Once you’re out of school, summer reading transforms from a chore into something of a luxury. (Really, once you graduate into adulthood, the concept of “summer” becomes no different than the rest of the year.)
But even so, I still try to use the warmer months to check a few extra books off my list, whether I’m under an umbrella at the beach or inside escaping the humidity. In case you’re doing the same and wondering what should be next on your list, here are eight fiction favorites I find myself recommending over and over again.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett: Even though this one has passed its peak popularity, it achieved it for a reason. The characters are charming and real, and you can’t help but get sucked into the way of life in 1960s Mississippi (for better or for worse).
The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Even though The Goldfinch is the Tartt novel that’s on the tip of most people’s tongues these days, it’s her earlier The Secret History that has held “No. 1 Favorite Book Ever” status in my heart for years now. It’s a murder mystery that takes you into the psyche of each of the characters involved, which is, at times, alarming yet totally engrossing.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin: I was surprised that Steve Martin (yes, the actor) was such a talented writer, as well, but this book manages to be laugh-out-loud funny (seriously) and insightful at the same time. Plus, if you’re interested in the New York City art world, you’ll appreciate the artistic references, as well.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: OK, so in putting together this list, I’m realizing that I have a thing for novels about characters descending into insanity. Weird, maybe—but haunting all the same. There’s a reason this one is a classic—it’ll stick with you for a long time.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: I typically find literature written from the point of view of an animal a little questionable, but this one—narrated by Enzo, a dog with a curious obsession with humans—is done so well that it becomes a perk instead of a drawback. If you have a dog, you’ll definitely look at him or her a little differently after reading this.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Unpopular opinion disclaimer: I absolutely hated Water for Elephants. So much so that I almost didn’t want to read another novel about a circus. Thankfully, this one is nothing like it. In fact, it’s more like a grown-up Harry Potter—the perfect balance of magic and mystery (without being overwhelmingly unrealistic) to make you want to find out what the heck is really going on under the tents. (And I predict it will be made into a movie sometime in the near future.)
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: Loosely based on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush, this book brings to life the intersection of private and public life in the White House—as well as the unlikely path that led her there. Though it is fiction, it gives a realistic and endearing glimpse into the little-seen private side of someone who unwittingly finds herself in a very public spotlight.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Speaking of books-turned-movies, if you haven’t read this one yet, do it before it hits the big screen in October (starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike—perfect casting, if you ask me). If jaw-dropping plot twists are your thing, you won’t be able to put it down.
Have a recommendation of your own? Share it in a comment below.