best books of the summer


What’s better than one library card? TWO library cards.

Three libraries spanning two library systems are within 3 miles of our apartment. I could walk to two of them. One of those is only a 10 minute walk from my office (lunchtime library runs!) and another is half a block from our Saturday morning farmers’ market (food AND books!). I’m living the dream.

This last month, Brad and I gorged on our libraries. We typically split up. I head right for New Fiction, Brad makes a beeline to the health and nutrition books. Usually 20 or so minutes later, we run back into one another and my arms are stacked high with books I’ve been waiting forever to read (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—on seemingly permanent hold in the Des Moines Public Library system, Olive Kitteridge, The Busman’s Honeymoon) and books I’ve always been curious about and never saw on the shelves in DSM (this time around: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Flight Behavior, Bringing Up Bebe). Brad laughs at the greedy way I methodically browse and snatch books and I laugh at the titles he’s pulled: Gut Solutions, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, The American Medical Association’s Complete Guide to Prevention and Wellness. Our reading doesn’t cross-pollinate very often.

PSA: There is approximately one month of summer left, which means you still have time for a satisfying read or two. Here’s what’s topped my list since we’ve moved.


One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp Ann’s lyrical writing style is like cilantro: You’re either obsessed and can never get enough or you throw up in your mouth a little when someone mentions the word. I love cilantro. And I liked her style, though I was careful to consume it in smallish doses (maybe you cilantro-haters should try that? Because I don’t get you.). The first few chapters, where she outlines the idea of eucharisteo–seeing an opportunity for thanksgiving in even the smallest moments of our lives, leading to joy and communion with God–are her best. I started writing down the gifts in my life and saw everyday tasks become holy and felt an almost giddy happiness. But now I’m stuck in the lower 100s. So read this book and start your journal so you can remind me it’s worth keeping up.

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume One I dipped in and out of this for more than a year. It was so worth it for how funny and thoughtful C.S. Lewis is. And for the idea of taking walking tours around the countryside (so British!). And for this quote. And for countless quiet lessons on how to write. Basically I adore everything he writes and I don’t care who knows it.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple I picked this up just after I finished a murder mystery that was dark and brutal and not something I’d normally be into. Although I was totally into it. And guys, Where’d You Go, Bernadette was like finally getting to the YouTube montage of hilarious Jennifer Lawrence quotes after 30 seconds of forced exposure to an embarrassingly bad Wendy’s ad. It was a delight, in other words. It’s satire and gently pokes fun at Seattle residents, but if you’ve ever known a crazy or irrational person, none of the jokes will be lost on you. So that’s all of you. Go read this.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer I’m not often a fiver on Goodreads. A book has to wreck me and bind me back up with words strung together so beautifully, it aches. It has to be a book I look forward to reading again and again my whole life and on whose spine my fingers will linger when I lovingly touch all my books. (What? You don’t do that?) This book easily passed that threshold. It has an innocence because of its nine-year-old narrator whose father died in the attack on the World Trade Center. By the end of the first chapter, he had me. I cried when he cried, I hoped when he hoped, I raged when he raged, and I was satisfied only when he found satisfaction in an ending that made me want to kiss the cover. I had a hard time returning this to the library.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak The only book I’ve read in my entire life I wanted to start again immediately as soon as I had finished it. The only book in my entire life that landed so heavily on my heart I put it down and couldn’t even consider reading anything else for almost a month afterward. Not a single word. It’s a story about a young girl who steals books during World War II. Death narrates it, which sounds weird, but isn’t. There are drawings and overprintings and smudges on the pages, which also sounds weird, but also isn’t. It’s a masterpiece and I almost stole it from my mom because I couldn’t let it go. Now that I think of it, that’s pretty meta. I should have kept it. (Count your blessings, Mama! You raised a reader, but you didn’t raise a thief.)

What about you? What books have been your favorites this summer or are you hoping to sneak in before it ends?





  1. Lan | morestomach

    i really tried to get into Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Book Thief. both were not finished.(can we still be friends?)

    i was pretty obsessed with The Night Circus and Tiny, Beautiful Things in recent months. honestly, i’ve been reading fluff these last few weeks as i’m struggling coming to terms with the end of summer.

  2. Andrea

    I love this post and all your book picks, obviously this is one of the reason’s we’re friends :) I also LOVED Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close, so much so that I have refused to see the movie. No matter how good anyone says it is, I’m sure it can’t compare to the book. Are you reading Broken Harbor now? It’s next on my list. If you like it I highly recommend her other books! miss you (and our reading lunches) dear friend!

  3. Dad

    Just finished Ender’s Game. A lot to think about there. I can’t see them doing justice to the movie. Not enough time.

  4. Erin

    I loved both One Thousand Gifts and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. And Where’d You Go Bernadette and The Book Thief are both on my to-read list. I think you just convinced me to move The Book Thief up in priority though!

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