Working on your summer reading list? I’ve got you covered with good summer reads for 2020 that will thrill, excite, inspire and enlighten.
Every May, I sit down and write out my summer bucket list.
On my list, I include family activities like swim lessons and outdoor movies. I plan out summer vacations – both big road trips and short camping sprees.
This year with the pandemic, my list is looking a little empty. Luckily one aspect hasn’t changed – my summer reading list.
Of course, you only want good summer reads of 2020 to appear on your summer book list. No one has time to waste reading overrated bestsellers.
That’s where I step in. I’ve already read dozens of new and upcoming releases, and I’ve compiled suggestions for summer reading for adults.
I’ve got books becoming movies, the hottest new releases, 2019 bestsellers, and some older reads you might have missed.
Best Summer Reads 2020: Books Becoming Movies
Little Fires Everywhere
With a television adaptation on Hulu, Little Fires Everywhere is probably on your summer reading list for 2020. Ng’s 2017 bestseller combines the story of the Richardson family and their free-spirited renters while describing a custody battle for a Chinese-American baby. While I think Ng is a great writer, I didn’t feel like I got anything out of this story. You’ll have to decide for yourself if this one is overrated or exceptional.
The Woman in the Window
A. J. Finn
Imagine Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rear Window meets the novel The Girl on the Train. 2018’s hottest psychological thriller peeks into the life of Anna Fox, a New York City recluse who, spying on the family across the street, witnesses a shocking event. With its unreliable narrator and layers of secrets, The Woman in the Window will keep you guessing to the end. Hopefully, the movie can do the same, whenever it gets a new release date.
Death on the Nile
Following the success of the 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express, Hollywood has decided the time is ripe for another Agatha Christie adaptation. Retired expert detective Hercule Poirot embarks on a relaxing vacation to Egypt. Among his fellow passengers is Linnet Ridgeway, one of the wealthiest women in England, who is on her honeymoon with her husband Simon Doyle. Yet all is not bliss for the happy couple, as they have been followed by a vengeful Jacqueline de Belleforte, Linnet’s former best friend and Simon’s former fiance. Add in a cast of suspicious characters and a murder and you get the perfect recipe for an Agatha Christie mystery.
Meet Paul Atreides, the heir apparent to the House of Atreides. At the beginning of the novel, his family takes control of the desert planet Arrakis, the source of the most sought after commodity in the galaxy. But power like that breeds many enemies who will stop at nothing to take over Arrakis. Mixing politics, religion, and mysticism with a whole lot of adventure, Herbert sends you on an epic journey worthy of any science fiction reader. With a new film adaptation coming in December, Dune is a perfect choice if you are interested in science fiction books for summer 2020.
The Best Books Of 2020
The Sun Down Motel
Simone St. James
Does your summer reading challenge want you to read a ghost story? The Sun Down Motel is the perfect choice – gripping and spooky without being too scary. In 1982, Viv Delaney takes a job as a clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York, only to mysteriously disappear. Thirty-five years later, Viv’s niece Carly Kirk returns to the Sun Down Motel to investigate her aunt’s disappearance. You’ll love flipping between Carly and Viv as they try to figure out why the motel is haunted.
The Girl from Widow Hills
As a child, Olivia disappeared one night while sleepwalking, only to be found safe days later. After years of enduring fame, Olivia moved away and changed her name. With the 20th Anniversary of her miracle rescue coming up, she starts sleepwalking again, only to wake up to the dead body of someone she used to know. An edge-of-your-seat thriller, I couldn’t get enough of this mystery. With well-rounded characters and surprises that just keep coming, it’s on my shortlist for one of the best books of the summer.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon & Schuster through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Dear Emmie Blue
When she was sixteen, Emmie Blue released a balloon in England which Lucas discovers across the channel in France, leading to a life long friendship. When Lucas gets engaged to be married, Emmie begins to realize that you can’t leave your life up to fate. A heartwarming love story about friendship and loyalty, Dear Emmie Blue is one of my favorite summer releases. I loved the complicated relationship between Emmie and Lucas, and Emmie’s journey of self-discovery during the novel. (Trigger warning: Sexual Assault.)
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
After the death of her fiance, Lydia is struggling to cope. Thanks to an experimental sleeping pill, she gets a chance to live the life she would have had with her fiance in her dreams. However, living in her dream life is messing with her waking life. Which life should she choose? Silver does an excellent job showing how much grief has changed Lydia and how dangerous it is to interfere with the grief process.
Find Your Path
Believing that fitness is a lifelong pursuit, Underwood shares her tips to becoming the strongest version of yourself. With meal plans, recipes, and workout guides, Carrie Underwood gives you all the tips to get a body like hers. I love that she is talking about lifestyle changes and not crash diets, because becoming healthy is a journey – and a hard one at that. I’ve been trying her workouts, and thus far, I’m hooked. If you are looking to get in shape this summer, you need this on your summer book list for 2020.
Code Name Hélène
Nancy Wake, a New Zealander living in Paris, becomes a spy for the British and rises to one of the top leaders of the French Resistance and one of the most decorated women of the war. The story is split into two narratives – the first starting with Nancy parachuting into France in 1944 and the second telling of her courtship with her husband, Henri Fiocca, before the war. You’ll fall in love with Henri and cheer on Nancy as she transforms into a fierce fighter and respected commander. As the earlier timeline catches up with the later one, you’ll feel all the emotions of a woman caught up in a terrible war.
Don’t Forget the Best Books of 2019
The first time Lucy met Diana, she disappointedly finds her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. Much more of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship. If you’re looking for the best summer reads from 2019, you don’t want to miss this one.
The Giver of Stars
Set during the Great Depression, Englishwoman Alice Wright marries a handsome American and finds herself transplanted to rural Kentucky. To escape her unhappy home life with her withdrawn husband and overbearing father-in-law, Alice agrees to become a traveling librarian, riding around the countryside bringing books to local residents. In her new job, she meets other fierce women and gains lasting friendships. Add in plenty of drama, love stories, corrupt businessmen, and even murder, and you have the perfect light historical fiction read for anyone wanting charming summer reading recommendations.
The Grace Year
Already snagged by Universal to become a major motion picture, The Grace Year is 2019’s hottest new young adult novel and the best summer reading choice for dystopian fiction fans. This The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies story takes place in the male-dominated oppressive Garner county. Every year, all 16-year-old girls spend their “grace year” in seclusion so that their magic burns out of them. Before they go, eligible bachelors select brides from the grace year girls. Tierney James knows she will never be a chosen wife, nor does she want to be, and dreams of someday changing this dystopian society. Yet in her grace year, Tierney begins to wonder: Do women even have magic? With plenty of action that moves the plot along quickly, I devoured this novel in a night and can’t wait to see the movie.
America has fallen victim to False Memory Syndrome – where victims are driven mad by memories of a life they never lived … or did they? It’s up to NYPD cop Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith to figure out how to stop this epidemic, even as reality is shifting all around them. You’ll have a hard time putting this one down, so you’ll certainly want to pick up a copy before the film adaptation eventually hits Netflix.
The Family Upstairs
Shortly after her 25th birthday, Libby Jones learns that she has inherited an abandoned London mansion from her biological parents. Adopted as a baby, Libby is excited to learn about her birth family. But her family history is much more than she anticipates when she finds out her parents committed suicide as part of a cult and her siblings vanished. As scary as that is, the truth is even darker. A disturbing tale, you’ll find you can’t look away as the truth of what happened so long ago gets more and more twisted. Lisa Jewell keeps you guessing, and the surprises continue to the very last page.
The Night Tiger
Eleven-year-old Ren is given one final task by his dying master: to find a severed finger and return it, in the next 49 days, or his master’s soul will be doomed to wander the earth. From there, his story will mingle with that of dance hall girl Ji Lin who has found the finger, all while a tiger stalks the town. Mixing Chinese folklore and superstition with historical fiction, Choo brings the time period to life in this beautifully written and imaginative story. You’ll feel completely swept away into the slight mysticism of the story, and I guarantee this will make an excellent book club pick for summer.
Good Summer Reads 2020: Recent Reads
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
If you are wanting a light-hearted book for summer, you’ve found the perfect choice in socially awkward Eleanor Oliphant. She has the habit of saying exactly what she thinks and prefers to spend her weekends at home talking on the phone to her mother. When Eleanor and her slovenly coworker Raymond help an elderly gentleman after a fall, the three become friends, and Eleanor learns that opening up isn’t always a bad thing.
The Road Back to You
Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
Lately, everywhere I turn someone is talking about the Enneagram. It’s an ancient personality test that describes how you interact with the world. The Enneagram is split into nine personality types, each that can lean toward one of its neighbors and takes on different characteristics when it’s stressed or when it feels secure. Although this personality test has been around for ages, its resurgence in the last few years places this book firmly in the top books for any adult summer reading list.
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
On the 19th anniversary of their son’s murder, Lord and Lady Hardcastle throw a party with the same guests as that fateful day long ago. At 11 pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. In a Groundhog Day-esque fashion, Aidan Bishop must relive this day 8 times, but from the perspective of eight different witnesses. His task – identify Evelyn’s murderer, or do it all over again. Evelyn Hardcastle will throw you into a brilliant game of Clue as you see the same events from multiple layers. Just ignore the why this happening and jump right into the mystery come to life, and you’ll have one of the best books to read in summer 2020 with plenty of fun twists and turns along the way.
Imagine a Silicon Valley startup that raised insane amounts of money all based on a gigantic fraud. It sounds like a fictional thriller, but it is the actual true story of the company Theranos. Investigative journalist John Carreyrou’s expose of Elizabeth Holmes’s company is an eye-opening read. Even fiction lovers will enjoy this compelling nonfiction book.
Born a Crime
Normally I don’t recommend celebrity memoirs because they are so hit and miss, but I hear rave reviews for Trevor Noah’s life story everywhere I turn. Telling of his formative years in South Africa during the last days of apartheid, Noah shows you a fascinating slice of history. With his ability to change accents and mimic his mother, Trevor Noah’s audio narration of the book is fantastic.
Summer Reading Books In Case You Missed Them
The Orphans of Race Point
Set in a Portuguese community in Massachusetts, young Hallie Costa forms a lifelong bond with Gus Silva after the murder of his mother. The story follows them through the ups and downs of their lives – going in directions I certainly wasn’t expecting. I particularly liked how this book examined the balance between the good and evil that lives within each of us. Patry Francis showed that life is complicated and doesn’t always end how we expect. The ending will leave you feeling hope for the future and make you reconsider the true meaning of soul mates.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Not all summer reading for adults needs to be lighthearted. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini covers thirty years in Afghanistan, from the Soviet invasion to the post-Taliban years. Illegitimate child Mariam is forced to marry Rasheed, a man thirty years her elder. Stuck in a horrible marriage, Mariam’s life changes when they take in a teenage girl. Discussing family, friendship and the struggle to survive, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a thought-provoking choice for this summer.
Kristin Hannah’s novel is one that would make pretty much anyone fall in love with WWII historical fiction and easily qualifies as one of the best summer reads of all time. Set in a small village in occupied France, the story centers around two sisters. Forced to house a German officer in her home, the older sister Vianne Mauriac must decide, to protect her daughter, where exactly she should draw the line of being complicit with German demands. On the other hand, her younger sister Isabelle Rossignol feels committed to doing anything she can to resist the German occupation.
The Power of Habit
One of the hottest topics right now is habits – how they form and how we can use them to better ourselves. New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg takes an in-depth look at the power habits have in our lives. Explaining the science of habits with fascinating real-life stories, Duhigg’s style is much like Malcolm Gladwell’s. One of my favorite books I read last year, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add this on my summer reading list for adults.
What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
What do you think? What summer books did I forget to add to my list? Did I include any overhyped authors? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Summer Reading Lists:
I read Death on the Nile after one of my local librarians suggested I had to read it. It was an awesome pick! I’m so glad you included it here!
Are you going to go see the movie when it comes out?
Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins says
So many of these are on my list, too! (Though it’s winter here, so it’s more like a curl-up-under-the-doona bucket list, ha!) The Mother-In-Law, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Bad Blood, Evelyn Hardcastle… looking forward to hearing how you go ticking them off 😉 Enjoy!
Actually, I’ve already read all of these books! That’s why I recommended them! I did a second list of my reads – mostly fall releases that I’ve gotten early.
CJ | A Well-Read Tart says
Oh man, SO many good boks on here!!
1. I completely loved Eleanor Oliphant. I was so surprised by where the story went, and I loved Eleanor’s sense of honest, snarky humor. She’s fantastic. This book was a dark horse for me as a friend warned me against it…but I’m so glad I ignored her and decided for myself! LOL.
2. ugh, I CANNOT read The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. Anything where a fiance dies?? That’s a hard pass from me! And then she gets to see what the her life would be like if he had lived?? Double ugh. I would be a sobbing, bleary mess throughout the entire book, lol. I just cannot handle that weepy stuff. PASS.
3. Dear Emmie Blue sounds great! I hadn’t heard about that one, but I love the premise. I’ll be checking that one out, thanks!
4. I loved The Mother In Law. I know it’s supposed to be suspense-ish, but I also found it to be more about the dynamic between family members. It was so good.
5. I just finished reading The Family Upstairs, which was so good. Lisa Jewell never fails to disappoint.
Thanks for this awesome list!
Lisa Jewell is so amazing. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of her new book coming out this fall, so I’ll be reading that this summer!