July 9, 2021
Find Your One “Must Read” Book of Summer 2021!
Are you pondering what book to choose for your vacation or staycation?
Are you in limbo trying to decide what ONE great book to read this summer?
Do you ever wish someone would just TELL you what book to read?
Are you looking for a list of trusted book review bloggers?
Do you spend more time thinking about which book to pack for your vacation than packing the clothes? (oh…just me?)
If you only have time to read ONE more book before summer’s end, what would you choose?
This is the time of year when readers in my hemisphere are looking for “Beach Reads.” (If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, happy “winter reading!”) The term “Beach Read” is puzzling to me because I think any book you read at the beach or the pool is a beach or pool read (similar to a body at the beach is a beach body!). Furthermore, “beach read” means different things to different readers: some want easy reading/light/fluffy, some want escapist, some want romcom, some want thrillers/suspense/mystery, while others are looking for heavier or longer reads that they might have more time for in the summer. During the summer, I look for the same types of reads I look for all year long: something substantial, engaging, memorable, unputdownable, and thought-provoking. What is your ideal beach or pool read?
20 Reviewers Recommend:
Some things bring joy to a blogger’s heart and this collaborative post is definitely at the top of the list!
As Gina describes our project: “A worldwide summer reading multi-blogger extravaganza!”
I am thrilled to publish this post today! I asked TWENTY (including yours truly) experienced reviewers from a variety of geographical locations what they would recommend as their ONE “Not-to-be-Missed” Summer 2021 Reading Recommendation.
Today, I’m exceptionally excited to introduce you to a few of my blogging friends who chose ONE recommendation for YOU (listed in alphabetical order by blogger’s first name). I want you to notice that these bloggers are an international group! One of the greatest joys of blogging is making book friends around the world and country (better than pen pals!). Please take a look at their recommendations, check out their blogs, and give them a follow!
I think you’ll enjoy the following TWENTY “recent releases” recommendations that include some diversity and represent a mix of genres that will appeal to a variety of tastes (from self-help to romance to literary fiction to engaging women’s fiction to family drama to southern fiction to historical romance to uplit to domestic thriller to intergenerational friendship to science fiction to contemporary mystery to page-turning histfic to mysterious retelling to crime thriller to kindred spirits).
We hope at least one matches YOUR reading taste!
***Titles are Amazon affiliate links and full review links have been included.
Joining us from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Afoma at Reading Middle Grade (the Queen of MG lit!) recommends a favorite nonfiction (self help).
“Healthy boundaries. We all know we should have them–in order to achieve work/life balance, cope with toxic people, and enjoy rewarding relationships with partners, friends, and family. But what do “healthy boundaries” really mean–and how can we successfully express our needs, say “no,” and be assertive without offending others?
Licensed counselor, sought-after relationship expert, and one of the most influential therapists on Instagram Nedra Glover Tawwab demystifies this complex topic for today’s world. In a relatable and inclusive tone, Set Boundaries, Find Peace presents simple-yet-powerful ways to establish healthy boundaries in all aspects of life. Rooted in the latest research and best practices used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), these techniques help us identify and express our needs clearly and without apology–and unravel a root problem behind codependency, power struggles, anxiety, depression, burnout, and more.
Carla at Carla Loves to Read recommends a women’s fiction romance.
In Carla’s words:
“House Swap was one of those books that was so much more than I was expecting. I have seen movies and read books where the house swappers fall in love and want to stay in the area where they swapped, but this was very different. There is a romance, but it is between the swappers. You will need to read this book to find out how they got to know one another being an ocean apart. There was so much to love about this story, with great, well-developed characters and themes that I love of friendship, personal growth, family, and finding and pursuing what you really want in life. I fell in love with Cassie and James and think anyone who reads this book will as well. An up-lit story that I don’t hesitate to recommend reading anytime, but especially in the summer when you might be looking for a lighter read.”
Joining us from Israel,
Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog recommends literary fiction from a self-published author.
In Davida’s words:
“I’m purposely recommending a book by a self-published author, just to prove to everyone that not all self-published writers are the same. Roz Morris is an amazing writer, who is also an internationally best-selling ghostwriter! Up until now, I’ve only read her little travel memoire, because her usual genres of the books she writes for herself are not my thing (fantasy). But this piece of literary fiction was perfect for me, and also came at a time in my life when I needed something a little cathartic. It is the story of a rock star who dies (and his body is lost) on a trek on Mt. Everest, and how this loss affects the people in his life, and those who want to be part of his legacy (rightfully or not). Complex and beautifully written, with insights about grief and surviving that are slightly dark, but ultimately real. Not a “beach read” per se, but well worth the read!”
Joining us from Australia,
Deb at Deb’s World recommends a book that’s “easy to lose myself in.”
“Claire Mansfield is the host of the popular reality TV show Time For Tea, and possibly the nicest person on British television – until a secret from her past ignites a media storm. Someone, it appears, wants to see her career destroyed.”
In Deb’s words:
“I loved this book, just like all Joanne’s previous books! She has created great characters and a fascinating story line that kept me enthralled. The locations, the food, the imagery and the story all added up to an ‘easy to lose myself in’ read! I felt like I escaped to Curlew Cottage too. Just fabulous and Joanne’s best book yet in my opinion.
Joanne openly admits she loves a happy ending but don’t be put off; this book has lots of twists and turns along the way.
Although Jo is an Australian author she loves traveling, baking, and setting her books in fabulous locations around the world. This one is set in the Cotswolds and she takes her research very seriously.”
Joining us from Illinois,
Gina at Gina Rae Mitchell recommends a favorite multi-generational family drama.
In Gina’s words:
“Can three generations of strong women repair their relationships with a month-long trip to Italy? Matriarch Sophia knows her family is in trouble. Her daughter Francesca owns a high-powered advertising agency. To stay on top, she works too many hours and isn’t present in her own daughter’s life. Young Allegra is at a cross-road deciding what to do with her life. Due to a health concern, Sophia fears she may not be around long enough to soothe her troubled family. Therefore, she orchestrates the trip of a lifetime for them to discover their Italian roots and hopefully, their love for one another.
This mesmerizing novel pulls at the heartstrings, while immersing you in the picturesque settings and rich culture of Italy.”
Joining us from North Carolina,
Jennifer at Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader recommends southern fiction with a side of love and second chances.
In Jennifer’s Words:
“Favorite author alert! I look forward to Mary Alice Monroe’s books every summer. She writes southern fiction with an environmental/ecological twist, and I never tire of that.
Set in the spring of 2020, in Isle of Palms, South Carolina (swoon! If you’ve ever been, you know!) there is much to relate to here with the story of the Rutledge family. Linnea is worried she may be laid off from the aquarium where she works. Her significant other is unable to fly back to South Carolina from England, and Linnea’s old beau, John, is in quarantine next door.
Yes, my friends, this book is about finding love in the time of coronavirus.
The Summer of Lost and Found is a sweet story of love and second chances. As ever with a Mary Alice Monroe book, it left me feeling good. It’s a heartwarming story, and while it’s technically part of a series, it completely stands on its own with enough backstory to fall in love with these charming characters.”
Joining us from Rome, Italy,
Jo at Jo Linsdell Books & Blogging recommends a historical romance.
In Jo’s words:
“Journey to Paradise is one of those books that stays with you. When I first finished reading the book I gave it a 3 star. Since then I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot (a sign of a good book) and so have since upped my ranking of it to a 4 star. It’s one of those books that you don’t fully realise how good it was until after you’ve finished it and have time to reflect.
As a British expat myself I was pulled to the story. I now also want to visit Singapore. Obviously it will be somewhat different now to the place described so wonderfully in the book.
I enjoyed the story of Miranda, hated Gerry, and have mixed feeling about Dr. Nick. I loved all the secondary, supporting characters too which really added to the story.
I think this would be a perfect read for a book club as it offers plenty of areas of discussion; the role of women and how it’s changed over the years, living as an expat, losing a child, marriage and fidelity… and this is only off the top of my head.”
Joining us from Scotland,
Joanne at Portobello Book Blog recommends a story about finding courage and friends in unexpected places.
In Joanne’s words:
“I live in Edinburgh and this book appealed to me because it’s about a young boy trying to fulfill his ambition to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If Norman Foreman was appearing, I’d be in that queue to see him! Performing at the Fringe was a dream he shared with his friend Jax, who tragically died young. There’s also the small matter of trying to track down who Norman’s dad might be. This is a wonderfully joyous read about finding courage and friends in unexpected places. I don’t think anyone who reads it could fail to be both moved and uplifted by Norman’s story. He is simply unforgettable. If this book was a Fringe show, I’d be awarding it five shiny stars. In fact, I’d give it more if I could. I simply adored every page of the book, every mile on the road with Norman, Sadie, Leonard and all their friends.“
Joining us from North Carolina,
Jonetta at Blue Mood Café recommends a favorite domestic thriller.
In Jonetta’s words:
“Meet the Drumms, led by matriarch Melissa Craig, a former business show star whose affection for her sons is far surpassed by her self love. William is the oldest, a film producer who seems to have inherited his mother’s narcissism (and her favoritism) along with a bit of misogyny. Next is Brian, one year younger, who was a teacher and switched to managing finances and entertainers, most notably his younger brother. He seems steady and amiable but has a quiet ruthlessness about him with a smoldering anger ready to erupt with the right provocation. Lastly, there’s Luke, a sensitive but troubled soul who stumbled into fame and fortune as the lead singer of a rock band. The story begins at the funeral of one of the brothers but we don’t yet know which. And that’s the journey, told to us through each brother’s narrative in shifting timelines.
Only Nugent can consistently craft stories where most of the characters are highly unlikable but it’s a highly enjoyable reading experience. I’m so very happy I chose to listen to the book because the narrators were pitch perfect for their characters and were fantastic at storytelling. This was a cleverly designed domestic thriller that had me off balance from beginning through the end.”
Joining us from Yorkshire, England,
Julie at A Little Book Problem recommends a favorite story of intergenerational friendship.
In Julie’s words:
“It may seem odd to choose a story about the friendship between a teenage girl and an elderly woman who meet on the terminal ward of a hospital as a summer read, and it wouldn’t be the type of novel that I normally select as an uplifting book for myself, but The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is something special and I urge everyone to give it a go, because I am 100% convinced that you will love it as much as I did.
Inter-generational friendship is a popular trope in uplit at the moment, but what lifts this book head and shoulders above others is the strength of the story-telling and the beautiful characterisation that Marianne Cronin has achieved in what is her debut novel. Margot has lead a long, surprising and varied life which is fascinating to read of, and she is a great anchor for the book, but it is in Lenni that this novel has its real heart. You might be tempted to feel pity for a girl being robbed of life so young, but fierce, funny, forthright and courageous Lenni doesn’t allow room for any such emotion. She is a powerhouse of a girl that I feel in love with in an instance and has immediately become one of my favourite ever novel characters. The concept of painting the stories of their combined lives to tell their tales is inspired, and illustrates the richness of our individual existence, and our impact on the lives of others, no matter how long or short our tenure on earth may be.
This book is uplifting, joyous and heart-breaking all at the same time, a stunning piece of work that everyone should read, I just adored it.”
Joining us from Wales,
Karen at Booker Talk recommends a favorite family drama (with a side of dysfunction).
In Karen’s words:
“My recommendation is a quirky novella about a young boy’s relationship with his grandmother. Forget any notions this woman is a sweet white-haired figure who takes Max into her warm embrace. Margarita Ivanova, (Margo) is in fact a domestic tyrant; a forceful, stubborn ex- Russian ballerina who utterly dominates the boy and her meek husband. She makes their lives a misery.
It’s hard to feel any sympathy with her prejudice towards her Jewish neighbours in Germany or in the way she denies Max a life of his own. Yet we come to find that there is a sadness in her past life and to recognise that she is capable of love, though it might be shown in strange ways.My Grandmother’s Braid is a novel full of surprises and delights.”
Kayla at Kayla’s Only Heart recommends a favorite science fiction thriller.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (author of The Martian)
In Kayla’s words:
“Andy Weir’s The Martian ranks in my all time favorite books list, so I had high hopes for his latest release Project Hail Mary as I awaited its arrival in my mailbox. While I still can’t pick one over the other, Project Hail Mary may edge out The Martian just a smidge. Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma confused as to where he is and why. As he pieces together his space mission to save earth, readers get to feast on Weir’s consistent humor, realistic scientific information even non scientists and engineers can access, and a good dose of hope. Most notably, we witness a beautiful friendship unfold. The cultural exchange as these characters continued to learn from each other, thus getting closer to achieving their goal, warmed my heart. As a teacher, and a language one at that, I appreciated that it affirmed the importance of curiosity, communication, and continued learning. Sometimes it can get heavy to keep up with current events, but this left me feeling hopeful for humanity.”
Kendra at Kendra Nicole recommends a favorite contemporary mystery by a favorite author.
In Kendra’s words:
“An apartment full of unsuspecting house hunters suddenly find themselves in a life-or-death situation when a failed bank robber bursts into a high-rise Open House and takes the viewers hostage. Each of these potential victims (as well as the bank robber holding them hostage and the father/son detectives attempting to free them) carry unspeakable anxieties and insecurities, and the unexpected trajectory of this almost-but-not-quite crime scene provides the community and context to sort through their issues, grapple with their hurts and hangups, and find solace amidst unlikely companions.
Anxious People’s premise sounds serious, and the book certainly has its heavier poignant moments, but it is also absurdly funny, and though the story is at times outlandish, the characters and backstories are intensely familiar and relatable. Anxious People strikes the perfect balance between character study and propulsive plot, with insightful commentary throughout, and it touches on all manner of themes ranging from early parenthood to the loss of a spouse, the lingering effects of trauma, the various stages of marriage, and the dynamic between parents and their adult children. I was delighted by the various plot twists, but even more by the warm empathy that radiates from every page. Like all of my favorite books, this one is redemptive and hopeful and at once personal and universal.
I credit Anxious People with breaking me out of a months-long reading rut, and no other book I’ve read in the past year has managed to top it. Fredrik Backman is right at the top of my list of favorite authors, so it’s no small thing for me to say that this is Backman at his absolute best!”
Kimberly at My Bookish Bliss Blog recommends a favorite historical fiction.
“August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.”
In Kimberly’s words:
“Historical fiction is my favorite genre and The Last Bookshop in London fed my love of history. Watching Grace fall in love with the written word held a certain kind of magic for me. The way she used stories to help people feel safe during the bombings in London made me fall in love with her character. Madeline Martin captured the life and heartbreak of WWII Britain in a way that made me feel as if I were there. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that transported me back in time in the same way this one has. I recommend it to anyone who loves history and books.”
Kristin at Kristin Kraves Books recommends a YA historical thriller/mystery retelling.
In Kristin’s words:
“If the title didn’t give it away, Pride and Premeditation is a Pride and Prejudice retelling with a mysterious twist.
There is something so delightful about seeing these characters we know and love in an entirely new way. Elizabeth is an aspiring lawyer who finds herself in conflict with Darcy, who is an heir at a prestigious firm. They end up reluctantly working together when Mr. Bingley is accused of murder.
The banter and chemistry that made us all fall in love with Lizzie and Mr. Darcy in the original story can also be found within the pages of Pride and Premeditation. They have very different ideas when it comes to the case, which often leads to conflict and some great scenes and nods to the original text. A lot of the side characters also make an appearance!
The opening line gives you a good idea of what to expect from Pride and Premeditation: “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a brilliant idea, conceived and executed by a clever young woman , must be claimed by a man.”
Pride and Premeditation is the first book in a new series. The second book is Sense and Second-degree Murder and the third is Manslaughter Park! So clever!”
Joining us from Ohio,
Lisa at Hopewell’s Public Library of Life recommends this summer’s popular family drama.
“Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.”
In Lisa’s words:
“I’ve been very down on dual-timeline stories recently, but when you get one as well-told as this one, those negative thoughts vanish. I liked the way both stories unrolled, a few hours at a time in 1983 paired with a part of the hostess’s family’s backstory. In fact, the family’s backstory was the best part to me–probably due to hurt vanity. It’s hard to realize that my junior year in college is now called “historical fiction.”
I could relate far more to June than to the Riva siblings, possibly more because I have no idea what it is like to surf and I do have a good idea what it is like to work a crappy job and marry the wrong guy–I’ve done both of those. I’ve also known a couple of real-life Nina’s–that is the Nina of the backstory, before the big house, and I admire them. Nina was a heroine to inspire young people–but not for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but for before it. And, after it was over. That is one heck of a woman to admire.’
“Malibu Rising is a good summer book for the pool or beach or a glass of wine on the deck!”
Lynne at Fictionophile recommends a crime thriller.
“Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.”In Lynne’s words:
“Frankie Elkin is a one-in-a-million character. So unique, so broken, and so very memorable. I loved her and was sad when I turned the last page on her story.
That being said, she could, potentially return in further books (she said with her fingers and toes crossed). However, I want Frankie to stop drifting and stay in Boston, working at Stoney’s bar, going to AA meetings with Charlie, chewing the fat with Viv, and teaming up with Boston Police Detective Lotham.
I adored the writing in this book. The dreadful and disturbing circumstances which were lightened with levity and sarcasm. This is my very first Lisa Gardner book, and now I want to read her previous work.
The book brings home the truism that people all over are really the same. Regardless of their social standing, ethnicity, religion, or other persuasion, people all want enough food to eat, a safe place to live, someone to care for, someone who cares for them.
This novel also spoke to the plight of illegal immigrants in this modern world. It told of inner city teens striving to better themselves and their situations in any way they can.
I adored this book much more than I expected to. It is all Frankie Elkin’s fault.”
Joining us from Ireland,
Mairéad at Swirl and Thread recommends an exquisite story of two unlikely kindred spirits.
“It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.
Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.
These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.”In Mairéad’s words:
“The one book that I am recommending to everyone this summer is Still Life by Sarah Winman. It is an exceptionally beautiful and charming read filled with a spectacular cast and a story that is ingeniously woven from a war torn Florentine landscape to the post-war streets of London and on through the decades of time through a social and cultural history of Italy. I quite simply adored this book, this genius writing that epitomized everything I love in a book and more. There are many words that one could use to describe this gem but I am going to stick with exquisite because I truly believe that it is…..”
Joining us from Jersey, Channel Islands,
Nicki at The Secret Library Book Blog recommends a contemporary rom-com.
You and Me On Vacation (AKA People We Meet On Vacation) by Emily Henry
In Nicki’s words:
“I loved this book so much, the characters, the story and the narration by Julia Whelan, it was perfect! I got caught up in the story right from the beginning and didn’t want it to end. I loved both Poppy and Alex, and I loved their friendship and I loved their summer breaks together. They felt so real and I can easily see this as a Netflix film. I’ve no idea who’d play the characters but I can definitely see some of the big scenes on the small screen. It’s such a feel good story and with Julia Whelan’s perfect narration, it’s one of my favourite listens this year. I could listen to this again and will probably end up spending an audible credit and get my own copy.”
Joining from California,
Carol (yours truly) at Reading Ladies recommends a favorite compelling and page-turning historical fiction.
In Carol’s words:
“Duty, honor, oaths…they are not just for soldiers…not just for men.”
“The Rose Code is an unputdownable and fascinating story about three female code-breakers working at Bletchley Park outside London during WW11. Compelling and engaging from page one, The Rose Code is perfectly balanced between plot-driven and character-driven and is a mashup of genres: historical fiction,/thriller/suspense/mystery. Kate Quinn is an extraordinary writer and story teller who you can depend on for a well-researched and well-written story.
The Rose Code is told from three distinct points of view in dual timelines that merge in the end. Themes include friendship, loyalty, betrayal, ambition, guilt over a decision made, secrecy, grief, female solidarity, and forgiveness.
No doubt, The Rose Code will be on my best-of-year list!
Thank you to each blogger who participated in this post and for your ONE GREAT recommendation! Do you agree that this is a splendid international group?
Readers, I hope you have enjoyed this collaborative post! I love that in our initial planning, we didn’t have one duplicate. The choices represent a variety of tastes and reading experiences and are as unique as the bloggers themselves. We hope you find one recommendation to match your reading taste!
Please share or pin this post so that others looking for ONE wonderful summer read can hear about these recommendations! Let us know in the comments if you choose ONE of these books for your summer read! Our greatest joy is hearing that you read one of our recommended books!
In The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Mitch Albom says that “Everyone joins a band in this life.” In the noise of the World Wide Web, I have found my people (band)! Each of these bloggers has been a personal support, inspiration, and encouragement to me, and I encourage you to click through to their blogs and give them a follow!
Stay Tuned: On July 27, I’ll be linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl Top Ten Tuesday: July 27: Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island
(Even though we have more than 10 on our list, I think our list is perfect for desert island reading!)
Did you choose one of these books to add to your TBR this summer?
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text
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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.
Book covers and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.