I’m proud to say that in spite of how busy as I’ve been this summer, the morning reading habit I implemented at the beginning of the year is still going strong! More often than not, I spend the first twenty or thirty minutes after waking immersed in a book, and it’s become a valuable part of my routine. No matter how many meetings and calls and emails I field throughout the day, I guarantee myself at least just-for-me activity by fitting it in before I dive into work! And these past few months in particular, I’ve plowed through some fantastic summer reading novels—some easy-breezy as beach reads should be, and others page-turning and unforgettable for any time of year!
1. The Song of Achilles: I downloaded Song of Achilles to my Kindle at the same time that I purchased Circe (below), since they’re by the same author and part of the same universe. You don’t have to have read the former to enjoy the latter, but I’m a stickler for reading things in chronological order and felt I was better able to appreciate the few characters who do cross over from one book into the next. Both tales take place in Ancient Greece and features both mortals and the gods, which made me skeptical at first as I’m not a big fantasy fiction person. But Miller so seamlessly blends the two worlds that her work feels more like historical fiction than anything else, and by the end of this story of love, adventure, and fate, I was so hopelessly devoted to the characters that I was heartbroken to reach the end!
2. Circe: Speaking of heartbroken, I finished Circe on a transcontinental plane ride and was definitely that woman ugly crying in her seat while her fellow passengers tried not to stare. Miller gives depth, breadth, and pathos to a female character who’s historically been relegated to footnote status, turning her into a complicated and sympathetic heroine for the ages. Eternal themes of friendship, motherhood, and loneliness mingle with the idea that the truest power lies not in impenetrable strength but in surrender to vulnerability—plus Miller’s deft and exquisite writing carries you through the book at breakneck speed.
3. The Horse Dancer: This was the only Jojo Moyes book that I hadn’t read, and I’m glad I saved it for last because it just might be my favorite! Moyes’ work is definitely on the fluffier side of the spectrum, but her writing is smart and her plots unpredictable enough that I feel respected as a reader. (I think of her books like an indulgent brain candy treat, but the healthy artisinal kind you buy at whole foods so that I don’t feel too guilty.) The Horse Dancer includes all the tastiest ingredients: a heroine saddled with unexpected responsibility, a will-they/won’t-they romantic entanglement, and an historical backstory of best intentions gone awry.
4. Manhattan Beach: This book manages to be a riveting mystery, a wrenching family history, a doomed romance, and a modern female empowerment tale all at once. A vivid snapshot of Brooklyn in the middle of the 20th century, it brings to life the forces of time, place, and circumstance that shape us and gives them weight as characters unto themselves. I love books that suck me entirely into the past, and this one does exactly that: you’ll look up from the last page feeling steeped in nostalgia and longing for more.
5. Foreign Affairs: Somehow this book ended up in my Amazon recommendations, and boy am I glad it did! It’s not a new book—it won the Pulitzer in 1985—but author Lurie’s light and humorous style is timelessly engaging. The book follows the paths of two American academics studying abroad in London, painting its characters with endearing complexity. Foreign Affairs paints a hilarious tableaux of supporting characters against which its two protagonists stretch and grow, and it delves into the many ways in which our own infuriating quirks and tendencies hold us back. Oh, and as a bonus, there’s a surprise twist at the end!
6. Everything I Never Told You: I started Everything I Never Told You when it first came out a few years ago but only made it partly through the book. Then, after falling hard for Ng’s more recent release Little Fires Everywhere, I picked it up again with new appreciation for the author’s subtle and artful depictions of late 20th century suburban life. With the brilliant device of a central character who is dead from the very first sentence, we see an unfolding of secrets and lies, and ultimately experience the extent to which all that is unsaid impacts us infinitely more than what’s spoken aloud.
7. Little Fires Everywhere: No pun intended, Little Fires Everywhere is a slow burn of a book that simultaneously explores big themes like race and class, culture and family, art and creativity, alongside the everyday choices and sacrifices we make to get by. The action takes place largely amongst high schoolers in 1998—exactly my era—so I particularly related to the tension between the bubble of teenage concerns (so small in retrospect, yet so big at the time!) and the intrusion of the grown-up world of late 90’s current events.
8. Someone to Care: I’ve been reading historical romance novels since I was in high school, and while over the years I’ve left most authors of the genre by the wayside, I’ve never stopped loving Mary Balogh (I even preorder her new releases on Amazon so that I’m sure to get them as soon as they come out!) Someone to Care is the latest installment of a heartwarming family saga, and the thing I especially appreciated about this one is that the hero and heroine are a bit older—because love and second chances can happen at any age. This book and the others in the series are like popcorn: totally addictive, and impossible not to consume a huge quantity in a single sitting!