The 2011 Summer Reading Recommendation List

It is Memorial Day Weekend, which can only mean one thing. It's time for this year's Summer Reading Recommendations List! Unlike the Summer Readings Suggestions: Science list, these books are primarily (but not entirely) fiction. Since I've not read very much fiction over the last year, I polled my facebook friends and assembled their advice here. You may be thinking "Who cares about Laden's facebook friends, what do they know?" and you'd probably be right about that for a lot of topics, but not reading. These people can read! In fact, two or three of them are published authors.

Speaking of published authors, without further ado we'll start with suggestions by author Kelly McCullough, who suggests Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves: A Tale of the Kin as "an awesome fantasy noir that just came out this spring. Likewise Alex Bledsoe's Dark Jenny. I can also recommend Martha Well's The Cloud Roads, and Lyda Morehouse's Resurrection Code." Stephanie Zvan seconds Kelly's recommendation of Hulick's book and adds: "Now is an excellent time to recommend Gaiman & Pratchett's Good Omens, an apocalyptic comedy. For [Minnesota] locals, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks appears to be currently in print." Gwen Pearson seconds the recommendation of Good Omens, and Elizabeth Hopkins thirds the suggestion.

Dana Davis suggests KJ Parker's Engineer trilogy (The Escapement (2007), Evil for Evil (2006), and The Escapement (2007)) and reminds us that "it's never a bad time to reread someOrwell."

Monica Wittstock plans to read Jennifer Egan, "A Visit from the Goon Squad," Tom Rachman, "The Imperfectionists," Orhan Pamuk, "Snow," Jose Saramago, "Blindness," Mario Vargas Llosa, "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter: A Novel." For childrens' Fiction, Monica suggets Tove Jansson, "Finn Family Moomintroll," and Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials."

Analiese Miller turned me on to "Tomcat in Love" in part because we have acquaintances in common upon whom some of the characters in the book seem to be modeled, and because the author is an old friend of hers. This, in fact, is one of the few novel's I've read in recent months, and I strongly recommend it. There is a local Minnesota aspect to the book but that should not put off anyone who is not from this area. If you like books that make fun of academia, this is a good choice, and since we're on the subject I'll also recommend The Lecturer's Tale: A Novel by James Hynes.

Ana is also planning to read "Freedom" by Franzen.

Steve Thoms suggests finally getting around to reading Kurt Vonnegut if you haven't already, and specifically suggests Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel or Cat's Cradle: A Novel, then ... Hocus Pocus. Vonnegut, who is my homeboy by the way, is the first non-children's literature I ever read, having found myself with nothing else to read while out on a remote farmstead one summer. The book was the short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House. I'll also recommend Galapagos by Vonnegut. Oh, and all of the other books he ever wrote, too.

Benton Jackson suggests Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series. "He's a detective wizard. Imagine Harry Potter grows up to be Jim Rockford. Not literature, just a lot of fun." Gwen Pearson seconds the Dresden Files.

My SIL, Alyssa has strong opinions about summer reading and takes it pretty seriously. "I think that Summer is all about cool drinks and fluffy books. For our beach trip that we leave for on Thursday I just picked up (literally just left the book store) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and One Day. I always like anything by Pat Conroy and Ken Follet..." Have a nice time in Jamaica, Alyssa! Alyssa also suggests some "interesting non-fiction: Switching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities. Brutal, but extremely interesting." I like brutal books, I'll have to take a look at that.

Sharon Johnson Miller loves "... anything by David Baldacci ... They are so well written, it leaves you to wonder, huh? Could this have happened for real? They have political intrigue..., action, suspense and yes great plot lines..For fiction they are very realistic and DO NOT insult your intelligence...."

Elizabeth Hopkins just noticed that she has not read The Great Gatsby, so she's covering that now. I second that recommendation. For a long time, Gatsby was considered to be the Greatest Novel Ever Written by an American Author, or something along those lines.

Elizabeth also suggests Orwell and Huxley, but I'm not sure which Huxley. Probably something like this, but not this. And, if "... you haven't read everything Neil Gaiman ever wrote (or at the very least everythint he ever wrote for grownups), that's a good one to address.... Frank Herbert's work outside of the Dune Series doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves -- The Ascension Factor, and The White Plague, for instance, are quite good. ... Ursula LeGuinn's The Dispossessed, Larry Niven is always fun too. Oh, and if you haven't read John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, a whole lot of it is kind of frighteningly prophetic ... and James P. Hogan's Code of the Lifemaker and The Immortality Option are good ... they're mostly just a great primer on how evolution works ... and Sean McMullen, who was steampunk before it was cool, so check out Souls in the Great Machine...

Isaac Holmlund suggests A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One.

Jim Martin reminds us to read Voltaire's Candide or Inferno by Niven & Pournelle.

Sandra Tekmen suggests The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster and Travels in the Scriptorium as "an unusual and ... good short novella for summer"

Susan Silberstein suggests Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books, Written for young folks. This suggestions was seconded by Kelly McCullough.

Thanks to all those who contributed to this list!

So, what are we missing?

More like this

Science fiction lovers who have a lot of time should consider C.J. Cherryh's "Foreigner" series. Read them in published order. My favorite S.F. series ever.

Tiffany Aching is not just for young folks. I read the first two, then downloaded all to the iPod from the library. The reader is excellent.

If your library system doesn't have them as an audiobook or ebook, borrow a card number and pin from a friend or relative who lives somewhere else. That's what I do.

By Susan Silberstein (not verified) on 28 May 2011 #permalink

If you like the first book of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files that you linked, Storm Front, there are 12 books in the series, another one coming out shortly, and a total of 20 planned.

By Benton Jackson (not verified) on 28 May 2011 #permalink

Dammit. Stop it! My book shelves are full and I don't have any space left for new ones!

By Equisetum (not verified) on 28 May 2011 #permalink

I can't resist suggesting my wife's book, "Song of Scarabaeus," by Sara Creasy. It was nominated for the Philip K. Dick prize, so it's not just me that thinks it's good. :D

Wingfield's Inspector Jack Frost series is fun read that takes place in a British police department. M.K. Wren's Conan Flagg mystery series that takes place in the pacific northwest. Rick Boyer's Doc Adam's series of mystery/adventures that take place in Massachusetts are great reads.

Sorry that I have only older books to add.

By Jeff Sherry (not verified) on 29 May 2011 #permalink

Oh I definitely should have suggested The Sparrow. Written by a biological anthropologist it's the story of a Jesuit mission to make first contact with aliens on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. The alien society she imagines and the confusion caused by the clashing of vastly different cultures is utterly fantastic! I was so impressed by this book.

By Isaac Holmlund (not verified) on 31 May 2011 #permalink

"Why are you not married?"

"I live to serve all men ..."

"Ah. In that case ... "

Great book. And there is a second book following up on the first one: Children of God.

Lol, yeah I figured you had probably already read it. Children of God was excellent as well.

By Isaac Holmlund (not verified) on 31 May 2011 #permalink