Reading is a solitary sport, which is why I love it. Alone time plus a good book equals my happy place. Like many people, summer is when I read the most — as I sit on a beach chair with my toes deep in the sand, or with my feet up on our pontoon boat, or on my porch with fireflies flickering in the dusk. I’ll scurry through pages faster than the critters I hear outside my open window.
But some books are too good to experience on your own. They beg to be talked about. Sure, a book club is a great place, but with these 10 books, I recommend a more familial crowd — your mom and grandma and any other people in your life who fill those roles. These stories of love, marriage, and family will introduce you to women your wish you knew, and a few you’ll be glad you don’t. As you finish each one, discuss over scones and coffee or wine and cheese — and you might just learn some new stories about your own family, too. These are the 10 books I highly recommend for reading and discussing with the incredible role models in your life:
'The Ones We Choose' by Julie Clark
In this wonderful debut, Clark introduces you to a mother who finds her world in upheaval when her eight-year-old son struggles to fit in at his new school and begins asking questions about his biological father that she can’t answer — until coincidence brings them all together. This book will have you talking about the real ties that bind a family together.
'A Bollywood Affair' by Sonali Dev
Sonali Dev crafts a swoony romance between an ignored bride of an arranged childhood marriage and her husband’s Bollywood big-shot brother. What really makes this book for me are the large family scenes brimming with nosy aunties who cook way too much food and butt in where they are least wanted. No matter the culture, we’ve all been to one of these chaotic family gatherings.
'The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo' by TaylorJenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo is a complicated woman who has made a lot of sacrifices for her glamorous Hollywood career, including seven very different husbands and more than one juicy secret. Women everywhere can relate to the difficult choices she had to make, and will love the succulent behind-the-scenes glimpses of Tinsel Town. Ask your mom and grandma about the choices they’ve made in their life, and if they would make different choices now.
'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay
You might want to go into full brunch-mode when you talk about this book with your elders, because Roxane Gay covers a lot of ground, from light-hearted discussions about The Bachelor to heart wrenching stories from her past. It’s the perfect launch point to discuss how feminism has evolved over the years.
'Crazy Rich Asians' by Kevin Kwan
I often say Kevin Kwan’s debut is like the '80s night-time soap Dallas, but set in southeast Asia with people that make the Ewings look poor. It’s over-the-top family drama, set in a world that will leave your jaw on the floor with all the luscious details of how the .00000001% live. They may have more moolah, but they have more problems, too.
'Dumplin'' by Julie Murphy
Beauty pageants, body positivity, young love, and a challenging mother-daughter relationship. We’ve all had moments where our mom wished we wore different clothes, had a different haircut, or maybe carried fewer pounds on our hips. Dumplin’ is the perfect book to kick off a conversation about those expectations and the meaning behind them.
'I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around' by Ann Garvin
Tig’s life is falling apart: Her mom has memory loss, her career is stalled, her boyfriend left, and now she’s caring for her sister’s baby. And then it gets really complicated. You’ll laugh and cry as she finds a new way to happiness.
'The Orphan's Tale' by Pam Jenoff
Young Noa rescues a Jewish baby left on a train car in Nazi Germany, then takes refuge in a German circus. While not a light summer read, this novel of risk, friendship, and sacrifice will have you discussing what it means to be a mother. The ending will leave you hopeful and in tears.
'Slightly South of Simple' by Kristy Woodson Harvey
The first in a trilogy, Slightly South of Simple introduces you to three sisters, their mom, and grandma, living in a small southern town called Peachtree Bluff. These complicated women have their ups and downs as they struggle, alone and together, to find their happy-every-afters. Talk about all the ways you see your family in these strong, feisty women.
'Eligible' by Curtis Sittenfeld
Curtis Sittenfeld’s delicious retelling of Pride & Prejudice, set in modern day Cincinnati, is complete with Skyline chili references and a Bachelor-esque reality show. It will make you grateful that your mom is nothing like Mrs. Bennett.