If you’re anything like me, summers off from school in childhood were all about reading. In the humid Southern summers, I traveled all over the world through books.
It comes as no surprise that, as an adult, I both travel and read like my life depends on it. These 12 novels are on my personal summer reading list for 2022. Some of them are even on my nightstand as I write this to you.
Out of all the amazing titles on my TBR, these are the novels to read this summer.
If you’re interested in nonfiction, check out my other summer reading list.
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Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
In 1969 small-town North Carolina, Chase Andrews dies a mysterious death. For years, the locals of this swamp town told stories of the “Marsh Girl,” rumored to live in the swamps. Kya Clark, the subject of these rumors, is highly intelligent and has managed life in the swamps for years. Desiring love, she opens herself to the possibility of life on land with everyone else. But then, tragedy strikes. The impossible becomes possible. And life is never the same.
The Women of Chateau Lafayette, by Stephanie Dray
A French countryside chateau is home to three women making history during some of the most tense times the world has seen. Adrienne is the wife of a revolutionary during the French and American Revolutions. Beatrice is an upper-class American woman with a troubled past, using her position to get aid to French troops during World War I.
Marthe is an orphan who grew up at the chateau after Beatrice made it a home for children. She is now a teacher there, hiding Jewish children during World War II. This novel is a story of women that made personal sacrifices for the greater good of all humanity during very difficult times.
The Baba Yaga Mask, by Kris Spisak
When Larissa and Ira find out their Ukrainian grandmother is missing after seeing her off to her transatlantic flight, they fly to Eastern Europe in search of her. Their search brings them from Poland to Slovakia, causing them to learn about traditional Ukrainian dance, the consequences of war, the nuances of feminism, and the forests of their grandmother’s folklore. Along the way, they learn more than they ever knew about both their babusya, themselves, and the land that made them.
Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
The story starts on Melody’s sixteenth birthday party in 2001 at her family’s Brooklyn brownstone. The dress she wears on such an important night bears a past that is difficult for everyone—it was her mother’s, meant to be worn on the Sweet 16 she never had. The novel goes on to share the history of Melody’s family, from the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 through decades of Black history alongside the trials of the characters.
A Burning, by Megha Majumdar
When a terrorist attack occurs, a Muslim girl, Jivan, is blamed for it due to a careless social media comment. PT Sir is a teacher with political aspirations whose rise in right-wing circles is dependent on Jivan’s fall. Lovely holds the key to Jivan’s alibi, but to share the truth would be costly to everything that matters to her. This story has tension, desperation, and the converging plot lines of characters with opposing interests that make it a page-turner to the end.
The Yellow Bird Sings, by Jennifer Rosner
Róza and her five-year-old daughter Shira hide in a neighbor’s barn when Nazis start rounding up Jews in their village. Keeping a child as young as Shira quiet and entertained is no easy feat, so Róza tells her a story. The tale is of a girl in an enchanted garden, a place where Róza can protect her child’s mind from the horrors that surround them. When their hideaway is no longer safe, Róza must make the most difficult decision of her life: to separate, giving Shira a chance at safety, or to stay together.
Disorientation, by Elaine Hsieh Chou
Ingrid Yang is a twenty-nine year old PhD student exhausted with academia, desperate to complete her dissertation and move on with her life. While studying the poet Xiao-Wen Chou, she happens across a note tucked into the archives of this famous author. In her attempts to understand the note and its source, she discovers something unimaginable.
The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles
Odile Souchet is a librarian at the American Library in Paris when the Nazis march into the city. She and her fellow librarians work with the world-famous French Resistance wielding their weapon of choice: books. When the Allies win, Odile is faced with an embittering betrayal.
The Light of the Midnight Stars, by Rena Rossner
Deep in the Hungarian woods, the descendants of King Solomon carry magic. Of all the villagers with this gift, Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters have it most potently. Hannah can make plants grow, even in the most bitter cold winter; Sarah is able to control fire; and Levana can read the path of the stars. When darkness overcomes Europe and threatens the life of every Jew, the three sisters face impossible odds of survival and difficult choices no one should have to make.
A Woman is No Man, by Etaf Rum
In 1990 Palestine, seventeen-year-old Isra is a bookworm with no interest in the marriage suitors her father negotiates with for her hand. Over the course of a week, Isra is married and sent off to live with her new husband in Brooklyn, New York. Thousands of miles from the only home she’s ever known and under the thumb of a hateful mother-in-law, Isra struggles to adjust to her new life.
Eighteen years later, Isra’s oldest daughter, Deya, is pressured by her grandmother to meet a husband. Deya’s only dream is to go to college, a tension that places her at odds with her family. When Deya learns the truth about her parents’ union, she questions everything she thought she knew about her heritage and her very self.
If You Want to Make God Laugh, by Bianca Marais
Zodwa is a pregnant seventeen-year-old girl living in a squatter camp near Johannesburg, as South Africa is on the cusp of civil war and battles an AIDS epidemic. A thousand miles away, Ruth lives the life of a sophisticated, privileged socialite, fixated on what she can’t have. Delilah is a former nun dealing with the past she would rather forget.
When Ruth and Delilah return to their home village for personal reasons, they come across an abandoned infant. What follows is a story examining race, womanhood, motherhood, and pasts that are always part of who we are.
Revival Season, by Monica West
Miriam Horton is the daughter of one of the South’s most famous preachers. Every summer, the family piles up in their minivan and drives across the southern states for her dad to preach at revivals across the region, healing desperate people.
But this summer, revival doesn’t go as planned.
On the first night, Reverend Horton’s healing powers are tested more than ever before. An act of violence Miriam witnesses makes her question her father and her own faith. When Horton leaves, Miriam finds that she may also have this power to heal—even though her father claims women are denied it.