For as long as I can remember, reading has been my salvation. In fact, my earliest memory is that of my then eighteen month self sitting in a play pen on a hot summer’s day while looking at the Golden Book “The Poky Little Puppy.”
For a shy girl who moved a lot growing up, books and their characters were my best friends. Ramona Quimby, Ralph S. Mouse and Jessica Wakefield could always be counted on to play with me. Never was I more excited than when the mailman delivered my next two installments of the Book Of The Month Club my mom enrolled me in when I was nine. And yes, I read every single Sweet Valley High Book. All 475 of them. Twice.
One of the things I love most about reading is discussing books with someone who loved a book as much as I did. I’ll stop perfect strangers in a mall or on a train and ask them how they like the book they are reading. I’ll unabashedly strike up a conversation with the woman in front of me in Barnes and Noble with my unsolicited opinion on how much I loved the Gillian Flynn book in her hands. I belong to book groups on Facebook, regularly share dogeared copies of my favorites with friends and just announce to whomever will listen that a book moved me to tears.
Summertime is when I can really kick my reading sickness into high gear. Long summer evenings with nary a Grey’s Anatomy episode in sight allow for hours of reading pleasure. A good summer read goes a long way in helping to ensure that I don’t beat my Fruit Loops senseless for bickering, demanding iPad apps and asking for a popsicle for the 900th time in three hours.
But, there comes a point in every summer vacation where reading your favorite book has to be shelved because back to school insanity clouds even the sunniest of days. I wistfully eye my books on my coffee table as I’m hustling the Fruit Loops out the door to buy new shoes, backpacks and number 2 pencils. As I’m shuttling kids to summer cross country practice or to school for orientations, I tell myself that I’ll get back to my character friends just as soon as that school bus squeal wheels away from the curb on the first day of school.
Once that bus pulls away from the curb, you can sink your teeth into these juicy reads this Fall.
The “Kids Are Back To School And I Can Read Again” Book List
Okay, listen: it’s no secret that I have zero chill when it comes to the authors I love. And, when they write books that make me feel all the feels, I’ve been known to reach out to them on social media to let them know how kick ass they are. When I breathed in the last page of Lilac Girls, I could. not. get. it. off. my mind. Kelly’s tale of three very different women during World War 2 haunted me in a way no other book has. A socialite, a Jewish girl in a concentration camp and a German doctor are the principal characters in the story and OH MAH GAH. Just read it. You won’t be able to put it down. Frankly, it’s better than The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. There, I said it. And I may or may not have sent Martha Hall Kelly an extremely embarrassing, fan girl style IM on Facebook.
This book has it all: Romance. Heartache. Redemption. Sigh. It’s just the bomb. Set in 1942 against the backdrop of World War 2, it’s the story of a young woman as she sets out on a journey to the Pacific as a naval nurse. It’s a love story for the ages and it will have you weeping at the end.
In this fictional novel, May Dodd and a group of women are sent to the far west in 1875 to marry Cheyenne Indians in an effort to assimilate Native Americans into the world of the white man. This one is completely fictional but written in such a way that you REALLY think it happened. Honest to Pete, as I read it, the words seemed so completely, outrageously believable that I had to keep reminding myself it was “just” a story. A page turner until the end, I promise. Or your money back. Not from me though. Barnes and Noble usually takes returns, I think….but only if the spine isn’t cracked.
This is my FAVORITE. BOOK. OF. ALL. TIME. No joke. I first read it in high school as an assignment and have probably read it no less than ten times since. In fact, I love this book so hard that Hubby presented me with a SIGNED First Edition copy of POTE for my 30th birthday. Now, when I give you the description, don’t turn your nose, m’kay? The story is set in 12th century England and takes place during the 30 year build of a cathedral. Yes, cathedral building can be riveting, I swear. This book, too, has everything: Intrigue. Back Stabbing. Love. Good vs. Evil. And just a tiny bit of smut to make it believable for the time. Give it 100 pages and I swear, you won’t put it down. And, PS: I heart Tom Builder big time.
I found this book in the fall of 2006 while on a trip to Chicago. As no surprise, I was browsing in a Barnes and Noble on Michigan Avenue under the “New Local Authors” section. At the time, Jen Lancaster was a relative unknown and I honestly bought the book based solely on the subtitle: “Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag To The Unemployment Line.” I literally LAUGHED. MY. ASS. OFF and have followed Jen and her blog, Jennsylvania, since. She’s written a ton of other very funny books in the last few years but I maintain her first was her best.
Because Tina Fey. Enough said.
Sigh. What to say about this one? First off, Emily Giffin writes in a way that makes you physically incapable of putting one of her books down. Truly. In fact, if you’ve read some of her others: Something Borrowed and Something Blue, you know that you basically need to make sure your kids have enough Goldfish crackers and Nickelodeon TV to survive for 48 hours. In All We Ever Wanted, she explores that secret place that most of us have: racial prejudices and how they affect not only your family but also those around you. With a real life plot that is not only timely and on point, Giffin forces us to examine our ideals and belief systems. I daresay it’s her best book to date.
Set in Nazi Germany, this is the story of a nineteen year old Jewish girl forced to help her family survive by working in a Nazi war office. Surprisingly, she finds herself falling in love with a Nazi officer. It’s a complicated, torturous and beautiful story about principals, love and the trappings of war. If you love historically accurate fiction, you won’t be disappointed. And, if you are, don’t tell me because I loved this book. Like, a lot. So don’t tell me if you hate it. Just pretend that you did.
I can’t tell you anything about this book because I will ruin it. Read it because it will have you going UNTIL THE VERY LAST WORD ON THE VERY LAST PAGE. And, because Moretti writes thriller books like no one else. She’s better than Gillian Flynn. Hand to God, I’m not lying. Now, go read this book immediately. Good. Glad we understand each other.
I’m not going to lie: this one is a tough, tough read. But, holy hell, is it riveting. RI-VET-ING. The story opens in 2004 Columbine, Colorado just prior to the shootings in the high school. It’s a fictional account of a husband and wife who are completely and utterly undone by the vicious actions of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Transcripts, interviews and actual victims’ names are woven into this unbelievable story of perseverance and tragedy. You might need a bottle of wine for this one….or four. It’s a great read, though, I promise.
Elin Hilderbrand novels
Because she’s written 21 of them and I’ve read most of them, I simply cannot choose one to tell you to read. All of her books are set on the tiny island of Nantucket and include characters that are textured, flawed and real. If I had to choose a few favorites, I’d pick Summerland, Silver Girl and the one I just finished, A Perfect Couple. Also? Elin is one of the authors I regularly embarrass myself in front of: she’s grace under fire whenever I attend one of her books signings. Ahem.
So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, curl up on the couch and enjoy the sounds of the bus squeal wheeling away as you celebrate surviving another summer with kids. And, if you wind up ordering pizza because one of these books kept you from cooking dinner, I won’t judge.