Welcome to the landing page of our Book of the Month Summer Reading Guide (2020). Stay awhile and find your next great read to enjoy in the sun.
Heating Things Up– Romance Novels
It should surprise no one that Beach Read made this list. It is the perfect summer romance between two writers who challenge each other to spend the summer writing a book in the other authors genre. Hi-jinks ensue as these enemies turned lovers banter and hammer out these books over the course of one summer.
This fun, unique romance was on the first romances Book of the Month selected when they started really trying to feature romances. It features a neuro-atypical protagonist who hires an escort to teach her how to have sex. It’s fun, quirky, and heartwarming and a perfect read for a hot summer day.
This historical romance is everything you could ever want from a romance novel: A capable, independent heroine, a dashing and handsome love interest and enough chemistry and will they won’t they to keep you turning pages late into the night. Ideal for those who can’t get enough of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.
This light, contemporary romance is your classics enemies to lovers trope. Written in an alternate reality where the POTUS is a woman with a gay son who, shortly after the novel opens, starts to fall for the Prince of Wales Funny, quirky and with interesting political commentary, Mcquisten’s debut is the perfect beach read.
Thrills and Chills– Mysteries/Thrillers
Fierce Kingdom was the thriller pick a couple years ago and I still find myself thinking about it. Set over the course of a few hours the novel follows a mother and her young child as they hide from an active shooter inside their local zoo. It’s intense, could be triggering for some, and does not wrap things up in a neat little bow at the end. However, I read it in one day and loved every minute!
It feels like Miracle Creek won all the awards the year it came out and I never would have picked it up if it wasn’t for Book of the Month. Kim’s debut is a page turning mystery following a family who runs a treatment center for autistic and neurodiverse children. When disaster strikes and two people are killed what follows is a court room drama with plenty of big reveals and haunting secrets.
I have a special place in my heart for Final Girls, because it’s the first Riley Sager book I ever read. Sager is a darling of the BOTM editors, and there are tons of his books to check out if you end up loving this one! This is a kind of meta-thriller, and all the victims are actually survivors of other mass murders and now are famous for being the “Final Girls”. But then, someone starts hunting down the Final Girls and no one knows who to trust. It’s a great, quick read for summer!
The Alienist is a real oldie but a goodie — one of my absolute favorite historical mysteries set in New York City in the late 1800s, with lead character Teddy Roosevelt partnering with a criminal psychiatrist to track down a serial killer. You could definitely mistake this fiction for fact! It is so engrossing and well-written, perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes and historical fiction.
Current But Captivating– Contemporary Fiction
Since this beautiful little book was at the top of our favorites list last year it should surprise no one that it has made our summer reading guide. A Woman Is No Man follows three women living in a conservative Arabic home. Secrets and pain abound as each woman wrestles with the weight of tradition and duty. A Woman Is No Man is at once heartbreaking and beautiful in its complexity.
Brynn Greenwood’s breakout hit is a difficult read and quite controversial. Wavy is the daughter of a meth dealer and as a young teenager she struggles with figuring out who she is and finding her way in the world. Then she meets her father’s friend Kellen. What follows is a “romance” that ask difficult questions of its readers and their sensibilities. This is not for the faint of heart, but its an important novel that deserve a place on every readers bookshelf.
Similar to A Woman Is No Man, The Girl With the Louding Voice provides readers with a glimpse into another culture and point of view. When Adunni is sold into slavery by her father is forced to abandoned her education. But it doesn’t take 14 year old Adunni very long to run away in an attempt to make her own way in the city. Full of tenacity and inspiring, this beloved debut is a fantastic addition to anyone’s summer TBR.
We wanted to make sure we included a lighter contemporary. A new Book of the Month pick, Happy and You Know It is all about the mom scene in New York. While still roiling with secrets and a glimpse into the intricacies of a complex social group, Happy & You Know It is like longer version of your favorite gossip column and perfect for a hot day by the pool.
Sweeping Sagas– Stories That Span Decades
This modern classic follows a Baptist family as they make their home in the Congo as part of a missionary trip. What follows is three decades of experiencing as Africa transforms and changes them. At over 600 pages this doorstop of a book takes a hard look at colonialism and post-colonial attitudes.
A staple of WWII fiction and perhaps one if Hannah’s most well known novels follows two sisters as they navigate the perils of war with their families in different ways and with varying results in war torn Nazi-occuoied France. The Nightingale is a book to sit with and ponder long after the cover has been closed. Pack tissues!
I actually just got around to reading this one last year, even though it’s a 2017 release. This book swept me into this Korean family living in Japan starting in the early 1900s and following them through to modern times. It’s definitely heavy in a lot of places, emphasizing the pain that comes from family secrets, but it also is an incredibly eye-opening look into Korean culture. It’s really beautifully written and a read you can lose yourself in!
While not your conventional sweeping saga Red Clocks feature four different women deal with the challenges that come when all forms of birth control and abortion are banned in the United States. Each viewpoint is unique as each women faces challenges relating to unhappy marriages, unwanted pregnancy, infertility, etc… Definitely one of the heavier books on our list it is at once empowering and hopeful in these uncertain times.
Keeping It Real– Memoirs/Nonfiction
Married and in her early 30s, Amber moved to Shanghai to proselyte for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. While there, telling no one of what she really did, she obtained work at a radio station and slowly deconverted from her faith. Abandoned by her religion and her husband, Amber was left to her own devices in a foreign country as she tries to find her place in a world that she had been taught to believe was condemned. Leaving The Witness is perfect for fans of cult and deconversion stories.
Ever gone to therapy and wondered what your therapist was thinking while you rambled nervously about past decisions and current concerns? Well look no further! Both comical and eye opening Gottlieb gives readers a glimpse into the mind of a therapist as she attends therapy herself and also meets with her own clients.
Can’t wait for June 3 when Hamilton hits Disney+? Then you NEED to check out this book. Sarah Vowell is one of my favorite historians — her writing style is funny and relateable and she does a great job of packing a ton of well-researched information into a short and tight package. I will say that if you want to round out your summer with a great audiobook, this one is amazing on audio with a full cast including Nick Offerman, Fred Armisen, Patton Oswalt and more.
This is an amazing true-story about the systematic murder of the Osage people back in the 1920s, the investigation of which intertwined with the growth of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. It’s a powerful look at the systematic mistreatment and violence against Indigenous people, mostly because white people wanted what they had. It reads like a novel and kept me enthralled until the last page.
A Blast From the Past– Historical Fiction
A modern day Huckleberry Finn, Krueger’s wildly popular novel follows four friends as they travel by boat down the Mississippi River into to escape a toxic, abusive boarding school in search of a better life. While the book is told from only one perspective Krueger writes complex, fleshed out characters that make the story that much more enjoyable.
This sweeping epic takes a honest look at the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Told in two intertwining stories, The Great Believers follows a mother looking for a daughter who disappeared with a cult, and her brother twenty years before who is watching AIDS ravage his social circle and change his world forever.
This is a historical memoir from the perspective of Mustafa al-Zamori, the first black explorer of America, a Moroccan slave who was part of the exploring team led by Panfilo de Narvaez — and one of only four to actually make it to America after disaster struck. I loved this account of American exploration and discovery from a previously unheard voice.
This is a more recent historical fiction, set in 1974, just after the Vietnam war when veteran Ernt Allbright tries to restart his life post-war by moving his family to Alaska. This is a particularly good one to read in the summer on a super-hot day, because you can practically feel the freezing tundra just outside your door. A beautifully written book full of heartbreak and love.
Escape To Other Worlds– Sci Fi and Fantasy
I will never stop talking about this beautiful, happiness filled book. It’s contemporary fiction with a bit of magical realism and includes a quirky guy who was raised by wolves, a magic “unicorn pig” that supposedly controls the weather and the people who knew him throughout the course of his life. It is just such a wholesome, heartwarming story that you should definitely pick up this summer.
One of the biggest Sci-fi novels of last year is an incredible story that challenges reader’s perception of linear time and ask questions about the diffocult moments which shape us and if changing those memories is really worth the potential consequences. In a world where people are plagued with memories from a life they a sure they never lived a scientist and a cop team up to figure what is causing this strange condition and will stop at nothing to fix it.
Ok, so I realize this is a very popular selection, and you might have already read it, but if you haven’t, I think this is a perfect summer read. It’s got it all — a great adventure story, an all-too-plausible near future dystopia, all wrapped up in a package of 1980’s video game and pop culture nostalgia. I love this book so much — and think it’s 100% better than the movie, so definitely check it out!
If you loved Song of Achilles, you absolutely need to check out this female-forward retelling of The Iliad. Told from the perspective of Briseis, Achilles’ concubine, this tells the story of war from the perspective of the typically silent — the conquered, slaves, and women. There are touches of magic — this is a Greek mythology retelling, after all, but it’s somehow also completely realistic and believable. This is a great retelling and I highly recommend it!
Slow and Steady– Books +400 pages
Perfect for lovers of Greek and Latin Language and Literature or anyone who has had experience in academia, Donna Tart’s magnum opus follows a handful of students at a prestigious New England college who fall under the spell of their eccentric Classics professor. At the very beginning of the novel we find out that one of the students has been murdered and the story becomes not a who-dunnit by a why-dunnit.
This gender swapped Rumplestiltskin retelling is full of magic and myth. Telling the story of Miryem and Wanda Spinning Silver has everything you could ever want in an expansive fairytale retellings: intricate world building, high stakes, and parallel worlds where consequences cross generations and magical realms.
Man, I love this series, which is a Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy with demons and mythology and absolutely amazing worldbuilding. The best part about starting this one over the summer is that the second was also a BOTM pick, and the third and final book releases at the end of June, so you won’t have to wait long for the thrilling conclusion!
I absolutely adore Ruta Sepetys — both Between Shades of Grey and Out of the Easy are favorites of mine, so as soon as I saw this pick I knew I had to get it! Set in 1950s Spain, this compelling work of historical fiction follows two teens whose lives become intertwined when they both find themselves in Madrid post the Spanish Civil War. There is a full and rich cast of characters, a beautiful love story and an exploration of living under a facist regime. It’s just so good. Pop
Something New– First In A Series
The first book it Michael Rutgers Anomaly Files follows Nolan Moore, who hosts a paranormal investigation show. At the beginning of the story Nolan and his team set out to investigate a cave in the Grand Canyon. What they find is darker, more violent and gruesome than they ever could imagine and some of them will not make it out alive. .
The first in a new a new mystery series, Two Girls down is about two sisters who are kidnapped from a mall parking lot. Bounty hunter Alice Vega teams up with retired cop Max Caplan to bring the girls home. Compulsively readable and suspenseful, the first book in Luna’s new thriller series will keep you reading late into the night.
For fans of dragon-centered fantasy novels like Eragon comes an action packed new series which pays particular homage to the Greek and Roman World. Full of political intrigue, a high stakes competition and compelling characters, Fireborne should be on every fantasy lover’s shelf.
Overnight, these strange things appear randomly all over the world. Their initial discovery is made by aspiring social media influencer April and her friend Andy. When the video the two shoot goes viral, April suddenly has a lot of problems to deal with, including her own safety and the safety of the ones she loves. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing asks questions about the negative and positive impacts social media has on our lives.
We Are Young– YA Novels
This YA fantasy novel follows three very different characters as they strive to win the races and claim the prize. Reintgem weaves a magical world of pheonix horses, alchemy, and bargains made with gods that have overarching consequences. I would essentially describe this book as The Hunger Games meets The Scorpio Races. Pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.
This standalone YA contemporary is at once funny and timely. Del has had a crush on Kiera for as long as he can remember and he is determined to do whatever it takes to make her see that they are perfect for each other. But when Del unwittingly takes a purity pledge alongside his crush what follows is a comical, heartwarming story that asks important questions about consent and honesty.
Clerics and blood magic and forbidden romance, oh my! Emily Duncan’s amazing gothic-fantasy Slavic-set YA topped my list last year and I think everyone needs to read it! It’s definitely dark, but also lush and while a larger book, reads really quickly. Definitely check this one out!
If you asked me, what one word will basically ensure you will read a book, “pirates” would be at the top of my list. I love a good pirate book and this one has pirates AND mermaids, forbidden pacts, an amazing magic system, plot twists and so much more. This one is a perfect book to read with your toes in the water… or maybe a few feet back from the water. Who knows what lurks in the depths!
Hidden Gems– Underhyped Titles
Esther Hicks has had her life broadcasted to the world for as long as she can remember. In the reality show Six for Hicks, the world watches weekly the antics of her conservative Christian family. When Esther “Essie” realizes she is pregnant, producers and her parents act frantically to try and cover up Essie’s adultery while she struggles with her feelings about the pregnancy and the arranged marriage her parents are trying to force her into. There are some trigger warnings, but the book features a solid cast of compelling characters.
For fans of Jane Austen, this historical romance features Lady Victoria Aston who adores Jane Austen novels and tries to use her favorite books to help her in her own social situations. Funny, clever and full of heart, this under-hyped YA romance has a sprinkling of mystery as mysterious accidents begin to occur around Victoria. Definitely a must-read for any YA aficionado.
I actually read this as part of my book club last year and it was one of my absolute favorites! We follow 85-year-old Lillian on New Year’s Eve 1984. She finds herself alone on New Year’s Eve and decides to take a short walk around her New York City neighborhood, which turns into a long walk, full of reminiscing, both hilarious and painful. Lillian was at one time the highest paid advertising woman, and gave it up (as she was required to do) when she became pregnant. It’s a gorgeously written quick read, with so much depth. I highly recommend it!
Little & Lion is a story that is really difficult to explain, so I’ll leave it at this. This novel seems at once light and YA, with teenagers that act like teenagers, but also deep and intense, exploring LGBT issues, race, religion, and illness. It makes you feel like you could be in Los Angeles with our characters. It’s just plain good writing. Definitely check this out!
On Our Summer Reading Lists
This under appreciated thriller contains two winding and twisting plots. First we have two parents who have finally been given a child after many fears of infertility. However, as Hannah grows into her own the parents can’t but think that someone thing is terribly off about their daughter. Fast forward almost five decades when Clara’s boyfriend doesn’t come bome from work one night, she sets out to find out the truth behind his disappearance. What follows is a pulse-pounding psychological thriller that is sure to keep you up at night.
A newer release from Book of the Momth, The Knockout Queen is a gritty coming of age story that follows two teens who struggle to find out who they are accept every part of themselves in an unforgiving, cruel world. There Bunny, a 6’3″ volleyball player who isn’t really comfortable in her own skin and Michael, a closeted gay boy who meets men late at night. When a violent act changes the two teens forever what follows is Thorpe’s trademark caustic wit and heart wrenching reality. I can hardly wait to pick it up.
Oh man. A historical fiction centering on Jesus, but as if he had a wife, and as if that wife was a feminist?! I mean, add Sue Monk Kidd’s gorgeous writing into the mix and I’m not sure how I could let this one pass me by. It’s in this month’s box for me, and I am really excited to dig into it! Plus, it’s actually recommended for BOTM by Glennon Doyle, whose writing I love and whose book recommendations I also tend to love.
Speaking of! I definitely need to read this one this summer. First of all, that cover is just so gorgeous and utterly summery to me. I’ve read Doyle’s other memoirs and always find them basically life-changing, or at least with enough interesting stuff to think about that I come back to them time and again. Reviews of Untamed suggest this may be her best book yet, and I CANNOT WAIT to dig in!
BOTM Authors With New Books Out This Summer (June-August)
Remain Silent by Susie Steiner (June 2nd)
Most will recognize Susie Steiner’s name from her title that was a Book of the Month pick: Mising Presumed. Remain Silent is the third book in her DS Manon Bradshaw series. One night, Manon is out walking with her son when she finds the body of a Lithuanian Immigrant hanging from a tree, launching one of the most dangerous cases she has worked yet.
The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett (June 2nd)
Like The Mothers, Bennett’s upcoming novel deals with complex family relationships. In this case, The Vanishing Half follows two sisters who have lead very different lives. Written in Bennett’s singular, lush prose The Vanishing Half is well worth the wait.
Empire of Gold by SA Chakraborty (June 9th)
The final book in Chakraborty’s trilogy that began with City of Braas. I don’t want to say too much about this one because I don’t want to give anything away but the trilogy is an epic fantasy series inspired by Middle Eastern mythology and folklore and follows a thief throughout a rich, searing and immersive world.
Devolution by Max Brooks (June 16th)
This uniquely formatted horror novel is by the same author as the New York Times bestsellomg novel World War Z. Brooks explorea the realities of a quarantined city that is cut off from the world when Mt. Reiner erupts. As the rural Washington town’s inhabitants turn on each other strange things start to happen in the woods around them, leading people to believe that they aren’t alone and whatever is out there might be hostile.
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand (June 16th)
While 28 Summers is set in Nantucjet it is a standalone novel that takes place over decades as we follow Mallory and Jake, entertwined in a passionate love affair that they only indulge in one week every year at the end of August. Emotional and moving, it will be a fantastic summer read for any Hilderbrand lover.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (June 23rd)
Jasmine Guillory’s novel The Proposal was a Book of the Month pick a few summers ago and Party of Two carries many of the trademarks of a Guillory romance novel: a capable, independent heroine and love interest that’s drop into the story at the most inconvenient, albeit perfect, time. Fun and relatively steamy it’s the kind fluff you need on a beautiful summer day.
Take A Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (June 23rd)
The sequel to the charming and fun Get A Life Chloe Brown follows Chloe’s sister, PhD student Dani is pretends to be in a relationship with security guard Zafir saves her from her office building and the video of the rescue goes viral they decide to pretend to be in a relationship while each has their own hidden agenda. Unsurprisingly flirtations, chemistry and falling in love ensue.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (June 30th)
Told in alternating timelines Sager’s latest novel is a homage to horror classics like The Haunting of Hill House. When Maggie’s father dies she inherits the manor that her family had fled from in the death of night almost two decades before. When Maggie returns to flip the house and sell it she becomes consumed with learning about what really happened there and to find out if, as her father bestsellomg book claims, the manor is haunted by the ghosts of previous tenants who died there a long time ago.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia (June 30th)
From the author of God’s of Jade and Shadow comes a refreshing twist on the haunted house story. When Noemi is summoned by her newlywed cousin to her ominous estate where mysteries abound. Perfect for fans of gothic classics like Rebecca and Northanger Abby I will definitely be picking this one up regardless of whether it’s a Book of the Month pick or not.
Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams (June 30th)
Told in two alternating timelines, Williams latest offering paints picture of two strong, fiery women, one during pre WWII and other just after the war has ended. It is historical fiction at its finest with compelling characters and immersive plot as Williams weaves a tale of loyalty and perserverance.
The Shadows by Alex North (July 7th)
The Whisper Man was a well loved thriller last summer and I would be shocked if North’s upcoming is not a pick and just as beloved. Dark, gruesome and gritty, this thriller our protagonist is investigating the details of a murder that happened almost twenty five years ago when a copycat pops up a few town’s over. Most importantly, what happened to the murderer who disappeared all those years ago?
What You Wish For by Katherine Center (July 14th)
In this second chance romance Katherine Center introduces us to a school librarian who loves her job and her community. That is, until Duncan becomes the principle of her school. She had known him before. Back when he was gentle, kind and fun. Now he’s a stickler for the rules and so tightly wound that she is sure he is going to break under the pressure and take the school down with him. Heartwarming and uplifting Katherine Center’s latest is the author at her most compelling.
The Pull of Stars by Emma Donoghue (July 21st)
Set in Ireland pre 1920 during the chaos of the Spanish flu, the author of Room and Wonder returns with a tour de force that is sure to be one of the most talked about book of the summer. Our protagonist is Julia, who works at an overcrowded and understaffed hospital in Dublin. Set over the course of three days three woman change each other’s lives as they function as the shepherds of life in and out of a chaotic, pandemic torn world.
A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne (July 23rd)
One of Book of the Month’s darlings, I’ll be shocked if Boyne’s forthcoming novel isn’t a July pick. Traveler follows two brother not only over decades but centuries, in different forms and places. In Boyne’s beloved beautiful prose, a story of family, connection and date is etched into every emotional scene and sweeping moment.
Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney (Aug. 11th)
Set during WWII this enduring saga features a messenger pigeon and a soldier whose lives intertwine on the field of battle. Told from alternating perspectives this sweeping epic looks at the destruction of war and the power of hope I’m the midst of loss, violence and triumph.
When These Mountains Burn by David Joy (Aug. 18th)
The Line That Held Us was a gritty, bitter tale set in rural Appalachia and Joy’s next novel is no difterent. This heavy and heart wrenching book follows a devoted father, a desperate drug addict, and a determined cop whose lives inevitably intertwine after a series of violent, irreversible events.