Are you ready to fill your to-read list with good summer reads? The Summer Reading List 2021 will help you find all the best books to read this summer.
I recently sat down to plan out my annual summer bucket list.
Although my list isn’t quite to pre-pandemic levels, compared to last year, my calendar is looking rather full. Beach days, hikes, vacations, camping, bike rides are all happily added to my list.
Along with my summer activities, I’ve penciled in plenty of time to get through my summer reading list for 2021.
Of course, you only want the best summer reads to appear on your summer book list. No one has time to waste reading overrated bestsellers.
That’s where I step in. I’ve already read dozens of new and upcoming releases, and I’ve compiled suggestions for summer reading for adults.
Best Books to Read This Summer
Taylor Jenkins Reid
In 1983, four famous siblings throw an epic summer party at their Malibu mansion. Secrets come out, the party gets out of control, and a fire will burn it all down by dawn. Malibu Rising is a gorgeous family drama that surpasses a simple beach read. The story of the Riva children abandoned by their famous rockstar father is heartbreakingly sad and yet still hopeful. The characters come alive as each sibling ponders if they can escape their parents’ fates. An all-around brilliant read that belongs among the best books for summer 2021.
In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro uses an unusual narrator to ponder the meaning of love. Klara is a robot, an Artificial Friend, waiting to be bought and taken home to be a companion to a lonely child. Ishiguro’s brilliant writing brings Klara to life, with her keen observations about the world around her, forcing you to piece together complex situations as perceived through the lens of innocence.
In 1791, Nella uses her London apothecary shop to sell poisons for women to use against abusive men. The only rules are that the poisons cannot be used against another woman and that you must leave a record in the apothecary’s register. When she befriends a 12-year-old girl, the consequences will last generations. A beautifully rich novel that would be a great one for a summer book club discussion.
After her roommate is murdered on campus, Charlie is desperate to get away. She posts a notice on her college rideshare board and snags a ride back to Ohio from a handsome stranger. However, Charlie quickly realizes that Josh is not whom he seems. A fun cat-and-mouse with plenty of twists and turns and a little over-the-top theatricality, Survive the Night is among the best read this summer for those who love thriller books.
In a small town in Massachusetts in the 1960s, Dahlia and Louie Moscatell have finally found a rhythm as long-term foster parents. Then a social worker begs them to take on one more foster child – a six-year-old indigenous girl who will change their family dynamics forever. Perfect for your summer reading list in 2021, Patry Francis hits the emotions hard in this powerful story of love and family and the struggles of the foster care system.
Just in time for summer comes one of the best beach reads of 2021. On the remote Frick Island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay, Piper Parrish had a perfect life – until her husband died. But Piper kept carrying on, acting as if he was still alive, and the townsfolk decided to play along with the grieving widow. When an ambitious podcaster arrives in town, he feels like he has the story of a lifetime, until he starts to fall in love with Piper. With quirky characters, a cute love story, and thoughtful plot twists, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is a poignant story about grief and the things we’ll do for those we love.
Books Becoming Movies in 2021
Fatherhood. April 2, 2021 – Matthew Logelin had a perfect life – married to his high school sweetheart Liz with a baby girl on the way. After a difficult pregnancy, Liz gave birth to a beautiful baby girl before dying suddenly of a pulmonary embolism. Matthew Logelin chronicles the first year of his daughter Maddy’s life as he navigates the joy and struggle of being a new father while grieving the death of his beloved wife. Probably one of the most emotional stories on the summer book list of 2021, Fatherhood stars Kevin Hart as Matthew.
Chaos Walking. January 22, 2021 – If you are a sci fi lover, you know the genre has a strong track record of amazing movies based on books. In the first book of the Chaos Walking series, we meet Todd Hewitt, the sole boy living in a town of men. In a society where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts, Todd can tell that the men of the town are holding something back. Then one day, he discovers something inexplicable in the woods: a girl. Starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, the film, titled Chaos Walking, underwent massive reshoots but has finally seen the light of day.
A. J. Finn
May 14, 2021 – Peek into the life of Anna Fox, a New York City recluse who, spying on the family across the street, witnesses a shocking event. With its unreliable narrator and layers of secrets, The Woman in the Window will keep you guessing to the end. The Woman in the Window has been among my summer book recommendations for the last few years waiting for the film adaptation. After numerous delays, the movie finally released on Netflix.
Marketed as the perfect spot to turn over a new leaf, Tranquilium House is a luxurious and remote health resort. Ready for a change, nine strangers gather together for their life-changing stay. Could these ten days of pampering, relaxation, and mindfulness have all the answers they are seeking? Or would it be better to leave this resort and never look back? Or is it already too late? The miniseries is due to release on Hulu in 2021, meaning you’ll want to add it to your summer reading list for 2021.
Summer Reads of 2020
Growing up in a Southern black community obsessed with skin color, the Vignes sisters run away at age sixteen. Though identical twins, their lives end in completely different paths. One returns to live in their hometown while the other secretly passes as white. A fascinating story from beginning to end, Bennett explores more than race, as she contemplates how the past affects future generations when their daughters’ lives intersect. Nuanced and complicated, this thought-provoking book is just what you want out of literary fiction and every bit deserving of its spot on any summer book list.
Nancy Wake, a New Zealander living in Paris, becomes a spy for the British and rises to one of the top leaders of the French Resistance and one of the most decorated women of the war. The story is split into two narratives – the first starting with Nancy parachuting into France in 1944 and the second telling of her courtship with her husband, Henri Fiocca, before the war. You’ll fall in love with Henri and cheer on Nancy as she transforms into a fierce fighter and respected commander. As the earlier timeline catches up with the later one, you’ll feel all the emotions of a woman caught up in a terrible war.
When you think of castes, India’s strict caste system likely comes to mind. In Caste, Wilkerson argues that America has its own hidden caste system, a hierarchy that has influenced the United States both historically and currently. Using fascinating stories, Wilkerson points out that, on top of race and class, our understanding of caste systems must also change if we are to better ourselves as a nation. With almost a year on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, you should seriously consider adding Caste to your summer reading list in 2021.
In post-World War II Japan, Nori, the illegitimate daughter of a Japanese aristocrat and a Black American GI, is hidden away on her grandmother’s estate to conceal the family shame. All Nori knows is the attic she is confined to until she meets her legitimate half-brother, Akira, a boy who shows her the world contains so much more. A clear winner among the best summer books, this complicated story about shame and the need for acceptance would be a perfect choice for your book club.
On a remote island, the perfect wedding turns deadly in this thrilling mystery. The high-profile wedding between a television star and a magazine publisher is supposed to be the perfect event. Set off the coast of Ireland, all the stops have been pulled out. Yet once the guests arrive, past conflicts come into play and someone turns up dead. Was it the bride? The best man? The wedding planner? Foley keeps you guessing until the end, giving each suspect a firm motive to want to commit murder. Looking for something gripping to distract you, The Guest List is the perfect page-turner to read this summer.
Books for Your Summer Reading List 2021
Following three generations of Palestinian women, Rum’s powerful story highlights the dangers of beliefs that view women as inferior. The tale begins with the arranged marriage of Isra, forced to move to America where she knows no one. Years later, Isra’s daughter Deya herself faces an arranged marriage in Brooklyn. This raw account of the oppression of women in an extremely strict family is depressing and at the same time beautifully written, making it a great addition to your summer reading list in 2021.
It’s been six years since Malcolm Gladwell last published a book, and while he has interesting podcasts, you’ll want to dive into his take on a new topic. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell focuses on what happens when we encounter new people and why those encounters so often turn out poorly. With his mix of statistics, scientific research, and interesting anecdotes, Gladwell is the ultimate storyteller. Be prepared for lots of debate as many of his viewpoints will probably be quite controversial with some people.
The first time Lucy met Diana, she disappointedly finds her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. Much more of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two different people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship. If you’re looking for summer reads about family relationships, you don’t want to miss this one.
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Just days away from her wedding to her charmingly attentive rich fiance, Nellie feels like someone might be following her. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Vanessa is obsessed with her replacement and desperate to stop the wedding. You might think you know how this domestic thriller will end, but appearances can be deceiving. In their first collab, Hendricks and Pekkanen have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, keeping the plot twisting and you second-guessing how it’s all going to end.
Eleven-year-old Ren is given one final task when his master dies: to find his master’s severed finger and return it, in the next 49 days, or his master’s soul will be doomed to wander the earth. From there, his story will mingle with that of dance hall girl Ji Lin who has found the finger, all while a tiger stalks the town. Mixing Chinese folklore and superstition with historical fiction, Choo brings the time period to life in this beautifully written and imaginative story.
Backlist Summer Reads 2021
Crotchety old A. J. Fikry is struggling in life. He is now a widow. His bookstore is failing. To top it off, his rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe has been stolen. On the verge of becoming a complete recluse, a plot twist occurs that will gives Fikry a second chance at life. A heartwarming tale perfect for any 2021 summer reading list.
Walking home one night, Jason Dessen is kidnapped and forced into an alternate reality. He’s been thrust into the multiverse, a world where instead of marrying his wife when she got pregnant with their child, he single-mindedly persevered on with his research. Although the middle was a bit slow, Crouch’s premise will boggle your mind and the story concludes with a thrilling finale.
Tom Rob Smith
In 1950s Communist Russia, MGB officer Leo Demidov never wavers from the Party Line. Until his confidence is shaken by when he investigates the brutal murder of a young boy. After watching an innocent neighbor tortured, Demidov is then asked the impossible: to arrest his own wife. Now he must choose where his loyalties lie as the child killings continue. A fun historical mystery that you won’t regret adding to your summer reading list in 2021.
In this classic love story, art student Clare and librarian Henry try for a sense of normalcy as Henry time shifts through their life. Henry has Chrono-Displacement Disorder; he unexpectedly gets pulled to important emotional moments in his past and future life. A mind-bending romance that is a perfect choice if you are looking for books to read for summer 2021.
During a Little League baseball game, Owen Meany hits a foul ball that kills his best friend’s mother. Believing himself to be God’s instrument, Owen seeks to fulfill his own prophecy. Narrated by Owen’s best friend John Wheelwright, A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of the best books about friendship and a beloved modern classic.
What’s on your summer reading list in 2021?