Summer Reading Suggestions AKA Books I'd Like to Read Again

Summer is here and for me that means time for reading and relaxation. At the Help Desk our patrons often ask, "What have you read recently that you really liked?" I love these questions because it helps me think about books and why I liked them. I thought I'd share my recent list in case you are looking for a good book for your relaxing summer reading.

I also discovered there's a new name for one of my favorite genres: Biographical Fiction. I've always thought of these books as "Historical Fiction" but recently I've been seeing the term "Biographic Fiction" more and it makes sense. These are books with stories based on real people, but often the dialogue and other details are created by the author to move the story. Melanie Benjamin includes an interesting commentary about how she approaches writing Biographical Fiction in the Author's Note at the end of The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

If you are looking for a great summer read, you might consider one of these titles. Or, suggest a book in the comments below.


Benjamin, Melanie

Swans of Fifth Avenue

The Aviator’s Wife (Biographical Fiction featuring Anne Morrow Lindbergh) author, Melanie Benjamin’s new Biographical Fiction novel features the relationship between Truman Capote and Babe Mortimer Paley with the backdrop of many upper class members of New York City society in the 1960’s. Reading the book made me want to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s again!


Berg, Elizabeth

The Dream Lover

Berg departs from her typical fiction writing with a Biographical Fiction novel focusing on the 19th Century novelist, George Sand. George was the most famous female author of her time and her decision to wear men’s clothing, smoke cigars, and have affairs with both men and women added to her notoriety. Berg’s writing is beautiful and I hope she considers writing more in this genre.


Bodensteiner, Carol

Go Away Home and

Growing Up Country

Carol Bodensteiner is an Iowa author from Des Moines.  Her first book (Growing Up Country) is a memoir of growing up on an Iowa dairy farm.  From milking cows to giving a 4-H presentation, it captures rural farm life from a bygone era.  It is also a wonderful book for our Iowa City Hospice reading partnership where volunteers present programs planned to help residents of care centers focus on memories.  Go Away Home is Historical Fiction and also has a rural setting and captures the hopes and dreams in a coming-of-age story about a young woman from Iowa.


Box, C.J.

Off the Grid (Pickett)




Badlands (Dewell)


C.J. Box has two ongoing series and both are recommended. The Pickett series features Game Warden, Joe Pickett, who is never far away from trouble. Themes address modern social issues with a backdrop of western rugged individualism. Joe is helped by his librarian wife, three daughters, and fugitive friend Nate Romanowski. Each book features a strong sense of place and remarkable characters.

Box’s new (Dewell) series features police investigator Cassie Dewell. In The Badlands, Detective Cassie takes a new job in the petroleum capitol of North Dakota. The economy is booming but crime follows money and Cassie is tasked by the Sheriff to do some internal investigating. She is also haunted by her past and the criminal who got away and is still lurking “out there.” She’s also drawn to a young boy who may be invisible, but knows a lot more than the world is willing to acknowledge. The book is fast paced, the characters are great, and readers are left wanting more from this new protagonist.


Gable, Michelle

I’ll See You In Paris


The Paris Apartment

I’ll see you in Paris skips through time and location to reveal the coming of age stories of three generations of women. Each faces heartbreak, loss and love. Their lives are interwoven and, when secrets unravel, one woman’s quest for the truth reveals how their lives are connected.

The Paris Apartment is the story of two women. One is a modern-day Sotheby’s furniture specialist (April) and the other is renowned courtesan during the Belle Époque period in Paris just before World War I (Marthe). April is summoned to Paris and jumps at a chance to escape her crumbling life in the US. In Paris she discovers an apartment that has been shuttered for more than 70 years and full of priceless furniture and paintings collected by Marthe.


George, Nina

The Little Paris Bookshop

Literary Apothecary purveyor Monsieur Perdu is a master of prescribing novels to heal life’s ailments, but he is unable to fix his own broken heart. Left with only a letter from his life’s love, which he finally opens and reads after twenty years, he departs with his literary barge through the river byways of southern France to face his past and heal his heart and soul.


Haruf, Kent

Our Souls at Night


I love Haruf’s novels. They are set in Eastern Colorado and have a strong sense of place. Haruf develops his characters in a way that brings them alive on the page and he has a gift of writing beautifully about the complexities of human relationships. Haruf is a 1973 graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who died late last year at age 71. Addie Moore is a lonely widow who takes a big chance in her life. Louis Waters is also lonely but rediscovers a purpose for his life through a new relationship and responsibility. Our Souls at Night is a quick read, but one that will make the reader smile and appreciate human relationships and love.


McLain, Paula

Circling the Sun

Paris Wife author, Paula McLain creates an unforgettable story that transports readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920’s. McLain’s Biographical Fiction story is based on the real life of aviator Beryl Markham. Markham, abandoned by her mother when a child and by her father when she was a teenager, struggles to find her path. Circling the Sun not only captures what made Beryl Markham famous (horse training and racing expert when this field was dominated by men and the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic from east to west) but also chronicles her free-spirited childhood, adolescent struggles, happiness, insecurities, and heartbreaks.


Rutherfurd, Edward


Rutherfurd presents a multigenerational story that moves between time, character, and story.  With Paris as the background, this approach brings characters to life, presents an understanding of historical events, and makes this reader really want to visit Paris and explore the geographical areas of the story.  I also want to read Rutherfurd’s other stories including London and New York.


Strout, Elizabeth

My Name is Lucy Barton

I love books that stick with me. I like to ruminate over words, ponder what the author was saying, and think about themes and how the book fits into my bigger world. This is one of these books. And just like Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, this is a book to be savored. Lucy Barton was raised in poverty in Amgash, Illinois. She escapes this poverty by working hard, ignoring ridicule, becoming a writer, and creating an adult life in Manhattan. Unfortunately Lucy cannot escape her past and the loneliness and insecurities that follow her.


Vreeland, Susan

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Because of this book, I went to New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other places to see Tiffany Glass. Biographical Fiction story of Clara Driscoll, who worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany at his New York studio and possibly the person who conceived the idea for the iconic Tiffany stained glass lamps. Set with the turn-of-the-century New York City backdrop with issues such as the rise of labor unions, women in the workplace, and advances in technology.


Winspear, Jacqueline

Journey to Munich

Jacqueline Winspear’s newest book in to the Maisie Dobbs series is set in 1938 and begins in London where Maisie is pulled into helping Britain’s Secret Service. Maisie is sent to Germany to retrieve a British subject from imprisonment in Dachau. In Munich, Maisie witnesses first-hand the oppression from the rising Nazi party. The entire Maisie Dobbs series is recommended, as is Winspear’s standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War.


Zevin, Gabrielle

Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

A.J. Fikry owns a book store and he loves books. He’s not just any bookseller, though. He is picky, contrite, arrogant, and has poor customer service skills. Despite these faults, he has a passion for books and a capacity to love. When his life takes turns he never imagined, and Fikry finds himself in the depths of despair, his redemption is his capacity to love. And love is what makes this book so wonderful. A love for people, community, literature, and most of all, a love of family.



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