If you’re anything like me, you pine for the days of Summer Reading Lists, when you didn’t have to make complicated choices or spend hours trawling Amazon (we can’t wait to have you BACK indie bookshops!) before settling for another tired old thriller from a big name author. In these awesome coronavirus times, I expect more from my reading — it needs to be FUN, dammit. And I’m all about the happy ending these days. I need to feel like somehow, somewhere, things end up OK. Here are our choices for your grown-up books to dive into this summer and escape reality…
Psst… want to get away? Check out The Best Virtual Travel Experiences for Families While in Quarantine
Summer Reading List for 2020
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rodham is the newest novel from Curtis Sittenfeld, and tells the story of what could have been, if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton. The concept itself of course will either grab you or repel you, depending on your political leanings, but I loved how Sittenfeld inhabited Hillary’s slightly dry, legalistic voice to tell her story. Rodham is an intriguing thought experiment and despite a weak middle section where Sittenfeld needs to wrangle her protagonist to power, the interactions between Bill and Hillary over the years are both surprising and delightfully awful. Destined to be one of this summer’s most zeitgeisty reads.
Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin
Happy and You Know It is quintessential summer reading: fluffy and bubbly fun. The edge is delivered by the New York City “Insta-mom” setting, which readers of New York Family will be sure to recognize! The conceit is simple — a talented and down-on-her-luck musician gets sucked into the lives of an Upper East Side moms’ playgroup, but all is not as it seems. If you’re looking to turn your brain off and hark back to the world of NYC parenting pre-corona, this is your pick.
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
All Adults Here tells the story of Astrid, a grandmother living in upstate NY, who is prompted by the sudden death of an acquaintance to look back at her parenting choices and how they affected the lives of her three adult children. Emma Straub’s writing is cozy and filled with descriptions of quirkily eccentric characters. As parents, we’re primed to feel responsible for the “damage” our parenting is doing to our children, and I loved that this novel shows how even with the best of intentions, our parenting style interacts with the individual characters of our children to create unexpected outcomes.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is soooo good that upon finishing it I instantly texted about five friends to recommend it, one of whom then blamed me for a lost nice of sleep as she stayed up past 3 am to find out what happens! Set in the suburbs of a Georgia town, the author explains the concept in his introduction: “I wanted to pit dracula against my mom, and as you’ll see, it’s not a fair fight.” This is Steel Magnolias meets True Blood with a whole dollop of grisly, dark happenings and humor.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Writers & Lovers is a beautifully-written choice if you’re looking to get lost in a tender and painful story about an underdog heroine, Casey, who can’t seem to get her life on track after the death of her beloved mother. I loved the descriptions of the two men Casey ultimately chooses between, and the happy ending means what could have been quite a melancholy book ends up being ultimately uplifting and hopeful.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
In Five Years’s plot is based around the main character, Dannie, who in her late 20’s has everything she could possibly want: an amazing career, a Manhattan apartment, a lovely best friend and a wonderful fiancé. One night Dannie has a strange dream/magical premonition, where she sees herself in a whole other life, with a totally different man. Events from her premonition eventually come true, but it’s a lot more entertaining than that! The character of Dannie’s best friend is not even slightly believable, but if you’re into “Rom Coms” you’ll have a fun time with this book.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
My Dark Vanessa is a re-telling of Nabokov’s Lolita for the post-Me Too era, so trigger warning, expect some pretty graphic descriptions of underage sex. My Dark Vanessa alternates between Vanessa’s teenage years (when she enters into a relationship with her middle-aged English teacher) and her troubled adulthood, as she struggles to process the fall-out from this relationship. My Dark Vanessa powerfully demonstrates how grooming can be experienced by a victim and how supporting characters in Vanessa’s life enable the abuse.