Summer of Books

This summer has been my official “Summer of Books.”  Last year, I really dragged my feet on reading.  I think the year was more focused on learning to balance having TWO kids with extracurricular activities, and there wasn’t much time left for reading.  But, I think I have found the scheduling balance (for now…) and so I have deemed this the summer that I get back to reading.

I use GoodReads.com to track my reading (user name: KatieMC).  My favorite feature of the website (and app!) is that you can save books to a “Want to Read” list.  I have gotten in the habit over the past few years of adding books to that list whenever I hear about something I want to read or whenever someone recommends a good book to me.  I never knew where to keep those suggestions before, but GoodReads has really been helpful for that.  The problem was that I never actually went back and read those books that I saved.  This summer, that list has been my project.  I’ve done pretty well and have whittled my list down to only 16 from 22.  Not too shabby so far.

To help keep me motivated, I’ve also started a Reading Challenge on GoodReads.  You can set a reading goal for yourself for the year and then every time you complete a book, it adds it towards your goal.  I set my goal at 50 books this year.  Since that is a pretty lofty goal and since I’m starting in July, I’ve tried to get myself in a good spot for when I go back to work in August and my reading time will diminish.  But I must have really been craving books because I am finding myself reading a book every two or three days this summer!

I try to put pictures of my books on my Instagram account (user name: MarriageConfessions) so that people can follow along.  I use the hashtag #mcreads.  But I thought I’d do a collective post here of what I’ve read so far this summer, in case anyone else needs some book ideas.  I don’t think I’ve hit a bad one yet! (You can click any of the pictures to be taken to the GoodReads link with book summaries and reviews.)

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First Love by James Patterson – A quick, easy beach read.  The story of a first love, a road trip, and a surprise ending that made me sad.  Though, it couldn’t have been that great of a story because I read it this summer, but couldn’t remember what it was about when I sat down to write this blog post!

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The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan – Such a fun read, especially if you are obsessed with Kate Middleton, like I am.  This is basically every headline about Duchess Kate and Prince William, complied into a fictionalized love story.  It is the perfect beach book and one of my favorites from this summer.

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The Heir by Kiera Cass – This is from a YA series that some of my students got me to read last year.  The series is based on The Bachelor/The Bachelorette TV show, only it’s a prince (and then in “The Heir,” a princess) who are choosing their queen and king.  Super girly and fun.  Start with the first in the series, “The Selection.”  (Also, I’m not sure how I read so many books about royalty this summer!  It was an unintentional, but really fun theme!)

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Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close – I loved this one.  The story follows three friends in NYC from their early 20’s, when they are all trying to find their place, into their 30’s, as they begin settling down and starting families.  It is hysterical and full of dry humor, which is my favorite kind.

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A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – This is one of the more darker books I have read this summer.  I’m not actually sure how it got on my “want to read” list, but it was really good in an unexpected way.  It loosely follows a music producer from the 60’s and 70’s as he comes up through the decades and his career ebbs and flows, but it is told from the perspective of all different people that come in and out of his life.  It is great book, but not something I would normally pick up (as evidenced by the lack of princesses and royal balls, apparently…).  It does take some concentration to read, as the stories sort of entangle together.  A definite for someone who is into culture or music.

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Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay – This has been on my “want to read” list for years.  I had heard all sorts of wonderful things about it.  I try to not read too many Holocaust books because they just break my heart for weeks after reading them, but at least once a year, I find myself drawn to one or two of them.  Such powerful stories.  I have to say, this one disappointed me a little bit.  I don’t know if I just overhyped it in my head or if it just fell kind of flat.  But, I am one of the only people I know who didn’t give this a five star rating.  Everyone else seems to have loved it, so it’s hard not to recommend it.  But, it wasn’t my favorite.  If you’re looking for a good WW2 book, read, “All the Light We Cannot See.”  One of my favorite books.

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Summer Secrets by Jane Green – This one was a little heavier than I expected from Jane Green (no offense, Jane…).  It is the story of a woman in London who is a struggling alcoholic.  After she makes some really horrific mistakes while drinking, the second half of her book is about… Honestly, I don’t know.  I didn’t finish this one.  Not great.  Not what I was expecting.  Too heavy for summer.

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The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee – This was a fun little book to read!  It’s a whimsical love story about three sisters who open a restaurant in NYC.  Super fun with just the right amount of a love story!

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The rest of the books that I have read this summer are in preparation for a new reading unit I am doing this fall in my classroom.  Normally, we read a class novel together.  Our curriculum calls for this to be a dystopian novel, and we either read “The Giver” or “Fahrenheit 451.”  But with the huge explosion of good YA, dystopian literature in the past few years, my team of teachers has decided that instead of reading one whole class novel this year, we are going to form book clubs in our classroom instead.

I posted about this on Instagram and receive lots of questions, so I thought I’d add it on to this post with some information.  Students will be assigned to a book club group of 4-5 students, each at varying reading levels.  Together as a book club, they will select a novel from a list of 12 dystopian books that my team teachers and I have chosen.  They will all complete the same activities and tasks as we would if we were all reading the same book, but we’re hoping that giving them some freedom in picking what they want to read will really help with the engagement.  So, the next few books are YA dystopian novels.

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The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – I had no idea this was a zombie book until I was a few chapters in.  I had heard such great things about it from students and other teachers, though, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t know.  I probably wouldn’t have read it.  Zombies are not my thing.  BUT!  This is a really great book!  Even for an adult!  (NOTE:  I would not recommend this to anyone younger than 14 years old, as it is graphic in some parts.)

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The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – I really enjoyed this book.  It is such a unique story idea!  Essentially, it’s about a town that can hear the thoughts of everyone in it and about a young boy and girl who try to escape.  There were lots of plot twists I never saw coming (including one with his dog that just… Well…  You’ll have to read it!).  What I really loved about this one was that it was told from a boy’s perspective, which is hard to find in dystopian novels.  This will engage some of my middle school boys better than some of the more “girly” choices.  I would highly recommend this one for adults, too.  (NOTE: Same age recommendation as before.  Pretty graphic.)

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The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau – If you liked “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series, then this is right up your alley.  It’s about a society that puts it’s best and brightest through a series of difficult tests to see if they are up to the challenge of leadership.  Any middle schooler would like this book, and some adults, too.  Though, it was a pretty simple read.  Not sure I would have read it if I didn’t have to for my students.

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Sylo by D.J. MacHale – Another great dystopian novel for boys!  This is a really original story about what happens when the government overtakes a city.  As an adult, it’s not the greatest read, but for a middle schooler, this will be a favorite in my classroom.  If you’ve got any young readers in your house, this is a really engaging, adventurous book.

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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – This is the book I am currently reading and I am NOT loving it.  I’m so confused by that, too, because it came highly recommended by both students and friends.  It’s just not my jam.  Maybe the story will get better as I read?  It’s about a society that uses plastic surgery to make everyone “pretty” in an attempt to keep everyone equal.  And, of course, there are rebelling teenagers (imagine that!).  The whole series is a big hit in the YA world, so I would check it out if that’s your thing or if you have teenage girls in your house.  I’m just not a fan yet.

If you’re interested, the other books we will be offering on our dystopian list of choices for our students are:

    • Divergent
    • The Giver
    • Matched
    • Hunger Games
    • Legend (my favorite book of this genre!)
    • City of Ember
    • Unwind
    • The 5th Wave

So, that’s what I’ve been reading this summer.  What about you?  Since I’m draining my “want to read” list, what should I add to it?????

(This is NOT a sponsored post.  Just stuff I like and websites I use.)

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17 Thoughts to “Summer of Books”

  1. Josie

    I’m on a non-fiction kick lately, which is kind of the opposite of beach reads, but oh well…maybe I’ll be smarter by the end of the summer!

    I just finished “Jane Doe January” by Emily Winslow. It’s a memoir — the author was raped by a stranger in college and 20 years later, they found the man who did it through DNA testing. It’s very intimate and powerfully written as she goes through the process of learning who her rapist is and prepares for the trial. It’s definitely a tougher read, but it was so powerful and just fascinating to see how she rebuilt her life afterwards.

    I also read the biography of Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, which was fascinating as I know very little about that period of history. Also excellent was “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” by Sarah Hepola, another memoir by a recovering alcoholic. She frequently blacked out so structures the book by trying to figure out what happened during her more epic blackouts. Super interesting and she has a really wry sense of humor about it.

    Now I’m reading the biography of “Hamilton”, which is 700+ pages and will take me forever. I need a few beach reads to sprinkle in there to give my brain a break, I’ll have to add a few of yours to the list!

  2. Jaymie

    I just read The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly for book club. It was so good. It’s about WW2 with three different perspectives. I would highly recommend it. I will have to check out your suggestions.

  3. Crystal

    I love seeing what you are reading on Instagram! I have a couple of the books you recommended reserved at my library and am looking forward to grabbing them.
    i don’t know if you’ve read The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything – Kathleen Grissom but they were so so good!

  4. Erin

    Ooh, I love adding new books to my “To Read” list! Thanks for the suggestions!

    Have you read anything by Liane Moriarty? All of hers are fantastic. I think Big Little Lies is my favorite. For The Love by Jen Hatmaker is super good if you’re ever looking for nonfiction!

    1. Katie

      I loved “Big Little Lies!” Such a twist at the end! Great suggestion! I’ll have to try “For the Love.” I really like non-fiction.

      1. Tabitha

        I love Liane Moriatry books! I loved The Last Anniversary and What Alive Forgot. Those, along with Big Little Lies, were so good!

      2. Nikki

        You must read “For the Love.” It’s a great read!

  5. Amy

    Katie,

    I love seeing what you are reading and am looking forward to the checking out your new suggestions! Have you read “The Glass Castle” and “Half Broke Horses” by Jeannette Walls? “The Glass Castle” is Jeannette’s memoir and the sequel is about her grandmother. Wonderful books that make you really appreciate what you have.

    1. The Glass Castle has been on my to-read list since 2008! Ahhh, I need to get on reading that!

  6. Sonya

    I love seeing your picks on IG! I’m a school library services coordinator and my primary libraries are elementary but I read across the board! There is so much great YA and I love that you and your fellow teachers are branching out with dystopian novels. There are so many good ones! If you haven’t read it “The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller is amazing! She was a 6th grade teacher who taught reading. Her other book “Reading in the Wild” is also a good one. I think her thoughts on reading are so inspiring.

  7. Heather Lockhart

    If you haven’t read The Nightingale, it’s fantastic. (I thought it was overhyped…it was a little slow to get started but lived up to the hype for me)

    A Hundred Summers and The Sea of Tranquility were my favorite books I read last year, so I recommend them both.

    Agree with previous posters on The Glass Castle and Liane Moriarty. Happy Summer of Reading!

  8. Kristin

    Uglies is not a very good book. It’s okay. But a really slow, laborious read. I think it is like that for most students, too. It’s not really very popular with my students anymore. The rest of the series gets less interesting after Uglies.

    Agree about Liane Moriarty for personal reading. All of her books are books you can read while relaxing.

  9. I agree with reading The Nightingale – it also took me a while to get into it, but once I did I was HOOKED!

    And A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole – oh man, I cried like a baby while reading this one! The hubs might have become a little concerned 🙂

  10. I love book lists! Thanks! I’ve added a few to my to-read list on goodreads. I’ve also requested to be your friend on there 🙂

    I’m currently reading Eligible (The Austen Project #4) by Curtis Sittenfield …it’s a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice (my favorite book and movie) …and it’s just brilliant. It keeps true to the original, but it’s also witty and clever.

    I love historical fiction and earlier in the summer I read, A Candle in the Darkness (Refiner’s Fire #1) and it’s just beautifully written and captures your attention from the first page. It’s about the daughter of a slave holding family in Richmond, VA right before and during the Civil War. She’s torn between her family and her loyalties to the South, and her belief that slavery is wrong and should be abolished. The historical detail is spot on, and I really became attached to the characters.

    My books next up are Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan …I have them both checked out from the library, so I should better get reading! 😉

  11. Elin Hilderbrand books are my new favorite! Perfect beach reads!!

  12. Tabitha

    I am enjoying getting into Kate Morton’s books. I just read The Forgotten Garden and am now starting The Lake House.

    I know people (probably including you) are in to holding a book in your hands to read but I have found that I love to read books from the library on my phone, on an app called 3M. This way I never forget to return it, haha! But that app has been great because it tells me what I have read, what other books the author has written, and lets me put books on a wish list. Just thought I’d share. 🙂 The only downfall is that it doesn’t have every book available…but hey, it’s a lesson in patience, right?

  13. […] picked this one up on a whim after reading this and I have high hopes! Fingers crossed I can get to it before I have to return […]

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