Bold Books for Summer Reading

Looking for a good read? Something that really draws you in and makes time disappear for a while?

Here in Atlanta it's been over 100 degrees for that last few days. It's perfect weather to sit inside a nice, cool air-conditioned space or under a beach umbrella and dive into a great book.

I'm a voracious reader and have a taste for just about anything — maybe with a bent toward novels with great character development, personal growth or spiritual books that aren't the same old pablum, and fascinating historical biographies.

We are in the peak of summer right now with no foreseeable end to the swelter. Maybe you are headed off to the beach or to grandma's or just enjoying a lazy weekend at home. Wherever you are, you're definitely going to need a good book, a shady spot, and maybe a margarita to kick back and endure the heat. I'll provide the books. You go get the blender and ice!

Ok, are you comfy? Here are some really bold books that aren't your run-of-the-mill bodice ripper or who-dun-nit. If you want to be thrilled, engaged, informed, enlightened or intrigued, I've hand-selected some really great reads just for you.

If you are interested in a book, just click on the title, and you can read more about it or order the book on Amazon.

The Redbreast: A Novel

If you have read the series by Steig Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is the first), you will love The Redbreast. The author, Jo Nesbo, won a bunch of awards for his crime novels, and is a Norwegian musician, songwriter and economist. The Redbreast is an intricate and ingenious thriller about detective Harry Hole, an angry, alcoholic detective who gets drawn into a murder conspiracy that takes the reader on a wild ride of twists and turns. The characters are fascinating, especially Harry, and the plot is crazy and fast-paced. Nesbo has written several more thrillers featuring Harry. If you haven't read Steig Larsson's series, they are fabulous too. You can find them here: Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Bundle: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

I have posted about this book before, but the movie is coming out in August.   If you are one of the few people on the planet who hasn't read this book, hop on it now. It is a beautiful, soul-searching personal journal by the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who travels through three countries to sort through the emotional aftermath of a divorce and to learn about herself. In Rome she learns the pleasures of great food and friendship. In an ashram near Mumbai, she delves into her spiritual side. And in Bali she discovers love again. Her self-deprecating humor and insights, along with engaging descriptions of her encounters and locations, make this an impossible book to put down. Read it before you see the movie! If you have read it, check out her most recent book: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

The General and Mrs. Washington

I just visited historic Williamsburg, Virginia, and was so immersed in Colonial history that when I saw this book in a gift shop, it literally jumped off the shelf and into my hands. I  love history, but for some reason George Washington has never intrigued me. He always looks so dour on the dollar bill. This book made him come alive for me. And of course Martha too, who was a delightful personality in her own right. For two people who referred to each other by their last names, George and Martha had a really strong and loving marriage. George had no teeth and Martha was a wee bit plump, but they were devoted to each other. This isn't a deep, intellectual tome, but a readable and fascinating story of two exceptional people who happen to be the first, first couple of the Country.

This Will Change Everything: Ideas That Will Shape the Future

This book is brilliant. The author asks 130 of the most influential scientists and some artists this question: “What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?” The answers will astound you, and sometimes disturb you. But it will definitely give you a glimpse into the not-too-distant future. This is a book that you can easily pick up and put down, since it is comprised of 2-3 page answers from the various contributors. Great stuff.

South of Broad: A Novel

Ah, Pat Conroy. He is truly the living legend of Southern writers. And this is his first novel in fourteen years. I have missed him. His prose is like melted butter, and his characters become family members by the time you finish a book. This is a lovely read, and perfect for summer. It takes place in Charleston, South Carolina and begins in the late sixties when the protagonist, Leo King, is a teenager. He is haunted by his brother's suicide, and tries to survive a daunting adolescence with the help of a group of friends who have their own ghosts and dysfunctions. They grow up together in scenes reminiscent of The Big Chill. The book is a tribute to all of Pat Conroy's favorite places and familiar themes. I would also highly recommend my favorite of of his books, The Prince of Tides: A Novel

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path

Don't you love the title? It sounds like something housewives would order from the back of a magazine that arrives in a brown paper wrapper. Sorry, it's about spiritual enlightenment. Jack Kornfield is a psychologist trained as a Buddhist monk and well-known as a meditation teacher. The books jacket cover gives a perfect summary. “Drawing on the experiences and insights of leaders and practitioners within the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Sufi traditions, this book offers a uniquely intimate and honest understanding of how the modern spiritual journey unfolds — and how we can prepare our hearts for awakening.” Kornfield helps us learn how to be enlightened while still living in the real world.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

If you think you had a strange and difficult childhood, read Jeanette Wall's personal memoir about growing up with two brilliant and completely crazy parents. She opens the book as a now successful adult living in New York. She's dressed up for the evening, riding in a taxi, and spots her mother rooting through a dumpster. Her parents are gifted, eccentric, and totally ill-suited to raise children. The children learn to take care of themselves and to eventually discover that what passed for normal really bordered on abusive. Not once does Wall sink into self-pity. She recounts her experiences with humor and a detached stance that makes her trials bearable for the reader and maybe for her.

Also, be sure to take a look at my recommended books on the sidebar. I have read and loved them all!

And one more thing. I love holding a shiny, new book in my hands and turning the pages, smelling the “newness” of it, and carrying it around with me like a little pet. But I recently had a long discussion of the pros and cons of the Kindle with my friend Jeanne's husband, Jeff. He whipped out his Kindle and showed me how easy it is to take on a trip, stick in your briefcase or computer bag, and how you can download books in an instant. OK, it looked pretty cool, I admit.

If you are interested in checking out the Kindle, here's the link:
Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6″ Display, U.S. Wireless)

So now you have a lot of books to choose from. Pick one and grab your ice-cold glass of whatever. It's time to read.

For more reading absolutely FREE, please download my ebook, How to Live a Meaningful Life.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 15 comments

Another book lover like me…..Barrie, thank you for the list. Of course I have read Eat/Pray/Love 🙂 and have already scheduled a girls-night out with my girlfriends for the movie in August…..And a lady next to me told me about South of Broad on a recent plane ride….but I am so into classics now….Making my way through (this time the unabridged 1312 page) The Count of Monte Cristo and I am ready for the end, but Mr. Dumas tries my patience.
Great post and keep reading. I am not far from you and it’s over 100 degrees some days but I so prefer it to frigid days of winter :)!

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Farnoosh,
    Oh, the classics! You are doing some bold reading. I was an English major and worked my way through them way back when. I still love Dickens. When you get tired of the old stuff, try some of the ones I suggested. They are great reads.


    I haven’t gotten tired yet 😉 but I do take breaks – I read Dan Brown’s latest and was slightly disappointed but took it for what it was – I will look into that Pat Conroy one too, Barrie….Happy reading!!! And good luck with the summer heat!


Barrie, what a wonderfully inspired list. I’ve read “Eat, Love, Pray” and “The Glass Castle” both big favourites of mine so I can’t wait to discover the others. I’ll have to choose one or two for my lazy days coming up on the beach. Thank you.
.-= Katie´s last blog ..A Simple Guide to Eating Like a Human =-.

    Barrie Davenport

    Thanks Katie. You deserve some down time at the beach! Hope you get to plow through a few books and soak up the sun.

Tricia Molloy

Thanks for your inspired list and your always inspiring blog! For my book club, I read The Help and just started Shadow of the Wind. It’s apparently the second most popular book in Spain, after Don Quixote. It doesn’t read like it’s translated. My book club pick for August will be South of Broad. I read so many business books that’s it’s such a treat to lose myself in novels.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Trisha,
    Yep — summer and novels just go together. I’ve heard about The Help from so many people. I haven’t heard about Shadow of the Wind. I can’t wait to check it out.


Great suggestions, Barrie – thanks! And yes, Jeff still loves his Kindle. At night, I am lulled to sleep by the gentle click of him turning the pages….


Love your suggestions Barrie! I’ve read Eat, Pray and Love and am waiting for the movie now. Parts of it were shot in India, very close to where I live and am excited about that as well:-0
Am a member of a great library that delivers books to the doorstep and so am never without one. Currently, however, am re-reading Louise L. Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. She never fails to inspire and motivate me.
.-= Prerna´s last blog ..5 Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries =-.

Caspar Green

Thanks for the recommendations. I’m definitely going to check out a few of these. I might not get to them all by the end of the summer, but it seems like a few of them would also work for winter fireside reading!


Also thanks for the recommendations … you should check out It’s like facebook but only for books. I love it & get the best suggestions.

    Barrie Davenport

    Great recommendation Jane. Thank you!

Jane Rochelle

So many books, so little time! Thanks for the great list of suggestions. I just finished A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg … love her writing style!

Leaving for Montana on Monday, will pick up a book or two to take with me. 🙂
.-= Jane Rochelle´s last blog ..Reflections On A Homemade Life- A Book By Molly Wizenberg =-.

Dennis Stilwell

May I humbly suggest this spiritual memoir for this summer’s reading:
“Love’s Sacrifice and the Ordeal to Become Human: 30 Years with my Spiritual Master, Adi Da” at
“Raw,” “engaging,” “couldn’t put it down,” “honored to have read it,” “in some ways brilliant,” are some of the expressions used in feedback I have received so far.
Dennis Stilwell


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