CoveyClub’s 2022 Summer Reading List
Whether your interest lies in a juicy novel, a search for self-improvement, or a lean into nonfiction, we've got something for everyone
What is it about summer that prompts us to grab not only our sunscreen and a cold drink when we head outside, but a good book as well? I thought there might be something to this so I searched “origin of summer reading” and lo and behold, I found that The New York Times Book Review published its first special issue featuring “books suitable for summer reading” all the way back in 1897, and has continued to publish an annual issue ever since.
Books — specifically novels — gained in popularity in the mid-1800s as middle-class Americans began traveling in the summer, mostly by train, to seaside resorts. The publishing industry took notice and saw an opportunity to promote new novels during what was ordinarily a slow season. So there you have it: summer reading was born.
And while train travelers today may be more likely to be listening to audiobooks or holding kindles rather than hardcovers in their hands, the good news is that everyone is still reading. Whether your interest lies in a juicy novel, a search for self-improvement, or a lean into nonfiction, today’s titles have something for everyone.
Before I share my book picks, let me share a bit of advice with you: Life’s too short to read books you don’t love. Several years ago, I instituted a “30 Pages or Less” rule for just this reason. If a book I’m reading doesn’t grab me within the first 30 pages, I’m out, deviating from this rule only if a trusted friend or an author I know recommends otherwise. So if you start reading something and it doesn’t resonate with you — for whatever reason — by all means, donate it to a Little Free Library and move on. I’ve been moderating book clubs for the past 20 years, and one thing that’s taught me is that not all of the books you toss onto your TBR pile will actually make the cut…and that’s okay. That being said, I do hope you find some on this list that do.
If You Love a Sweeping Multi-generational Saga, read The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani. At a book signing event I attended in May, Trigiani called this her “best work yet.” Loyal fans will know that this title has some stiff competition in that regard, as Trigiani is known for being a master storyteller, weaving together generations-old family tales and well-developed characters while leaving no stone unturned when it comes to research and attention to detail. In this book, we meet Matelda, the Cabrelli family matriarch, at the end of her life, determined to share a family secret with her granddaughter, Anina. With intersecting timelines, Italy teetering on the brink of World War II, and the beauty and magnificence that is Scotland, Trigiani has given us one for the ages.
If You’re Looking for “Smart” Fiction, join me as I coin this new genre by putting Book Lovers by Emily Henry at the top of that list. Fans of Henry’s will know her from People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read (also great choices). I read Book Lovers while on vacation and I kid you not, it was one of those people-looking-at-you-on-the-plane-like-you’re-crazy kind of funny. I literally laughed out loud. I love a nontraditional female character, and Henry gives us exactly that in cutthroat literary agent Nora Stephens. As we get to know Nora, though, we find that she does have a sensitive side, sharing such thoughts as “All these years spent thinking that I had superhuman self-control and now I realize I just never put anything I wanted too badly in front of myself.” Preach, girl! I could not put this one down.
If It’s Your Turn to Pick the Book Club Book this month, choose The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar. After an American couple relocates to India following the death of their son, the husband forms an attachment with a young boy next door, resulting in ramifications no one could see coming. An award-winning reporter, columnist, and magazine writer, Umrigar paints one of the most agonizing portraits of a marriage wracked by grief that I’ve read in quite some time.
If You Can’t Get Enough of Celebrity Memoirs, read Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis. V stands for “vulnerable” as Davis bares her true self, detailing a harrowing childhood that included violent bullying by fellow students, a father who abused her mother, and a life of extreme poverty. In Finding Me, you’ll meet the little girl who “ran from her past until she made a life-changing decision to stop running forever.” And we’re so glad she did. Called one of the greatest actors of her generation, Davis’s story is one of the most inspiring ones of our time.
If You Love a Good Page-turner, read Verity by Colleen Hoover. If you’re not already on the Colleen Hoover train, now’s your chance to get on board. As of this writing, Verity has been on The New York Times Best Sellers List for 25 weeks, and with good reason, it seems. When best-selling author Verity Crawford is injured in an accident that prevents her from finishing a book series, barely-scraping-by writer (and Verity fan) Lowen Ashleigh is offered the job of a lifetime: complete Verity’s series for a handsome sum. But when Lowen arrives at Verity’s home and begins sifting through her notes, she discovers more than she bargained for, including a grieving husband to whom she may or not be attracted, details about Verity’s sex life, and how she really felt about mothering a set of twin girls. Oh, and did I mention? The twins are dead. As one reader told me, “This one kept me guessing until the very last page.” (I’m currently reading it myself, and think she may be spot-on.)
When you’re done with Verity, pick up The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Fans of this dynamic writing duo will know them from such titles as The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl. What makes this pair stand out is their creative process, writing every line together daily from different cities via Google Docs. In their latest thriller, a suburban couple with an outwardly perfect union seek help from an unconventional therapist in order to repair their marriage as a result of the wife’s infidelity. But, as my dad used to say, “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.” Seems the admission of this transgression is just the beginning…
If You’re Struggling with Midlife Sleep Troubles, read Nothing Much Happens by Kathryn Nicolai. This title was one of my saving graces during the height of the pandemic. Though I don’t normally have trouble falling asleep, I’m always open to new, soothing nighttime rituals. The first line of Nicolai’s introduction reads, “Sleeping should be easy.” Wouldn’t that be lovely? Nicolai takes an old-school approach, drawing upon the value of bedtime stories and says that, “stories help us make sense of things; they can point us in a useful direction and give us a way to step out of the present and into a new place and time. They offer new perspectives and new ways of imagining our lives — and the lives of others. And when they’re told in a certain way, they can help us calm down.”
The stories are laid out chronologically across the seasons and take place in “The Village of Nothing Much,” where characters from each tale cross paths. So put your phone aside and get comfy with this collection; you’ll find it as soothing as a breeze gently coming off the ocean.
If Your Summer Includes A Little Self-care, check out Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab. In this book, Tawwab, a therapist, New York Times best-selling author, and relationship expert, discusses how we can “end the struggle” and speak up for what we need without offending those closest to us. Her Instagram posts include manifestos like, “Silence is not the best strategy for keeping the peace; it’s having tough conversations,” and “You don’t have to share everything with everyone, and you can be selective about what you share with certain people.” With 1.5 million Instagram followers, I’m thinking that that many people can’t be wrong.
Whatever your summer holds, I hope you’ll take some time for yourself — whether that’s out by the pool, on your front porch after dinner (my favorite pastime), or on the beach if that’s your jam — and enjoy a good read. And if you find yourself visiting a seaside town or someplace new this summer, take the time to check out a local indie bookshop. In addition to books, most carry unique items that you won’t find in big-box stores. Plus, you get the added bonus of staff recommendations. Treat yourself and warm the heart of a small business owner at the same time.
Happy Summer, and Happy Reading!