There might be a zillion summer reading lists out there, but there’s only one brought to you by Team BBF! We spend all day, every day surrounded by books (more so every day, as copies of books by BBF 2019 authors start rolling in), so you’d better believe our staff’s TBR pile is never depleted. Whether your upcoming travels take you to the mountains, the beach, or just the local park or pool, we’ve compiled some of our favorite reading recommendations to round out your summer adventures—happy summer, and happy reading!
Norah Piehl, Executive Director
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a gift that keeps on giving, especially lately, as several recent novels have transformed and updated Austen’s classic as a way to comment on present-day issues of race, class, and religion. Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin, sets the classic romance in Toronto’s Muslim community, offering a thoroughly twenty-first century take on the novel of manners.
I’ve long admired Taffy Brodesser-Akner‘s journalistic profiles of people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Bieber, so I was excited to read her debut novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble. Suffice it to say that this funny, achingly wise novel does not disappoint–and if you start reading it and think you know what to expect, keep turning pages, because you almost certainly won’t anticipate Brodesser-Akner’s thoroughly surprising storytelling twists.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell‘s YA graphic novel Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is a sympathetic portrait of a sensitive young woman who falls in love with the wrong girl–over and over again.
Finally, I haven’t read it yet, but I am eager to crack open my copy of Colson Whitehead‘s The Nickel Boys. I’ve been a huge fan of his work even before he was the BBF’s 2016 fiction keynote, and I can’t wait to read his latest, about growing up black in the segregated South.
Jennifer Jean, Community Engagement Manager
I’m reading a ton of poetry, notably:
Jennifer Martelli‘s My Tarantella is raw, intense, fantastic poetry about the perils of womanhood. Several poems revisit the murder of Kitty Genovese and Martelli’s Italian American childhood in Revere, Massachusetts.
The English translation of Dunya Mikhail‘s Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea, by Elizabeth Winslow and Dunya Mikhail–is amazing! Mikhail’s genre-bending, long prose-poem explores her experiences in and around war in Iraq.
As for fiction:
Folks should be reading Emily Pease‘s short story collection Let Me Out Here, which was the 2018 winner of the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. Pease’s writing is darkly funny and proves she is a razor-sharp observer of human foibles.
A must-read, totally absorbing novella is Olivia Cerrone‘s excellent The Hunger Saint, which is historical fiction about post–WWII Italian miners.
Katelynn Jasper, Lit Crawl Intern
Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls–A lonely housewife, a monster on the loose, and avocados…lots of avocados come together to create the perfect recipe for a great summer read. If you like dry, cynical humor and meaningful connections that remind us it’s what within us that counts then this book is for you! Bonus: Rachel Ingalls was a local author!
Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman–Put down that romance novel for a moment and pick up this one. Goldman gives the reader a rare glimpse into his beautiful life of grief, true love, secrets, laughter, family drama, and his wife Aura that will leave you holding your loved ones even closer. This moving and poetic book will have you saying its name to everyone once you are done.
Otherwood by Pete Hautman–Hautman masterfully weaves a tale of time travel, friendship, change, and accepting other’s differences as beautiful things. This is definitely one of my favorite coming-of-age novels and I flew through it quickly thanks to such a captivating plot and characters. I know that that both kids and adults will enjoy reading it, especially together!
Ximena Delgado, BBF 2019 Intern
One Hundred Years of Solitude/Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez (originally written in Spanish): I’ve had this book on my reading list for a while now. Last month I finally went out and got it and I am so excited to start reading it. Not only is Gabriel García Márquez an important figure of Latin American literature, he is also the type of writer I aspire to be. I have previously read some of his short stories and his writing has never disappointed me. This novel is a multi-generational story that follows the Buendia family in the town of Macondo. One Hundred Years of Solitude helped originate the magical realism genre and won García Márquez the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Released on June 4th, 2019! With the release of his first novel, poet Ocean Vuong brings his beautiful writing to life. I first began reading Vuong after a friend’s recommendation and now I am extremely excited to see how he will encompass a full storyline with his words. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous unravels the history and secrets of a family through the use of letters. I cannot wait to start reading and see how this novel turns out.
Kyle Labe, BBF 2019 Intern
If you’re as much a geek for Greek mythology as I am, then Madeline Miller‘s latest novel is more than a treat. A modern epic in every sense of the word, Circe is a moving rumination on family, history, and womanhood, and lives up to the hype created by Miller’s brilliant debut, The Song of Achilles. It’s peculiar that, since this story follows the timeline of Homer’s Odyssey, we know everything that will happen in the book, but somehow this novel can’t be put down once opened.
When the star daughter of the Lee family’s body is found at the bottom of a lake, the entire family crumbles apart. Celeste Ng‘s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, is both a portrait of the modern American family experience and an intriguing analysis of race, gender, and immigration, all the while remaining an intensely fascinating read. I hope to get around to Ng’s latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere, soon, but this is a great book for a road trip, beach day, or stay-cation.
Megan Michaud, BBF 2019 Intern
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
I have heard so many great things about this book over the years, and even more since Amazon released their show for it (which I refuse to watch until I’ve read the book!). A combination of angels, demons, and a misplaced Antichrist all coming together for the end of the world? What could be better?
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
I absolutely adore Sarah J. Maas! Kingdom of Ash, the conclusion to the Throne of Glass series, was released last fall and I’ve been dying to read it. If you love young adult fantasy that is filled with assassins, magic, and lots of twists and turns, I highly recommend it.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
If you, like me, have been mourning the loss of Game of Thrones, it’s time to read the series that started it all. Even if you haven’t seen the show on HBO (which is probably better), the books are intricately detailed and beautifully written. It’s the perfect fantasy read for those who like political intrigue, swordfights, and magic. Best part is that since the books are still being (slowly) finished, there will be plenty more to come!