CoveyClub’s 2023 Summer Reading Roundup
Make the most of summer by getting lost in a great book! We've got breezy beach reads, literary tomes, and everything in between
It’s summertime…and the reading is easy with CoveyClub! So sit back, grab your favorite summer sip, and relax into another season of great reading!
For Your Poolside Pleasure
Typecast by Andrea J. Stein (Girl Friday Books). I had the pleasure of meeting Stein at Thunder Road Books in Spring Lake, NJ, last fall, and I had a feeling this title was going to make my list from the moment I laid eyes on it. This debut novel from Stein — a book publicist by profession — tells the story of Callie Dressler, a 31-year-old preschool teacher who finds herself sharing her vacant childhood home (the ‘rents have since moved out) with her Type-A pregnant sister, workaholic brother-in-law, and four-year-old niece while the house is under construction. And if that’s not too close for comfort, Callie finds out that her college boyfriend — whom she dumped 10 years prior — has made a movie…about their breakup. Ouch. Readers will connect with Callie as she tries to reconcile with her past, but will she do it at the expense of her future? I’m feeling a Lifetime movie here…
Hello Stranger by Katherine Center (St. Martin’s Press, July 11, 2023). Here we meet Sadie Montgomery, a struggling artist selling portraits on Etsy while trying to make rent and convince her dad that she’s “thriving.” All Sadie needs is one lucky break. And she gets one, in the form of a sought-after spot as a finalist in a portrait competition. But here’s the thing: the competition happens to coincide with what she’s told is a “minor” surgery she needs to have. Turns out there’s something major about this minor surgery, because upon recovery, Sadie realizes she can no longer see faces, including her own. Touted by Real Simple Magazine as “delightfully perfect,” Hello Stranger brings us a story about happiness being found in the most unexpected places — and people.
The Block Party by Jamie Day (St. Martin’s Press, July 18, 2023). Not since the days of Knots Landing has a cul-de-sac seen this much drama, and this one’s got it all: Secrets, deception, troubled teenagers, and of course, murder. Like my dad used to say: “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors,” and The Block Party takes this expression to a whole new level. Lettie, the teenage daughter of one of the couples, has one of the best lines in the book when she says, “My mom is fond of saying that if everyone threw their problems up in the air, people would race to catch their own.” After reading this book, I know I would. File this one under “Unputdownable.”
Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen (St. Martin’s Press, August 1, 2023). If you’ve been following Pekkanen’s career as I have, you’ll recognize her as the other half of the dynamic New York Times bestselling writing duo that includes Greer Hendricks. So you can imagine my excitement upon hearing that Pekkanen was treating fans to a solo thriller. While many an author (including Pekkanen and Hendricks themselves) has explored the depths of the husband/wife relationship, Pekkanen brings us a page-turner about the mother/daughter bond in Gone Tonight. And while the ties between mom Ruth and daughter Catherine may run deep, there’s more to this “you-and-me-against-the-world” relationship than meets the eye. Harlan Coben calls this one “a wild ride.” Jump on it.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine Books). Reid, the New York Times bestselling writer of such novels as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Carrie Soto Is Back, brings us a fictional story of a 1970s rock band and all the behind-the-scenes drama that goes with it. (If you scour the internet, you’ll likely see a debate about the book supposedly being inspired by the tumultuous relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame.) Written as an oral history, readers will revel in a rock and roll journey filled with flawed characters and whip-smart dialogue. Camila, the wife of the band’s lead singer, Billy, tells her husband that if she “wanted to drive a station wagon and have a meatloaf ready at six o’clock, I would have married my father.” Now, do you really need another reason to throw this one in your beach bag?? (Watch the series on Amazon Prime Video.)
If You’re Looking for “All the Feels” This Summer
Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin (Crown). Summer is a perfect time to get in touch with the world around us, and happiness and human nature guru Rubin — author of the New York Times bestsellers The Four Tendencies and Outer Order, Inner Calm, among others — shows us how. From the role that music plays in our lives to our childhood memories of taste, to “looking for what’s overlooked,” Rubin takes the reader on a sensory journey that includes such fun activities as writing a “Tastes Timeline,” and creating an “Audio Apothecary.” Some of her tips for listening better: Listen for what’s not being said. “When in doubt,” Rubin says, “Stop talking.” This book may be just what the doctor ordered to help us get out of our heads and into our lives, and in turn, deepen our knowledge of the world, other people, and ourselves. (And when you’re done reading, head over to her quiz to find out which is your “most neglected” sense!)
If Your Summer Reads Lean More Toward the Literary
One Summer in Savannah by Terah Shelton Harris (Sourcebooks Landmark, July 4, 2023) Categorized by the publisher as an “intricate blend” of upmarket fiction (a crossover between literary and commercial fiction) and southern fiction, One Summer brings us the story of Sara Lancaster, who left her home in Savannah following a sexual assault she would do anything to forget. But that’s tough to do when the identical twin of her attacker has just returned to town. Sara balances caring for her ill father (who speaks only in poetry) and running his bookstore while trying to protect her daughter and face the ghosts of her past. Shelton Harris’s debut novel is filled with the classic themes of salvation, loss, unconditional love, and what it means to truly forgive.
If It’s Your Turn to Host Book Club This Month
Go as a River by Shelley Read (Spiegel & Grau). If you liked I Know Where The Crawdads Sing, you’ll love this debut novel from Read, which Bonnie Garmus (Lessons In Chemistry) calls “unforgettable.” Inspired by the events surrounding the destruction of the small ranch town of Iola, Colorado, in the 1960s, Go as a River introduces us to 17-year-old Victoria (“Torie”) Nash, who runs the household on her family’s peach farm, and whose life is forever changed by a chance encounter with a drifter she meets on a street corner. Read, a fifth-generation Coloradan, was a senior lecturer at Western Colorado University, as well as a founder of the Interdisciplinary Environment & Sustainability major. When asked where her idea for an extraordinary character such as Victoria came from, Nash said in a press release, “Victoria embodies many qualities of the women I’ve known in my own family and in my local ranching and mountain community — tough, loyal, kind, humble women who work hard and do what needs to be done.” Readers will no doubt root for Torie on her emotional journey.
If You Want to Get Lost in Style and Elegance
Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl by Renée Rosen (Penguin Random House). Remember Estée Lauder’s “Youth-Dew,” the amber-colored perfume in that gorgeous bottle with the gold ribbon? The perfume — introduced in 1953 — is described by the company as “absolutely captivating,” and the same can be said about this book, which reimagines the story of the iconic American entrepreneur who shaped the beauty business selling face cream. In this tale we meet Gloria Downing, who is not only looking for a friend but a way to reinvent herself after a family scandal…and then young Estée walks into her life. While Gloria aims to find her voice, Estée plans to become a household name. Together, these two discover what it’s like to dare to dream and refuse to settle during the 1930s, a time when women were just beginning to find creative ways to showcase their talents.
The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren (Two Road Books, Simon & Schuster/Hachette) “Who was the woman who stayed at New York’s famous Barbizon Hotel? She could be from anywhere…” says Bren, “…but more often than not she arrived in a yellow Checker cab because she didn’t yet know how to use the New York City subway.” The Barbizon tells the story of New York’s most glamorous women-only hotel and the ambitious women who stayed there. According to the author, requests for rooms at the Barbizon grew “exponentially” in the 1940s and 1950s, coming from as far away as England and New Delhi. Though less widely known than The Waldorf Astoria or The Plaza, the Barbizon welcomed such literary greats as Joan Didion and Sylvia Plath (whose stay there was fictionalized in her only novel, The Bell Jar) and countless other writers, actors, and models who were all on the brinks of their careers. This one’s for New York history lovers, writers, and anyone interested in the evolution of the “modern woman.”
Still haven’t found the right read? Last year’s list is full of great recommendations too!
Christine A. Krahling is a developmental editor, and the Books Editor for CoveyClub. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, she can be found listening to Bruce Springsteen with her granddaughter, Mira.