It’s too hot to be outdoors, which is why I find summer to be one of the best times of the year to lay in bed with the air conditioning turned all the way up, reading a book that can make me forget where I am for a few hours. The following are a few novels that are way more fun than going outside this summer:
PAPER TOWNS – John Green
Let’s just get this out of the way first. The film adaptation is supposed to be a big hit this summer, following last year’s success of The Fault in Our Stars. So it would be smart if you wanted to read the book version before July 24th. John Green novels are great summer reads because they usually involve road trips, friendship, and mini adventures. It’s also super easy to read, with a cool little life lesson about imagining people complexly, as if they are real humans with thoughts and desires of their own. Instead of, like, projecting your own ideas of who you think they are.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – Jenny Han
I know what you’re thinking—the title is off-putting. But hear me out: this is a good book. This is an especially great book if you’re in your 20s and you’re tired of adulthood and its accompanying responsibilities and you’re thinking wistfully about how simple high school was. Adults don’t have the luxury of three month long summer breaks, but we still have the option to escape into a book for a while. P.S. I Still Love You and it’s prequel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, made me nostalgic for a younger version of myself. They are endearing flashbacks of what your high school years used to be if you’re feeling sad about the fact that we all have to online date now. This is the novel to read if you want to be transported back to the sweet bubblegum innocence of falling in love for the first time and promising your boyfriend or girlfriend that neither of you will ever break each other’s hearts. It’s young, heartfelt, naive, and genuine. I can imagine rereading this during a picnic in the park, in the heat of summer, with my boyfriend, absentmindedly in love.
DARK PLACES – Gillian Flynn
If you’re one to stay indoors because the sun is too bright and people are smiling too much, Dark Places is the book for you this summer. It follows Libby Day, the sole survivor of the Day Family Massacre, as she resolves to figure out the exact details of the night her brother murdered her family. The novel is dark, mysterious, and gruesome; it’s almost as if every scene happens in the dark, in the shadows—so it’s practically the opposite of summer. It’s no Gone Girl, but it’s almost as good. Plus the movie adaptation stars Charlize Theron, due out in August.
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL – Jesse Andrews
This isn’t necessarily summer-esque, but you should read it if you’re considering spending your summer trying to re-imagine your importance in the world. The “Me” in the title refers to Greg, a high school student whose mother forces him to spend time with Rachel, the aforementioned “Dying Girl.” Before you get any ideas about what kind of novel this is, Greg writes, “She didn’t have meaningful things to say, and we definitely didn’t fall in love.” Mostly it’s a novel about the ordinariness of living and dying—a super fun topic to think about in the summer, when people are out eating ice cream, enjoying themselves, not thinking about their life’s significance. He warns that “this book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good, or whatever.” Ever the nihilist, Greg doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of humanity’s impermanence. This book won’t necessarily make the reader feel warm and fuzzy, but it does reflect a realism rare in Young Adult novels. This is the perfect read if you’re into poignant and honest storytelling.
SUMMER SISTERS – Judy Blume
Although Judy Blume is known for her children’s books, Summer Sisters is an adult novel about two best friends who spend every summer together in Martha’s Vineyard. It’s similar to Boyhood in the sense that it’s a coming of age story that follows the lives of Vix and Caitlin all the way into adulthood. But Summer Sisters is richer than Boyhood; it’s more true to life. To be honest, I can’t explain it any better than this. Judy Blume has a way of writing down my deepest insecurities and making me feel like they’re everybody else’s insecurities, too. You just have to read it. It’s seminal, formative. It taught me about friendship, loss, and family. You know, everything a novel is supposed to teach you, without being a cliché.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE – Anthony Doerr
I’m going to level with you: I haven’t actually read this. But I started it! And I’ve read several starred reviews, most notably that it won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Which is somewhat of a very big deal for novelists. The main character is blind, a plot point that practically begs for metaphors about all of the light we truly cannot see.
This is the book to read this summer—or literally any time—if you’re into historical fiction (it’s set during World War II), smart writing, and a compelling plot. It’s not often that you find a novel that’s all of those things combined. Some books are well written and some books have a good story, but the best books are both. I’ve heard from the New York Times and my best friend that this is both.