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What Are You Reading This Summer?

Ah, summer. Whether you're planning to spend the sticky days of June poolside or within the refuge of your air-conditioned living room, the lazy days of summer are perfect for indulging in a new book or revisiting an old favorite. From laugh-out-loud memoirs to guilty-pleasure genre fiction, the editors at Writer's Digest share their reading plans for the hottest months of the year.

"30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer, Ph.D. This new book is a collection of life advice from seniors who have seen it all and want to share their wisdom. I'm a big fan of asking people, 'If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently?' That's why this book sounds right up my alley."

30 Lessons for Living

"Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters by Brian A. Klems. I just had my first little girl, so I could use a quick read that's both informative and funny."

—Chuck Sambuchino, Editor of Guide to Literary Agents and Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

"I'm hoping to catch up on a few classics over the summer by reading Joseph Heller's Catch-22and Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Plus, my wife and I have been searching for a copy of the original Jaws novel by Peter Benchley. My poetry list is loaded too: The Children's War and Other Poems by Shaindel BeersUseful Information for the Soon-to-be Beheaded by Shivani Mehta, What Bends Us Blue by Tom Lombardo, and a Norton anthology—Postmodern American Poetry edited by Paul Hoover. That might get me through July, and then…"


—Robert Brewer, Senior Editor of Writer's Market

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

"Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Larson (The Bloggess). Larson is one of the most hilarious bloggers on the Internet (, so it's a safe bet that her memoir is laugh-so-hard-your-fruity-summer-drink-spews-out-of-your-nose funny. I can't wait to kick up my feet at the pool and read it.

"The Flamethrowers: A Novel by Rachel Kushner.Flamethrowers was nominated for a National Book Award and reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. Plus, one of my favorite writers, Rob Neyer, gave it heavy praise on Twitter. It just seems like a can't-miss book worth reading.

—Brian A. Klems, Online Editor

"The book that I have already read and would highly recommend for all summer reading lists is And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (who I had the honor of interviewing for our first summer issue of WD). As readers of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns would expect, it's certainly not light, fun-in-the-sun reading. But the beautifully woven, heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by war and circumstance—but bound together by love and life—will grab you from the first page and not let go long after you've finished the last. It's one of the best books I've read in recent memory, if not all time, and a wonderful companion for contemplative summer nights.

And the Mountains Echoed

"The book that I'm most looking forward to but have not yet read is Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell. She's an Irish author whose books are released first in the U.K.; the U.S. release of her latest is slotted for June 18. I loved the haunting story lines and poetic language of her earlier novels The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, After You'd Gone, and The Hand That First Held Mine, and have had her latest on my wish list for months. This one's going in my beach bag. How could a book with "Heatwave" in the title belong anywhere else?

—Jessica Strawser, Editorial Director of Writer's Digest

"Anything by Alan Furst (currently reading The Polish Officer, but Dark Voyage is my favorite). He writes WWII espionage noir novels. They move like thrillers, but they read like intensely researched literary character studies. He's poignant, accurate, and cuts to the heart of the underground resistance against the Axis powers. Action, suspense, intrigue, romance, heartbreak, war and politics. What more could you want?"

The Polish Officer

They Don't Dance Much by James Ross was just re-released by Mysterious Press. This country-noir prototype reads like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Flannery O'Connor. Edgy, seedy, and surprisingly compelling story of a displaced southern farmer who takes a job in a roadhouse full of gamblers and criminals, with the usual consequences.

I also plan on re-reading World War Z by Max Brooks to remind myself how good it is before the inevitable disappointment when the film comes out this year. Plus, I need to fill time until season 4 of The Walking Dead starts.

—James Duncan, Content Editor for Writer's Digest Books

"A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinAfter years of being told by everyone in my life that I should read Song of Ice and Fire, I’m finally going to cave to the consensus. I’m curious to see how Martin juggles such a monumental amount of characters and plotlines over the course of the series.


"Moby-Dick by Herman MelvilleConfession: The first time I gave Moby a shot years ago, I never made it to the end. I got hung up on Chapter 32, which is filled with seemingly endless anatomical descriptions of whales, and failed to renew my copy of the book from the library. But now, though much delayed, the voyage to right my literary wrong is on. Any book that has endured for 150+ years undoubtedly has its wealth of lessons to teach. (And, with hope, they’re not all about the differences between the Mealy-Mouthed Porpoise and the Nostril Whale.)

"We, the Drowned by Carsten JensenThe book description: 'We, the Drowned is the story of the port town of Marstal, Denmark, whose inhabitants sailed the world from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War. The novel tells of ships wrecked and blown up in wars, of places of terror and violence that continue to lure each generation; there are cannibals here, shrunken heads, prophetic dreams, and miraculous survivals. The result is a brilliant seafaring novel, a gripping saga encompassing industrial growth, the years of expansion and exploration, the crucible of the first half of the twentieth century, and most of all, the sea.' Come on. What’s not to love?

"The Biology of Luck by Jacob M. AppelJacob M. Appel blows my mind. He’s a doctor. He’s a lawyer. He’s a teacher. He’s a writer. He’s landed more than 200 short stories in print. He’s won the WD Annual Competition twice in blind judging. He’s a fantastic writer, and a damn nice guy."

—Zachary Petit, Senior Managing Editor of Writer's Digest 

"Little Green by Walter Mosley. I've studied every novel in the Easy Rawlins series and it has been six years since Easy last appeared.


"The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It has been recommended to me more than once.

—Ophelia Thomas, Editorial Intern

"I'm currently finishing up Wool by Hugh Howey (interviewed in the May/June 2013 issue of Writer's Digest). It's well-imagined, thought-provoking, and detailed science fiction, but it doesn't lag for a second, and the premise is great. It's a book that really has really lived up to the hype.

The Night Circus UK

"For my to-read list, I'm looking forward to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and probably The Lord of the Rings ... again."

—Rachel Randall, Managing Editor of Writer's Digest Books

What about you? Share your summer reading plans in the comments!

Rachel Randall is the managing editor for Writer's Digest Books.

Rachel Randall
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