Sunscreen Ho! Booklisters’ Summer Reading Recommendations

Spies! Firemen! Assassins! Virginia Woolf! See what paperbacks we here at Booklist are sure you won’t regret stuffing in your picnic basket.

Her Royal Spyness Rhys BowenHer Royal Spynessby Rhys Bowen

Can’t get to England this summer? (1930s England, that is.) The next best thing is reading Her Royal Spyness, a mystery by Rhys Bowen. Lady Georgina is 34th on line to throne with few prospects and even less money. What is a girl to do? Become a sleuth, of course.

Ilene Cooper, Contributing Editor, Books for Youth

Michael Chabon Telegraph AvenueTelegraph Avenueby Michael Chabon

One of my favorite summer reads from the past few years. Michael Chabon’s 2012 novel is like watching a summer movie: there’s a 70’s Blaxploitation movie star who comes back to town for spurious reasons, intrigue and tension over the intertwined fates of the main characters’ businesses, local politics, and that Northern California vibe.  The book covers a lot of social ground— race relations, sexuality, changing mores, and shifting makeup of Oakland—without feeling heavy. A great read when you’re ready to chillax on a hot day!

-Daniel Kaplan, Perodicals Manager


Dog Stars Peter HellerThe Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

Despite its depiction of a survivor fending off marauders in a post-pandemic world suffering the effects of global warming, Heller’s first novel is an ode to nature, possessing a vivid, poetic, meditative, and haunting beauty. And it’s suspenseful and action packed, too, making it an ideal summer read for fans of The Road and Station Eleven.

-Ben Segedin, Production Director


Throne of Glass Sarah MaasThrone of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas

I was initially skeptical of Maas’ high fantasy series, since the genre’s not always my cup of tea, but when I finally put the book down, I looked up, bleary-eyed, to see that hours had passed. Now I’ll follow Maas’ fantastic assassin heroine wherever she’ll lead me. All four volumes (with more to come!) are perfect for filling up those long, lazy summer days.

Sarah Hunter, Senior Editor, Books for Youth



In the Kingdom of Ice Hampton SidesIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette, by Hampton Sides

Now that it’s finally hot outside, what better way to help you think cool than reading about a ship’s crew that spent two years locked in the ice before setting out on foot for Siberia? Sides’ scrupulous research bolsters his rip-roaring storytelling and knack for capturing the humanity of his subjects (the ordeal was made all the more harrowing by one man’s relentless punning). Slather on the sunscreen and head for the frozen north!

Keir Graff, Executive Editor


The Fireman Joe HillThe Fireman, by Joe Hill

When I think summer, I think hot, and when I think hot, I think fire, and I when I think fire, I think that scene in Christine where the car’s on fire, and when I think Christine, I think Stephen King, and when I think Stephen King, I think his son Joe Hill, and when I think Joe Hill, I think his new book The Fireman, and when I think firemen, I think hot, and when I think hot, I think summer. Finis.

Daniel Kraus, Editor, Books for Youth



The_goldfinch_by_donna_tartThe Goldfinchby Donna Tartt

Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and the Pulitzer Prize, Tartt’s big, engrossing, and feverish saga is a novel to live in and live with, a perfect immersion for summer reading. Theo, 13-years-old as the tale begins with a terrorist attack, is catapulted into a world of obsession, deception, greed, violence, and mystery. With his fate tied to that of an exquisite if sinister masterpiece by a seventeenth-century Dutch artist, Theo discovers hidden dimensions of life in his hometown, New York City, as well as in Las Vegas and Europe during his harrowing quest for meaning and love.

Donna Seaman, Editor, Adult Books


Little LifeA Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

If there’s a book best read on long, sunny days, it’s A Little Life. Summer’s extended daylight and general lightness is the perfect balance for this Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction finalist’s hefty length and dark subject matter. Periodic lake dips and patio drinks recommended—if you’re able to put the book down, that is.

Annie Bostrom, Associate Editor, Adult Books



The Argonauts Maggie NelsonThe Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

I feel strongly that summer is a good time to read something challenging as opposed to fluffy or easy because technically you should have the headspace to be more focused. So I look for things like that. I’m really curious about The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson and the way it really digs into gender theory. But I’ve also been enjoying Game of Thrones this spring and have been wanting to read the books . . . so it could go that way as well.

Sarah Grant, Marketing Associate


To the LighthouseTo the Lighthouse, by Virgina Woolf

While not exactly the breeziest summer read, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse—originally published in 1927—depicts a summer home on the Scottish Isle of Skye, along with its ever-fleeting occupants. Its portrayal of time, perception, art, and nature make it the perfect backdrop for quiet contemplation, and, like any good getaway, this one’s worth revisiting . . . time and again.

—Briana Shemroske, Editorial Assistant, Books for Youth



Last Days of California Mary MillerThe Last Days of California, by Mary Miller

Even the worst summer road trip will seem divine when compared to that of the Metcalf sisters, two teenagers stuck in a van headed to California with two parents convinced the world is about to end. Told in the unforgettable voice of fifteen-year-old Jess, the book chronicles, in a hilarious and gutting fashion, nameless towns, fast food pig-outs, and the dawning realizations of a girl on the cusp of self-awareness.

Eugenia Williamson, Associate Editor, Digital Products




About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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