School’s out soon, and many of us will head out for vacations in the next week or so. If you’re like me, a good book or two are at the top of the list of “essential beach gear.” Is there anything better than lounging around the pool, reading a really good book?
Here’s my Summer Reading List for Adults. I’ve read them all, reviewed them all, and recommend them all for vacation reading.
Travel Books to Read While Actually Travelling
A Trip of One’s Own by Kate Willis. An enjoyable and inspiring book. This memoir/travel book gives you three for one: a memoir of a young woman who works as a travel writer and struggles to settle down, a vivid history of female solo travelers over the ages, and practical tips for women traveling alone. The personal story served as a good framework, but the real strengths of this book are the stories of women who made monumental and dangerous trips by themselves over the centuries.
In Pursuit of Jefferson by Derek Baxter. An interesting book for those interested in both travel and history. The author, intrigued by a little-known tome by Jefferson offering European travel tips, decides to re-create Jefferson’s travels with his family. He starts by running a long-distance race involving frequent stops at wineries, dressed as Thomas Jefferson. He then revisits Jefferson’s fascination in wine and his plans to introduce wine to America, along with many other adventures.
Historical Fiction to Take You Back in Time and Across the World
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s light, comfortable reading about three women living in a small town in England during WWII. One is a fashion designer whose London home has been leveled by bombing during the blitz. The second a spoiled aristocrat but shows her mettle after joining the British Army and working as a mechanic and driver. The third is a young vicar’s daughter who is unhappily engaged to a clergyman and needs a bridal gown. The women bond while members of a local sewing group, working to “mend and make do” while clothing and fabric are scarce. Lots of great social history of everyday life in England in WWII.
Forbidden City by Vanessa Hua. Narrated by a teenage girl who becomes Chairman Mao’s mistress, this interesting book of historical fiction is set in the 1960’s in China, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. At the beginning of the novel, the main character is an impoverished peasant and a virgin. She is a talented dancer and actress, plucked out of the cooperative farm and sent to join a dance troupe. The main purpose of the dance troupe is to attend ballroom dance parties and sleep with Communist party officials. Our girl makes a beeline for Mao and is in bed with him before the first dance party ends.
Our Kind of People by Carol Wallace. This novel focuses on a rags to riches character who marries into old New York society. The family then falls onto hard times and is snubbed by society. But then, fortunes change, and the family has a whole new perspective on their peers. There’s a good bit of social change chronicled in this novel, setting it apart from most Gilded Age novels.
Violetta by Isabel Allende. A young girl grows up in the early twentieth century in Chile, during a time of pandemic. Her family is destroyed and exiled to a rural area, and she grows up to marry, fall in love and lust, and watch as her country is torn apart by a dictatorship. The second half of the book deals with her children, grandchildren, and subsequent loves.
The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes. This novel was like no other I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in Ecuador in the early twentieth century, a young Spanish woman travels by ship to claim her inheritance, a cacao plantation in South America. On the way, her husband is murdered. To avoid getting killed herself, Puri disguises herself as her deceased husband and introduces herself to her new family. The plot has lots of twists and turns as the heroine investigates her husband’s murder and gets a grip on what is going on with the colorful cast of characters in her new family and working in and around the family plantation.
Our American Friend by Anna Pitoniak. This novel is about a First Lady of the United States who is the daughter of a Russian KGB agent and grew up in Paris. The story is framed by the narrative of a journalist writing the First Lady’s biography. She becomes close to the First Lady, spends lots of time in the residence part of the White House, and comes to know the First Lady and her mother and sister well.
The Orchard, Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry. This is the story of four young people growing up in Moscow during the last years of the Soviet empire, “Generation Perestroika.” They fall in love, have sex and drink behind their parents’ backs, run off in cars, and hang out by themselves in a rural dacha. The book also includes a story of a teen sexually abused by her step-father. Since it’s set in Russia, people die, and the survivors are scared for life. The book ends with the age of the oligarchs, as state assets are bought up by individuals and fortunes are made, while most of the population remains poor.
This book was written before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There are lines in this book which are prescient, almost foretelling this war. Many lines will make you wince, knowing what comes next.
Short Stories – Saving the Best for Last
Anonymous Sex, by many anonymous authors. This short story anthology is like no other. All of the stories center on the topic of sex, and all of them are written anonymously. A list of contributors is in the front, and you can have some fun guessing who wrote what. I imagine this was an assignment of a lifetime for these authors. All of us yearn to write from our deepest, most private selves, but who dares do this under your own name? There’s a huge variety in these stories. There’s something for everyone.
Happy Reading! Cindy
Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles: Stories of Unlikely Connections & Unexpected Gifts, along with several other fiction and non-fiction books.
Legal Disclosures: I generally receive free digital copies of books I review from the publishers. If I read them and like them, I say so. Otherwise, I don’t. I provide links to these products, and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something). Honestly, I write this blog for fun and to promote my own books. I pay for expenses out of my own pocket.