If you haven’t had a chance yet to hit the beach or enjoy a lazy summer day, there’s still time to enjoy the summer heat before fall arrives. Whether you enjoy lying in the sun or a shady hammock, one of the most popular things to do during the warmer months is read. Not sure what to include on your summer reading list, though? No worries — we put together a list of some of the best books people are reading right now.
Follow our flowchart, made in Cacoo, to figure out which one is best for you. And below, you’ll find a breakdown of why these books are on the list!
Summer reading in popular fiction
If you liked the Hunger Games or Divergent series, then a dystopian novel might be the perfect indulgence. The Handmaid’s Tale was written in 1985 and received mixed reviews by critics back then. But now, the story of this dystopian society has become one of the most talked-about books since Hulu turned it into an award-winning TV drama. You’ll dig this book if you appreciate stories that explore feminism, politics, and religion.
Every summer, it seems like there’s a killer book that everyone can’t stop talking about. And by “killer,” we mean books in the mystery, suspense, and thriller category. The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Woman in the Window might have similar titles, but the storylines couldn’t be more different. Take it from us: both are hard to put down and stop thinking about well after you’re done.
How do you explain a book that has a female (of color) protagonist, civil war themes, AND zombies, all in one storyline? The story is young adult, with excellent character development, and one of those books that still isn’t overly hyped up yet (but totally deserves to be). Dread Nation is in a category of its own. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t wait any longer.
If you like a good series, you have to read Elena Ferrante. The Italian novelist’s Neopolitan series focuses on the lives of two young girls growing up in Italy during a war. Starting with My Brilliant Friend, you meet the main characters as children in school.
As the years go by, you’ll see their lives take several twists and turns throughout the series as they experience marriage, divorce, motherhood, and the ups and downs of their bittersweet friendship. Check out this review if you’re still unsure whether it’s worth the investment.
Comics and graphic novels
This year, comic and graphic novels should top your summer reading list if striking illustrations feed your imagination. Start with Lore Olympus: Volume 1 — an online comic turned bestseller about the gossip-worthy lives of Greek Gods.
Follow up with The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a graphic memoir that chronicles one woman’s quest to understand life, one fitness craze at a time. A lifetime of obsession with exercise leads legendary writer Alison Bechdel to one cooky (and profound) realization after the next. Round out your comic journey with the sci-fi gem Far Sector. A talented writer and illustrator team up to tell the story of an emotion-free society that unravels when a murder occurs after 500 years of peace.
Perfect summer reading picks to finish in a day (or two):
When it comes to popular fiction, there’s something out there for everyone. And these books tend to be a hit if you crave summer reading that keeps you so hooked you can’t unglue your eyes from the pages. We think these are some of the best books to grab if you want to fall deep into the lives of characters you’ll be happy to cry with or cheer for.
He’s loved for his comedy and hot takes on current events on his show, but who is Trevor Noah? How did we get this amazing individual to bless us with his presence on the Daily Show? Learn about Trevor Noah’s life and upbringing in South Africa in his book, Trevor Noah: Born a Crime.
Interested in a buzz-worthy book about the life of a woman who was hugely influential but never famous? The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks takes a look at how race, ethics, and science collide when scientists steal the stem cells of a poor, black woman without her ever knowing. Her cells have helped scientists make advancements in cloning, genetic mapping, and vaccines. Yet, she and her family were never given a choice or fairly compensated. Read more about it here.
Touching, awe-inspiring memoirs are in abundance right now. Memoirs give snippets into a person’s life based on the stories they’re willing to share. Kitchen Confidential is great to dig into, in memory of Anthony Bourdain’s love for food, life, and raw honesty. Educated is the heart-wrenching life story of a girl who leaves her religious upbringing after being denied schooling. Through her talent and determination, she goes on to pursue a Ph.D.
Beautiful Country captures the grueling story of an immigrant family forced to leave their well-to-do life in China and survive as “illegals” in America. The story follows 7-year-old Qian as she comes of age amidst a backdrop of poverty, racism, and family struggles. And lastly, Shoe Dog peers into the success of the creator of Nike and is an inspiring memoir that shows how hard it is to make a lasting brand in this world.
An American classic
If all else fails in our summer reading flowchart, you can always stick with a classic. And if you’re trading the hustle and heat in New York City for the beach and sun somewhere like the Hamptons, we can’t think of anything better to bring with you than The Great Gatsby. Enjoy this American classic in the exact setting it was written about.
Whether it’s learning how the Brooklyn Bridge was made (aka The Great Bridge ) or what it was like for immigrants coming to America in the last century, a good history book will help you see how far we’ve come and how much we can learn from the past.
Take Elie Wiesel’s classic, Night, if you want to learn about the holocaust’s grave results on humanity. Opt for Killers of the Flower Moon if you’re interested in knowing more about people’s immigration stories. Or if you’re fascinated by how far we’ve come as a species, then check out Sapiens.
Several great career-related books are out there for people who want to better themselves and use their free time to learn something new. Are you into design? Technology? Startup culture? Living in Information and Meeting Design are two excellent books for graphic designers, product managers, or anyone involved in creative processes.
Are you curious about how some of the more prominent startups like Uber and Airbnb made their success? Pick up The Upstarts for an introduction to the startup world. Lastly, investor and business expert Ray Dalio shares his experience and insights in the book Principles. Sharpen up your business skills to drive your career forward this year.
Two books to check out in the personal improvement genre are The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Girl, Wash Your Face. Their funny banter, motivational quotes, and downright practical advice will keep you chuckling while teaching you how to level up in life.
But if you want to dive into something deeper or appreciate learning the science behind certain decisions we make, we recommend these two titles. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us are sure to stir up your brain cells and get you thinking.
Recent movie adaptations
If you’re one of those people who can’t watch a movie until you read the book, our last two recommendations are for you. In the midst of a troubling political climate in the United States, Hillbilly Elegy brings a perspective into light that many have not seen or heard. Showcasing life in Appalachia, Hillbilly Elegy tells a story that’s humbling and eye-opening for many who don’t understand the problems happening in rural America.
On a lighter note, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was a major hit when it debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. After catching everyone’s attention on paper, it’s now a big-screen adaptation as well.
Ready to visualize your ideas?
The next time you can’t decide what book to choose next, whip up your own summer reading diagram. Flowcharts are an easy and fun way to take any idea you dreamed up and transform it into a visual.
With Cacoo, you can take any project or thought process and lay them out for your whole team to see. Whether it’s mind-mapping an idea, designing wireframes for a landing page, tracking project tasks with a flowchart, Cacoo is the perfect tool to use for every team.
Or you can just create more fun flowcharts like this one!
This post was originally published on July 27, 2018, and updated most recently on December 27, 2021.