Yesterday, I noticed that leaves are starting to fall from the trees, and pecans are on the ground. And on our evening walks, the cicadas loudly announce the dog days of summer. The fall semester begins on Wednesday, so even though it is still unbearably hot and humid, I know that summer has officially come to an end. Fall–my favorite time of year–is around the corner. In the south, we have to wait longer for cooler weather, but our autumn is a much-deserved reward for enduring the summer. In the fall, the air is crisp, leaves crunch underfoot, the sun often shines, and the world is full of color.
The fall season also means a busy semester and not quite as much time to read. Rather, I catch up on reading in the summer and over winter breaks. So, I thought the best way to wrap up my season and prepare to move into another is to recap my favorite books of the summer.
One of my goals this summer was to read more new releases. I often wait until a book is offered in paperback, but that means I’m usually behind the rest of the world. I decided this summer that all of that would change, and I’m pleased to say that most of the books I read this year were published in 2016 (a couple in 2015).
Here are my five favorite reads of Summer 2016, in no particular order. I promise I didn’t choose them for the covers alone, but these books prove that covers matter. Aren’t they gorgeous?
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: I heard about this book months before it was released, and people were already raving about it and heralding it as one of the best books of the year. The novel opens on two sisters in Africa and charts the stories of their descendants. Each chapter of the book is a self-contained story, but the larger arc comes together beautifully. Gyasi does something unique with this structure. She deftly explores the reverberating consequences of slavery and racism in America, and shows how events in our cultural pasts still influence race relations in our present.
- The Queen of the Nigh by Alexander Chee: The Queen of the Night is a sweeping epic that follows Lilliet Berne’s rise from orphan to circus performer to courtesan to spy and to opera diva in the 19th century. Though it is a long book, its pacing is perfect, the tone always precise, and the characters magnificent. I don’t usually rave about a book in these kinds of terms. However, this story is not only meticulously researched, but it is also flawlessly executed. It’s as decadent as its subject matter.
- Siracusa by Delia Ephron: This novel has stayed with me since I finished it. You can view my complete review of Siracusa here. Though its themes focus on family, marriage, and betrayals, the novel reads like a suspense or psychological thriller. I love unlikable characters (does that even make sense?), and Siracusa has several of them. Such a fun, perfect, summer read.
- Sleeping Giants by Sylvan Neuvel: Sleeping Giants was my first Book of the Month Club pick and was the first book I read for the 24in48 readathon. This genre-bending novel is a fun and exciting story. The novel opens with an eleven-year-old Rose Franklin riding her new bike through the woods. When she falls through a hole in the ground, she lands in the palm of a giant mechanical hand. The story then jumps twenty years in the future, and Rose is now a scientist who has been tasked with researching the hand in order to find out to what it belongs, to find out who created it, and for what purpose. Written in epistolary form, each chapter includes testimonies, interviews, diary entries, etc. of the crew working to solve the mystery of the hand. This was perhaps one of the most fun books I have read all year (up there with The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales).
- In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: Nothing beats a good mystery novel in the summer, but this year I struggled to find one that met my expectations, until last week when I finally got around to reading In a Dark, Dark Wood. This british novel takes place at a hen party (a bachelorette party) where friends who have been out of touch for ten years reunite. The tension builds in this novel as secrets are revealed and suspicious footsteps in the snow increase everyone’s paranoia. What makes this a perfect mystery novel for me is the twisty plot. I usually figure out the mystery really early in a novel. Though it ends up I was right all along with this one, it had me doubting myself and second-guessing the suspects throughout. Ruth Ware also recently published another mystery, The Woman in Cabin 10, and I can’t wait to read it.
There are many books I didn’t get to this summer. There is just never enough time to read all the books, especially since new ones are released every week. But, I hope to get to those eventually. For now, I plan to finish Megan Abbot’s You Will Know Me and get ready for fall.