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10 Must-Read Books to Pick Up This Summer

School is (almost) out and many of us suddenly have a lot of free time on our hands. What better way to pass this summer locked inside than escaping into a good book? So, grab your drink of choice and head to your couch, bed, or on the floor sprawled over a pillow (my personal favourite), and get lost in these stories perfectly fit for the summertime feels:

(Content warnings will be provided below each description)

A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

Nothing screams summer vacation like a good travel story. If you’re like me and itching to hop on the first flight to the UK, this book is perfect for you! When hit with the trifecta of unfortunate events - a best-friend breakup, romantic breakup, and the death of her abuela - Lilah gets shipped off from Miami to Winchester to find herself again. This book is full of beautiful scenery, delicious food, yummy baked treats, and a swoon-worthy romance to help you forget about being trapped indoors.

CW: Death of a grandparent, food (very descriptive), early onset dementia

The Vanishing Half

When you’re in the mood for a hard-hitting story, this is the one for you. The Vanishing Half is an intergenerational story about two sisters who leave their small, southern Black community at age sixteen and pursue very different lives. As adults, one sister has returned to their hometown raising her Black daughter, while the other lives secretly passing as white, trying to erase her past. This emotional family story set from the 1950s to 1990s explores the American history of passing and is sure to keep you in deep thought about how the past inevitably influences our desires, decisions, and expectations… 

CW: Domestic abuse/violence, lynching, racism, sexual assault, transphobia

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Sometimes, what you really need to spark joy again is a whimsical novel that pulls you into a fantastical land. This sugar-cookie-of-a-novel will warm your heart with both its loveable characters and important themes. We follow Linus Baker, a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youths, who is assigned to an orphanage housing the department’s most dangerous magical children. However, as Linus travels to the orphanage and meets both the children and their caretaker, he begins to learn that there may be more than meets the eye. Guaranteed to bring all the warm-fuzzies, this read will melt your heart faster than a popsicle on a hot summer day.

CW: Abuse (mentioned), bigotry, homophobia, microaggressions, violence (against children)

Educated

Learning doesn’t have to stop over the summer, especially with poignant and hard-hitting memoirs such as Educated. Tara Westover’s story has been praised and well-loved continuously over the years and accounts her life having been born to survivalist parents deep in the Idaho mountains. Her book provides a deep and nuanced exploration of family, religion, relationships, and self-actualization that is sure to leave you with a changed view on the world around you. If you want to be left with a new perspective this summer, this read will not disappoint.

CW: Child neglect, domestic violence, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, gaslighting, gore, sexual abuse (mentioned), religion-based abuse

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

For some of us, summer vacation might be equally as busy as the school year! This book is the definition of small - but packs a big punch. Austin Channing Brown’s powerful memoir explores her experience as a Black woman and mother in America with beautiful and emotional prose. Personally, I recommend reading this one as an audiobook if you have around three hours to spare. Hearing Brown tell you her story is an experience that I guarantee will stay with you for a long, long time.

CW: Microaggressions (race-based), slavery and lynching (mentioned), police brutality

Little Fires Everywhere

If you’re looking for something to binge-read, and then binge-watch, Little Fires Everywhere is the one for you. This highly popular Reese’s Book Club pick was adapted into a Hulu Original eight-part series, ready to stream at your convenience, starring Reese Witherspoon herself and Kerry Washington. Set in Ohio in the 1990s, we follow two families in a small suburban neighborhood - The Richardsons, who appear as the picture-perfect family and the other, a newly arrived mother and daughter renting out the Richardson’s secondary home. Conflicting rules and ideologies come to a head when the town buzzes around a custody battle in this intensely complex story exploring the weight of secrets, art, identity and motherhood.

CW: Abortion, victim-blaming, miscarriage, infertility, kidnapping, rape (mentioned), racism

The Switch

Summer is the season for rom-coms and The Switch is a fun and heart-warming one with two strong leading ladies. Leena is forced to take a sabbatical from work and her grandmother, Eileen, is itching for her own adventure. So naturally, the two decide to switch lives! Leena will move into her grandmother’s house and take over her responsibilities in the tight-knit neighborhood community, while Eileen will move into Leena’s flat in London in search of her own adventurous, swoon-worthy romance! With this read, you’ll be laughing one minute and heavy-hearted the next as Leena and Eileen explore grief, family reconciliation, and love.

CW: Death of a family member (mentioned), panic attack, abusive relationship, anxiety

Malibu Rising

For fans of Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid is coming out with an all-new and highly anticipated novel this June! Set in 1983, four famous siblings have got Malibu buzzing with anticipation for an epic end-of-summer party but of course, everything will change over the course of one night. It started with music and alcohol, and ended with the mansion burned to the ground - and no one knows how the fire started… 

CW: Abandonment, adoption, alcoholism, death of a parent, drowning, drugs, fire, stroke

People We Meet on Vacation

If you enjoyed the wildly popular summer romance novel, Beach Read, good news! Emily Henry is coming out with a new release - this one about two best friends and their one last chance to fall in love. For ten years, Poppy and Alex spent one glorious week of summer vacation together as the best of friends. That is, until two years ago, and they haven’t spoken since. Miraculously, the two agree to embark on one final week - one final chance - together to lay everything on the table and find out the truth of their ill-fated friendship. What could possibly go wrong?

CW: Not known at this time

One Last Stop 

Lastly, you do not want to miss out on this new romantic comedy set to come out this June by best-selling author of Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston! Cynical twenty-three-year-old August does not believe in the kind of romance the movies talk about and certainly not that she’ll find it on her daily subway commute. That is, until she sees Jane. There’s just one problem: Jane is a time traveler who has been stuck here from the 1970s. Suddenly, Jane must find a way to make the impossible possible in this big-hearted, angst-filled romance contemporary novel for when you’re in the mood for a sweet and funny read!

CW: Homophobia, racism

Summer is the time to both catch up on backlist titles and grab those new releases! Whether you’re in the mood for a fluffy contemporary, immersive travel book, or a hard-hitting story, your bookshelf is your oyster. So happy reading and here’s to hoping your next book sends you far, far away!

Sunny Kim

McMaster '23

Sunny is a second-year Health Sciences student at McMaster University. If she's not napping, you'll probably find her sipping on some tea with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds.
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