13 Books I Want to Read This Summer

This post is as much for my own benefit as it is for yours. Despite the stacks of "in progress" and "to-read" books piled on every available surface and corner of this apartment, I've recently found myself craving a few new reads so I used this post as an excuse to fill up my Amazon cart (aka "work-related shopping").

Disclaimer: I've yet to read any of these and so there is the very real possibility that one or two (or possibly all!) of them are absolutely terrible. I hope that isn't the case, but ahh...such is life!

Let's find out together, shall we?

1. L.A. Noir by John Buntin
After a bit of whining, Eugene finally agreed to watch the movie Gangster Squad with me last week. I love anything and everything with old timey gangsters and fedoras and dames with flowy hair and swank red dresses (not to mention Ryan Gosling!), so this was totally up my alley.

Knowing that the movie is (very) loosely based on the true story of an actual group of police officers who worked outside the law to eradicate gang activity in LA back in the 40s and 50s, I was left wanting to know more. Fortunately, there are a number of books on the subject.

This one, by crime writer John Buntin, jumped out at me as one of the more interesting options and is definitely on my list.

2. The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe
If there is one thing that I LOVE, it's books about groups of women who spend the summer at a beach house escaping from/being forced to deal with their issues.

I've never heard of people who actually do this in real life, but it seems to be a common theme in books and movies, which is just fine with me.

Here we have three sisters spending the summer at their grandmother's beach house in South Carolina. This one is part of a trilogy called The Low Country Summer Trilogy (more beach house stories!). I'll start with this one and see how it goes.

3. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Sarah Addison Allen is BY FAR one of my favorite writers. I first discovered one of her novels in the library of the bed & breakfast in Vieques where Eugene and I spent our honeymoon, and proceeded to read the entire thing in a day.

Her food-themed novels are lush and lovely, and heavy on the magical realism. This is the only book of hers that I've yet to read, and I've been saving it, but I think it's finally time. I recommend every single one of her novels. Every. Single. One.

(And she has a new one coming out in winter 2014, yay!).

4. All The Summer Girls by Meg Donahue
Do NOT confuse these summer girls with the ones in the book by Mary Alice Monroe!

This is an entirely different set of three beach house-dwelling summer girls escaping from/being forced to deal with their issues.

These ladies chose the Jersey Shore for their summer of catharses. (I love how absurdly similar the titles/covers/plots of these two books are.)

5. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly
I thought this book was going to be about summer camp, which is why I picked it up (I love stories about camp!), but it is in fact about a dysfunctional/eccentric family named Camperdown.

The protagonist in this tale (based in the 70s) is the quirkily-named Riddle, who witnesses something horrific and has to find the strength to tell the truth (while dealing with aforementioned eccentric parents).

I find it infuriating when characters in books/movies keep secrets out of fear or spite, so I'm not sure how I'll handle this one. I'll report back!

6. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Memorial Day, 1938. That was all I needed to know before adding this book to my "must read" list. Summer in the 30s? I'm in!

This one tells the story of a pair of 30s socialites who were once close friends but have since grown far apart. The two are unexpectedly spending the summer in the same Rhode Island beach town with their respective families, and have been thrust together to (you guessed it!) deal with their issues.

(Lots of creativity with the ladies-on-a-beach book covers this summer, as you can see, although I think this one is my favorite.)

7. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls by Anton DiSclafani
This one is also not really about camp, but it's about boarding school, which is even better.

Taking place in the 1930s, it's about a strong-willed 15-year-old girl named Thea, who is sent away to a girl's boarding school as punishment for her involvement in some kind of scandal (to be revealed later, I assume).

Described as "part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama," it sounds like an absolutely delicious summer read.

8. The Wife, The Maid & The Mistress
Scandal is afoot!

Based on a real-life 1930s mystery (the disappearance of Justice Joseph Crater), this novel re-imagines the tale from the points-of-view of three women in his life: his proper wife, his leggy showgirl mistress, and his dutiful maid.

Only problem? This book isn't actually being released until January so I suppose it doesn't technically count as a summer read, but...come on--what are the odds we'll get through the other 12 (and the 15 already on my nightstand) before then anyway?

9. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
I'm very excited about this nonfiction book by Lily Koppel, who wrote one of my favorite books, The Red Leather Diary.

This one tells the true stories of the young wives of the Mercury Seven astronauts, who were catapulted into fame (tea with Jackie Kennedy, TV appearances) as their husbands were launched on death-defying missions.

The women (who remained friends for 50 years) lived near each other, helped raised each other's children, and provided support and comfort behind-the-scenes.

10. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic--Fitzgerald's first novel--has been on my to-read list for ages and I'm finally getting down to it this summer.

It's the coming-of-age story of handsome and wealthy Princeton student, Amory Blaine.

Want some fun background? Fitzgerald actually wrote this novel as a way to win back Zelda and prove to her that he was going to be a success. It worked; upon acceptance for publication, Zelda accepted Fitzgerald's proposal and the pair married.
11. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
In this lovely culinary memoir in graphic novel form, cartoonist Lucy Knisley tells the story of her life as it relates to food--meals, flavors, dishes.

The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, her life revolves around food, and  she captures the moments beautifully. I've gotten a peek via the Amazon preview and can't wait to get my hands on the entire book.

If you've never read a graphic novel before, I think this would be a perfect way to start. She also has another great book called French Milk about a trip she and her mother took to France that I recommend checking out!

12. While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax
It's no secret that I love Downton Abbey, so I think this will definitely be a fun light summer read.

It tells the story of a group of neighbors (with issues, naturally) who are brought together by a dashing British concierge scheming to get his building's residents to interact.

He sets up a weekly Downton Abbey watching party (I guess because he's British?) and friendships soon bloom.  I'm guessing romance, too? Why else would there be a dude with a sexy British accent?

13. Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles
This is DEFINITELY the one I'm most excited about!

This collection of short stories is a continuation of the tale of Eve, one of the supporting characters in Amor's first fantastic book, The Rules of Civility. She was a fiery independent character who boarded a west-bound train from New York to visit her parents in Chicago, but never got off heading all the way to California.

If you haven't read the first book yet, go do it now, and then download this to find out what happened next (it's just $2.99 and only available as an e-book).

What do you think about my list? Will you be picking up any of these reads? Can you recommend any others I should add to my cart?

Note: The book links in this post are all my Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you purchase them I'll get a teeny-tiny payment (pennies on the dollar). It's not enough to afford a full summer at a beach house to deal with my issues, but it does help me defray the costs of maintaining this blog, so thank you!

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