The dog days of August—languorous afternoons spent lounging with a book in one hand and a lemonade in the other. In my dreams, anyway! But to me, picking a good book is half the battle. Escape into the story and you can forget the heat (for at least a while). Our four possible escape routes were chosen by Benice Atufunwa, the producer here on RealSimple.com with whom I probably work most closely. Benice produces the beauty, fashion, and health content I work on—that is, she is the one who actually does the coding and formatting that translates what I’ve written (or what we pick up from the print version of Real Simple) into what you see on your screen. Her work is painstaking and detailed, and she applied that same sensibility to her search for the quartet of books in this month’s poll. See her picks below, then vote for your favorite by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 28.
The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
Like a dropped stone that sends ripples across a pond, one act has far-reaching consequences in a beautifully told story, spanning from World War II Europe to modern-day Los Angeles, of bonds that defy distance and time.
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Ill-equipped to deal with the world upon her release from the foster-care system, this powerful debut novel’s 18-year-old main character confronts her past, faces her future, and communicates her thoughts and feelings in the only way she knows how: through flowers.
Forgotten Country, by Catherine Chung
On the night of her sister Hannah’s birth, Janie learns a secret: Her family is seemingly cursed to lose one woman from each generation. So when Hannah, with whom she has had a lifelong complicated relationship, goes missing, Janie is charged by her ill father with finding her sister.
The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls
A very different story of two sisters from noted memoirist Walls, who draws upon her own eccentric childhood to inform this tale of abandonment and, ultimately, resilience.