Ever since I was a small child, obsessed with Little House on the Prairie and A Wrinkle in Time, summer has meant having the time to read my way through a towering stack of wonderful books.

Now that I’m (mostly) a grown-up, I’ve scored a perfect day job as a school librarian/media specialist.  Over the past several months, I’ve worked with my colleagues to craft awesome summer reading lists for our students. We’ve reviewed dozens and dozens of titles, hoping to create lists that our kids would love.  Quite simply, in a world where the kids are so bombarded with screen time distractions, we want kids to develop a joy of reading… our dream is to create lifelong readers. (Like me!)

Over the past few rainy days, I decided to compile my own personal summer reading lists.  I’ve been jotting down names of books for months, as I’ve wandered bookstores and listened to NPR stories and noted recommendations from friends and family.  It’s a wildly eclectic mix… my tastes have always been all over the place.

My reading lists are divided into three categories.  My own “grown-up” reads, my cookbook/foodies titles, and those books from the summer reading lists for our kids I haven’t yet read and would like to.  Thought you might enjoy taking a peek at what’s in my piles!

Here we go:

“Grown-Up” Reads

Summer Reading for Me

After You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes – I tear up every time I see the Me Before You trailer.  Adored the first book.  Must read the sequel.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – I actually bought this book in an airport last summer, and then left my copy on the plane after just a few chapters.  I’ve been meaning to replace it ever since.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez  – I picked this up from a display of recommended books at Politics and Prose.  A seemingly fascinating take on the immigrant experience, it was The Daily Beast’s 2014 Novel of the year.

The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo Martinez – Heard a captivating exerpt on NPR’s This American Life.  Must read.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – Widower finds the charm bracelet of his late wife, and sets off on an adventure to discover it’s history.  Reviewers call it: “eccentric, charming, and wise.”  Sounds like my kind of read.

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear – Still haven’t had a chance to catch up on the latest Maisie Dobbs – my favorite British girl detective of the 1930s. Can’t wait! (P.S. If I ever get a dog, I’m naming her Maisie Dobbs)

The Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton – I’ve been captivated by every other Kate Morton title.  Reviewers call this one “a rich and almost magical good old-fashioned tale.”

The Mystical Backpacker by Hannah Papp – I’ve always been fascinated by stories of people taking off to explore the world without a plan… I could never do it, but I love to read about such adventures.

The Pearl that Broke It’s Shell by Nadia Hashimi – Bethany Books highly recommends this tale of two women in Afghanistan.  I rarely go wrong with their recommendations.

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg – Apparently Duhigg has found eight key concepts that explain why some people and companies are able to get so much done.  I need that.  I haven’t gotten much done on my to-do list this weekend.

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle  – For twenty years, Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. In Tattoos on the Heart,he distills his experience working in the ghetto into a series of parables inspired by faith.  

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – My youngest is planning to study economics at college next year.  I’m trying to learn a little something from the Freakonomics guys so I can sound smart when he comes home. (I dropped Microeconomics 101 in college. Twice. Then moved over to the Journalism department.)

The Storied Life of A.J. Finkry by Gabrielle Zevin – When I read one reviewer say: “This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love–love of books and bookish people…” I added it to my list.

The Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson – I adored Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – looking forward to the follow-up.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving  by Jonathan Evison – I found this recommendation on one of my iPhone notes. Does anyone remember who recommended it to me?!  It sounds amazing… and apparently Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez are starring in the movie.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – I loved the New York Times reviewer who said:”Flournoy recounts the history of Detroit with more sensitivity than any textbook could.”  I spent my childhood in the Detroit area, haven’t lived there in decades… but am intrigued.


Cookbooks and Books About Food:


A Bird in the Hand: Chicken recipes for Every Day and Every Mood by Diana Henry  – This has been on my bedside table since Food52’s Piglet this year.  I’ve drooled over the photos, but need to dive in for a serious read (and cooking binge!)

The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell – I read about this charming book on My Name is Yeh, who deemed it a 10/10. I too am captivated by Imen’s story… and would love to have a few new Irish recipes to try.

Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings by Leela Cyd – The whole point of my cooking is to share it with friends, and I do like to keep things simple.  Reviewers rave that: “Leela is a genius at the most essential things: food, fun, and friendship.”  

Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long by Julia Reed – The utterly charming and hilarious But Mama Always Put Vodka in her Sangria remains on my top 10 list of favorite cookbook-memoirs.  Can’t wait to see what Julia has created with a fully illustrated guide to entertaining.

Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen Hardcover by Meera Sodha – This has been piled next to A Bird in Hand on my bedside table since Food52’s Piglet this year.  It’s time for a serious read, and exploration of Indian cooking.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Young Reader’s Edition) by Michael Pollan – this has been added to our school’s reading list for the 7th and 8th graders – time for me to read it as well.

Ripe by Nigel Slater – A dinner guest arrived one evening with Notes from the Larder wrapped in a ribbon.  I treasure that volume of Nigel Slater’s quiet musings, and have decided to try another of his works.  Seems summer is the perfect time to delve into his thoughts on fruit.

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel – As someone who spends so much time contemplating food, I really do need to learn more about the World food system.  

Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill – I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time in Italy later this year, and can’t wait to reacquaint myself with Roman cooking through the pages of this gorgeous book.

And Keeping up with my Students:


All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – I can’t wait to read this timely story, highly recommended by a bookseller at Politics and Prose.  Two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

The BFG by Roald Dahl – How have I never read this one?  I’ve read all the other Dahl books.  Must get to it before the movie is released.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox – One of the booksellers at Politics and Prose said I must read this story.  Excellent.  I’m always up for tales of crumbling castles in Scottish Highlands…

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy – This story of an alien invasion has been on hold continuously since the day it came in to the library.  The 7th and 8th graders love it… perhaps I can get my hands on a copy over the summer.

The Finest Hours (Young Readers Edition)  by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman – I’m on a constant quest to find books to interest middle schoolers who fall into the “reluctant reader” category.  This sounds seriously promising… and Chris Pine stars in the movie.  Hmm. Perhaps that might interest the middle school girls as well…

I am Number Four by Pitticus Lore – My 7th and 8th graders tell me these stories are about insanely brave teens, evil alien invaders, various mystical gadgets, a romance, and lots and lots of explosions.  Should be fun.

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher – It’s always fun to throw one teen “Chick Lit” book into the mix, and this story of a duo that meet up at a sci-fi convention is reportedly an: “excellent combination of self-discovery and adventure.” Count me in.

I will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka, and Liz Welch – This tells the story of the correspondence between an American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and how the letters changed their lives.

The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste – I’m looking forward to diving into this fairy tale about a brave little girl and her adventures among Caribbean creatures.

The Misadventures of the Fletcher Family by Dana Alison Levy – This has been likened to the fabulous Penderwicks series – with four boys and two dads instead of four girls and one dad… 

Pie by Sarah Weeks – Never judge a book by it’s … title?  I love pie.  Must read this.  Sounds like fun.

Raymie Nightengale by Kate DiCamillo – I’ll read anything by Kate DiCamillo.  She’s a genius when it comes to children’s literature.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez – I’m intrigued by this story of a 14-year-old girl’s journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—I’m not sure I knew there was an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Relish by Lucy Knisley – This is a combination graphic novel, memoir and cookbook, and has been checked out constantly since it arrived in the library a few months ago.  Looking forward to having a turn.

Summerlost by Ally Condie – This seems to be on everyone’s list of 2016 “Summer Must Reads.”  I’m on it.  And I’m judging this book by it’s cover… so gorgeous.

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban – This comes highly recommended by my 3rd graders.


If you’ve actually made it this far, you deserve a gold star or something.  My lists are never short.

So what are you reading this summer, dear friends and readers?



PS  I’ll leave you with this quote from Nora Ephron:

(and I hope you find your way into a great book this summer)

“There is something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can’t tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he’s liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can’t adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All of this happens to me when I surface from a great book.”


13 Responses to "Awesome Summer Reading Lists of 2016"
  1. Tracy J says:

    The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk got good reviews. I bought them for Jess’s 13th birthday in July

    • mb says:

      I’m reading Wolf Hollow at the moment, but hadn’t heard of the Lie Tree. I’ll go on a quest for it.. thanks for the tip, Tracy!

  2. Denise says:

    LOVE this list. Thank you so much for sharing. Gotta get busy…

  3. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this great list! Not only am I a foodie and book-lover, but I have two middle kids who need some good books to read this summer. I appreciate your recommendations!!!

    • mb says:

      Keep those middle-schoolers reading! I’ll report in on my faves as the summer unfolds…

  4. I’m sooo excited about this list Mary Beth! When my boys were in grammar school, the school librarian was a good friend of mine and she always gave me wonderful recommendations on books to read! I’m an avid reader, mysteries are my favorite, but I’ve broadened my horizons with my friend Dori’s picks over the years! Can’t wait to go through this list!! Enjoy your week!

    • mb says:

      If you like mysteries, try Maisie Dobbs – I adore that series! Let me know what else you try on the list… I can’t wait to seriously dive into my pile!

  5. Just pinned this for later, I love a good reading list! Beautiful Ruins was one of my fav summer reads, it’s actually what started my obsession with the Amalfi Coast where we’re headed this fall!

    Erin, Attention to Darling

  6. Suchitra says:

    I love love love books! If I have a book in hand, I don’t need anything else and am oblivious to everything else!
    Blogging has taken me away from reading, even though every once in a while I read a book! Thanks for sharing with us an amazing compilation! I intend to check them out! Have a great weekend!

    • mb says:

      I’m so glad you like the list Suchitra! I had so much fun putting it together, and am counting the days until my last day of school (and summer vacation begins in earnest so I can have more time to read… and blog!)

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