Bestest Books (Lately, Anyway!)

I’ve been a reading machine lately, tearing through library books, advanced copies of books from ALA and revisiting old favorites from my own bookshelves! Here are some of the absolute best books I’ve read this summer…ready, steady, GO!


Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos is just SUCH a perfect read for the steamy days of summer. Claire and Don Lowry are the parents of three kids, living in a sleepy Iowa town when, in the hot, long nights of summer, they discover outside interests, outside influences, outside emotions, and grapple with what to do with their marriage. The writing in this novel is just so sharp and incisive and dark, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It’s good people behaving badly, but oh, it’s SO readable. Perfect for those steamy summer days when everyone is crawling out of their skin!

Connect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague is a gem of a young adult novel (really more tween than teen, though). Aaron and Audrey meet at a western wilderness camp – each there for very different reasons – and slowly discover trust, teamwork, overcoming challenges, and friendship in this wonderfully written novel. Though it deals with serious topics, this novel is ultimately joyous and celebratory, and I devoured it. SUCH a great tween/teen novel! This novel will be released September 22nd.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens is just…I can’t even…you guys, it’s SO good. Nola, Bridget and Vonn are on “the mountain” above Palm Springs for very different reasons. Wolf is there for a very specific one – to kill himself. So when this unlikely foursome end up meeting, it becomes more than a day trip into the wilderness…it becomes a fight against nature, nurture, and the bonds holding each of them in place. This novel was SO evocative and page turning and unexpected and amazing and rich and suspenseful, and I could NOT put it down. I can’t say much about it, lest I spoil it, so I will only say: READ THIS. You will not be disappointed!

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is one of those books where, after you are done, you have a book hangover. You know…that feeling that the day is shot, that no other book will every live up to the experience you just had. It was THAT good (and is the reason it won the  2015 Michael L. Printz Award, the top award for YA writing). Fraternal twins Jude and Noah used to be close, but over the course of the last few years, they have grown apart even as the end of high school looms. This lyrical novel is all about betrayal and forgiveness, lost and found love, art and expressing who you are. It’s lush, vivid, evocative, and amazing. So, SOOOOO good. SO good.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal is worthy of every single bit of praise being heaped upon it – which is a LOT of praise. I don’t even know how to describe this novel, other than “transportive”. Eva is born with a once-in-a-lifetime palate, able to make food sing, but little of the book is about Eva directly. Instead, each chapter is another character – sometimes connected by a the tiniest thread, sometimes by the thickest rope – and their story as it relates to the bigger story of food, family, love, the Midwest and individual identity. While foodies (like myself) will appreciate the descriptions of luscious meals, this book is accessible to anyone who loves a character-driven, smartly written, engaging novel. I loveloveLOVED it!

The Martian by Andy Weir is one of those books I only read because I knew the movie was coming out. I wasn’t really that interested – thinking it was totally sci-fi, which isn’t my thing – but OH, this book, y’all! So good! Yes, it takes place on Mars, but in a totally realistic, “this might be us in just a few years” way, not in a “aliens are eating our brains” way. 🙂 Mark Watney is a great lead character – a man stranded on Mars alone who must figure out how to contact Earth, how to survive with only meager supplies, and how to keep his sense of humor as he lives all alone on a harsh, lonely planet. The “science-y” bits can be a bit much at times (the math hurt my brain), but the story is SO good and Watney is SUCH a great character. Definitely read this before the movie! It was great!

I also recently re-read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, and it was as magical the second time as it was the first. If you are a book lover, you will appreciate this gentle, lovely novel.

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