Best Books of the Summer

I come from a family of readers.  My mother read me books and poetry before I even knew what print on a page was all about. As a result, I love to read. I wish I could say that I plow through books, but it’s a time factor for me. The computer is my nemesis, and it gets most of my attention. My Kindle has made reading infinitely more easy. I pop it into my purse and read during odd moments of the day where I find myself waiting for Doctors or lingering at school pick-up. Here are some favorite book recommendations of the summer- from me and my family, including my book-devouring sister Susie, my book-loving mother, and my Aunt Joan- who reads more than just about anyone I know.

I tend to like books that are easy to get through- ones I don’t have to concentrate on too much but are entertaining enough to keep me reading. I’m not big on romances or anything like that, but I’ve been known to read a “beach” book now and then. Here are my favorites from the summer:

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. It’s the story of a woman who is kidnapped by a man… and what happens to her in captivity. It’s not a true story, but I had a tough time putting it down.

Escape by Caroline Jessop. This one is the true story of a woman who eventually manages to escape from a polygamist sect. It’s horrifying and compelling at the same time.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I think I was probably the last one to read this book, but I loved it just as much as everyone else did.  I saw the movie too, but the book was better.


My sister Susie is simply crazy about reading.  She read 19 books this summer on her break from being a middle school teacher.  That’s just crazy!  Lucky for me, she gives me some great book recommendations.  Here are her favorites from the summer- none of them are “beach” read type books…they are all more literary fiction.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes was my favorite book this summer. It’s a war story, so it’s amazing to me that I liked it so much but I did. The story took place over a couple of months during the war and followed Bravo Company through battles, long marches, friendships, and too many deaths. The novel didn’t take a political tone about Vietnam, but remained focused on the characters. I found that for a week after I finished it, I kept wanting to know what happened to them in the next battle or when they got home. Loved it!

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was one of those books that I’ve picked up dozens of times, but it never quite grabbed me. Then a good friend of mine read it and told me it was one of the best books she’d ever read, so I decided to give it a try. I was hooked immediately! It was a complicated story told by one of two twin brothers growing up at a medical compound in Ethiopia. Their mother, an Indian nun, had died during child birth and their father, an English surgeon, had fled in devestation. The boys, Marion & Shiva, were raised by two physicians at this compound. The twins are extremely close until Shiva betrays Marion and their relationship becomes extremely strained. Eventually Marion (now a young physician) moves to America and finds their father, and then his life takes turns that both reunite and separate him from Shiva again. Fantastic!!!

Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner was the story of a young woman living in Jerusalem in the early 1900′s. Her family is of the most conservative Jewish sect and she is proud to be a part of that life. But, she is also a gifted artist and her religion forbids trying to copy/better what God has created. Throughout the story and her life she struggles with letting her talent flourish vs. honoring her God. It was a beautiful story spanning 60 years and eventually moving from Israel to Paris.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was the story of a female ob/gyn turned research pharmacologist sent to the Amazon to find out the full story of why her friend and colleague had died while working there. While there she meets a host of interesting characters including one who was her mentor during residency, and slowly the mystery unravels.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon is a very unusual story with a unique cast of characters. There is Beautiful Girl a mentally retarded young woman who had been institutionalized as a child in the 60″s and stopped speaking shortly after being left there. There is Homan an African American deaf man who was also institutionalized there. And finally Martha, a retired woman who ends up raising Beautiful Girl’s newborn daughter after Beautiful Girl and Homan escape from the institution and she gives birth. Beautiful Girl is caught and forced back into the institution, but Homan escapes, and the book follows what happens to these three characters over the next 40 years.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton was the story of an older sister trying to prove that her younger sister had not committed suicide as her death had been ruled. The story was told as a long letter from the living sister to her dead sister and you didn’t fully see why until the last few pages. Very well done!

Here are my Aunt Joan’s favorites- she reads a wide variety of things…

INVISIBLE BRIDGE: Historical fiction by Julie Orringer. Fascinating fictional characters living in Paris and Hungary prior and during World War II. Just when I thought I knew everything about that time period, I leaned about the life and struggle of Jews in Nazi Hungary and the unique and shameful part that Hungary played in that war.  This was my sister’s favorite book of the entire year!

THE BITCH-PROOF SUIT: Romantic comedy by DeAnn Black. “Pure fluff”, I thought for the first few chapters, but I kept reading because it was my Book Club’s pick for a “summer beach book”. I soon realized that I was enjoying the cast of characters, the humorous, witty writing, the shallowness of the clothes obsessed people who work in the fashion business, and the crazy, laugh-out-loud situations. The women protagonists were strong, determined, and very funny!

HALF THE SKY: Nonfiction by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Describes the plight of impoverished, oppressed women around the world, the inspirational stories of people who are working to meet the challenges, and concrete ideas for ways we can all help. I wish everyone would read this important book, especially women!

UNBROKEN: Nonfiction by Lauren Hillenbrand. This book which reads like fiction is the story of an adventurous and courageous man who rose to fame in the 1930′s Olympics, trained and fought in World War II, endured years of incredible torture in a Japanese prison camp, and survived to begin a new life. I loved the writing and the message of hope and human endurance.

CITY OF VEILS: Mystery by Zoe Ferraris.. A mystery set in Saudi Arabia is a perfect book if you like a good mystery as well as a book that gives insight into the restrictive lives of women and men in a Muslim country. The characters portray a realistic picture of a culture that is in the process of confusion and change.

And one from my Mom:

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: It’s the fictional story of Ernest Hemingway as told by Hadley, his first of four wives. The story takes place in the fascinating world of jazz-filled Paris in the 20′s. The young couple is surrounded by artists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and others. I loved the way the author brought their characters to life.

Do you have a favorite book from summer?  Please share your favorites in the comments below!

Leave a Comment




39 Responses to “Best Books of the Summer”

  1. 1

    Tracy — September 5, 2011 @ 6:06 AM

    I loved The Help as well — planning to go see it today. I’ve spent the summer doing mostly light reading — looking forward to diving into something a little meatier. Got some great suggestions here. Thanks for the recommendations.

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    Heather Duprey — September 5, 2011 @ 7:05 AM

    Funny, I am without a book right now – which feels a lot like going out without my purse. I hate not having a book waiting for me at my bedside table. So I was planning on heading to the bookstore today – this post couldn’t have come at a better time! Thanks for the recommendations. Now I’ll be looking for Escape – it’s always better to go book shopping when you have something in mind.

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    Kristen — September 5, 2011 @ 7:37 AM

    Ohhhh – bookmarked t come back and check these out from the library or on my ipad soon! Thanks for the recommendations.

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    Paula — September 5, 2011 @ 7:41 AM

    Love this post Lori!! I had actually read some of those books but am in need of some suggestions for reading material during my unexpected unemployment!!

    • Lori Lange replied: — September 5th, 2011 @ 7:50 AM

      Start making your list! I’ll include recs from you next time too!!

  5. 5

    Barbara — September 5, 2011 @ 7:58 AM

    This has (ironically) got to be your best post to date! I have read many of these book, and could not agree with you more! You have great taste! ;)
    The other books are all on my “to read” list– especially Cutting For Stone! I loved State of Wonder, Escape (which I read years ago), and many of these books! I just finished Mornings in Jenin, which was fantastic, and Nothing to Envy (about N. Korea)– both incredible. If you aren’t already, you must checkout goodreads.com; I warn you, it is the most addictive site I have ever come across!
    Have a great long weekend!
    I am definitely stopping by a bookstore today!
    ps- Sister is a book I have been meaning to read since I read a review of it in the paper! thanks for reminding me!

    • Lori Lange replied: — September 5th, 2011 @ 8:03 AM

      Good to know! Many of my friends are on GoodReads,com, and I just told my sister about it. She poked around on there but was having trouble finding recommendations that were in line w/ the kinds of books she likes to read. Is there an easy way to navigate the site to take advantage of this?

      Thank you for the additional recommendations. I’m making a list!

  6. 6

    Susie — September 5, 2011 @ 8:01 AM

    Love the post….I’m going to download a couple of Aunt Joan’s recs!

  7. 7

    Kristen McLane — September 5, 2011 @ 8:16 AM

    My favorite book this summer was Joy for Begginners by Erica Bauermeister. The writing immediately reminded me of another favorite novel from a few summers ago. Sure enough, same author. The older book is called The School of Essential Ingredients. Yes, it’s about food :)

  8. 8

    notyet100 — September 5, 2011 @ 8:52 AM

    Wow so many ,..thanks for compilingthis list :)

  9. 9

    Christina @ This Woman Cooks! — September 5, 2011 @ 9:07 AM

    I needed some new recommendations. Good post! I loved The Help, and the movie too.

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    Deborah — September 5, 2011 @ 9:48 AM

    I was averaging about 6 books a month up until about 3 months ago. Now I’ve read one in that last 3 months. :( Life is just too busy lately!! But I’ve bookmarked this post in hopes of finding more time to read!!

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    Kimiko — September 5, 2011 @ 10:00 AM

    My favorite book this summer was The Art Of Racing In The Rain. It’s a very good, and at times, sad, story, which is told through the eyes of the family dog. It was a very interesting “point of view” and I read this book in 2 days because I couldn’t put it down!! And, you’re not the last person to read The Help…that’s next on my list!

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    vanillasugarblog — September 5, 2011 @ 10:58 AM

    ohh good list Lori.
    thanks!

  13. 13

    kellypea — September 5, 2011 @ 11:01 AM

    Love this list, Lori. Saw you tweeting about it and couldn’t wait to see what people would recommend. I’m most of the way through The Help after having it sit on my nightstand waiting in line for about a year :/ and Cutting for Stone and The Paris Wife are in line among others not on your list. Guess I’ll be purchasing even more. THANKS!

    • Lori Lange replied: — September 5th, 2011 @ 11:03 AM

      Hey Kelly, I’ve got a whole other list of books that all of the bloggers and twitter followers recommended. That list is forthcoming in a couple of weeks!

  14. 14

    Cate — September 5, 2011 @ 11:09 AM

    Thanks for this list! Cutting for Stone was definitely my favorite book of the summer, followed closely by Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan

  15. 15

    Kathy E. — September 5, 2011 @ 11:24 AM

    My two favorite reads this past summer were Mudbound by Hillary Jordan and Glass Castle (can’t remember the author). I’ve had Cutting for Stone downloaded on my iPad for a while and now I need to read it, because of your recommendation. Thanks for the list!

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    Hallie @ Daily Bites — September 5, 2011 @ 11:27 AM

    I’ve got Cutting for Stone sitting on my bookshelf but have yet to pick it up because, like you, it just didn’t “grab” me from the first few chapters. But now you’ve got me wanting to try it again! :)

  17. 17

    Karen E. — September 5, 2011 @ 5:16 PM

    Great post! A couple of my favorites are listed here (Cutting for Stone, Unbroken, The Help). I’m always looking for suggestions. You should make this a regular addition Lori!

  18. 18

    Jody — September 6, 2011 @ 7:43 AM

    Thanks for this list. There are several here that I have looked at and put down because I didn’t want to buy them. I am heading to my public library today to see if I can find some of these then will look on my NOOK to see what I can find. Thanks for putting this together.

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    RecipeGirl's Mom — September 6, 2011 @ 9:01 AM

    Absolutely love this addition to the “Beyond Food” section of your website. I’m so fortunate to have all of you readers to share such great books. I had forgotten how much I loved “Invisable Bridge” and “Mudbound” during the winter when I was snowed-in! I’ve only read four of this group so I’m anxious to explore the rest.
    PS Pictures of the books really brightened the whole post.

  20. 20

    OnMyPlate — September 6, 2011 @ 10:30 AM

    Funny enough, I just posted my book list yesterday AND my site is on cooking, fashion and home entertaining! Great minds! The Paris Wife didn’t make it on my list, but should have! I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for all of the other great suggestions. – Melissa

  21. 21

    Susannah — September 6, 2011 @ 11:44 AM

    One of my very favorite topics! I’ve read several of the ones you posted here and have added the ones I haven’t read to my running list. Here are the books I’ll suggest you add to your list…

    “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister
    “Garden Spells”, “Sugar Queen”, “The Girl Who Chased the Moon” and “The Peach Keepers” all by Sarah Addison Allen
    “The Story Sisters”, “Skylight Confessions” and “The Probably Future” by Alice Hoffman (she has written tons more but those are the ones I’ve read this summer and all hers books are just breathtaking gorgeous and tragic and heartbreaking but these women she writes about are just incredible)
    “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” by Beth Hoffman
    “House of Daughters” and “By Bread Alone” by Sarah-Kate Lynch
    “The Love Goddess’ Cooking School” by Melissa Senate
    “The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown
    “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper

    Hope you find some you like in there!!

  22. 22

    Erin — September 6, 2011 @ 12:20 PM

    Wow I have only read one of those – The Help. But Still Missing is on my shelf waiting to be read.

  23. 23

    Erin — September 6, 2011 @ 12:23 PM

    But my favorite book for the summer was probably The girl who the dragon tattoo. (sorry for not including that in my first comment!)

  24. 24

    Sarah — September 6, 2011 @ 1:37 PM

    Can’t wait to read some of the books you have listed.

    I read a few books this summer but my favorite by far was Beach Trees by Karen White. It was the first book that I stayed up way past the middle of the night to finish reading – I just couldn’t put it down! The plot was well twisted and when you finally pieced together what had happened it was amazing!

  25. 25

    Joanna Noel — September 6, 2011 @ 5:33 PM

    This is a great post! I’ve been looking for some good reads lately. I really enjoyed Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” if your in the need for a good belly laugh- read it. It truly is hilarious!

  26. 26

    Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — September 7, 2011 @ 5:20 AM

    Great post, going to have to look into some of these! Thanks for taking the time to compile!

  27. 27

    Barbara — September 7, 2011 @ 6:36 AM

    Thanks for the great reviews. I didn’t read as many books this summer as I normally do. I’m adding a few of these to my goodreads list. If you’re on goodreads I am Barbara scmom. The best way to use goodreads is to find like-minded people and see what they are reading.

  28. 28

    Natalie — September 7, 2011 @ 1:24 PM

    I love seeing what others are recommending as I’m a huge reader too. I just finished The Paris Wife last week and it was absolutely wonderful! I couldn’t recommend it enough!

  29. 29

    Hollye Jacobs, www.brooksidebuzz.com — September 14, 2011 @ 8:58 PM

    Thank you for these great suggestions. I’ve read quite a few and agree that they are outstanding…and therefore look forward to reading the rest of them. Thanks, again!

  30. 30

    Lauren at Keep It Sweet — September 23, 2011 @ 4:27 AM

    Great post, Lori! I saved it and just came back to pick some new books to download on my kindle:-)

  31. 31

    Kim — September 26, 2011 @ 11:04 AM

    I’m glad to see that 3 off the books I have (only 1 read so far) are on your list. One that I really liked is The Heart & The Fist by Eric Greitens ~ Wow! Give it a try I think you’ll be glad you did.

  32. 32

    cathy mullen — October 4, 2011 @ 12:43 PM

    Have to recommend Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly, an absolutely excellent historical fiction. Thanks for posting!

  33. 33

    Lisa — October 13, 2011 @ 4:38 PM

    Lori – lots of great picks here. Invisible Bridges is one of my recent favorites and I can’t stop thinking about it. One you might check out is The Piano Teacher – set in Hong Kong when the British were still there…great writing with a twist.

  34. 34

    Sharon — October 18, 2011 @ 6:10 PM

    Thanks for the great list. I plan on reading them all and have recommended them to my book club.

    • Lori Lange replied: — October 18th, 2011 @ 7:52 PM

      Thanks!

  35. 35

    Sara — June 15, 2012 @ 2:46 PM

    Thanks this is a great list.