It means lots of outdoor riding time, reading by the pool (even if the pool is a blue fish-adorned plastic bowl), BBQs, lazy afternoons, day drinking on rooftops, and sunshine.
Lots and lots of sunshine.
It also means it’s time for my annual summer reading list.
My summer reading list is always all fiction, so if you’re into non-fiction, business, or history, this isn’t for you.
But if you need fiction to read while you sit in the sunshine, this list is for you!
The 2017 Spin Sucks Summer Reading List
So far this year, I’ve read 19 novels (and seven business books), so you should be able to find something in here that works for you.
They are listed in order of how I read them (thank you, Kindle!), but I can tell you right now, my most favorite (so far) is The Secret History.
See why below…
- My Name is Lucy Barton. Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood seems to reconnect them. But you also get her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, and her love for her two daughters. It’s a really fast, enjoyable read.
- The Chemist. An ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life. She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning. Admittedly, I was reticent to read something by the Twilight author, but I really loved it. It had me thinking about it well after I finished it.
- The Whistler. We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice. But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens. John Grisham is my guilty pleasure. I’ve read everything he writes. This was a pretty good one.
- A Man Called Ove. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? After about 100 pages, I thought, “OK, I get it. You’re a grumpy old man.” It was funny in parts, but overall just meh.
- The Thirteenth Tale. The enigmatic Vida Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself—all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she, at last, wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. This one sat on my nightstand for a very long time and I’m very happy I picked it up.
- The Secret History. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill. This is by Pulitzer Prize winner, Donna Tart, and I loved every minute of it. The Goldfinch was good—her writing is akin to music lifting off the pages—but I thought The Secret History was significantly better. I enjoyed the story more and I loved the attention to detail she paid to, well, everything.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions. You will be shocked to read her true story, how modern medicine has benefitted, and what it’s done to her family.
- The Woman in Cabin 10. Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant…until a woman is thrown overboard. It’s an enjoyable read, if not exactly intellectual. It’s a good pool or beach book.
- All the Missing Girls. It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched. What I loved most about this book is it’s told backward. From a writer’s perspective, that is commendable and frightening. The planning that had to go into it before she even began to write. Impressive!
- The Couple Next Door. Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. This is another good beach book—not super intellectual, but a good brain break.
- Behind Closed Doors. Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener, and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. But what happens behind closed doors? This one will make you incredibly angry.
- The Japanese Lover. In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. A love story like any other, you will not want to put this one down.
- Hidden Figures. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. If you haven’t seen the movie (or even if you have), this is a great substitute. Talk about girl power and feminism at its roots. You’ll love it.
- Truly Madly Guilty. Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. After watching Big Little Lies on HBO (I read the book a few years ago), I got back on a Liane Moriarty kick. It’s not as good as Big Little Lies, but it’s not a waste, either.
- The Silent Wife. Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. I didn’t really love the writing—it’s told in both Jodi’s and Todd’s voices—and the details about Chicago drove me crazy, but it was an easy, brain break read.
- Firefly Lane. In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface, they are as opposite as two people can be. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end, they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable. The Nightingale was my favorite book of last year so I thought I’d give this one a try. It’s a great coming of age story about life, love, and how different decisions make different people.
- Theodore Boone.In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them. Theo knows every judge, policeman, court clerk—and a lot about the law. He dreams of being a great trial lawyer, of a life in the courtroom. But Theo finds himself in court much sooner than expected. Remember how I said John Grisham is my guilty pleasure? I didn’t realize this was a kid’s book. When I finished it, I thought, “Well, that was odd.” Now knowing it wasn’t written for me makes more sense.
- Witness to a Trial. A judge’s first murder trial. A defense attorney in over his head. A prosecutor out for blood and glory. The accused, who is possibly innocent. And the killer, who may have just committed the perfect crime. Ditto to what I said about John Grisham above.
- Into the Water. A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged. I just started this on Sunday night so I’m not quite finished, but it’s not Girl on the Train good.
Bonus Business Book Reading List
And, just for good measure, here is a list (without commentary) of the business books I’ve read this year:
- On Writing
- Virtual Freedom
- Teach and Grow Rich
- The Power of Who
- Invisible Selling Machine
- Stand Out
Now it’s your turn!
What’s on your summer reading list that you can recommend?
I have 16 more to read this year to reach my goal so let’s hear it!
Photo: Those books are on my summer reading list, but I need to add more!