumped off the page.” If you want to craft your writing skills, read and study this book. Never put this book away.
2. “Big Little Lies“
From the author of “The Husband’s Secret” (which I loved) comes this tale of ex-husbands, new wives and the little lies we tell ourselves to survive. As USA Today says, it’s like drinking a pink cosmopolitan laced with arsenic.
3. “The Rosie Project“
I can’t remember whether the book actually says this, but I think the main character has Asperger’s or some type of autism, which makes the story even more endearing. The main character is charming yet socially challenged, so he makes finding a wife a science project. However, the woman he falls for won’t have anything to do with his genetics testing. It’s a fun, romantic story.
4. “City of Bones“
I won’t lie: I love teen books, particularly trilogies (hello “The Hunger Games”), but I couldn’t get through this one. I don’t know if it’s because I read a draft of Neicole Crepeau’s forthcoming novel first and it was 10,000 times better (same genre), or if this book just wasn’t good. If you’re into teen thrillers, give it a try.
I loved this book with every part of my being. When I finished it, I was ready to take a three-month sabbatical to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by myself. Some people think the main character is selfish, but I think she’s an amazing person who made horrible mistakes and used her three-month hike to realize what she needed in life.
6. “The Bone Clocks“
This is from the author of “Cloud Atlas.” Lindsay Bell-Wheeler recommended it (we typically have the same taste), but I hated it. The book’s description says: “Rich with character and realms of possibility, ‘The Bone Clocks’ is a kaleidoscopic novel that begs to be taken apart and put back together by a writer.” I couldn’t wait to finish it so I could move on to something else.
When my mother-in-law suggested this, she said: “I couldn’t put it down. I missed my bedtime!” I had the same reaction. I read it in one day—and missed my bedtime. It’s the story of a woman who rides the same train every day. She makes up stories about the people she sees in their homes from the train stops, but once she meets one of the couples in real life, it all unravels. This book is a bit like a Hitchcock thriller.
8. “Still Alice“
I don’t recommend this book to anyone affected by Alzheimer’s. It’s an incredible story about a woman who has early onset Alzheimer’s. The book follows what she goes through as she begins to forget things and then completely loses herself. We often hear stories from families affected by Alzheimer’s, but we rarely hear what it’s like for people with the disease. I recently saw the movie, too. It was good, but the book is better.
9. “Natchez Burning“
This is the first book in another trilogy. It was OK, but not good enough to inspire me to read the other two books. The story is compelling—a man has to look into his family’s history of greed, murder and the KKK—but I didn’t like it.
This is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner, so I know I should love it, but I don’t. I can’t get through it. I’ve started it three times and can’t get hooked—but it didn’t win a Pulitzer for nothing, so I’ll try again.
11. “Minor King“
This is Jim Mitchem‘s debut novel. You may know him from Twitter or his blog, Obsessed with Conformity. I loved this book partly because I know Mitchem and his story, and partly because the writing is magical. My only complaints are the characters weren’t developed as well as I would have liked and it was much too short. I was disappointed when I finished it, because I wanted more.
12. “Silent Wife“
This one was OK. I didn’t love it. I got the impression it was trying to be “Gone Girl” or a similar thriller but missed the boat. I finished it, and it held my attention, but it fell short of my expectations.
13. “The Nightingale“
This was slow to get into, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s the story of the women who lost husbands and sons to the Nazi concentration camps in France. I recently read it on a flight, but had to finish it at home because I was crying so hard on the plane. The jump between present day and the 1940s is a little jarring at first (you read half the book before the narrator comes back to today), but the reason behind this structure quickly becomes apparent.
I’m clearly stuck on a World War II path. This book is about girls who live in London when the Nazis arrive, but are sent to live in the country where it will be “safe.” It tells the story of sisters who want different things from life. It didn’t make me sob or want to take a solitary three-month hike, but it was good.
That’s my 2015 summer reading list. I want to read “The Life We Bury,” and then I’ll go back to “All the Light We Cannot See.”
What books do you recommend?
A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.