10 Books that Teachers Should Read During the Summer of 2021

Or I guess this list could be a list of 10 books that anyone should read this summer. I just default to #teachersonbreak.

As a high school English teacher, no surprises, I love reading. I also love finding a new, fantastic book and recommending it to a friend. So here are the 10 that I think you should be reading this summer, with details and links. I’m going to be linking as many of these books as I can to my favorite Grand Rapids bookstore, but if I can’t, I’ll use Amazon. You can find these at your favorite book store or at your local library. I’ll also preface this list by saying I love a little bit of everything when it comes to genre.

10) The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab. Ok so, I wouldn’t rate this as last on my list of top ten, but I wanted to start with this one because I just finished it and it is oh so good. A bunch of the ladies in my family chose this as our summer book club read. So my younger college-aged cousins through my grandma and I are all going to hop on Zoom someday soon to discuss this one. I can’t wait. Addie Larue was born in France in the 1700s. But she ends up being cursed and stops aging. Sounds great and all, until the freedom she asked for also means that no one remembers her. This is such a fun story. It flashes back and forth from present day to various historical events. The plot is so surprising that it honestly kept me guessing until the end. This is one of those books you could definitely take to the beach, or read while you’re hanging by a pool or on a front porch. A very well-written, good read. I will note though, there are a couple steamier scenes. It doesn’t get too graphic but I’ll rate it PG-13. You’ve been warned.

9) In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. THIS is the ultimate beach read. Or maybe the book to go with a bubble bath. I definitely envisioned this as a chick flick while I was reading it. It is a quick read, but isn’t too predictable, which I liked. The main character, Dannie, has her perfect evening. Her job is amazing, her boyfriend takes her to a ritzy restaurant and proposes, and then she returns home to a fantastic apartment. But when she falls asleep, she wakes up five years in the future. She is in a different apartment with a different man. When she returns to her time, it’s a journey to see where things take her. Did she actually see the future? Or was it just a weird dream? Again, total chick flick. If you need a light beach read, this is THE ideal book.

8) Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans. Ok, this one is a deeper one. This is a nonfiction account of the author’s experience with church. As an intelligent, millennial, feminist, she struggled with her feelings over the importance and purpose of church. This book explores the struggles she had and then the purpose she found. What I loved so much about this book is how real it is. So many millennials ask such similar questions about the Church. I think this is a really relatable book. Millennials and Gen Z are leaving the church at alarming rates. If you’re at all in that boat–not sure about your faith or how important you should make church in your life, I’d recommend this one. This one is thought-provoking and real. Read this one on a rainy day when you’re hanging out inside. Or listen to it as you head off on a road trip

7) Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi. This one is nonfiction, and also YA (you know I’d have some YA titles on here, I’m a high school English teacher!). Throughout the past five to ten years, I have read a lot of books about racism and white fragility. I could recommend so many, but I think this one might be my favorite. It’s a YA book, so it reads much more quickly than a dense history textbook, but it is also so informative! Jason Reynolds adapted Kendi’s nonfiction book so that it would be more approachable for teenagers, so the text itself is not intimidating–the content, well that’s kind of a different story. This book details the history or racism, starting way back in the BC times, and then it traces racism all the way until today. This is honestly a great look at history for anyone who wants to better understand how our country is still plagued by racism–both blatant and systemic. This is a good one for when you have some time to process ideas. The way it is written makes it an easy read, but the content really slows you down. You want to have some time to grapple with the history it explores.

6) Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This one is for all my Gatsby fans out there. This is by no means a light read, so while you could definitely take it to the beach, just be prepared to be engrossed in a story. Amor Towles writes so beautifully and weaves these deep characters through such intricate plot lines, the story will just sweep you away. As I read it, I was reminded of books like East of Eden that I just didn’t want to end. This story starts with an older couple in an art gallery where the woman sees a photograph of a boy she had known when she was younger. It then flashes back to her life in New York in the thirties. It follows her as she attends parties, goes out with men, meets new friends, and attempts to figure out her life. Again, it’s beautifully and masterfully written. So dive into this one when you’ve got a few hours of alone time to devote to a beautiful story.

5) A Promised Land by Barack Obama. I realize that depending on politics, you might either really love or really hate this book. But I still wanted it on my recommendations list. Politically, I’m very moderate, so I like learning about Democrats and Republicans–as long as they are someone I like as a person. I honestly never voted for Obama, but I like and respect him so I loved this story. I listened to this as an audiobook which I liked so much better than having read it myself. Obama read it, so I loved hearing all of his stories with his voice. I think it is fascinating to learn about how he got into politics and ran for president. This book tells the story of him getting elected and goes up through when the Navy Seals took down Osama Bin Laden. I liked hearing about all of the events that took place during the beginning of his presidency, because I was super busy in college at the time, and I wasn’t paying super close attention to things happening in our government. Even though I know not everyone likes his politics, I still recommend it. It’s cool to hear the human side of the man who was president of our country for eight years.

4) The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs. This is a book that I’d heard of a little bit and then saw when we were at Costco right at the beginning of summer break. I grabbed it right away. I was pretty happy with this one–though it is kind of predictable. It starts with a woman who has a great job. A tragedy happens which sends her home to take over her mother’s bookshop as well as care for her ailing grandfather. She ends up running into two handsome, wonderful men who both want her. So while trying to save the bookshop and take care of her grandfather, she is also trying to figure out if she is ready for a relationship and with whom. Again, the plot was kind of predictable, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. This would definitely be a beach read, or one of those books that you just read a chapter or two each night before bed.

3) Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake. Here is another YA recommendation. My friend gave me this book for my birthday because she knew the author was great. I loved it. The premise of the story is that there is a teenage set of twins Mara and Owen and they go to a party at the beginning of the school year. Owen is dating one of Mara’s best friends. After the party though, Mara’s best friend accuses Owen of rape and suddenly Mara is caught between the two and not sure what actually happened or whose side she should take. When I started the book, I was worried that it would fall flat–like, it was trying to be too relevant or something. Mara is also bisexual and so I was worried that it would feel too token-y. But it actually ended up being written really well. The plot progresses in a semi-predictable way, but there are enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. This is a quicker read but about some bigger topics. This would be a great beach/pool/rainy day read. You’ll be able to get through it pretty quickly.

2) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. I just freaking love Kristin Hannah. She writes some great stories. Probably her most famous novel is The Nightingale, so if you haven’t read that yet, you should. But I loved Firefly Lane and if you read it this summer, you can then binge season one on Netflix (they changed some major things about the plot. You’ve been warned). This story follows two teenagers growing up in the 70s. One is totally gorgeous and the other is a bit of a nerd. But the unlikely two become the best of friends. This story follows them through high school, college, and into their careers. One becomes married to her career, while the other gets married and has children. I’m not sure that guys would like this book much, but for women, as you read it, there will be so many things that remind you of interactions between you and your best friends. I read this one cuddled up on the couch. It’s definitely one you’ll want to be settled in and comfy for. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll relate to the main characters. There is a sequel to this novel that I also love, but again, Kristin Hannah always hits the nail on the head.

1) What Happened to You: Conversations on Trauma Resilience and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry. This is a nonfiction book that absolutely blew my mind and opened my eyes to some of the intricacies of human behavior. I recently started a Master’s in Trauma and Resiliency (I’m taking it super slow. I’ve got one under my belt so far and I’m honestly not sure when I’ll take the next class) because I was interested in the way that trauma impacts the brains of students. That was the reason I thought I’d give this one a go, but I was so pleasantly surprised. I found I was applying what I was learning to my students, my husband, my friends, and myself. I listened to this one as an audiobook using my library’s Libby access (your library probably has access with this app too, look into it!) and I would really recommend listening to it. I missed out on a few charts that are in the book by listening to it, but the way it is read, it sounds just like a podcast/interview–I mean, it’s Oprah. This book did a great job of balancing anecdotal examples with scientific studies. Highly recommended listening for when you’re driving in the car, painting that bathroom, or cleaning your kitchen.

Hopefully a couple of those sound intriguing! They’re my current top ten recommendations. Have a wonderful summer, happy reading!