The best summer reads ever, according to Jennifer Weiner
The quintessential summer-book scribe, whose latest tome, Big Summer, is out now, tells EW about her all-time beachy faves.
Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs
Susan Isaacs’ books are perfect any time, but especially during the long, lazy days of summer, when you can lie on the sand or float in the water and lose yourself in a big, sprawling novel like this one, a three-generational story about a rich, WASP-y Robert Redford-esque actor named Nicholas Cobleigh and a smart, spirited girl from Cincinnati named Jane Heissenhuber. Isaacs is a sharp observer of the world, and Almost Paradise is perfectly constructed, with an ending that will break your heart.
Scruples by Judith Krantz
Judith Krantz was the master of the genre that critics dismissed as “sex and shopping” books. It’s true that her heroines were typically wealthy glamazons, but at least Billy Ikehorn, the star of Scruples, was an ugly duckling before she went to Paris and lost seventy pounds (thus becoming the only character in fiction or IRL to ever lose weight in that city). She captures first the heart, then the fortune, of her much-older employer, and moves to Beverly Hills to remake the way women shop. This book is dishy, sexy, and great fun.
Smart Women by Judy Blume
Judy Blume is the queen of young adult novels, but her adult fiction is every bit as smart and sharp — and sexy, too! In this novel, set in 1980s Denver, three divorced women navigate children, new men, and, in one case, a life-threatening eating disorder. It’s all rendered with Blume’s typical wit and warmth.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
If you prefer your summer reading with some meat on its bones, Joanne Ramos’s debut about high-end surrogates being coddled/surveilled at a Canyon Ranch-esque facility while they gestate babies for the rich and powerful has a lot to say about gender and money and the consequences of outsourcing the most intimate labor of all.
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
Few popular writers cover the subject of friendship as well as Terry McMillan, and Waiting to Exhale, with its portrait of four friends in Arizona looking for love and looking out for each other as they survive disappointment, heartache, difficult families and feckless men, has characters who sound and feel like your own BFFs. Yes, the movie gave us the gif of Angela Bassett throwing a match over her shoulder, but the book is even better.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Speaking of time travel, Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel is one of the all-time greatest swoony romances ever written. It’s the story of an artist whose husband Henry is unstuck in time, the difficulties his conditions create (you think your boyfriend is distant and secretive?) and how true love transcends anything — even time itself.
Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams
Hailed as a “black Bridget Jones,” Queenie shares Bridget’s wit as it details the woes of a singleton in London with a crap job, a family that just doesn’t get it, and an ex she can’t get over. It also takes a hard look at mental health issues, and what’s hiding behind a single gal’s funny ways and sunny smile.
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Summer is the perfect time to dip your toe in a new genre. If you haven’t glanced at a romance since paging through Mom’s Harlequins, this delightfully written love story of a spirited socialite and a grumpy physician is a perfect place to start.
The Temeraire novels by Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik’s series imagines the Napoleonic Wars unfolding with England and France fighting on land, by sea, and in the air, because both sides have dragons. A naval captain named Will Laurence bonds with the newly-hatched Temeraire, who pops out of an egg seized from a captured French ship, en route to Napoleon himself. Reluctantly, Will puts aside his hopes of marriage and his place in polite society and he and Temeraire join the Aerial Corps, making friends and enemies of both the human and dragon variety. Another world you could live in for hours.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Diana Gabaldon’s eight-books-so-far series tells the story of a nurse from the 1940s who time-travels back to Scotland in the era of the Jacobin uprising, and falls in love with a hot, kilt-wearing highlander. Come for the romance, stay for the historical detail, the gory medical procedures, the cliffhangers, and the musings on the morality of time-travel. These books are long and immersive, and they let you feel like you’re living in another world.