Before you head to the beach or just to your backyard, pick up a book from this eclectic list—recommended by some of our favorite authors, journalists and all-around smart women.
THE WOMAN IN THE PURPLE SKIRT by Natsuko Imamura
The winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 2019, this recently translated novel about female friendship and obsession has drawn comparisons to Patricia Highsmith— which is more than enough to whet my appetite.
THE SURVIVORS by Jane Harper
Jane Harper is a master of the mystery form: With each of her previous novels, set in Australia, I felt sure I knew what was going to happen…and I was always wrong.
SECOND PLACE by Rachel Cusk
I’ll devour anything by Cusk, but I’m especially looking forward to her first novel after the Outline trilogy, about a woman’s preoccu- pation with an artist who comes and stays at her remote retreat.
GOLD DIGGERS by Sanjena Sathian
This coming-of-age story set in the Bush era is supposed to be both funny and emotionally resonant—plus, Mindy Kaling is producing a series based on it, so I’m all in.
THE GOOD TURN by Dervla McTiernan
I’m cutting it close with this one: It doesn’t come out until August 31, but it’s the third in a series, so I’ll spend June and July brushing up on McTiernan’s first two expertly plotted novels about an Irish detective.
Anchor, CNN Newsroom
THE DEVIL MAY DANCE by Jake Tapper
I’ve just cracked my friend Jake’s gripping politi- cal mystery set against 1960s LA Rat Pack glamour and I’m already hooked.
WHERE THE GRASS IS GREEN AND THE GIRLS ARE PRETTY by Lauren Weisberger
Does the protagonist in Lauren Weisberger’s new novel, a petite cable news anchor, share some striking similarities with a certain other news anchor who I may or may not resemble? That’s what I hear and I’m about to find out!
ANIMAL by Lisa Taddeo
I was so taken by Taddeo’s last tour de force book Three Women. Her reporting dove deep into the taboo of women’s sexuality. I’m sure this novel will have the same juicy subject and her signature writing style.
THE SUN DOES SHINE by Anthony Ray Hinton
I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs as I work on my own. This one will be particularly compelling as it captures Anthony Ray Hinton’s story of being falsely convicted of murder and spending 30 years on Death Row.
ON JUNETEENTH by Annette Gordon-Reed
This past year of racial reckoning has exposed how little some of us learned about Black history and the Black experience in school. I’m determined to learn more, however belatedly.
AFTER THE FALL, BEING AMERICAN IN THE WORLD WE’VE MADE by Ben Rhodes
I worked with Ben Rhodes (former Deputy National Security Advisor) at the White House under the Obama Administration and really enjoyed his first book, The World As It Is. This is his latest one and it hits a theme I stress in my own world news show all the time—which is that what happens here in the United States politically has a significant effect on geopolitics abroad. Ben’s book walks through examples where you see this play out all over the world and he interviews numerous global activists, dissidents and politicians along the way. Ben is also a great storyteller.
MOSSAD: THE GREATEST MISSIONS OF THE ISRAELI SECRET SERVICE by Michael Bar-Zohar & Nissim Mishal
I would say my favorite books are non-fiction books/real- life thrillers about spies, terrorist operations and kidnappings (Wow, that sounds terrible!). I’ve heard amazing things about Mossad, which details past super dangerous and crucial operations that sound like they come right out of Hollywood.
ON ALL FRONTS: THE EDUCATION OF A JOURNALIST by Clarissa Ward
I find CNN’s award-winning journalist Clarissa Ward to be such a badass and I’ve always wanted to read her memoir, where she writes about experiences from her travels to war zones, and covers other major geopolitical events, while also talking about her own personal evolution as a journalist.
BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD by Trevor Noah
The book is about Trevor Noah’s story and path from child to young man, and it sounds fascinating. It details an amazing piece of Noah’s life that isn’t widely known— about how he was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother in apartheid South Africa, when their union was in fact a crime. He talks about his childhood: for example, how he was kept indoors for most of his early childhood, so that his mother could hide him from the gov- ernment. It’s also supposed to be absolutely hilarious, with Noah’s typical humor injected throughout.
RUBY FALLS by Deborah Goodrich Royce
I don’t read a lot of fiction books, but a girl occasionally needs a good beach read, especially in the summer! I read Deborah Royce’s Finding Mrs. Ford a couple years ago and loved it, so I can’t wait to read her latest book, which is supposed to be a page turner! It’s about a young actress, her new husband she barely knows, and his big secrets…(I also love that Royce lives in the area! Support local!)
BLUSH by Jamie Brenner
I can count on Jamie Brenner to deliver a delicious novel every summer, but I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so excited as I am for Blush. Set on a lush vineyard and revolving around family secrets, all while paying homage to the “trashy” novels of yore—think Jackie Collins—Blush has lit- erally everything I love to read about packed into one novel. Counting the days to uncork my Sauv Blanc and dive in.
INCENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Sonali Dev
I’m a sucker for modern takes on the classics, especially when they are reimagined in a culture different from their origin story. Dev’s third novel takes Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility plot and reworks it in modern day California, focusing on a tightly-wound Indian-American candidate for governor and a stress management coach with whom he shared a brief, passionate affair. This one should be a fun page-turner.
HOUR OF THE WITCH by Chris Bohjalian
Since reading The Crucible in ninth grade, witches and Puritanical society have held a mysterious allure for me. I read Stacy Schiff’s The Witches, a non-fiction account of 1692, Salem, MA, and was left wanting to reenter that time period again, preferably through fiction. Bohjalian, best- selling author of The Flight Attendant and Midwives, is here to entertain and shock us this summer with his latest novel about a woman desperate to free herself from her violent husband and avoid the gallows after rumors spring up that she’s a witch.
THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris
The only debut on my list, this book is perhaps the one I’m the most curious about. After teaching contemporary writing this year to college students and spending a lot of time discussing the reckon- ing with race in the white-dominated publishing industry, I can’t wait to read this novel about a lone Black woman at a publishing company, thrilled when another woman of color joins the ranks. Then things turn sinister and get twisty. Anxiously awaiting this book, which promises to be riveting and timely.
MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Nobody plots a book like Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor from her genius novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a sweeping, multi-point-of-view story that had me asking, “How did she do that?” at least 10 times while reading. Her latest centers on four celebrity siblings at an epic end-of-summer party. You know the drill—secrets, feuds, romance—all will come to a head in this perfect-for-summer read from a master storyteller.
ONE TWO THREE by Laurie Frankel
Frankel’s emotional last novel, This is How It Always Is, is on my all time favorites list, so I don’t even need a description of her latest release to know I will pick it up right away. The story of the Mitchell triplets—Mirabel, Monday and Mab— longtime residents of Bourne, a small town infa- mous for a decades old drinking water scandal, will surely make me both laugh and cry out loud.
FIRST COURSE by Jenn Bouchard
After a series of life altering traumatic events unfold over the course of one day, twenty-four- year-old Janie Whitman retreats to her family’s summer home to cook and figure out how to piece her life back together. An emotional journey filled with luscious food descriptions and dramatic coastal scenery sounds like a perfect beach read.
A HOUSE FULL OF WINDSOR by Kristin Contino
This intriguing novel follows TV personality, Sarah, and her mother, Debbie, a hoarder obsessed with royal collectibles. When Debbie is nominated to appear on a reality show about hoarding and Sarah comes along as a package deal, things are bound to go wrong. I can’t wait to learn more about this royally dysfunctional family.
THREE WORDS FOR GOODBYE by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
When two estranged sisters learn their grand- mother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish by delivering three of her letters to Europe. They embark on the eve of World War II, visiting Venice, Paris and Vienna and finishing with a ticket home on the ill-fated Hindenberg. Dysfunctional family dynamics, rising political tensions and a grand European tour—yes, please!
WHAT WE CARRY by Kalyn Fogarty
Using her own experience with a late term miscarriage, Fogarty shines a light on a topic not often explored in fiction. When Cassidy Morgan tragically loses her unborn son, she questions every- thing she had thought sacred—her marriage, her desire to be a mother, and even her will to live. I love a raw and complex story on a hot summer day and this one promises to deliver.
FACING THE MOUNTAIN: A TRUE STORY OF JAPANESE AMERICAN HEROES IN WORLD WAR II by Daniel James Brown
If you read Boys in the Boat, you know that Brown is a superb storyteller. Facing the Mountain details the lives of four Japanese American men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, fighting fascism in Europe while enduring a deep-rooted racism at home.
MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is the perfect page turner from the author of Daisy Jones and the Six (If you haven’t read Daisy, don’t delay!) Set in the early 1980s in Malibu, four surfing siblings confront their troubling past. What better than a beach read that takes place at the beach?
BE WHERE YOUR FEET ARE: SEVEN PRINCIPLES TO KEEP YOU PRESENT, GROUNDED, AND THRIVING by Scott O’Neil
This is my one quintessential self-help book of the summer written by the CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. And although I am a sports enthusiast and look forward to reading the anecdotes that O’Neil shares, this book is about our strug- gles in life and learning from them—pretty timely as we come out of a year-long global pandemic and learn how to live again in the new normal.
BETWEEN TWO KINGDOMS: A MEMOIR OF LIFE INTERRUPTED by Suleika Jaouad
If I am being completely honest, I have already read this book, but I loved it so much I might need to read it again. Jaouad is diagnosed at the age of 22 with a potentially deadly cancer and she shares with us her endless routine of treatment and set- backs and her surprisingly difficult transition back into the world of the living—the very thing that had kept her fighting throughout her ill- ness. Although the subject might indicate otherwise, I did not find this memoir depressing but rather raw and real and beautifully written.
GREAT CIRCLE by Maggie Shipstead
At more than 600 pages, Great Circle is definitely a commitment, but I plan on making it, even if I am still reading well into the fall. I love stories that are about women who chart their own course, who are strong and independent and fierce, and this epic and ambitious tale by Shipstead promises to do exactly that. According to the reviews, this book stays with you long after you finish that final 608th page!
Caterer to the Stars
SOCIAL STUDIES by Fran Lebowitz
This was the year of Fran. Not sure about you, but Fran and Marty got me through the pandemic with their Netflix’s special Pretend It’s a City. Watching it allowed me to revisit and rededicate my heart and soul to the city I love and the business I built from scratch. I found it totally bashert (yiddish for ‘meant to be’) when the first party I was asked to cater was a “Return to NYC” dinner honoring—guess who?—Fran! She has always been one of my literary idols, so both her books will be coming to the beach with me this summer.
THE BLUEST EYE AND BELOVED both by Toni Morrison
Do you know who Fran’s best friend was? Toni Morrison! So, it’s only fair that they live in my summer reading beach bag together this summer, as I reread these classics.
WALLFLOWER AT THE ORGY AND I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK both by Norah Ephron
When I am in the process of writing a book, (currently working on my third!) I always revisit with my imaginary literary best friend, Nora Ephron, so this summer I’m reading these two favorites.
WIN by Harlan Coben
I have become a Harlan Coben head. I devoured three of his books during quarantine, and on my list this summer is his latest, Win.
THE FIANCÉE by Kate White
I’ve been following Kate White’s career as an author since her 14-year tenure as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, so I’m highly anticipating her 15th suspense novel about a woman who threat- ens to overturn her husband’s and stepson’s idyllic lives when a murder takes place at their annual family reunion.
LOCAL WOMAN MISSING by Mary Kubica
Ever since Mary Kubica’s remarkable debut novel, The Good Girl, I’ve been a devoted fan. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this unnerving thriller about two women and a six-year-old girl named Delilah who disappear from their peaceful community without a trace—until 11 years later when Delilah astonishingly returns.
THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR by Liv Constantine
From the sister duo that comprises the pen name Liv Constantine—also the authors of the wildly successful The Last Mrs. Parrish (a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick!)—comes this emo- tionally disturbing novel about a woman who can’t recall her past after being found bleeding on the side of the highway. What’s most intriguing is that she’s convinced she did something truly awful leading up to her accident.
THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND by Colleen Oakley
My interest is definitely piqued by this eccentric love story about Piper, a grieving widow, who pre- tends her husband is still alive after he dies in a boating accident. And, of course, there’s the deter- mined male journalist, who can’t help but insinu- ate himself into Piper’s life, as a means of uncover- ing the truth.
MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid
After reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s New York Times bestseller, Daisy Jones & The Six, anything she writes is at the top of my list. I’m particularly excited for her latest, which follows the four famous Riva siblings, who throw a blockbuster party to commemorate the end of summer. The question is: What will happen when the party rages out of control and the Riva mansion goes up in flames?
Deborah Goodrich Royce
WHO IS MAUD DIXON by Alexandra Andrews
I love a good identity puzzle and this one really piqued my interest, evoking Patricia Highsmith the way it does! When an accident gives a young nobody in the publishing world a chance to take over the identity of a best-selling author, does she take it? I don’t know, but I want to!
THE MIRACLE COLLECTORS: UNCOVERING STORIES OF WONDER, JOY, AND MYSTERY by Joan Luise Hill & Katie Mahon
Stories of courage, forgiveness, faith, love, and miracles…sign me up! After quite a year, I look forward to immersing myself in the hopefulness of this book.
RED ISLAND HOUSE by Andrea Lee
An African American woman marries an Italian man and they move to Madagascar to make their life together. Billed as a ‘seductive, haunting dream,’ this promises to be a sweeping novel about marriage, loyalty, and identity. I can’t wait to dive in.
HAVEN POINT by Virginia Hume
Pitched to fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Beatriz Williams, this debut novel is a multigeneration family tale in an insular community on the rocky coast of Maine. Sounds like a beach read to me.
SUMMERTIME GUESTS by Wendy Francis
A seaside New England hotel, a busy summer, a death, and a secret—this is a recipe for a summer read cocktail that I might just be reading on the beach at the Ocean House, my favorite seaside New Eng- land hotel.
GOLDEN GIRL by Elin Hilderbrand
It’s not just that Hilderbrand brilliantly meets all your requirements for summer reading, year after year—rich characters, engaging plot, dreamy Nantucket setting. She’s also a damn good writer, capable of evoking layers of meaning in a few elegant strokes. This one’s about a beloved Nantucket novelist (ahem) killed in an accident, who’s allowed to watch over her loved ones from the Beyond for one last summer… not that I need to know that, because any story turns to gold in Hilderbrand’s hands.
ISLAND QUEEN by Vanessa Riley
I first heard about this book during a publisher Zoom call I shared with Riley last winter, and she sold me instantly on this biographical novel based on the true story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a woman born into slavery in the colo- nial West Indies to become a powerful landowner who rubbed shoulders with the future King William IV of England. Riley’s a tremen- dous storyteller and her research is meticulous—this will be one of the summer’s must-reads.
THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
I have a soft spot for co-writ- ten novels, since I’ve teamed up with my writer friends Lauren Willig and Karen White on a few, and this one— based on the extraordinary life of Bella da Costa Greene, a Black woman who passed as white to become personal librarian to banking titan J. P. Morgan—hits all my favorite notes, from Morgan’s fabu- lous Gilded Age collections to women from society’s liminal spaces, determined to achieve their dreams.
MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid
What’s not to love about Reid, a storytelling virtuoso with uncanny insight into the human heart? Her latest takes place among the famous and beautiful in 1980s Malibu, during a single night’s epic party in which a legend- ary family’s secrets (and its mansion) go up in flames. This has all the feels of a book I’ll be reading in one mara- thon sitting.
SHOULDER SEASON by Christina Clancy
This one snagged my interest right away—who wouldn’t want to read about a nine- teen-year-old orphan rein- venting herself at a Playboy Resort in small-town Wisconsin, circa 1981? I love how books have started taking a look back at the not-so-dis- tant past, and Clancy relishes the back-and-forth between our younger selves and the women we become.
And Here Are a Few On Our List: