Summer Reading in 2020

May 14, 2020

By Rebecca Howard
Tulsa City-County Library

Buddhism teaches that suffering is the result of attachments, and I think I’m beginning to understand this more and more. I’m really attached to summer reading at the library. It’s loud, chaotic, and frenetic. It’s lines of children waiting for their reading logs and stickers. It’s easy picture book shelves that are close to empty after the first week. It’s musicians and magicians, and mad scientists. It’s exhausting. It’s marvelous. And, like everything else in our world, it’s going to look a little different this year. It will still be marvelous, just different. 

I love summer not only for the children’s reading programs, but for the great summer reads that fill long, lazy days on the beach. Okay, no beaches this summer, but maybe you’ll enjoy some long lazy days by a lake, pool, backyard sprinkler, or a vat of hand sanitizer. Again, it will look different this year. 

What makes a good summer read? The answer to that varies for almost every reader you ask. I think there are some overarching characteristics, though. Summer reads are typically compelling page-turners. They might be slightly gossipy or frothy, but they can also contain substance, wisdom, a lot of heart—think Where the Crawdads Sing, which was in everyone’s hands last summer. Quirky characters are a plus. Settings are paramount, too. A magical, historic, futuristic, or lush, atmospheric setting allows us to escape to another world (and, frankly, who doesn’t want to do that right now). 

One of my favorite things about summer is Anne Bogel’s Summer Reading Guide. If you’re not reading, listening, or following Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy), you’re missing out on some stellar reading picks. She’s a reader’s reader and understands so wonderfully the nature of what, how, and why we read. The summer reading guide is her carefully curated list of summer picks with annotations to help you decide what is going to go on your To Be Read list. It’s a beautiful publication—downloadable in PDF format—and free to you, good reader. 

Here is a brief list of some of the books I’m most excited to read this summer. Several of these titles are also featured in Bogel’s guide. 

From my own TBR Summer Stack: 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet 

Follows twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, whose lives take vastly different paths when Stella chooses to pass as white. This is the follow up to Bennett’s spectacular debut, The Mothers. (Literary, Historical

The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America's Forgotten Capital of Vice by David Hill 

Before Las Vegas, Hot Springs, Arkansas was perhaps “the most sinful little city in the world.” This novelistic history chock full of colorful characters explores the transformation of Hot Springs from a spa town to a hotbed of iniquity. Potentially great read-alike for fans of Ozark. (Narrative nonfiction, History)

Afterland by Lauren Beukes 

A global pandemic has wiped out almost all of the world’s men. A twelve-year-old boy is the last male alive, and his mother must go to extraordinary lengths to protect him.  A high stakes Sci-Fi/Feminist Thriller from an accomplished genre-bending author. (Sci-Fi, Thriller)

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan 

This is my beach read pick right here. The author of Crazy Rich Asians
 brings us another witty romantic comedy—this time about a woman who has to choose the man of her family’s dreams or the man she desperately wants to dislike. I sense the beginning of a enemies-to-lovers trope that I always adore! (Romantic Comedy

A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair 

Proprietors of The Right Sort of Marriage Bureau, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge receive a sensitive assignment—to investigate Prince Phillips suitability as a mate for Queen Elizabeth. This is the second book in the Sparks and Bainbridge mysteries. (Historical/Cozy Mystery) 

While you wait for this summer releases, be kind to your local librarians. We are missing the noise and chaos of summer in the library. But, I can also assure you that we are busy finding creative ways to connect with you and your families and to bring you to stories, songs, entertainment, and enrichment that makes us your library.