Summer Reading Fun

books to read this summer working womenIs anyone else excited that summer is almost here? On the off chance anyone has some down time this summer, let’s discuss: which are the best books to read for fun? Which are the thrillers you couldn’t put down — the rom-coms that warmed your heart — the memoirs that made you laugh, cry, think? Which authors do you eagerly follow and read pretty much anything they write, and which best sellers were worth the hype? 

I’m happy to report that I’m reading books again — a few months ago I got a Kindle Paperwhite after hearing readers raving about them, and so I’ve been getting a ton of books out of the library as well as buying old favorites to “keep” on my Kindle. I’m also a fan (particularly for nonfiction or memoirs) of getting audio books out of the library.  Some of my recent reads (and likes):

Fiction I’ve Enjoyed Recently:

  • Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Yes, I just got around to this. I didn’t like it as much as I liked Gone Girl, which still sticks with me.  I’ve been trying to clear out my Pocket reading list, and found all these old articles I’d saved about Gone Girl, including an old New Yorker article comparing it to We Need to Talk About Kevin — that book looks like a much heavier subject matter (especially as a mom to two boys) but I may try to get into it.
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette?, by Maria Semple. A few friends and I were going to start a book club and someone chose this one as the first book — we actually never got around to discussing the book, but I read it and enjoyed it a lot.
  • Twenties Girl: A Novel, by Sophie Kinsella.  Kinsella is one of those authors that I’ll read pretty much anything she writes, and I hadn’t read this one yet, so I did.  It wasn’t my favorite book of hers, but it’s a solid, enjoyable book.  (My all time favorite of hers is The Undomestic Goddess — I highly recommend, especially to Corporette readers. I also was surprised by how much I enjoyed I’ve Got Your Number: A Novel.) (Word to the wise, with any Kinsella or other book written by someone who churns out content (Stephen King, Julia Quinn, whatever) — don’t binge read several books at once!)
  • The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  I mentioned this a few months ago, and it’s a solid, enjoyable book loosely based on Wils/K-Mid’s romance. Here’s a free Kindle preview (first 7 chapters).

Non-Fiction Books I’ve Enjoyed Recentlyish

  • #GirlBoss, by Sophia Amoruso – Yes, yes, I just got around to reading this one — I love that The Washington Post apparently called this “Lean In for Misfits.”  I got the audiobook out from the library and died laughing on a few walks — her story is really inspiring to me.

  • Bossypants, by Tina Fey.  I loved this book, although admittedly I read it a few years ago now. I liked it better than Mindy Kaling’s book, though, which I read more recently (well, halfway through), and I have yet to read Amy Poehler’s book (it’s on my short list!). I’ve also been thinking of reading Nora Ephron — I’d love any other suggestions in the funny-lady genre if you have any favorites.) 
  • The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, by Jeffrey Toobin — This book was the basis for FX’s American Crime Story, and I remembered liking the book a lot when I first read it for a college class, so I thought it might be interesting to reread.
  • Nutrition books: The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body, by Cameron Diaz – I got this out as an audiobook after hearing great things about it.  I’m only halfway through — it’s nothing new if you’re into nutrition, but it’s solid advice, told in an interesting way. A similar but older book that I enjoyed reading: Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes. Also along these lines: VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good, by Mark Bittman — I got this out of the library and it’s a great book to flip through and get ideas for vegan meals.  (I am by no means a vegan, but the older I get the more I think that the more vegetables and legumes and whole grains, the better.)
  • I read this book a while ago, but an honorable mention to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua — this woman is Intense with a capital I, but I thought it was a really enjoyable read, even if you aren’t entirely sure who you’re rooting for in the book — and it’s the kind of book I’m sure I’ll reread later. The Barcelona vacation chapter has stayed with me…

Old Favorite Books I’m Due to Reread

Ladies, let’s hear it — what are you eager to read this summer? What have you read recently that you really enjoyed?  What’s your favorite kind of book to read, and how does it compare to podcasts, magazines, blogs, etc? (Check out our last discussion of the best podcasts for working women, as well as my favorite magazines — and our last discussion on brain candy books.)  

the best books to read this summer to give your brain a break!


  1. I got an autographed copy. :

    Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy is off-the-hook. I’m a huge fan of hers and it’s her best work. I would read the books in order because there is an extended story line. MaddAddam, the final and best book, does start with a synopsis of the other two books if you don’t want to commit to all three books.

    • YES! such a great series. I’m not sure I can put it above Handmaid’s Tale, but only because that book holds a very revered spot in my soul.

      • I got an autographed copy. :

        Agreed: Handmaid’s Tale is incredible and very special to me.

        I just find myself thinking and ruminating more over MaddAddam. Every time I re-read (five times now), I still find a new quote, sub-theme, or motif. It’s so very rich in literary depth and still has a plot with developed characters (especially if you read the whole trilogy).

    • Anonymous :

      Totally agree, I often recommend the series for older readers (teens sometimes) who are looking for more after The Hunger Games. The first book has some world-building, but the ideas she has for the direction we could go…are compelling.

  2. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s part of the Austen project – updating the novels to today. She perfectly captured the pacing and wit of the original and read it in one sitting. Loved it.

    • Anonymous :

      I second this…my mom, sister, and I (all huge Austen fans) loved this book. It was a highly entertaining read, even for non-Austen fans.

  3. Shopping Challenged :

    I’ve been meaning to read this book forever, hope to finally get around to it next month.

  4. Meg Murry :

    FYI, if you are interested in re-reading the Handmaid’s Tale – you can get it in audiobook from Audible with Claire Danes as narrator. IMO, she did a really excellent job with the narration.

    Relatedly, since we’re talking books – anyone have any suggestions for book club reads? Or any books that did not make a good book club book for one reason or another?

    • Have you already read Orphan Train? It’s the most thought provoking book I’ve read recently, although I admit, I haven’t read much lately.

  5. Diana Barry :

    I liked recently:
    All the Light We Cannot See
    The Night Circus
    Life After Life – kind of like Groundhog Day but with a whole life instead of just a day

    I reread a whole bunch of Robin McKinley this spring and finally reread “Deerskin”, which I think I had originally read when I was 8 or something, and realized why I didn’t like it when I was 8! Much darker than her other fairytale books, but quite good.

    Then I tried “Fates and Furies” and hated all the characters, couldn’t get through it.

    • I didn’t love Life After Life but, FYI, there is a sort of sequel with the same format about her brother.
      Also, many people do love this book and to anyone interested – make sure you get the title by Kate Atkinson. There’s another book with the same title that came out around the same time.

      • The book about Ursula’s brother by Kate Atkinson is called A God in Ruins; it’s wonderful although I preferred Life After Life.

        I recommend absolutely anything by Kate Atkinson, including the story collection Not the End of the World and the Jackson Brodie novels, starting with Case Histories; they are kind of sort of detective novels but such wonderful writing and so rich that they really transcend the genre; the second or third one, When Will There Be Good News, was on the NYT book of the 10 best fiction books of the year a few years ago.

        • +2 for Life After Life and A God In Ruins. I’ve read both (just finished A God in Ruins last week) and both stay with you for awhile after you’ve finished them. Highly recommend.

    • I loved All the Light We Cannot See and Life After Life. I recently read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and could not put it down.

      Atwood books are hit or miss for me but I really enjoyed Alias Grace.

    • THANK YOU for saying that about Fates and Furies. I HATED it. I slogged all the way through it, and every review I read had nothing but praise for it. I was starting to think I was the only one! Really unlikable characters and overly flowery prose.

      In the vein of Gone Girl, I recommend The Good Girl by Mary Kubica and Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. Both a little dark but gripping.

    • Son of a harpy :

      I kept trying to get into life after life based on a number of wonderful reviews but couldn’t get past the first 30 or so pages- is it worth it?

    • Coach Laura :

      Loved “Life after Life” and “All the light we Cannot See”. Actually loved everything from Kate Atkinson except a God in Ruins – couldn’t get into it.

      Just finished “-The Improbability of Love” yesterday. Starting “The Last September” now. Finished “The Summer before the War” last week and “Station Eleven” last month – all of which were recommended by lovely readers of this blog.

      I like the Kindle First selections each month and just read book number 2 from Viveca Sten, a Swedish former lawyer turned writer. She’s written eight books, of which two have been translated into English.

      Also working on the Tracy Crosswhite series by Seattle lawyer Robert Dugoni. Just downloaded his new one.

    • All the Light We Cannot see has stuck with me- I adored it. I’d literally rush home to read it.

  6. Anonymous :

    I’m in the middle of Book 3 of the Neopolitan series by Elena Ferrante…the writing and subject matter are a bit dark and weighty, but the books really suck you in for some reason. I highly recommend them for anyone interested in Italy or modern historical fiction in general.

  7. I recently read and enjoyed the new Mindy Kaling book – each chapter more or less stands on its own so it’s easy to pick up and read if you’re short on time.

    Next on my read list (besides finishing the Neapolitan series) is The Clasp, the (first?) novel by Sloan Crosley. I really liked her two books of essays, I Was Told There Would be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, and figure it should be fun summer reading.

    • The Clasp was okay – it picked up towards the end but I found it a bit hard going at first.

      And the Naples series is incredible!

    • Anonymous :

      I’m on a waitlist for the Mindy Kaling book. I hope I like it as much as Tina Fey’s book, which packed a lot of work-wisdom in with all of the laughs.

  8. Excel Geek :

    Agree with many of the recommendations above. Just read When Breath Becomes Air and found it very moving.

    Along the lines of Girl on the Train/ Gone Girl, I read Into the Darkest Corner recently and thought it was great.

    Loved Me Before You and its sequel After You.

    For slightly fluffier books, I like anything by Liane Moriarty. My favorite is Big Little Lies.

    Really enjoyed Bel Canto and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

    So many more I can’t think of…

    • Coach Laura :

      When Breath Becomes Air is a must-read.

      Liane Moriarty has a new book coming out this summer that’s on my wish list.

  9. Fiction:
    The Namesake
    The Royal We (somewhat silly but compulsively readable)
    Bel Canto
    The Aviator’s Wife
    The Invention of Wings
    Us by David Nicholls
    Station Eleven

    Dead Wake by Erik Larson
    It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario
    All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior
    Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

  10. Babyweight :

    Who else likes some steamy romance in their downtime? I’m not the only one with a graduate degree and a fondness for love stories.

    I’ve got a couple of recs —

    Risking Ruin by Mae Wood is about a lawyer.

    The Walsh series by Kate Canterbury is about a family of architects/ real estate developers.

  11. Frozen Peach :

    Fiction lately:
    Mystery series by Karin Slaughter, Jennifer Hillier,
    Girls in White Dresses, jennifer Close
    The Lone City series by Amy Ewing (YA)
    The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

    Nonfiction lately:
    Making Babies, Anne Enright
    Manage Your Day to Day, Jocelyn Glei (highly recommended)

  12. Multicultural books :

    I tend to lean towards multicultural fiction, here are some that I would recommend:

    Under the Udala trees – Chinelo Okparanta (about a lesbian relationship during a turbulent political time in Nigeria)
    The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing – Mira Jacob
    Any of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, (highly recommend the Namesake)
    The Orchard of Lost Souls – Nadifa Mohamed
    The Tears of Dark Water – Corban Addison –the author is an attorney!

    Non fiction
    Why not Me – Mindy Kaling
    We should all be feminists – Chimamanda Adichie

    Other fiction
    The English Spy – Daniel Silva –fast paced and riveting!
    The heart – Maylis De Kerangal—-this one just came out, very well written and an easy read
    The Memory Painter – Gwendolyn Womack

    • Babyweight :

      I love Daniel Silva. I’m a sucker for spy books and his take the cake.

      • Coach Laura :

        Can’t wait for the new Daniel Silva’s new book out in July. I’ve read all of them, some more than once.

    • Anonymous :

      Agree that The Namesake was great. I have a book of Russian short (ish) stories that came from that, and learned that they are funny and far from winter-bleakness – but the climate & weather is a thing at times in the stories.

      Much like reading Bangkok 8 in winter and feeling warmed by Thai heat.

      Chimamanda Adichie is a thinking woman’s dream. We should all be feminists is short – a train ride, and worthy of re-reading until it’s imprinted on the reader’s heart. I read Americanah and felt a little more in tune with Nigeria, international students, and how some choices get made at times.

      And I am white, German-Irish heritage, degreed professional and found plenty to connect with and stayed up late because the stories were so compelling.

    • We Should All Be Feminists =<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Her TED Talk "The Power of a Single Story" is wonderful.

  13. Anonymous :

    All of those fiction recommendations are like a year old. What are the summer reads for this year?

    • I thought so too. But then again you can’t recommend something until you read it. I tend to look at magazines, sites like NPR for current reading recommendations. Or just find your own by looking at the new stuff in your library or local bookstore

    • I got an autographed copy. :

      I like the year-old recommendations. I never read as many books as I intend to and I try to get all my books through the library. Hold lists are so much shorter for year old books that the library bought 12 copies of last summer!

      • Anonymous :

        That’s me, too. I only read new releases quickly if it’s an author that I’m obsessed with, but even then I slow down a little bit as there is some variety. Jane Smiley, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, have had some variety even if I love 90+% of their work. Anne Patchett is my current reading crush. I enjoyed Brasil with her latest book, and I’m thinking she could have a new one by this time…

  14. Gail the Goldfish :

    Siddhartha Mukherjee, the author of Emperor of All Maladies, has a new book out this week, The Gene: An Intimate History, that I’m going to pick up for my next read. Emperor of All Maladies was very interesting, so I have high hopes for this. Other than that, I pretty much stick to fantasy books and highly recommend The Way of Kings that Kat linked as something her husband enjoyed (but it’s really fantasy, not sci-fi.)

  15. Anomomatopeia :

    Currently reading “the selection” series – young adult trilogy, dystopian fiction, think of a cross between the bachelor and the hunger games. So embarrassing but also addicting.

    recent favorites include: the secret history, the night circus, the light between oceans and the art of racing in the rain.

  16. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I found it to be excellent.

  17. Currently rereading A Year in Provence.

    I’ve read most of the ones mentioned above.

    Beautiful Ruins is a great summer read.
    The Storied Life of AJ Fikrey is good too

  18. I’m in a sci-fi/fantasy-themed book club, which has been going for about 2 years now. And of the books we’ve read so far, these were the most popular among our group:

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern [we all desperately wished there were MORE books just like this]
    The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch [a series, which continues to be very fun]
    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss [also a series]
    Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley [written by a friend of one our members, very political, and very thought provoking]
    Station Eleven by Emily Mandel [this has been recommended a bajillion times up thread, so there’s that]
    Seveneves by Neal Stephenson [warning: this book is a monster. We’ve read two of his books in the club, and both have the same issue of being ridiculously large, and seeming like they ought to split up into more separate books. But if you can deal with the length and the sort of cliff drop from one theme to another, it’s very good]
    The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell [all the summaries I’ve seen of this book are bad. There are no ghosts involved, it is very mysterious ‘what is going on?’ sort of journey.]

    The two we’re reading right now are Fitzpatrick’s War by Theodore Judson, which is very political steampunk/sci-fi (I’m about 2/3 of the way through it, and while I don’t aim for political stories, this one has caught me) and The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold, which is not at all new, and part of a series that I’m very excited about getting into, since I loved this one so much. It’s exactly the sort of rich-kid having space adventures and family problems that I love.

    • Oh wow, loved three of the books on your list (name of the wind, night circus, station eleven), must read the rest!!

  19. Highly recommend Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. And couldn’t put down Pretty Little Lies by Liane Moriarty!

  20. Mary in Texas :

    I saw the movie “We need to talk about Kevin” and it was very disturbing. Don’t think I could read the book. Gut-wrenching….

    • Bluestocking :

      The book was good. So good. I’ve read some of the author’s other books because I loved “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and they’re okay, but none of them had quite the impact of “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

  21. Currently reading:
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. PNW-er here, so it’s very cool to read about wartime Seattle.

    Currently re-reading (I’m a multiple-book person):
    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Did not like the new one, just started Girl who Played with Fire and just finished the first one.

    Just arrived today: Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe. I pre-ordered it. Plan on taking it to school tomorrow, finishing my LAST EVER LAW SCHOOL FINAL, going to a coffee shop and reading it (and then starting bar prep Thursday. Yay.) His last book, War, was stunning.

    Books I’ve ADORED in the past year:
    Ashley’s War- read it over 4th of July last year.
    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down- couldn’t stop talking about it
    Moloka’i- I’ve read it probably 5-6 times and I love it every time. It’s both incredibly sad and beautifully, beautifully written. Probably one of my top 5 books.
    Just Mercy- Oh my god, I think every. single. lawyer. needs to read this book. Every single person who has any interaction with anyone in the criminal justice system. H*ll, anyone who lives in the US, really. I started it after an auction I won it at at about 11 PM on a Friday night, stayed up until 3 AM reading it that night, carried it with me while my parents were visiting the next day and read it whenever I could, stayed up until 4 AM finishing it on Saturday night. A few incidents of ugly tears. But it was life changing.

    Books I’m kind of sort of working on:
    Lean in For Graduates (I just need the focus to be able to read it- not something you can read for 10 minutes while scarfing down breakfast).
    Gone Girl- not into it. Just….not into it at all.

    I am most excited to have time to read again post-bar.

  22. Traveling to Provence next week…looking for any recommendations …books/movies to download for the plane trip as well any overall tips for this trip…so is a tour and only my 2nd time abroad..thank you in advance