Summer is here, and with it comes open windows, chirping birds, light breezes and beautiful sunny days. It’s the perfect season to grab a new book and escape from this crazy world we live in. That, of course, is if you’re a reader of fiction, where talented authors weave tales of love and intrigue, as well as crime and espionage. For many of us, there’s no better way to relax, use our imaginations and get away without leaving the house, beach, or weekend cabin.
If non-fiction is your preference, there’s never a shortage of new political exposes, or books about sports, climate change, history, biographies, personal self-improvement, finances, gardening, food and travel.
Whatever your interests may be, summer is the time to discover a new topic or author, and to catch up on the reading that you planned to do during the long, dark and cold winter. Check out these 12 recommendations based on books I’ve recently read, or plan to, as well as what’s currently hot from The New York Times Book Review and on the popular reading website, Goodreads.
12 Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Read
- Fiction: “Someone Knows” by Lisa Scottoline. Fans of this bestselling author will enjoy her latest work released in April, a story of teenagers who two decades earlier, played a dangerous prank that turned tragic, and only now are coming to the realization that it’s far worse to not get caught.
- Nonfiction: “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War” by Lynne Olson is the fascinating and dramatic true story about a French woman of privilege who led the only female-run Resistance spy network against Hitler during World War II. The group, named ‘Alliance’, was dubbed ‘Noah’s Ark’ by the Gestapo, as it worked tirelessly to eliminate the vital role that it played in defeating the Nazis. At its pinnacle, Alliance had more than 3,000 members, several hundred of whom were captured, tortured and executed. By moving her headquarters’ location weekly and living far from her young children, Fourcade ran an efficient and crucially important organization that helped save France from the Germans.
- Fiction: “Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje, author of “The English Patient.” Just out in paperback, this historical novel has received raves reviews from The New York Times, NPR and The Washington Post. The Canadian author’s plot takes place in London toward the end of World War II and is the story of two teen siblings who encounter violence, espionage and criminal elements after being abandoned by their parents during the war.
- Nonfiction: “Shortest Way Home” by Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate to seek the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S. Currently the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, the 37-year-old was once described by The Washington Post as “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.” That all changed when his presidential run became official, so his vision of a resurgent American Midwest and a totally positive outlook on the country’s future is a refreshing and uplifting read. Whether you support him or not, this Harvard and Oxford-educated Rhodes Scholar will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.
- Fiction: “The Last Romantics” by Tara Conklin, the New York Times bestselling author of “The House Girl.” This intimate story about an American family has been called “A triumph…that will reshape your understanding of family.” The novel follows the four Skinner siblings in middle-class Connecticut and shows how you can lose, and sometimes rescue, the people that you love.
- Nonfiction: “The Dirt” by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Mikki Sixx and New York Times writer Neil Strauss, is the story of Motley Crue, the crazed American heavy metal band that originated in Los Angeles in 1981. Called “a good dirty rock book” by NPR, “The Dirt” was originally published in 2001 and just re-released with nearly two more decades of gritty, hard-to-believe stories, and personal recollections from each band member. One of the top-selling bands of all time with more than 100 million albums sold, this book is sure to bring back memories for true fans of rock ‘n roll.
- Fiction: “Quicksand” is the novel that led to the hugely popular Netflix series of the same name. Written by Swedish author Malin Persson Giolito in 2016, the book won the national award for Best Swedish Crime Novel. The unpredictable courtroom thriller about a mass shooting at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb is sure to keep you turning pages at a rapid pace.
- Nonfiction: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama has been one of the most about books of the last year. The former first lady describes in amazing detail how she has managed to balance family, work, and the political climb of her husband despite many roadblocks along the way. The deeply personal memoir describes how her upbringing and strong family roots have contributed immensely to her success, not only in conjunction with President Obama, but as a mother, too. One million copies of her book have been donated to libraries and schools across the U.S.
- Fiction: “Kaddish.com” by Nathan Englander, and yes, the book’s title is correct. This story follows Larry, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn but who is struggling with his beliefs when his father dies. Jewish law requires Kaddish to be recited three times each day for 11 months after a parent dies, but Larry doesn’t believe in prayer or the soul. While Larry later returns to his Jewish roots and his Hebrew name, Shaul, he does not participate in the Kaddish tradition. Instead, he outsources Kaddish.com to recite the prayers for him. This entertaining novel is filled with Talmudic and biblical references and is a humorous and touching story of a son’s love for his father.
- Nonfiction: “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town” is the first nonfiction book by acclaimed novelist John Grisham. Five years after a local barmaid was murdered in Ada, Oklahoma in 1981, the police had still made no arrests. They had their suspicions though, and in 1987, long-time local Ron Williamson was charged with the crime, even though there was no physical evidence and the charges were largely based on hearsay from jailhouse snitches. As Grisham says, “If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you.”
- Fiction: “The Force” by Don Winslow, a fast-paced cop thriller praised by other prominent writers, is difficult to put down. This thoroughly researched insider’s view of the New York City Police Department will fascinate the reader with its incredible detail about fighting corruption and drugs on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. If you need to be convinced to pick this one up, consider that famed novelist Lee Child said: “The Force is probably the best cop novel ever written,” and Stephen King, who needs no introduction, calls it “…mesmerizing; a triumph.”
- Nonfiction: “Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by the host of “The Daily Show” Trevor Noah. It’s spent nearly a full-year on The New York Times Best Sellers list. The popular comedian who had the unenviable task of following Jon Stewart as the show’s host has become widely popular in his own right. Born to a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother before the collapse of Apartheid, Noah was kept indoors for much of his early childhood. His 18 compelling and uplifting essays are comical, insightful and a delight to read.
I hope that you’re looking forward to some great summer reading as much as I am. Whether you like to read curled up in a favorite lounge chair, sit in a rocker on your porch, or prefer to read in bed before turning in for the night, hopefully, a few of these books will interest you. Enjoy!