The One Book I Read Every Summer (+6 More Summer Book Recs!)

Because the only thing better than summer movies is summer books.

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I don’t know what it is about summer, but it always makes me want to re-evaluate everything to do with my life. Something about not being in class, and the prospect of a new school year, makes me feel like I need to get back to basics.

For the last four years, that’s meant reading Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.

Dessen is one of my favorite authors. She writes teen romance, but the kind of teen romance that’s more about a character and her life, of which romance happens to be a part.

I always learn something when I read one of Dessen’s books.

Sarah Dessen - Along for the Ride book cover

In Along for the Ride, Auden is an insomniac overachiever who goes to stay with her dad at his beach house for the summer. While there, yes, she does meet a guy (Eli) with a complicated past, but more than that, she learns that what she thought was true about her family is more complicated than she expected.

Every assumption she makes about who other people are, including who she is herself, is tested. She learns that what people seem to be on the surface is rarely who they are under the surface.

And every summer I get to join her in this lesson. 

One of the things I love about this book is the concept of “questing,” as Auden goes on a quest with Eli to do all the things she never got to do as a kid, including learning how to ride a bike (hence the title). It’s this notion that has led me to stay up late to stargaze, finally try a Big Mac, and do things that scare me in summers past.

Reading it every year is like a reset button for my brain, reminding me that there’s more to life than just school and being accomplished on paper — and by the same token, there’s always more to learn about other people

In addition to this, my favorite summer read, I have compiled a list of six other books perfect for the summer.

5. Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Lovely Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara - book cover

Though I’m not sure it’s clear what time of year this book is set in, I get a strong summer vibe from Lovely, Dark and Deep, probably because it’s about self-discovery.

Wren, the main character, struggles for much of the book with severe depression and, arguably, post traumatic stress disorder. As someone who struggles with depression myself, I find McNamara’s first-person narrative of what it’s like to have depression to be both extremely realistic and heartbreakingly beautiful.

The book is not just about Wren’s struggle with depression, though. It’s also about her relationships with family, forgiveness, and, yes, romance.

More than anything, the book is hopeful, which for me is another hallmark of good summer lit.

4. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

The Unexpected Everything book cover

Okay, I’m just gonna be upfront – I know it’s kind of cheating to have two books by the same author on my list, but really, other than Sarah Dessen, no author screams summer reading as much as Morgan Matson.

(Plus I couldn’t pick a favorite — see #4, below.)

Not only are her books set during the summer, they fit the themes of self-discovery and going back to basics.

And the best part? They come with playlists that are perfect for driving or running or whatever you like to do during the summer!

The Unexpected Everything is about Andi, who only wants to leave her town to do a medical internship. When it’s suddenly canceled, she has to take a job walking dogs (she doesn’t like animals), ends up dating a novelist (she doesn’t date), and learn how to communicate with her father (which never happens).

This book is really about everything unexpected, and how plans going all wrong can be exactly what you need. Plus it’s just plain fun to read.

3.5. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone, another amazing Matson novel, is about two best friends. One of them leaves suddenly, bestowing upon the other (Emily) a list of challenges she must complete.

Desperate to find her friend, Emily completes the entire list, including skinny dipping and attending a fancy gala. Accompanying her is an acquaintance from high school (who might be more), a pizza delivery driver, and a guy who works at a rock climbing gym.

I mentioned playlists before — the best part of this book is how many of them there are. They’re actually central to the plot, and it’s wonderful.

This book is, at its essence, about figuring out who you are independent of others, and not finding your value in what other people think of you –something I certainly need to remember any time of year, but which feels especially important before starting another semester.

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - book cover

This book itself has nothing to do with summer — it is, however, perfect summer reading. This is because there are several books in the Throne of Glass series, and if there’s one thing college semesters (and winter breaks) don’t allow, it’s reading a full series.

This first book is about Celaena Sardothien, a female assassin and all-around awesome woman. She’s brought out of prison to work for the king, and she has to navigate court politics, assassination, and a love triangle. Oh, and magic.

If that doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what will.

While this book isn’t really about self-discovery like the realistic fiction above, it is about adventure, which is the next best thing.

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

John Green - An Abundance of Katherines book cover

When people think of John Green, they usually think of The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, or Looking for Alaska, the first two having been made into feature films, and the last even included in some school curricula.

However —

An Abundance of Katherines is my favorite John Green book. 

It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s about a road trip (how much more summer can you get?) and it’s totally got that adolescent realistic fiction emphasis on self-discovery.

Another thing that makes certain books perfect for summer is how easy it is to read them (I call this textbook fatigue). By that token, this book is the perfect cure for textbook fatigue.

1. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds book cover - Alexandra Bracken

I’m seriously so excited to share The Darkest Minds with you guys. Like Throne of Glass, this one is more adventurous and less self-discovering…

But it’s my second-favorite series (second only to Harry Potter). It’s a trilogy, which means you have plenty of time to read it this summer. The movie adaptation just wrapped filming, so if you read it this summer, you’ll be able to brag that you read it before it got really big.

The trilogy is about Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu, four teens with powers in a dystopian America, where all the adolescents without powers died, and those with powers were put into internment camps. These four escape in a car called Black Betty (road trip?) and try to survive.

Ruby is one of my favorite characters ever written. I legitimately can’t decide if I’d rather name my hypothetical future daughter Ruby or Diana (after Wonder Woman). The other characters are also brilliant, the romance is believable and ugh the feels, and I seriously miss hanging out with them in the Black Betty.

Whether you’re looking to finish a series or do a little self-discovery, this list is sure to help you in your search for a perfect summer book. Maybe you’ll even find one you read every year!

Let us know in the comments!

For more book recommendations, be sure to see our list of glamorous books to read whenever you feel blah.

Do you have books you love to read in the summer? Adventure series? Adolescent romance? What books do you read every year? 

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