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Summer Reading List

I have a little confession: sometimes I struggle with actually getting around to writing posts that I have promised you guys. It’s not that I don’t want to write them – it’s just that cannot seem to find the time!

You were a huge help suggesting books before our trip to Jamaica (which by the way, I am STILL planning on writing a review of the place we stayed…sometime…hopefully very soon…). I promised to put together a “Summer Reading” post so we could all have a one-stop location for book recommendations.

I really enjoy reading and love having suggestions for “page-turning/can’t put it down” books. Here are the summer book recommendations for your reading pleasure! I will definitely be working my way down this list all summer! Please feel free to add more suggestions in the comments.

***All overviews from barnesandnoble.com***

Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own future.

In Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay offers up a mesmerizing story in which a tragic past unfolds, the present is torn apart, and the future is irrevocably altered.

Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt – Beth Hoffman
Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

The Island – Elin Hilderbrand (all of Hilderbrand’s books came highly recommended by several of you!)
From New York Times bestseller Elin Hilderbrand, a new novel set on Tuckernuck, a tiny island off the coast of Nantucket. Four women-a mother, her sister, two grown daughters-head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Instead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.

Bossypants – Tina Fey
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy. (Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Heart of the Matter – Emily Griffin
Tessa Russo is a stay-at-home mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie—a boy who has never known his father. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, they are strangers to one another and have little in common, aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

This is the moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.

Secret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowda
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son. Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families one Indian, one American and the child that indelibly connects them.

Winter Garden – Kristin Hannah (my favorite book of the summer so far!)
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life – Kerry Reichs
Despite being cursed with a boy’s name, Kevin “Vi” Connelly is seriously female and a committed romantic. The affliction hit at the tender age of six when she was handed a basket of flower petals and ensnared by the “marry-tale.” The thrill, the attention, the big white dress—it’s the Best Day of Your Life, and it’s seriously addictive. But at twenty-seven, with a closetful of pricey bridesmaid dresses she’ll never wear again, a trunkful of embarrassing memories, and an empty bank account from paying for it all, the illusion of matrimony as the Answer to Everything begins to fray. As her friends’ choices don’t provide answers, and her family confuses her more, Vi faces off against her eminently untrustworthy boyfriend and the veracity of the BDOYL.

Eleven weddings in eighteen months would send any sane woman either over the edge or scurrying for the altar. But as reality separates from illusion, Vi learns that letting go of someone else’s story to write your own may be harder than buying the myth, but just might help her make the right choices for herself.

Edisto – Padgett Powell
A novel that has drawn comparisons with the work of J. D. Salinger, Truman Capote, and Flannery O’Connor, Edisto centers on one Simons Everson Manigault, a twelve-year-old possessed of a vocabulary and sophistication way beyond his years and a preadolescent bewilderment with the behavior of adults. These include his mother, who is known as the Duchess, and his enigmatic father-surrogate, Taurus. Imbued with a strong sense of place—an isolated strip of South Carolina coast called Edisto—Padgett Powell’s novel is “truly remarkable . . . both as a narrative and in its extraordinary use of language” (Walker Percy).

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
In Garth Stein’s novel, Fido speaks. Well not exactly speaks, but pooch Enzo does narrate The Art of Racing in the Rain. From his floor-hugging position, this restless Lab-terrier mix dispenses trenchant views on life, car racing, and his nominal owner, Denny Swift. Stein’s daring use of a four-legged narrator doesn’t distract us from the story of would-be NASCAR driver Swift; in fact, it effectively lightens the tone of Denny’s bumpy ride.

Promises to Keep – Jane Green
Callie Perry lights up every room she enters, and adores her settled family life in tony Bedford, New York. Steffi is Callie’s younger sister. At thirty, she’s still a free spirit bouncing between jobs and boyfriends in Manhattan. Their long-divorced parents, Walter and Honor, share little besides their grown daughters. But when Callie receives a difficult diagnosis, the family will come together for one unforgettable and ultimately life-changing year.


The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Miss Eugenia Phelan (“Skeeter” to her friends) is a young woman of privilege who enjoys her fellow Junior Leaguers but sometimes finds their ways at odds with her own principles. She plays the part of her station in 1960s Mississippi but can’t help feeling dissatisfied with keeping house and acting as recording secretary at league meetings, and yearns for something more.

Minny, Miss Celia, Aibileen, and Yule May are maids employed by Skeeter’s friends. Each woman cooks, cleans, and cares for her boss’s children, suffering slights and insults silently and sharing household secrets only among themselves. In the wake of the Junior League push to create separate bathrooms for the domestic help within private homes, Skeeter contacts a New York book editor with an idea. Soon she’s conducting clandestine meetings with “the help” to capture their stories for publication. It is a daring and foolhardy plan, one certain to endanger not only the positions but the lives of the very women whose stories she transcribes — as well as her own.

The Smart One and the Pretty One – Claire LaZebnik
When Ava Nickerson was a child, her mother jokingly betrothed her to a friend’s son, and the contract the parents made has stayed safely buried for years. Now that still-single Ava is closing in on thirty, no one even remembers she was once “engaged” to the Markowitz boy. But when their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Ava’s prodigal little sister Lauren comes home to Los Angeles where she stumbles across the decades-old document. Frustrated and embarrassed by Ava’s constant lectures about financial responsibility (all because she’s in a little debt. Okay, a lot of debt), Lauren decides to do some sisterly interfering of her own and tracks down her sister’s childhood fiancé. When she finds him, the highly inappropriate, twice-divorced, but incredibly charming Russell Markowitz is all too happy to re-enter the Nickerson sisters’ lives, and always-accountable Ava is forced to consider just how binding a contract really is . . .

Wow, that’s quite a list! Let me know if you read any of them or if you have more to add! Happy reading! 😛

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Jackie @ Baking Charms June 23, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I laughed hysterically through Bossypants SO worth reading

  • 2
    Sherry June 23, 2011, 12:51 pm

    I read The Heart of the Matter and it was good book. It was an easy read, one of those ones where you could finish pretty quickly if you had the time. :o) I can’t wait to read the ones on your list!

  • 3
    Kelly @foodiefresh June 23, 2011, 12:53 pm

    I’ve read The Help and Water for Elephants and they are two of my favorites! I’m definitely bookmarking this page and coming back to it. I always need book recommendations because I am horrible at choosing them. Thanks Jen! 🙂

  • 4
    Anastasia June 23, 2011, 1:27 pm

    What a great list! I’ve been hearing such good things about Tina Fey’s book that I’m going to pick it up this weekend.

    I’m gonna have to check out a couple more on this list and get my summer readin’ on!

  • 5
    Holly @ pink runner June 23, 2011, 1:41 pm

    I loveeeee Water For Elephantssssss!

  • 6
    Jessica June 23, 2011, 2:05 pm

    Great list! Definitely want to check out many of these! The Art of Racing In The Rain is WONDERFUL! I read it in just a few days and loved every minute of it. Maybe it’s because I’m a dog owner and dog lover, but I was so touched by the story!

  • 7
    Laura @ LauraLikesDesign June 23, 2011, 2:16 pm

    These are great suggestions–thanks so much for sharing! I’m headed to a cabin a in couple of weeks for a girl’s weekend and have been trying to find some new books to bring along. I can’t wait to check these out.

  • 8
    Alaina June 23, 2011, 3:02 pm

    So many great books out there! I’m in the middle of Water for Elephants and I love it. I’m also starting “I Know I Am, But What Are You?” by Samantha Bee. Hilarious!

  • 9
    Erin @ Naturally Addicted June 23, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Great reading this! I just discovered your blog after one of my friends told me about it. I love it already!! I was raised in Charlotte and just recently moved back. It’s a great city and I can’t wait to read more form you!

  • 10
    Becky June 23, 2011, 4:46 pm

    So many great selections! I feel like I’ve neglected my pile of books for too long. I’m looking forward to reading something fun on the beach this summer.

  • 11
    Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) June 23, 2011, 4:46 pm

    Just bookmarked this!! THANK YOU because I’ve been wondering what to put on my Summer List, and I’m putting like all of these on now!! 😀 I’ve read The Help and I LOVED it so much! Amazing book 🙂

  • 12
    Katie June 23, 2011, 4:49 pm

    Love this list – always looking for a good book to read!

    I just finished Sarah’s Key and Hunger Games (the 1st book). Both were really good reads. I would add a book I read this Spring – The Invisible Bridge. It was fantastic!

  • 13
    Lem June 23, 2011, 5:24 pm

    Thanks for the book list!. So many wonderful suggestions. I just read the Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. It is a great read and hard to put down until the end.

  • 14
    Angie June 23, 2011, 6:05 pm

    Kristin Hannah’s book Firefly Lane is also wonderful! I will have to add Winters Garden to my summer reading list.

  • 15
    Rachel Mount June 23, 2011, 7:35 pm

    Summer puts me in such a mood for fast, delicious reads. I just finished Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna–it’s almost like an Indian Gone with the Wind. Epic and fast.

    The Help is great. I read it during my annual beach vacation last August and it’s exactly the type of book I love for that–interesting and not cheesy, but still will keep you reading for 5 hours straight.

    By the way, I think this is my first time commenting. I’ve been loving your blog!

  • 16
    Ali Avery June 23, 2011, 9:28 pm

    Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors!! Love all of her books!

  • 17
    Rob June 24, 2011, 12:23 pm

    almost done with hunger games…..fantastic book!!

  • 18
    Agatha June 24, 2011, 5:32 pm

    I am in the middle of Heart of The Matter and it is just great!!! Definitely for summer reading list!

  • 19
    Scott Hepburn June 25, 2011, 3:03 pm

    Jen, have you ever tried audio recording your posts? I’m like you: Sometimes I have the best intentions, but life (or exhaustion) gets in the way of writing a post.

    I’ve dabbled a little with Cinchcast, which lets you record short posts (or long ones, I guess) via phone. It’s nice when there’s a quick idea you want to share and don’t want to lose it because writing got postponed.

    Brian Baltosiewich (husband of Terra of Cafe Terra) also runs RadioExiles, which does podcasting. I’ve been doing a podcast at RadioExiles for about two months and LOVE it. It’s so convenient when I have a lot to say and can’t hammer it out into a blog post.

    Just food for thought!

  • 20
    Nichole (eat & be pretty) June 26, 2011, 3:45 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendations! I’m currently reading We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oats and it is SO good. It’s definitely going on my Top 10 Favorite Books list. Btw I took your class last week and had no idea you were a blogger… Thanks for an amazing yoga workout session!

  • 21
    Emilie June 26, 2011, 8:12 pm

    The Paris Wife – EXCELLENT! About Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Highly recommend!!

  • 22
    Amy June 29, 2011, 8:58 am

    Oh gosh, Jen, I sobbed through “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” But it really is an incredibly sweet story… perfect for pet lovers! Let me know if you want to borrow my copy!

  • 23
    Melissa July 5, 2011, 4:12 pm

    The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life by Kerry Reichs. Fun fact: Kerry is is the daughter of Kathy Reichs – the genious talent behind Bones – Kathy still lives in Charlotte.

    Loved the Heart of the Matter – Emily Giffin is prob my most fave author right now.

    Also love Kristin Hannah!

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