Was 2020 a slow reading year for anyone else? The pandemic basically turned my brain into mush.
That being said, my love for reading came back with a vengeance this year. I’ve been reading so much this summer and it feels delicious. I’ve run the gamut from memoirs to fiction to historical non-fiction. I’ve liked some more than others but here are some of my absolute favorite reads of the past year.
Here are seven books I highly recommend picking up this summer:
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
The Midnight Library follows the story of Nora Seed, a deeply unhappy thirty-something who endlessly ruminates on what might have been. After a near-death experience, she ends up in a library where each book contains a story of an alternate reality. When she picks up a book, she is able to live out one of her parallel lives: from Olympic swimmer to pub owner to glaciologist.
Full of philosophical musings, this book will stick with you long after you’ve read it. I loved this book and read it in less than 24 hours.
If you’ve ever struggled with regret, ghost lives, or wondering “what-if”, I think you’d enjoy this one.
The Paris Wife – Paula McClain
The Paris Wife follows the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Richardson and Hemingway meet in Chicago in 1920, have a whirlwind romance, and quickly move to Paris. They soon find themselves amongst the “Lost Generation.” But as Hemingway’s career picks up steam, their marriage begins to unravel.
What I loved about this book was how real the characters seemed. Although this is a work of fiction, it reads almost like a memoir. The dialogue in particular is excellent.
If you’ve ever dreamt of living in Paris in the 1920s with the likes of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, you’ll enjoy this book.
Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner
Michelle Zauner, also known as her alias Japanese Breakfast, is a Korean-American indie rock musician. Crying in H Mart, her memoir, is many things: a memoir about losing one’s mother, a bildungsroman, and a story about making it as a famous musician. At its heart though, it’s a book about food and family.
Growing up as the only Korean-American in Eugene, Oregon, Michelle Zauner often feels out of place. But once she grows up and learns to appreciate her Korean roots, her mother dies, and she loses her connection to her heritage.
The way she finds her way back to her roots is through food.
Heartbreaking, sentimental, and gorgeously written, I highly recommend this if you like food memoirs such as Blood, Bones, & Butter.
Nothing to See Here – Kevin Wilson
This book is absolutely hilarious. And bizarre.
Lillian and Madison are an unlikely pair of friends. After rooming together at boarding school and then drifting apart, Madison asks the down-and-Lillian to nanny her twins.
The only problem? The children spontaneously burst into flames.
This premise shouldn’t work, but does. I laughed out loud so many times reading this book.
At its core, this book is not just about flammable children; it’s about friendship, abandonment, class divisions, and growing up.
Writers & Lovers – Lily King
Writers & Lovers is the story of Casey Peabody, a 31-year-old woman who has staked her entire life on becoming a writer. Despite this, she still hasn’t finished her first novel. She is also broke, single, and grappling with the recent loss of her mother.
Though her life is in shambles, she is still clutching onto something most of her friends have given up on — the drive to live a creative life.
As I’m now 31, I related to so much of this book. As the book jacket says, it follows a woman who is in “the last days of a long youth”: a time of your life that can feel akin to Indian Summer.
If you’re around this age or have ever had a dream to live a more creative life, I highly recommend this book.
Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones & the Six follows a fictional band’s rise to fame in the 1970s.
I found this book a little jarring at first, as it reads like a transcript. Once you become accustomed to the dialogue-only writing style, it’s hard to put this book down.
If you’re a fan of 70’s music or this era, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Though the characters are a little cliche (gorgeous but mysterious female lead singer, controlling but insanely talented band leader), they still felt real to me.
If you haven’t read it yet, I also recommend Taylor Jenkin Reid’s previous book, The Seven Lives of Evelyn Hugo.
The Splendid and the Vile – Erik Larson
The Splendid and the Vile is set during the Blitz, a German bombing campaign on London that occurred from June 1940 – June 1941. It centers on Winston Churchill’s first year in office, and his fight against the Luftwaffe and their relentless raids on London.
Though some parts of the book dragged on (especially the romances), overall this book transported me to London in the first years of the war: blackouts, bombings, and people carrying on with their lives regardless of the turmoil and strife.
My 2021 summer reading list:
- The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (I’m halfway through and it’s soo good!)
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
- Norse Mythology by Nail Gaiman
- Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reed
What’s on your reading list for this year?