Need inspiration for your summer reading list? Look no further than these recommendations from seven great authors. 

By Elizabeth Sile and Nora Horvath
Updated June 14, 2018
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement
amazon.com

Some of our best reading is done on vacation. But with only so much suitcase space, it can be hard to narrow down a manageable to-be-read pile. For inspiration, we asked seven authors—all with their own new releases out in time for summer trips—to tell us where they’re traveling and what books they’re packing. Enjoy your break!

Meredith Art Department

When Florida’s heat becomes unbearable, my family drives up the East Coast to New Hampshire, where we’ve renovated a little barn by my parents’ pond. It’s a deeply happy place, full of dogs and chickens and apple trees and endless forests for my little boys to play in.

Groff’s just-released story collection, Florida ($21, amazon.com), delves into the state’s people, climates, and animals.

Awayland, by Ramona Ausubel

Maybe because there are more demands on my time in the summer with the boys out of school, but in the summer days, I find short story collections infinitely more flexible and attractive than novels. Ausubel is one of my favorite contemporary writers, a fabulist of magical insight, and her new story collection is exactly the book I'll want to read.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I try, every summer, to tackle a classic book I haven't read yet. This summer, it’ll be Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, which I'd tried to read as a teenager and threw across the room. Some books aren't right for us the first time we try them, but speak clearly and loudly after we've lived a little.

To buy: $6, amazon.com.

Feel Free, by Zadie Smith

Our barn has no Wi-Fi or cell service, and, as there are hours of sunlight left after my boys fall asleep, I average a book a night in the summer. I love Smith’s ecstatic, leaping brain, and I count on her new essay collection to keep me in wise company one night.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.

Oceanic, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Some poets seem built for the blue-gray of winter, and some are best in heat and light. Nezhukumatathil is a summer poet to me, and you’ll find me reading her newest collection with a glass of wine in an Adirondack chair.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

The trick to making long drives seem short is finding an audiobook we’ll all love. I’m eyeing The Golden Compass, which is not only beautifully written enough to keep my attention but also adventurous enough for my little boys.

To buy: $8, amazon.com.

Meredith Art Department

I go to France with my family every summer. My son is bilingual and attends a French summer camp. My husband used to live in Paris. Together, we’ve learned a lot about the Vézère Valley, where we spend much of our time. It’s a beautiful rural place, with a meandering river with incredible castles on its banks and paths and rock carvings in the cliffs that date back thousands of years.

The Mars Room ($16, amazon.com), from two-time National Book Award finalist Kushner, follows a woman starting two life sentences in prison.

Total Chaos, by Jean Claude Izzo

This is the first in a noir trilogy about a Marseille cop. These books apparently were wildly popular in France, and do much with the setting of Marseilles contradictions, corruption, racism, crumbling infrastructure.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

The Perfect Heresy: The Life and Death of the Cathars, by Stephen O’Shea

We will pass through an incredible city on our trip called Albi that features the most incredible cathedral in France—built after the Catholics succeeded at wiping out a religious sect called the Cathars. Maybe this book will teach me what I want to know about the Cathars. They seem to have been very early feminists.

To buy: $17, amazon.com.

Transit, by Rachel Cusk

I’m reading Outline, the first novel in Cusk’s trilogy, now, and it is making me feel I’m already on vacation, albeit a vacation of her wonderfully articulate melancholy and alienation. I’m eager to read the next one, Transit.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

My husband, son, and I plan to read this classic adventure novel together, partly because we’re regular visitors to Marseilles, where you can see the fortress in which the main character is imprisoned. (Then, I think, he escapes? I guess I’ll find out.)

To buy: $7, amazon.com.

My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier

Because every vacation should include one of her books, which are limpid and smart but somehow require very little of a reader. They’re engrossing, like a classic summer read should be, regardless of where you are and who you’re with.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

Meredith Art Department

Tucson, Arizona, starts getting hot in April, and by June it's nearly unbearable. While I would love to leave town for the entire summer, I usually have to content myself with weekends away. I adore visiting Arizona’s small, artistic towns, like Jerome and Sedona, and my friends have been hyping Bisbee for years. It’s not a long drive from Tucson, but it’s significantly cooler. Bonus points for the fact that we can bring our dog and will be staying in a mountaintop yurt.

Celt’s Invitation to a Bonfire ($22, amazon.com) is part thriller, part love story, inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s marriage.

The Job of the Wasp, by Colin Winnette

I’m a sucker for smart horror novels, in the same way that I’m a sucker for smart horror movies. They’re my popcorn, and I’ve heard this is a great one. The quiet of the nighttime desert around my yurt will turn any atmospheric spookiness up to 11.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

Inspector Imanishi Investigates, by Seicho Matsumoto

I first picked this up because I saw it described as “if Chekhov wrote a Japanese mystery novel,” and both the prose and character work do in fact share with Chekhov a bracing clarity about the human condition, though I’d say Matsumoto’s novel is a bit more cheerful about it all.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

The Quick & the Dead, by Joy Williams

This book is utterly bizarre but compulsively readable. Set in the desert, it’s perfect for a trip in the West, when you’re seeing the same alien landscape as the characters. Williams also doesn’t get enough credit for how funny she is.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

A True Novel, by Minae Mizumura

This modern Japanese retelling of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights tempers the melodrama of the original without losing any of the stormy passion. To me, it transcends its source material.

To buy: $15, amazon.com.

Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers

This is my perfect summer read: It’s funny, twisty, feminist, and smart, with sharp insights into the world of female intellectuals that are still relevant today. And it’s a cracking good murder mystery to boot.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

Meredith Art Department

I was raised on the West Coast, so we try to road-trip there every so often. The plan is to fly into Denver and spend a few days with my aunt and uncle, then rent a minivan with our four kids—hopefully it’s got a DVD player—and head through southern Wyoming to Utah, Nevada, and the Bay Area. After that we’ll go north to Ashland, Oregon, where I took family vacations as a kid.

Williams’s upcoming historical novel, The Summer Wives ($22, amazon.com), explores love and class on a small New England island.

Other People’s Houses, by Abbi Waxman

My literary agent recommended this book. It’s about a carpool and about middle class people having kids and getting involved in each other’s lives through the shared experience of raising children. I’m fascinated by that.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

The Witches, by Stacy Schiff

I picked up this book is about the Salem witch trials in 1692, because I’ve thought about Colonial New England each time I’ve visited Cape Cod. I’ve already peaked at the first few pages, and it’s beautifully written. It’s so wonderful to find a historian who can tell a nonfiction story in a rich, narrative way.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld

Last summer, I binge-read all of Sittenfeld’s books. She brilliantly captures the experience of being a newcomer in a complex social system. So I’m excited to read her new short stories.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

Master & Commander, by Patrick O’Brian

O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series is set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. He re-creates this world effortlessly. They’re literary but also compulsively readable.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

I got this for my 15-year-old daughter. Once I gave it to her, I heard all this buzz about it, so I’m going to read it. It’s based on West African myth and magic. It’s all about women taking charge.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

Meredith Art Department

I’m from the East Coast, and I moved out to California a year and a half ago. Santa Barbara is a great weekend spot. So for Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I rented a house in Montecito, in Santa Barbara County, and invited a bunch of our East Coast friends to spend the long weekend with us.

Knoll’s latest thriller, The Favorite Sister ($17, amazon.com), is a whodunit about two sisters on a reality TV competition.

Give Me Your Hand, by Megan Abbott

I am a die hard Abbott fan, and so it’s no surprise that I can’t wait to read her newest book, Give Me Your Hand. I love the way she tells these dark, twisted stories about women. This new title from her is about two women competing for a coveted science research position, and the dangerous lengths they’ll go to get ahead.

To buy: $22, amazon.com.

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, by Roxane Gay

I’m looking forward to reading this collection of essays edited by Gay. It includes first-person essays about rape, assault, and harassment, and just the multitude of ways that these things affect women. I love that this book is really distilling an important current conversation down into one anthology.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

Tangerine, by Christine Mangan

This book, set in Morocco in the 1950s, follows two college roommates in the years following a horrible event they want to forget. It’s been compared to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a book I would take to a deserted island.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, by Michelle McNamara

McNamara, the late crime writer, coined the moniker the Golden State Killer. This book is the product of her research into his crimes. She wrote with so much passion and so much humanity.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

This book was in my to-be-read pile for a while. Pachinko is a moving novel that follows four generations of a Korean family through Japanese colonization. Even though it’s long, it’s engrossing and really satisfying.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

Meredith Art Department

This summer, I’ll be in Leland, a beautiful part of Michigan that runs between lakes Michigan and Leelanau. With not one but two bodies of water, you can bet I’ll be spending all day on the beach—plastic cooler stuffed with drinks and pasta salad.

Li’s debut, Number One Chinese Restaurant ($21, amazon.com), is a multi-generational novel about work and family.

The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

Dionne’s chilling thriller follow a woman whose mother was abducted and whose father was the man who kept them for 14 years. Full of survivalist knowledge, moral complexity, and intricate tales from both Native American and Norse mythology, this book is a testament to love that survives and grows despite the cruelest conditions.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

A Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, by Ross Gay

Gay’s award-winning collection of poems constantly finds the grace and glory in unexpected and sometimes ugly places. One of my favorites centers around a ripe fig tree on a city block. I revisit these poems every year and never fail to feel filled with gratitude for nature and other people.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

Bootstrapper, by Mardi Jo Link

I love reading about hard work when I’m relaxing. In her memoir, Link overcomes the challenges of running a farm by herself: unruly farm animals, looming debt, and something called thundersnow. She’s buoyed by the love of her three sons and her dream of living off the land.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

Little Labors, by Rivka Galchen

Sometimes the best books for the lake aren’t juicy thrillers but slim little volumes that make you reflect. Galchen’s pocket-size book of essays on new motherhood is the latter. The essays, some only a sentence long, are playful, intelligent, and dense with wonder and love.

To buy: $12, amazon.com.

What We Were Promised, by Lucy Tan

Tan’s debut (out July 10) leaps across time and space, traveling from a silk-producing village in rural China to American suburbs. It’ll be refreshing to read about love triangles and the crowds of Shanghai while a lake breeze riffles my pages.

To buy: $23, amazon.com.

Meredith Art Department

This summer, we’ll spend a week on Long Island. It’s a no-brainer for us: near enough to drive to, beautiful enough to feel like a respite from New York City life, and organized entirely around access to a beach and a pool. We’ll cook out, get ice cream, watch the deer (a thrill for my kids), and lounge. This trip isn’t about sightseeing or fine dining; it’s about relaxing together.

In Alam’s new novel, a white woman adopts her black nanny’s child. That Kind of Mother ($16, amazon.com) explores privilege and motherhood.

Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl

At the end of a vacation day, my boys are completely worn out by hours in the sun, so bedtime is an abbreviated affair. They love to be read to, so I’ll pack an old favorite: Fantastic Mr. Fox, which, as an added bonus, has short chapters so we can read for a couple of minutes then it’s lights out.

To buy: $8, amazon.com.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket

When we’re at home, we spend a lot of time listening to kids’ radio—it somehow really keeps my sons calm—but I cannot abide to listen to it in the car. Our summer vacation is a road trip, so we’re going to try an audio book: A Series of Unfortunate Events, performed by Tim Curry, seems like absolutely perfect casting.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

I’m going to read my kids Charlotte’s Web. I’m confident the boys will be hooked on the story, and I think they’re old enough to handle the fact that the title character dies, but I’m not totally convinced I will be able to read it without crying.

To buy: $7, amazon.com.

Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry

As for my own reading, I like to bring a hefty book from my pile of books I’ve meant to read but somehow never have; this summer, it’s Lowry’s novel about a Brit in Mexico. A friend was just raving about it, which is, to my mind, the best way to discover a book.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

Brief Lives, by Anita Brookner

The kids aren’t the only ones tired after a day by the pool. I also like to bring a couple of slender books, like Brookner’s novel [about an unlikely friendship], because I feel industrious when I can finish multiple volumes on vacation.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.