The Best Books I Read this Summer

The Best Books I Read this Summer

This was a great summer of reading. 

When I first looked back at everything I’ve read since my spring roundup, I almost copy-and-pasted the whole list over! I had to force myself to narrow it down (and, even then, I cheated by grouping three Elizabeth Strout books under one title, but don’t tell anyone). 

Today I’m sharing a list of the best books I read this summer. Outside of the Elizabeth Strout moment, there’s a little bit of everything: a cheeky hotel mystery, a heartwarming/wrenching story about friendship, a can’t-put-it-down thriller, and a historical fiction based on an insane true story from Italy in WWII. 

Happy reading! 

Fiction:

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

I am grouping Elizabeth Strout’s Amagash series together under the first title because, if I had to choose, I loved the first book the most. However, the entire collection just floored me. In the first novel, Lucy Barton falls ill and finds herself stuck in the hospital for weeks, away from her husband and daughters. Lucy’s estranged mother turns up unannounced at her bedside and stays for five days. Lucy’s upbringing was very bleak, if not heartbreaking, so things are complicated between the two of them. The conversations that transpired between Lucy and her mother took my breath away. I just don’t know if there is a more powerful writer than Elizabeth Strout. She says things without actually saying them, some sort of sorcery.

The story expands to Lucy’s hometown in Anything is Possible and circles back to Lucy and her relationship with her (now) ex-husband in Oh William! Both are phenomenal. 

The Hotel Nantucket – Elin Hildebrand 

No summer is complete without an Elin Hildebrand novel. A billionaire named Xavier Darling buys the run-down (and haunted!) Hotel Nantucket, pours a ton of money into it, and hires Nantucket local Lizbet Keaton to manage the new, wildly opulent property. This book is just fun–full of glamorous interiors, island gossip, and a century-old mystery. The descriptions of both Nantucket island and the hotel itself are giving me the urge to book a trip back East ASAP (I’m a sucker for coastal New England).

The One Hundred Years of Lennie and Margot – Marianne Cronin

This book completely stole my heart. Lennie is a quirky 17-year-old terminal cancer patient at a hospital in Scotland. One day Lennie meets Margot, an 83-year-old patient, and the two form a fast bond right away. After joining an art class at the hospital together, Lennie and Margot decide to create a collection of 100 paintings together, with each painting representing a story from a specific year of their lives (17 years from Lennie, 83 from Margot). Their stories are beautifully profound, and I can’t begin to count the number of times this book made me cry, lol. If you can handle something sad, I definitely recommend this. 

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife – Ashley Winstead

This thriller takes place on a college campus. It’s Homecoming weekend, and a group of friends return to celebrate their 10 year reunion. This isn’t just any normal group of friends, though. A member of their group was murdered in her dorm during their senior year, and another was accused of the crime but never convicted. Jessica, the narrator, is eager to flaunt her new glamorous lifestyle, but one of their classmates has even bigger motives–to finally solve the murder once and for all. I won’t say anything else because I don’t want to spoil it, but I thought this was SO well done. I’d consider it a “must read” if you’re into thrillers.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Mark Sullivan

This book details the true (!) story of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager living in Milan during WWII. After spending several months helping Jews escape Italy during the Nazi occupation, Pino’s parents force him to enlist with the Germans in an effort to keep him out of the dangers of combat. Pino is devastated by his parents’ decision but lands a role as the driver for the second-in-command Nazi leader in Italy, allowing him to spy on the Germans on behalf of the resistance. This story is absolutely insane. I am a little over half-way through the book and can’t wait to see what happens. In the author’s introduction to the book, Mark Sullivan explains that this book took him a decade to write as well as five trips to Italy to interview Pino Lella. The author fills in some of the gaps in the story, but most of the book is in line with Pino’s memories of the time. I’ve found it so fascinating. One strike against this book is just that the writing style isn’t my favorite, BUT I still highly recommend it if you’re a history lover.

Nonfiction: 

I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet – Shauna Niequist 

I really enjoyed Shauna Niequist’s latest release which is about her family’s new life in NYC and how they’ve picked up the pieces after a big scandal a few years back. (She doesn’t go into detail about the scandal, btw, it’s not exactly her story to tell. My gossip-loving dark side was disappointed by this but obviously totally respect her decision to keep it private). Shauna’s writing is just so accessible and relatable, and I love how her words always give me a new appreciation for the little things in life, in every season. I’ve enjoyed all of her books so far, but this one is really special, I think. She’s gone through a lot the last few years, and it’s a privilege to read about how she and her family weathered the storm and began their next chapter.

What’s the best book you read this summer? Would love to hear, as I am currently putting together my TBR list for the fall!

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