Summer reading lists and year-end “best of” book lists are my two favorite types of book lists. Summer 2021 is just around the corner, and I will be releasing several lists – this one which is my most anticipated summer reads that I have not read yet and will be working my way through as the summer progresses, a podcast episode with Elizabeth Barnhill (@wacoreads) with our favorite books we have read that are coming out between May and August 2021, and my Summer Recommended Reads list that contains books that I love and recommend that were published between July 2020 and June 1, 2021.
For this Most Anticipated Summer Reads list, I am including books that I have not read yet that will publish in June through August of 2021; I have included the publication date beside each book. I will also be interviewing a number of the authors on this list in the coming months so you can keep an eye out for those episodes - I put an asterisk by each author that I am scheduled to chat with about his or her book.
Short summaries are included from the publishers’ descriptions on each book to provide some detail on the selections. And as always, shop local or use the Bookshop.org links below which support independent bookstores.
All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss (out July 27th)
Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing's been the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is precocious and itching for adventure. Then Allie Bert Tucker wanders into town, an outcast with a puzzling past, and Lucy figures the two of them can solve any curious crime they find—just like her hero, Nancy Drew. Their chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery to solve that takes them beyond the ordinary. Lush with Southern atmosphere, All The Little Hopes is the story of two girls growing up as war creeps closer, blurring the difference between what's right, what's wrong, and what we know to be true.
Blush by Jamie Brenner* (out June 22nd)
For decades, the Hollander Estates winery has been the premier destination for lavish parties and romantic day trips on the North Fork of Long Island. However, the Hollander family fortunes have suffered and the threat of a sale brings old wounds to the surface. For matriarch Vivian, she fears that this summer season could be their last—and that selling their winery to strangers could expose a dark secret she's harbored for decades. But when her granddaughter Sadie uncovers journals from Vivian's old book club dedicated to scandalous novels of decades past, she realizes that this might be the distraction they all need. Reviving the "trashy" book club, the Hollander women find that the stories hold the key to their fight not only for the vineyard, but for the life and love they've wanted all along. Blush is a bighearted story of love, family, and second chances, and an ode to the blockbuster novels that have shaped generations of women.
Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson (out August 3rd)
For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation—and beyond it 24-7 Ridge—is a logger’s dream. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, Chub, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge—costing them all the savings they’ve squirreled away for their growing family—he grabs it, unbeknownst to Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn’t growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn’t alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes. For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich’s plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber along the way.
Dear Miss Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell (out July 6th)
Fern seeks refuge from her mother’s pill-popping and boyfriends via Soul Train; Gwin finds salvation in the music of Prince much to her congregation’s dismay, and Jesenia, miles ahead of her classmates at her gifted and talented high school, is a brainy and precocious enigma. None of this matters to Boss Man, the monster who abducts them and holds them captive in a dilapidated house in Queens. On the night they are finally rescued, throngs line the block gawking and claiming ignorance. Among them is lifetime resident Miss Metropolitan, advice columnist for the local weekly, but how could anyone who fancies herself a “newspaperwoman” have missed a horror story unfolding right across the street? Like Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys, Ferrell’s Dear Miss Metropolitan gives voice to characters surviving unimaginable tragedy.
Falling by T.J. Newman (out July 6th)
You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight.
The Family Plot by Megan Collins* (out August 17th)
At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse remains haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has been unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen. After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house where the family soon makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead (out August 3rd)
Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby's murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she'd been closest to since freshman year. But not everyone is ready to move on. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years' worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
Lights Out in Lincolnwood by Geoff Rodkey (out July 6th)
It’s Tuesday morning in Lincolnwood, New Jersey, and all four members of the Altman family are busy ignoring each other en route to work and school. Then, as the kids begin their school day and Dan rides a commuter train into Manhattan, the world comes to a sudden, inexplicable stop. Lights, phones, laptops, cars, trains…the entire technological infrastructure of 21st-century society quits working. Normal life, as the Altmans and everyone else knew it, is over. Over four transformative, chaotic days, this privileged but clueless American family will struggle to hold it together in the face of water shortages, paramilitary neighbors, and the well-mannered looting of the local Whole Foods as they try to figure out just what the hell is going on.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (out August 3rd)
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska. Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?
The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng* (out August 10th)
One minute Kelly’s a free-spirited artist in Chicago going to her best friend’s art show. The next, she opens a door and mysteriously emerges in her Michigan hometown. Suddenly her life is unrecognizable: She's got twelve years of the wrong memories in her head and she's married to Eric, a man she barely knew in high school. Racing to get back to her old life, Kelly's search leads only to more questions. In this life, she loves Eric and wants to trust him, but everything she discovers about him—including a connection to a mysterious tech startup—tells her she shouldn't. And strange things keep happening. The tattoos she had when she was an artist briefly reappear on her skin, she remembers fights with Eric that he says never happened, and her relationships with loved ones both new and familiar seem to change without warning. But the closer Kelly gets to putting the pieces together, the more her reality seems to shift.
Pack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins* (out June 8th)
Joshua and Lauren are the perfect couple. Newly married, they're wildly in love, each on a successful and rewarding career path. Then Lauren is diagnosed with a terminal illness. As Lauren's disease progresses, Joshua struggles to make the most of the time he has left with his wife and to come to terms with his future—a future without the only woman he's ever loved. But Lauren has a plan hidden in the letters she leaves him. In those letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Lauren leads Joshua on a journey through pain, anger, and denial. It's a journey that will take Joshua from his attempt at a dinner party for family and friends to getting rid of their bed...from a visit with a psychic medium to a kiss with a woman who isn't Lauren. As his grief makes room for laughter and new relationships, Joshua learns Lauren's most valuable lesson: The path to happiness doesn't follow a straight line.
The Shimmering State by Meredith Westgate (out August 10th)
Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using a new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s also running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known artist whose legacy haunts him even far from New York. Sophie has just landed the lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. She still waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Memoroxin—or Mem—among the Hollywood elite. When Lucien and Sophie meet at the Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane to treat patients who’ve abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there—or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to one another. Set in a city that seems to have no memory of its own, The Shimmering State is a graceful meditation on the power of story and its creation.
The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison* (out August 17th)
It's 1927 when Olive McCormick moves from Minneapolis to New York City determined to become a star in the Ziegfeld Follies. Extremely talented as a singer and dancer, it takes every bit of perseverance to finally make it on stage. And once she does, all the glamour and excitement is everything she imagined and more—even worth all the sacrifices she has had to make along the way. Then she meets Archie Carmichael. Handsome, wealthy—the only man she's ever met who seems to accept her modern ways—her independent nature and passion for success. But once she accepts his proposal of marriage he starts to change his tune, and Olive must decide if she is willing to reveal a devastating secret and sacrifice the life she loves for the man she loves.
Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderman* (out August 3rd)
Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve. As these courageous women help to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they are dealing with more than just army bureaucracy—everyone is determined to see this experiment fail. For two northern women, learning to navigate their way through the segregated army may be tougher than boot camp. Grace and Eliza know that there is no room for error; they must be more perfect than everyone else. Based on the true story of the 6888th Postal Battalion (the Six Triple Eight), Sisters in Arms explores the untold story of what life was like for the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II.
So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park* (out August 3rd)
When investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off in a virtual meeting and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out. After moving back home to Tennessee to live with her loving but meddling mother and father, she runs into her childhood nemesis—golden child Daniel Choi—at the local Asian grocery store. Jess begrudgingly accepts Daniel’s help to relaunch her long abandoned Korean cooking YouTube channel: HANGUK HACKS, showcasing easy meal prep for busy professionals. But just as she discovers Daniel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and there’s more to him than meets the eye, he shows up for a life-changing business opportunity, and their rivalry is back on . . .
The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam (out July 13th)
Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah?
Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb* (out July 27th)
When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly. Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey.
The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler* (out July 6th)
Lexa Thomas has never quite fit in. Having grown up in a family of blondes while more closely resembling Constance Wu, she's neither white enough nor Asian enough. Visiting her father in Taiwan as a child, Lexa thought she'd finally found a place where she belonged. But that was years ago, and even there, some never truly considered her to be a part of the family. When her estranged father dies unexpectedly, leaving the fate of his Taiwanese family in Lexa's hands, she is faced with the choice to return to Taiwan and claim her place in her heritage . . . or leave her Taiwanese family to lose their home for good. Armed with the advice of two half-sisters (one American and the other Taiwanese, who can't stand each other), a mother who has reevaluated her sexuality, a man whose kisses make her walk into walls, and her self-deprecating humor, Lexa finds the courage to leave the comfort of New York City to finally confront the person who drove her away all those decades ago.
What a Happy Family by Saumya Dave* (out June 22nd)
From the outside, the Joshi family is the quintessential Indian-American family. Decades ago, Bina and Deepak immigrated to America, where she became a pillar of their local Indian community and he, a successful psychiatrist. Their eldest daughter, Suhani, is following the footsteps of her father’s career and happily married. Natasha, their middle daughter, is about to become engaged to the son of longtime family friends. And Anuj, their son—well he’s a son and what could be better than that? But a family scandal shows that nothing is as it seems. As they encounter public humiliation, gossiping aunties, and self-doubt, the Joshi family must rely on each other like never before. But sometimes, family has to fall apart in order to come back stronger than before.
Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce* (out August 10th)
Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.