Even if you end up taking a few classes or have to go to work this summer, the season is still all about finding time to relax and recuperate in between the more stressful months. But that doesn't mean learning has to stop altogether. Whether you're bored and looking for a good read, trying to keep up with your online college classmates, or want to lose yourself in a distracting story, here are 100 book recommendations to get you through the summer.
These bloggers' reviews will hopefully inspire you to take a vacation, whether it's as far away as Italy or on a road trip across America.
- Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life: by Frances Mayes. Written by the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, this travel book is also getting movie buzz and lyrically describes Mayes' everyday life in Italy.
- Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread From Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, With Some Unexpected Results: by Michael Scott Moore. The New York Times' Paper Cuts Blog lauds Moore's ability to turn "gnarly" subject matter into something literary with this book.
- Notes from a Small Island: by Bill Bryson. Bryson writes candidly and humorously about his native Great Britain, from large cities like London and Liverpool to small townships and villages.
- Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo: by Beth Whitman. Travel expert Whitman shares stories and suggestions for the modern day adventuress.
- Travels with Charley: by John Steinbeck. This classic travelogue about the author's travels with his French poodle is worth a second look, as Steinbeck's penchant for capturing honest human nature never is still spot on.
- Travelers Guide to European Camping: by Mike and Terri Church. Find GPS codes for campsites around Europe in this book written by a couple who has been setting up camp in Europe for years.
- Absurdistan: by Gary Shteyngart. This satire meets action novel involves a murdered Russian father — who has also killed someone important — and the American-educated son desperate to get back to the Bronx.
- The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Place in the World: by Eric Weiner. Follow NPR correspondent as he heads to happy places like the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Thailand.
- Flightless: Incredible Journeys Without Leaving the Ground: by Lonely Planet. Read 26 travel stories about people who get from point A to point B, via vespa, camel or boat.
- Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff: by Rosemary Mahoney. In this book, you'll read about Mahoney's trip down the Nile in a simple skiff, from the beautiful wildlife to the locals' shock at her willingness to travel alone.
Biography and Memoir
Find new energy and motivation for a career change, finishing school, or even picking up a new hobby after reading these biographies or memoirs.
- The Last Lecture: by Randy Pausch. Late professor Randy Pausch became an Internet sensation due to his "Last Lecture" about fulfilling your childhood dreams, and now you can read it in book form.
- The Bedwetter: by Sarah Silverman. Comedian Sarah Silverman's memoir recounts her childhood and early days as a professional comedy writer.
- Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend: by James S. Hirsch. As you take in a few baseball games this summer, remember the legendary Willie Mays in this book.
- Into the Wild: by Jon Krakauer. This memoir was turned into a successful movie starring Emile Hirsch and tells the true story of a young graduate who embarks on an independent road trip to test his ability to survive.
- How Did You Get This Number: by Sloane Crosley. Young, hilarious essayist Sloane Crosley's second collection chronicles life in her 30s.
- Hitch-22: by Christopher Hitchens. Controversial journalist and author Christopher Hitchens shares personal stories from travels abroad, on assignment, and meeting with high-profile artists, leaders and public figures.
- Half Broke Horses: by Jeannette Walls. Walls' memoir follows the story of Lily Casey Smith's upbringing, working on a ranch, housekeeping in Chicago, playing poker in Arizona, and selling booze during Prohibition.
- Kitchen Confidential: by Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain's great reveal of the "underbelly" of restaurant culture may inspire you to make more meals at home, or join the crazies in the back kitchen.
- The Bronte Myth: by Lucasta Miller. Literary journalist Lucasta Miller sorts out the mystery of the Bronte sisters in this book.
- Goodbye to all That: by Robert Graves. This autobiography is widely considered one of the best memoirs about World War I.
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem: by Joan Didion. Read about the grim world of San Francisco during the 1960s in Didion's work.
Self-Help and Projects
Summer is often the perfect time to pick up a new hobby, start a project you've always wanted to do, or spend some time thinking about how to improve yourself. Let these books help you out.
- In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto: by Michael Pollan. This book will help you discover a more healthy approach to eating, cooking and nutrition.
- How to Raise the Perfect Dog: by Cesar Millan. Devote this summer to finally training your puppy, after reading this book from Cesar Millan.
- The 4-Hour Workweek: by Tim Ferriss. If you haven't read this book already, pick it up this summer to learn how to streamline your life for optimum enjoyment and profit.
- The Tipping Point: by Malcolm Gladwell. Get a better understanding of how the world works — and your role in society — with this book.
- French Women Don't Get Fat: by Mireille Guiliano. Guiliano's book combines personal stories, recipes and observations of the enviable French lifestyle, bestowing lessons and advice on American women wanting to live and eat more stylishly.
Coffee Table Books
If you're more interested in leisurely browsing than reading an entire book all at once this summer, check out this list of coffee table books.
- In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits: Editor Chris Johns. National Geographic magazine is known for its stunning pictures, and now you can flip through famous portraits in this book.
- Street: The Nylon Book of Global Style: Nylon Magazine. Street style photography is a huge deal now, but rewind to 2006 when the trend was just getting started.
- 100 Photographs that changed the world: by LIFE editors. This collection of photojournalism documents history, culture and human progress.
- Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955-Present: by Gail Buckland. Get a history of American rock and roll while gazing at photos of your favorite musicians.
- Scrapbooks, An American History: by Jessica Helfand. Peek into personal scrapbooks from early Americans in this book.
These classic novels are also fantastic summer reads.
- The Iliad and The Odyssey: by Homer. These true classics are great escapes for the summer and also teach important life lessons about family, love and society.
- The Grapes of Wrath: by John Steinbeck. This book often appears as summer reading for high school students, but its historical narrative of the Great Depression and an uprooted family is a timeless story for all Americans.
- The Catcher in the Rye: by J.D. Salinger. This iconic novel is a fast read, due to Holden Caulfield's dry, ironic narration and Salinger's stream of consciousness style.
- War and Peace: by Leo Tolstoy. If you want a book that will get you through the whole summer, try cracking War and Peace, a book some critics believe is the greatest novel of all time.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: by Harper Lee. One of the most beloved books from American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird mixes adventure, childhood innocence, and social reform in a powerful way.
- Tender is the Night: by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set against the beautiful scenery of the French Riviera, the beach-loving, jet-setting characters try to make sense of their unconventional desires and ambitions.
- The Giver: by Lois Lowry. If you're ready for a reawakening this summer, check out this novel.
- Pride and Prejudice: by Jane Austen. Allow yourself to get lost in the frivolity of Austen's times, which she mocks intelligently.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: by Mark Twain. This fun adventure story about friendship also imparts a heavy social lesson.
- The Count of Monte Cristo: by Alexandre Dumas. Filled with intrigue, scandal, and passion, read the abridged version if you want to move on to other books, or the 1200+ page unabridged book if you want it to last the whole summer.
- The Stranger: by Albert Camus. Spend your summer contemplating the meaning of life — or lack thereof — while you read this existentialist novel.
- Heart of Darkness: by Joseph Conrad. In this dark book about colonialism, you'll travel to the Belgian Congo on a steamboat and get lost in the barbarism that emerges in surprising ways.
- Old Man and the Sea: by Ernest Hemingway. This short novel about a fishing trip in Cuba relates a powerful story about self-discovery, humility, respect and sacrifice.
Mystery and Thriller
The plot twists and mysterious characters in these books will keep your attention this summer.
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: by Stieg Larsson. This novel and its two sequels offer a disturbing critique of violence against women, but Larsson's books are serious page-turners.
- The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: by Alexander McCall Smith. This series of detective books features Precious Ramotswe as a surprising sleuth in Botswana.
- The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century: edited by Tony Hillerman and Otto Penzler. The "Best American" series released this mystery edition celebrating works by Stephen King and others.
- In Cold Blood: by Truman Capote. Capote's infamous work is one of the most critically acclaimed thrillers of all time and is based on a true story.
- And Then There Were None: by Agatha Christie. One of the all-time masters of the mystery novel, Agatha Christie wrote this creepy book that also inspired a film.
- The Cairo Diary: by Maxim Chattam. This spy thriller switches between present-day Paris and 1920s Cairo.
- The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: by John le Carre. Written by an ex-spy, this novel pits the British Intelligence against Communism.
- Never Tell a Lie: by Hallie Ephron. This suspenseful novel centers around former high school classmates in a tale about obsession.
- From Russia Wtih Love: by Ian Fleming. If you want an exciting read this summer, try this popular Bond thriller.
- The Moonstone: This classic British detective novel is told by various characters involved in the Victorian-era case.
Chick lit and the beach or pool go together perfectly, but if you just need a reason to relax and read something fun, try these books.
- Lady Chatterley's Lover: by D.H. Lawrence. This formerly banned book is a legitimate piece of literature but can also satisfy your desire for soft porn.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: by Anita Loos. This social satire is a lively read that inspired a movie with Marilyn Monroe and Madonna's "Material Girl" video.
- Rachel's Holiday: by Marian Keyes. One of Keyes' most popular novels, Rachel's Holiday features a young woman trying to come to terms with her addiction.
- The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood: by Rebecca Wells. Wells' Ya Ya books tell the outrageous stories of a group of friends from south Louisiana over a few different generations.
- The Painter from Shanghai: by Jennifer Cody Epstein. This novel follows a Paris-educated artist from China, and her journey to find her place back home.
- Summer Sisters: by Judy Blume. Two young women summer together around the country, sharing seasons of sex, friendship, love and adventure.
- Valley of the Dolls: by Jacqueline Susann. This novel caused quite a stir when it was first published, revealing the drug, alcohol and affair-plagued lifestyles of young female entertainers during the 1940s and 50s.
- Fly Away Home: by Jennifer Weiner. This new novel follows a politician's wife and her two daughters in the wake of her husband's affair.
- The Help: by Kathryn Stockett. Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen narrate this book about life in Jackson, MS, and all the gender and racial stereotypes and challenges that fill it.
Books Turned Into Films
If you have extra time this summer, read the book first and then watch the movie.
- Gone With the Wind: by Margaret Mitchell. This epic novel's film adaptation won Academy Awards and is a great summer project.
- Marley & Me: by John Grogan. This novel is an honest, heartwarming story about a dog's ability to keep a family together.
- The Godfather: by Mark Winegardner. You've probably seen the movies, but the books are just as thrilling.
- The Lord of the Rings: by J.R. Tolkien. Another popular film series, these books will keep you engrossed all summer long.
- Roots: by Alex Haley. The epic book that inspired the legendary TV miniseries shares a less-told version of American history.
- The Ox-Bow Incident: by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. This book can be read as a social experiment and also as an intriguing look at American history, human psychology, and outlaws from the Wild West.
- High Fidelity: by NIck Hornby. This funny book about a music-loving, romantically challenged man starred John Cusack in the movie.
- No Country for Old Men: by Cormac McCarthy. Tommy Lee Jones directed this Academy Award-winning film, based on the fascinating novel by McCarthy.
- Chocolat: by Joanne Harris. Nomadic chocolate maker Vianne suddenly considers settling down with a gypsy in a quaint — but conservative — French village.
- Cold Mountain: by Charles Frazier. It's a sad book, but its stories from Civil War-era Appalachia are truly beautiful and riveting.
Journalism and Current Events
Read coverage about fascinating events in history, how to improve our society, and humanitarian efforts around the globe.
- The Green Collar Economy: by Van Jones. In this book, you'll find out how a green collar economy will save the environment and stabilize the economy.
- Super Freakonomics: by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This follow-up to Freakonomics can help you apply the principles of economics to your everyday life.
- Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women: by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Read about the harrowing but inspiring stories of women trying to improve their situations around the world, and what the rest of us should do to help.
- Cheap: by Ellen Ruppel Shell. Shell researches our discount culture, telling the history of human discounting practices and our irrational, high-cost obsession.
- Maestros: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom: by Bob Woodward. Take a look back at America's boom and what may have led to the current recession.
- Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do: by Tom Vanderbilt. Find out how and why we solve traffic puzzles the way we do, and become a better driver this summer.
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: by Philip Gourevitch. This startling book reveals what went on during the Rwandan genocide.
- The Facebook Effect: by David Kirkpatrick. This isn't an unbiased history of Facebook, but it is an interesting read about modern marketing and start-ups.
Here, contemporary fiction is reviewed to keep you cutting edge.
- American Rust: by Philipp Meyer. This prescient novel about the Rust Belt and empty promises helped earn Meyer a spot on the New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list.
- Nothing but You: Love Stories from the New Yorker: edited by Roger Angell. If you want to read a love story but aren't into chick lit, try this book.
- On Beauty: by Zadie Smith. This fun book gives academia an irreverent homage.
Science Fiction, Fantasy and Graphic Novels
Even if you're not a kid anymore, let your imagination free to dream, explore and consider the supernatural.
- The War of the Worlds: by H.G. Wells. This story invoked such panic when it was broadcast on the radio that people really thought it was the end of the world.
- Twilight: by Stephenie Meyer. Say what you will about these simply written, low-brow books: they're long and surprisingly addicting: great beach reads.
- Sookie Stackhouse Series: by Charlaine Harris. Another vampire series, these books have also become popular for their mysterious plots.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: by Susanna Clarke. An English magician interferes with Napoleon's conquests in this book.
- Brave New World: by Aldous Huxley. Get a glimpse into a possible, frightening future in this classic novel.
- Ender's Game: by Orson Scott Card. This great novel about alien invasion is creepy but enlightening.
- A Clockwork Orange: by Anthony Burgess. This frightening novel reveals what society could be like if we gave in to violence.
- Farenheit 451: by Ray Bradbury. This is a short but fascinating summer read about censorship and independence.
- Anthem: by Ayn Rand. In this novella, people have numbers, not names, and live on a severely controlled compound.
- American Gods: by Neil Gaiman. Called a "gothic horror road trip novel" by Tech Republic, this novel explores American spiritual history.
- Frankenstein: by Mary Shelley. This classic horror novel is worth a read even if you've seen the movies and spin-offs.
- Under the Dome: by Stephen King. This new King novel centers around a Maine community trapped inside a dome.
- Dracula: by Dram Stoker. Read about Count Dracula's dreaded castle in this iconic novel.
- The Dresden Files: by Jim Butcher. This series is narrated by detective and wizard Harry Dresden and deals with the supernatural in modern-day Chicago.
- Cat's Cradle: by Kurt Vonnegut. This bizarre social commentary-meets-mystery brings back the infamous Ice 9.