I have been seeing a lot of “top beach read” lists, and wondered what a “beach read” was. I think that they’re books you can read on a beach, which people theoretically only go to in the summer, right? Well, here’s my twist on that, for moms who are not at beaches but are up to their elbows in the fracas of summer: taking their kids to swim lessons, rounding them up from friends’ houses after work and feeding them, making them do chores, feeding them endlessly, cleaning up after them tirelessly, etc., etc. This is my list of “busy summer” reads: the kind of books that are fun, or light, or easy to put down and pick back up, or short.
10. Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Short description: “Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk’s local Nac Mac Feegle – aka the Wee Free Men – a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny.” (genre: speculative)
Why it’s a good summer read: Besides that awesome premise, it’s funny, sometimes overtly and sometimes in that dry British sense. And it’s relatively short.
9. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Somewhat short description: “The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.” (genre: sci-fi/horror)
Why it’s a good summer read: While its premise is rather heavy, its plot horror-bound, and its length long, it is a book that’s told almost in a highly unique graphic-novel format made up of “hacked documents, emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews.” This breaks it up visually quite a bit. That, and its pace is frenetic.
8. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Short description: “Framed into ten ‘guideposts,’ Brown’s book explores how we can wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough, and to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.” (genre: nonfiction)
Why it’s a good summer read: Ten short chapters, all of them delivering a fresh angle on core truths of self-esteem.
7. Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
Short description: “In a final explosive flash, everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals…to be destroyed.” (genre: dystopian)
Why it’s a good summer read: Although the fact that it’s dystopian might turn many of you off, Carmody definitely puts a uniquely lyrical, speculative twist on the genre. Just a fascinating read.
6. Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden
Not short description at all: Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland’s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family’s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family’s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.
Why it’s a good summer read: The romance. It’s so good.
5. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Short description: Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius-and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous.” (genre: middle-grade fantasy)
Why it’s a good summer read: Super fun, quick paced, and when you’re done, you can give it to your tween or teen to read.
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Description: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.” (genre: speculative fiction)
Why it’s a good summer read: It’s set in Prague, so reading about it’s kind of like a vacation, right?
3. Nebula Awards 2014
Short description: The Nebula Awards annually recognize the best works of science fiction or fantasy published in the United States during the previous year. This is a compilation of the award winners for 2014.
Why it’s a good summer read: A compilation of short stories and excerpts from longer stories, some YA, all science fiction or fantasy.
2. Love and Gelato by Jenna Welch
Short description: “Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home. But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy.”
Why it’s a good summer read: Because it’s so stinkin’ funny, as I mentioned here.
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Short description: “Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.”
Why it’s a good summer read: Alexa was an original, strong, and interesting main character. I loved that I couldn’t ever predict where the plot was going to go. I adored the pacing; it was perfect–fast but not heart-in-your-throat the whole time. Definitely an enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading the sequel.