Walking into a cool library on a hot summer day is like stepping back in time. I often took my two young daughters when it was too hot to go to the pool or maybe it was raining. We went to children’s storytime hour every once in a while, but mostly I took them on the spur of the moment and they played with the puppets after choosing the books with the best covers to take home. I’d browse a little longer in the children’s section – until moods started degenerating. Most likely we’d struggle through checkout while I tried to keep one daughter from harming the other. Happy days!
I never remember making it to the adult section – but I’ve got time for it now. I asked several girlfriends to think back on summer reads they’ve enjoyed in years past, and here’s what we came up with for ten fantastic summer reads available at your local library.
1. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2003). “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” “This might be interesting given all that is now happening in our culture,” says Caroline Shockley. I’d say! Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
2. Ken Follett, Edge of Eternity (2014), “which I LOVED!” exclaims Daphne Butler. Weighing in at 1,100 pages, the final installment of his Century Trilogy is a commitment. If you like a broad, sweeping historical novel, try this – but you might even start at the beginning, with Fall of Giants. The trilogy covers global events from 1961 to 1989 through the interlinked stories of characters on both sides of the Atlantic.
3. Graham Joyce, Smoking Poppy (2005). Monica McDougall tells me that “this cerebral summer read rewards greatly! A father traveling to Thailand to save his drug addled daughter from the culture she now loves. Joyce weaves hallucinations and reality brilliantly.”
4. Logan Ward, See You In 100 Years (2013). Another great recommendation from Monica: “Vanderbilt alum Ward and his wife leave New York in search of a slower pace. Super slow! Moving to a Virginia farmhouse, they lived for a year using only things available before 1900. The perfect read to support your decision to collect all your children’s devices this summer.”
5. Lisa Miller, The Spiritual Child (2015). Speaking of parenting decisions, Daphne Butler is crazy about this recent read, “an outstanding book on the importance of incorporating spirituality into parenting. Sounds drab but I read a review in The Economist on it and it’s fab!”
6. Sena Jeter Naslund, Ahab’s Wife (2005). Karlen Garrard calls this “an imaginatively written tale of a certain whaler’s wife that reads like poetry. But don’t worry, you don’t have to reread Moby Dick to enjoy this book.”
7. Donna Tartt, A Secret History (2004). “Complete with murder, mystery, and intellect, this shadowy read tells the story of a group of college students who become dangerously obsessed with rites of ancient Greece. Decadent!” exclaims Karlen. I’ve heard quite a few people say they enjoyed it more than The Goldfinch.
8. Margaret Atwood, the Oryx and Crake series (2004 and beyond). Oryx and Crake was on the leading edge of the dystopian craze, and it remains in my mind the one to beat. I also agree with Caroline Shockley: “I love a good series for the summer so that I don’t have to think about what to read next!”
9. Lev Grossman, The Magicians Trilogy (2009 and beyond). If you ever wished that Narnia or Hogwarts were real, try this fantasy series for grownups. I’ve just finished the last book, The Magicians Land, and I could cry that it’s over.
10. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011), the Harmonic Convergence of He Said and She Said! (See Gary Shockley’s He Said list of top summer reads). Egan “creates a set of characters with assorted links to the music business and lets time have its way with them. Virtually no one … winds up the better for wear.” (New York Times Book review.) “Each chapter is a self-enclosed short story, fighting to escape and join the others. ‘At night I’d stand in the shower and feel the stories reaching out these tentacles and connecting with each other,’ Egan says. ‘I wanted to write a book about time and change…'” (from The Chicago Tribune review).
After I finished this novel, I read everything else Egan had ever written. Enough said.