There’s something exciting about picking out summer books. This year, we built a great reading list with help from our friends at Pocket Books, a local independent bookstore run by three fabulous women who always give the best recs. Happy reading…and please comment with any recent reads you have loved!
In 2022 Pocket Books opened its doors, and we could not feel luckier. A quick walk from our house, this eclectic little shop embraces all its visitors with a smile and a book recommendation for every interest.
Jess, Julie, and Austin are the owners of Pocket Books, and we love their knowledge about books, both new and classic. We were thrilled when they expressed interested in our annual Favorite Books edition and are excited about the list they curated for us.
Whether you’re in search of great reads for a book club or the beach, the following selections are full of adventure, thrills, laughs, heartbreak, and a few tears – page turners to say the least.
You’ll appreciate the descriptive snippets about the various books, which are sure to move certain titles to the top of your must-read list.
A heartfelt thank you to Jess, Austin, and Julie for putting together this spectacular reading list. By clicking on the link, you can purchase directly from them and support a local, independent business. For those who are not local but may like to shop Pocket Books, they do ship.
NATURAL BEAUTY by Ling Ling Huang
This razor-sharp, darkly funny debut novel follows an unnamed narrator who abandons her promising future as a piano prodigy after her parents are injured in a terrible accident and instead takes a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store in NYC called “Holistik.”
Our narrator gets swept up in Holistik’s seductive brand of beauty products and procedures and eventually peeks behind the curtain to find something much more sinister. Natural Beauty starts off with a bang and somehow picks up even more steam like a freight train, becoming increasingly impossible to put down.
What a stunning, sly debut that interrogates our cultural obsession with beauty, wealth, and femininity and how those ideals intersect with white supremacy. A totally mesmerizing novel that paradoxically unravels with slow purpose at a breakneck speed.
BIANCA TORRE IS AFRAID OF EVERYTHING by Justine Pucella Winans
This is a young adult novel you’re going to absolutely love — a birdwatching teen accidentally witnesses a murder in the building next door and tumbles headfirst into a secret investigation involving a cult, conspiracy, and a super sketchy Jamba Juice. Also, they realize they’re nonbinary and mange to get the girl they’re crushing on involved in the murder mystery.
It’s WILD and funny and scary and heartwarming and the perfect book to get you out of a reading slump! Bianca is such a charming narrator, with so much bravery and heart battling with so much anxiety. We loved their relationship with their family and even more with their friends/new crush.
The plot is bonkers and, of course, totally unrealistic, but that’s decidedly not the point. You’ll love this perfect summer read!
HARRY SYLVESTER BIRD by Chinelo Okparanta
This is a wild ride looking at race from the perspective of a white boy who fancies himself transracial in a world that views that as a real thing. The novel wields its irreverence to question some of what we take for granted – or some of what may come to pass if we don’t build our future with care.
BIG SWISS by Jen Beagin
I’ll eat up every “zany book about a sad girl who makes terrible decisions” you throw at me, and BIG SWISS has earned a spot on my shelf next to MILK FED, MADE FOR LOVE, SAD JANET, and so many more. Who could resist the premise “a woman works as a transcriptionist for a sex therapist and falls in love with a patient, sight unseen?” Who can resist miniature donkeys?
The absolute weirdest vibes, and so irresistibly fun. Loved this one!
OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA by Julia Armfield
This novel is short but has so much depth packed into its pages. It prompts us to question what it means to be fully devoted to a career or a cause as nebulous as the pursuit of knowledge. It’s brutal and beautiful and poignant, and I couldn’t look away from this haunting debut about a couple dealing with the aftermath of a deep-sea mission gone terribly wrong.
ALL THIS COULD BE DIFFERENT by Sarah Thankham Mathews
One of our favorite books in the store right now. It has it all – queer first love, first generation immigrant protagonist, new adult challenges of how to adult, anti-capitalism and community care. The relationships are so textured and the emotion so raw. Plus, stunningly beautiful writing.
TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin
I regret every single second I didn’t spend reading this book. When I finished it, my jaw was on the floor, my brain was particulate, and my heart had been completely shredded. What a BOOK! It’s nostalgic and tightly focused but somehow feels expansive and universal – it takes friendship and partnership so seriously, really asking us to consider what it means to share a life with other people. This book is devastatingly tender without being saccharine, emotionally nuanced, expansive and creative and exciting, and texturally layered like few books I’ve read before.
Pick this one up – trust me.
MY LAST INNOCENT YEAR by Daisy Alpert Florin
A voicey campus novel centering on messy questions of consent set against a late 90s backdrop? This novel was always going to be catnip for me – My Last Innocent Year slots neatly into the growing canon of #MeToo novels and offers a measured meditation on the extent to which we have the agency to make our own choices and the degree of ownership we must take of the fallout of those choices. The narrator’s disembodied “adult” voice is used to great effect, and Florin captures a very particular sort of academic man with pitch perfect detail.
YELLOWFACE by R.F. Kuang
Rebecca Kuang is, full stop, a GENIUS. I have no idea how she manages to make each book better than the last, but she truly does. Yellowface is brilliant, incisive, hilarious, and deeply unsettling. I don’t know how Kuang manages to make such a cutting satire feel somehow kind? I want every bookish person to read this book and then talk to me about it, because I think I’ll never be able to stop talking. GENIUS!
THE RACHEL INCIDENT by Caroline O’Donoghue
Oh what a sheer delight of a book. I want to wrap myself in it and read it over and over again – is there anything better than the story of some besties who love each other more than anything, sometimes at the cost of their other relationships? Such lovely, clever inversions of well-trod tropes in this novel, and the very particularly Millennial voice of Rachel – delicious. I shrieked, I wept, I laughed. This one is going on the re-read stack for sure!
WE THE FUTURE by Cliff Lewis
I absolutely LOVED this important and timely middle grade novel. Jonah is the sweetest protagonist who needs just a little push to become a hero, and he never loses sight of how important his friends and family are to his mission. Sunny is the perfect heroine—smart and brave and crafty—and I loved Gideon, Paco, and Rashi, too! Such a smart plot that allows for much-needed hope in the face of climate disaster. This is an essential read! Plus, as the cherry on top, Cliff is a Lancaster author!!! Be sure to grab a signed copy from Pocket Books 🙂
😎📚 We love to hear from our readers – what are you picking up to read this summer? Share your selections in the comments section below!