The thing I most look forward to every year is building a pile of new books to read during the summer. Yes, I was one of those kids who actually got excited about mandatory summer reading lists that teachers handed out during the last week of school. My enthusiasm for the institution of summer reading has only grown now that I'm an adult and I can choose whichever books I please. Without a doubt, by May of every year, I have already started looking for recommendations on websites and blogs, on social media, and, of course, from my fellow bookish friends. But really, is there anyone better to ask than another author?
In the summer reading recommendations list below, 20 authors — including Taylor Jenkins Reid, Samira Ahmed, Lilliam Rivera and Anna Pitoniak — share the one book that they think is a must-read for summer 2019. Their favorites run the gamut in terms of genre; there's romance, historical fiction, fantasy, short story collections, memoir, thriller, and so much more. Each of these books is already on shelves or will be before the season is out, making them the ideal additions to your beach bag, suitcase, or tote bag during all of your summer adventures. Oh, and you can consider this a 40-book recommendation list, because you should read the books by the authors making the recs, too. Consider your summer reading list officially stacked:
'Daisy Jones & the Six' author Taylor Jenkins Reid recommends 'The Bride Test' by Helen Hoang
"The Bride Test by Helen Hoang is a favorite of mine this summer. Helen's first book, The Kiss Quotient, was exactly what you want in a page-turning romance. It was fun and adorable and I'd go so far as to say "shockingly sexy" (I blushed, a lot.) The follow-up, The Bride Test, which has a similar cast of characters, now focused on another love story within the family, is just as good. I simply could not put it down — the whole time I was reading, I was smiling from ear-to-ear."
'We Hunt the Flame' author Hafsah Faizal recommends 'Sorcery of Thorns' by Margaret Rogerson
"Best read on a stormy night, Sorcery of Thorns is a gothic tale with a good dose of whimsy. It’s a standalone fantasy where books speak and gnash their teeth, and librarians carry swords. Where demons can’t stand dust and make a good cup of tea. Where a girl who belongs to the library can save the world. Ever since devouring Margaret Rogerson’s debut, An Enchantment of Ravens, I’ve known that she has a magical way with words, but in Sorcery, her magic soars even higher. I adored Elizabeth and Nathaniel, but Silas stole my heart."
'When We Left Cuba' author Chanel Cleeton recommends 'Park Avenue Summer' by Renée Rosen
"Renée Rosen’s Park Avenue Summer is the ultimate summer read. Perfect for fans of The Devil Wears Prada and Mad Men, this historical fiction book set in 1960s New York City pays homage to Helen Gurley Brown’s influence as Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Rosen’s writing is sharp, funny, and filled with heart as she thoroughly immerses the reader in the glamorous and cutthroat world of magazine publishing and brings the '60s to life. Inspiring and empowering, this is the ideal book to read with a cocktail in hand as you escape to the fabulous world of Helen Gurley Brown."
'Let Me Hear a Rhyme' author Tiffany D. Jackson recommends 'With the Fire on High' by Elizabeth Acevedo
"It's a book about delicious food and following your passion, two of my absolute favorite things in this life. I love stories featuring kids who can chef it up in the kitchen and I'm obsessed with the recipes. Pro-tip: buy the audiobook along with the hard copy, because Liz's voice is rich, crackling, and soothing all at the same time."
'Gods of Jade and Shadow' author Silvia Moreno-Garcia recommends 'The Summer of Ellen' by Agnete Friis
"The Summer of Ellen follows twin timelines. In the 1970s, a teenage boy’s lazy summer becomes more exciting when a neighboring girl disappears from his town and a young, hippie – the Ellen of the title – comes to live on the farm where he works. Meanwhile, in present-day Copenhagen, the boy, now a middle-aged alcoholic man, must find out whatever happened to the long-lost Ellen. It’s a character study wrapped around a novel of suspense, with every blade of grass, every whispering tree, beautifully painting a picture of both longing and desolation."
'Hope & Other Punchlines' author Julie Buxbaum recommends 'Field Notes on Love' by Jennifer E. Smith
"When the world feels a little bleak, I like to prescribe myself a Jennifer E. Smith novel. I loved her latest Field Notes on Love, which is Smith at her best — warm, compassionate, romantic, funny, thought-provoking, empathetic, sweet but not saccharine. This book has it all: a cross country train trip, two main characters coming of age and asking the big questions, love and loss. I laughed and I cried, and found it impossible not to fall in love alongside Hugo and Mae. Best of all, the world felt a little brighter when I closed its final pages."
'Necessary People' author Anna Pitoniak recommends 'The Dreamers' by Karen Thompson Walker
"The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. This book is a finely polished, multifaceted jewel. It's a spooky page-turner about a contagious disease sweeping through a small town in California, but it's also a gorgeous story of love and loss, and a philosophical examination of dreams and memory. It's one of those novels that put down deep roots inside my heart. A bonus treat: if you love this book, go back and read Walker's first novel The Age of Miracles, which is just as beautifully crafted."
'Internment' author Samira Ahmed recommends 'Girl Gone Viral' by Arvin Ahmadi
"Arvin Ahmadi’s Girl Gone Viral is a propulsive, twisty, page-turning delight. As in his debut, Down and Across, Arvin crafts an endearing main character in Opal Hopper — a young woman in search of answers, trying to find her place in a rapidly changing world. In this near future thriller, Arvin asks hard questions that don’t have easy answers — about privacy and technology and the ethics of how we create and curate our lives in full public view. Opal’s voice grabs you from the first page and her relentless quest to find her missing father (and so much more!) will have you on the edge of your seat. A perfect summer read!"
'Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune' author Roselle Lim recommends 'The Chai Factor' by Farah Heron
"I recommend The Chai Factor by Farah Heron. Amira is a sharp Muslim feminist engineer who falls in love with Duncan, a singing lumberjack type, whom she affectionately calls “garden gnome.” Their chemistry is hot. If you love hate-to-love tropes, this book will satisfy."
'Red, White & Royal Blue' author Casey McQuiston recommends 'Wilder Girls' by Rory Power
"Summer is about escapism — but escapism isn’t always about happiness and wish-fulfillment. Sometimes it’s about something so morbid and outlandish, it transports you somewhere else whether you like it or not. A nightmarish survival story that’s as much literary fiction as it is young adult, Wilder Girls centers on an all-girls boarding school quarantined after an outbreak of a grotesque, consuming virus. I couldn’t look away. Oh, added bonus: it’s queer!"
'Searching for Sylvie Lee' author Jean Kwok recommends 'Miracle Creek' by Angie Kim
"In Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, tragedy strikes an experimental medical facility owned by a Korean family when it catches on fire one evening, killing two people and severely injuring several others. As the courtroom drama unfolds, the reader realizes that each main character had a motive for rigging the explosion. The novel is a gripping page-turner, but what I loved most was Kim’s thoughtful, honest exploration of parents of children with special needs, and immigrants. Perfectly paced, filled with wisdom and compassion, this is a book you don’t want to miss."
'Love From A to Z' author S.K. Ali recommends 'The Candle and the Flame' by Nafiza Azad
"I'm a reader who mostly reads contemporary, with occasional forays into fantasy and science fiction, when I actually have room in my head for the world building of speculative fiction — yay, vacation reads! So, what a surprise to fall headlong into The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad during a busy time in my life. A fantasy set in a bustling city on the Silk Road, the book drew me in with its confident story-telling and delightful cast of characters. What kept me turning pages was its setting — sumptuous and gritty in turns — and an intriguing plot. Highly recommended for those looking for an enveloping escape that comforts as much as it thrills."
'Sabrina & Corina' author Kali Fajardo-Anstine recommends 'Good Talk' by Mira Jacob
"Good Talk by Mira Jacob is a standout graphic memoir that I devoured in a single sitting. Jacob is the rare writer that can discuss the complexities of race, love, and family through storytelling that is equally heartbreaking and hopeful (and, at times, damn funny.) Good Talk feels like a true godsend, a book that I wished I had to help guide me as a young mixed woman. This graphic memoir is a gift, one I cannot wait to share with everyone I know. Read this book, read this book, read this book!"
'If It Makes You Happy' author Claire Kann recommends 'Belly Up' by Eva Darrows
"Ever since I read The Awesome, I have been a fan of Eva Darrows (one of Hillary Monahan’s pen names.) Belly Up is about a teen, Sara, who gets pregnant and — surprise! — her life isn’t over! New town, new school, new love, new baby — and it all worked together so, so well. Her family is supportive, her new friends are wonderful, and while pregnancy is by no-means a cakewalk, the subject is handled with care and grace. Anchored by Sara’s fantastic and unfiltered voice, Belly Up is my favorite kind of hopeful YA contemporary."
'Home Remedies' author Xuan Juliana Wang recommends 'Where Reasons End' by Yiyun Li
"Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li reaffirms to me that fiction is a kind of magic. It places you deep in a conversation you never knew you were longing to have. It allows you to hear things you needed to hear, not just for yourself, but the ones you love. It is like no other reading experience I’ve ever had. I emerged from the world of the book more open, patient and tender for life, all of it."
'The Liars of Mariposa Island' author Jennifer Mathieu recommends 'Like a Love Story' by Abdi Nazemian
"I highly recommend heading to the pool this summer with a copy of Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. Set in New York City in 1989 during the height of the AIDS crisis, this novel tackles friendship, romance, and self-discovery with so much sensitivity and love. It also highlights the work of ACT UP, a group of some of the most fearless activists this nation has ever known. All of this plus one of the coolest YA covers I've seen this year!"
'Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls' author T Kira Madden recommends 'Black Light' by Kimberly King Parsons
"Black Light is an unshakable debut, a collection of stories that will grip you under its spell until its closing notes. Compulsively readable, this book is as much a love letter to language as it is to the natural world, the darkened corners of desire, and the absurdities of girlhood. Gutsy, loud, and so very Texas, this one moved me in a tectonic way. You’ll underline every sentence."
'The Revolution of Birdie Randolph' author Brandy Colbert recommends 'Color Me In' by Natasha Díaz
"I so enjoyed Natasha Díaz's Color Me In, the story of Nevaeh Levitz, a Black and Jewish girl from New York who is caught between her two identities. From those questioning their faith to teens who feel like they don’t quite belong anywhere, Nevaeh’s journey toward self-discovery is highly relatable. Full of family love and strife, bat mitzvah prep, poetry, and all the varying emotions of first love, Color Me In is a book everyone needs to have on their radar."
'I Miss You When I Blink' author Mary Laura Philpott recommends 'City of Girls' by Elizabeth Gilbert
"You know how it feels to realize you've got a whole season of your favorite show waiting for you on Netflix? That's the giddy excitement I felt remembering I had Gilbert's big, sexy, funny, full-hearted novel tucked in my carry-on bag on a recent flight. The hours flew by as I settled into the story of sheltered Vassar dropout Vivian Morris, who heads to New York City in 1940 to stay with her Aunt Peg, the proprietor of a glitzy/seedy theater full of showgirls and smooth talkers. Vivian learns in her 20s what some of us don't understand until much later: that 'you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.' Amen."
'Dealing in Dreams' author Lilliam Rivera recommends 'Five Midnights' by Ann Dávila Cardinal
"When thinking of summer beach reads, some people tend to read something light and fluffy. Not me. I gravitate to the scary and that’s why my summer reading pick is Five Midnights by debut author Ann Dávila Cardinal. Terrifying and original, Five Midnights introduces readers to the infamous Puerto Rican bogeyman, El Cuco, that may or may not be terrorizing the island of Puerto Rico. Compelling characters Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre try to solve grisly murders only to discover that the true horrors plaguing the people may lean toward societal injustices rather than mythical creatures."