5 Recommended Summer Reads 2017


Summer is in full swing and I have been on a great escape from real life.  After a stressful year teaching high school, not only are my classroom and desk empty and left behind, so is my brain. Fantasies of romantic tropical getaways and fun-filled family beach trips sound really good to me right now. But, as much as a physical escape is on needed, so my heart longs for mental escape, as well. What better way to escape than through a fantastic book? Summer is such a magical time of year, because geographical and mental escapes go hand in hand.

Are you ready for an escape, too? I have compiled a list of my five must-reads for the summer. See which titles light your fire, and join me.  Find the sweet spot in a beach chair, and join me in the escape into a good book.

  1. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah     

Bill Gates recommends this memoir, so I’m sold on it.  Here is what he says about it –

“As a longtime fan of The Daily Show, I loved reading this memoir about how its host honed his outsider approach to comedy over a lifetime of never quite fitting in. Born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father in apartheid South Africa, he entered the world as a biracial child in a country where mixed race relationships were forbidden. Much of Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa is tragic. Yet, as anyone who watches his nightly monologues knows, his moving stories will often leave you laughing.”

I have a personal interest in Apartheid stories, because my husband and his family come from the same background.  As a white American middle class woman, my vanilla first world problems pale in comparison to the dire experiences non-whites overcame in South Africa.  Trevor Noah’s triumphs and humor promise to be full of inspiration and humor to start out the summer.


  1. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.     

Another Bill Gates recommendation is Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Again, Gates gives his insight about the must-read.

“The disadvantaged world of poor white Appalachia described in this terrific, heartbreaking book is one that I know only vicariously. Vance was raised largely by his loving but volatile grandparents, who stepped in after his father abandoned him and his mother showed little interest in parenting her son. Against all odds, he survived his chaotic, impoverished childhood only to land at Yale Law School. While the book offers insights into some of the complex cultural and family issues behind poverty, the real magic lies in the story itself and Vance’s bravery in telling it.

The poor experiences J.D. Vance bravely tells in this memoir appeal to me, because I come from family based in Louisville, Kentucky, whose histories parallel his clan’s in so many ways. Memoirs typically are not my cup of tea, but this one promises to relay an inspirational message of perseverance to uplift anyone’s spirits.


  1. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid      

Time’s Best Fiction of 2017 So Far names this novel that I just finished. It was so good, I just may read it again before summer’s end.

A young couple falls in love as their city (which is unnamed, but resembles Lahore) descends into civil war. They escape the violence through a series of magical doors that admit them further and further into the western world, but are met with suspicion and anger in each new locale.

In a sensitive political climate clouding the entire world right now, the theme of this novel is so relevant to every reader’s life, regardless of race, religion, or national origin.  As an author committed to intercultural awareness and tolerance, my belief is that novels like this serve to educate citizens of the world in the repercussions of our countries’ political machinery and the dangers of basic xenophobia in humanity.  A little heavy for summer, granted, but this novel is a must read for all of us in the world right now.

  1. My Sweet Vidalia, by Deborah Mantella    

Kirkus Reviews had glowing things to say about this debut novel set in 1950s Georgia.

“In this debut novel, a battered wife in 1950s rural Georgia, aided by an unlikely group of loving souls, finds hidden reserves of strength and self-worth….An engaging story of overcoming terrible circumstances with temerity and grace.”

Books set in Georgia always spark my interest because I am a Georgian. The author, Deborah Mantella,  is a lovely person whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing an author discussion panel with.  What amazes me with this book is that Mantella herself is not a native southerner, yet judging from excerpts I have read and conversations I have had with her, she captures the Southern context expertly. The best part of the novel is that the narrator is a spirit child named Cieli Mae.  What better way to escape reality for a while than to read the words of a spirit child?

  1. Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan      

The New York Times lists Rich People Problems on their Books to Breeze Through This Summer list.

“The Singapore-born Kwan was relatively unknown when he came along with the uproarious satire “Crazy Rich Asians” four years ago. Who would read his outrageous stories of characters who reeled off the brand names of everything they wore or owned, and constantly tried to one-up one another? The answer turned out to be everybody. Kwan followed it up with China Rich Girlfriend” in 2015, and now “Rich People Problems” ends the trilogy. Even if the problems of the wealthy draw fewer fun-seekers than they used to, Kwan deserves to attract another large audience.”

Okay, this recommendation is really three books, not one.  But when you are relaxing in a beach chair, isn’t it better to tackle three books in a series to stay lost in another place for even longer?  It’s summer for crying out loud…enjoy the reading journey!

Have you read any of these or do you have a different list to share? Share your own picks and feedback on my Facebook page.  I’d love to hear from you!


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