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You, like a zillion of my friends, are looking for a great next book, yes? You want a can’t-put-it-down masterpiece that gets your mind moving, inspires you and loses you. You want a book that makes you feel feelings. Perhaps you’ll have hours at the pool, in the sand, or by the lake. Maybe, you just need a book to cuddle with before bed each night.
I created this list before a friend’s early-summer vacation, and I find myself copying and pasting it into Facebook posts and forwarding the email on to others. Recently, I even read it over the phone to a friend who was at the bookstore.
These are the books I’ve read in the past year or so, worthy of 4 1/2 to 5 stars in my Goodreads account. Get ready to fill your “must-read lists,” your queues, and your carts with books you know you’ll soon get lost reading.
Fave new author: Beatriz Williams
It’s kind of funny to start a favorite books list by not listing a book. I was introduced to Beatriz Williams two years ago on Goodreads when the site’s recommendations suggested The Secret Life of Violet Grant. Seeing one of my California book buddies had recently read the book, I asked if it would be good for my book club. She responded that it was an easy, fun historical read and that the twists and insights would be perfect for book club discussion. I have, since, read all of Ms. Williams’ books. I’ve even chatted with her on Facebook and Twitter. Pretty sure she knows I’m a fan.
My favorite of her Historical Fiction romantic-suspense novels is The Secret Life of Violet Grant, but all of her books are can’t-put-it-down reads. Violet Grant tends to be a little more historical fiction than a period piece, while most of her books are period pieces. Nearly all of them share characters, but I don’t think you need to read them in any particular order.
WHAT? You haven’t read this yet??!? If you’ve been avoiding Kathryn Stockett’s book because it’s so long, like I did years ago, I promise you you’ll fly through it. Stockett’s story is suspense mixed with humor. It’s an honest look at times of our country’s past that helps us see just how unjust the system was. And how horrible stereotypes of black people were (and still can be.) The Help is also a look at white privilege and an uplifting encouragement that women can get ahead and break down glass ceilings while following their dreams and, more importantly, their beliefs. When we learn to trust each other and ourselves, we become an even greater force. (Plus, there’s a mention of Chi Omega. And while it’s isn’t exactly 100% favorable, I’m proud to call Skeeter a sister.)
The House Girl
Oh, so good. The House Girl is a slavery period book set between modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia. Author Tara Conklin interweaves two stories as Lina, a modern lawyer, investigates a case that traces to the roots of LuAnn, a slave in Virginia. I love books that weave between modern times and times of the past, and the lawyer’s investigation into LuAnn’s complicated, talented past enthralled me. This was selected as a book club book — I probably never would have picked it up otherwise. Reading this book made me seriously take pause to wonder how much of our learned history is still yet to be overturned.
An Untamed State
It’s unfortunate that every time I begin to talk about An Untamed State, I feel the need, to begin with, “trigger warning, this book details rape, and torture.” In fact, this book graphically portrays rape and torture, which, I know, sounds dreadful. However, this is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. Author Roxane Gay has a writing talent that captivates. I can only describe her ability to make torturous scenes readable as an act of writer’s magic. This is a suspenseful page-turner that makes you sick, but the showing of the story through the beautiful choice of words is remarkable. An Untamed State takes on the privilege versus poverty and the reality of a corrupt government in the tragedy that has taken over parts of Port Au Prince, Haiti. It’s a look at a woman’s courage and strength and a story of family, government, and world issues.
It’s rare I include the Dystopian Fiction genre on my lists, mostly because I enjoy other genres so much more. I found Station Eleven to be unique among its peers in the connection of the characters and the stories they held. Still, it’s the story of the world after an illness wipes out most of the population and a look at the governments and communities that humans create in the wake of such disaster. With many characters, I struggled to find a connection as I began the book, but as the stories slowly weaved and I read the many different strengths of the characters, I felt appreciation for author Emily St. John Mandel’s talent in grabbing so many moments and pulling them all together — much like a dystopian world might be.
Calling Me Home
Another period piece, Calling Me Home, is a favorite I can also attribute to my Book Club for finding. The story follows a white older woman on a modern-day road trip with her younger black friend, from Arlington, Texas, to Cincinnati. As they travel, the woman retraces her relationships and life during the 1930s in a segregated town, where a white woman wasn’t allowed to congregate with a black man… much less fall in love. I love this just as much as The Help, maybe even a little more.
Me Before You
Truth: I didn’t see the movie earlier this summer. I filled my wastebasket with damp tissues about 2 years ago when I read the 2012 novel and didn’t want the director’s portrayal to tamper with the story already in my head. This is as chick-lit as I get, friends, and Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You is the ultimate in a heartfelt story of friendship, love, self-knowledge, and life. It’s a quick read that may make you question some of your own decisions in life. Character growth is something that will help readers realize we all have the ability to become.
I’m beginning to heh, wonder if I’ll ever make a list of book recommendations again that doesn’t include this book. YES. Wonder is a children’s book. But I can promise you it’s so worth the read. My son even gave a copy to my mom, asking her to read the book because, he says, “everyone needs to read it to understand.” It’s likely required reading in your 5th grader’s school, but I made both my boys read it in fourth grade, and I’m going to make sure every one of my undergrads studying Middle Grades Education reads this book. Anyone who spends time with children should become familiar with the characters because they’re becoming referenced in modern-day conversation. Much like Romeo and Juliet exemplify romance, and Sherlock Holmes represents great detective skills, Auggie is quickly becoming an example of one who rises above, realizing internal strength and friendship, while Julian rivals Biff Tannen as the best bully of all time. (After reading Wonder, be sure to also pick up Auggie and Me, which chronicles the points of view of three characters from the story whose lives are affected by the protagonist.
Wonder is, without question, one of the strongest books ever written.
All American Boys
The newest addition to my list of must-reads, I read All American Boys this summer. As this post is being written, America is struggling, trying to find a balance between Black and Blue, and, hopefully, learning that togetherness is far better than separation. Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely tell the story of one event through the perspective of two boys: one black, one white. When black teen Rashad was beaten by a white police officer for a crime he didn’t commit, a crime that actually never happened, his white schoolmate, Quinn, silently witnessed the beating. What followed is a story-telling method that changes the perspective of each chapter between the two boys as they live the aftermath of the beating. Directly addressing how classmates, teammates, family, and friends are affected by the unjust tragedy, this book opened my eyes at precisely the right time. The story is gripping. The characters are believable. The truth is undeniable.
More Julieverse Book Lists
Before you go, here are a few favorite book posts featured previously on Julieverse.
Books Your Book Club Should Read Next. This post has some of my favorite discuss-able books. I included brief summaries about the book and the types of conversations readers enjoy. (They’re also great books for non-book-clubbies.)
Must-Read Books That Inspired Me While you may notice some duplicates from the post above, this is a list of books that helped to make me who I am. The summaries explain my connection to them.
You’ve read my recommendations… now help me out. What books should I read next?