The days are getting longer and, for many, summer vacations are on the horizon. That means more time to settle in with a good book. What book would you recommend most for a long summer afternoon?

KQED Arts' Hot Summer Days and Nights Guide

Book Recommendations Heard During the Show


Luisa Smith of Book Passage suggests:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Euphoria by Lily King

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett

Under the Egg by Laura Fitzgerald

The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg


Listeners Recommend:

Sugaree Rising by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Ultimate Sacrifice by Lamar Waldron & Thom Hartmann

Legacy of Secrecy by Lamar Waldron & Thom Hartmann

Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkersman

Longbourn by Jo Baker

My Struggle Book One by Karl Ove Knausgaard

The Twin by Gerband Bakker & David Colmer

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Some Hope by Edward St Aubyn

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

King of Cuba by Cristina Garcia

Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Garden in the Dunes by Leslie Marmon Silko

The Wizard of Us by Jean Houston

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque

The Bees by Laline Paull

How Jesus Became God by Bart D Ehrman

The Trouble With Gumballs by James Nelson

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Cleft Heart by Karl Schonborn

Chance by Kem Nunn

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Berrybender Series by Larry McMurtry

Mystic Street by S.T. Georgiou

U.S.A. by John Dos Passos

Rabbit Angstrom by John Updike

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor

The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor

The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin

Swamplandia by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

King Warrior Magician Lover by Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

Jacob's New Dress by Sarah & Ian Hoffman

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The Geneva Trap: A Liz Carlyle Novel by Stella Remington

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

A Change in the Weather by Raymond Welch

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

The Fall of the House of Dixie by Bruce Levine

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Season of the Witch by David Talbot

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Over Easy by Mimi Pond

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya

God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet

Capital by Thomas Piketty

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie

The Stormlight Archive Series by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Space Chronicles by Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

Luisa Smith, head buyer for Book Passage, which has stores in San Francisco and Corte Madera

  • Aisha


  • Chemist150

    On my list this year & not necessarily recommended:
    C++ object… (for a class)
    Designing Great Beers by Ran Daniels.
    <—- Started. Great technical view of brewing. Very excited

    Star Wars by Michael P. Kube-McDowell :
    The Black Fleet Crisis: Before the Storm
    <–complete. Better written than non-canon star wars books.
    The Black Fleet Crisis: Shield of Lies half way through
    The Black Fleet Crisis: Tyrant’s Test

    (Before the Star War movies are made by Disney)
    by Troy Denning :
    Dark Nest I: The Joiner King
    Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen
    Dark Nest III: The Swarm War

  • Bob Fry

    No particular book, but you can get loads of good quality FREE recent books through Amazon. Go to their website, and search for “top 100 free kindle ebooks”. These change all the time, and there is even an IFTTT “recipe” to send you an email when the list changes…you’ll get ideas for many books each day.

  • Mr. Clark

    Winter reading. The only folks with time on their hands in summer are
    academics and students. Summer is for growing food, being outside,
    working on your home, and going on vacation. The time to read is in the
    winter where you want to be inside beside a light with a book.


      Bah, curses, I will read year round! I will read two books at once! AND YOU WILL NOT STOP ME, MR. CLARK, WINTER READER.

  • Jan H

    My favorite book so far this year and one of the best books I’ve ever read is “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel Brown. The more I read, the harder it was to put down. A compelling story not just about that quest for gold, but about the the lives of the boys on that crew team, and also the rise of Nazi Germany and how Hitler used the Olympics to advertise the Nazism as modern, sophisticated, and reasonable.

    I also highly recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” and Jo Baker’s novel “Longbourn,” a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” from the point of view of a servant in the household. Great summer reading!

  • abq2014

    The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante. Amazing story about a woman’s struggle when her husband leaves her. I could not stop reading it

  • William – SF

    My Struggle: Book 1, Karl Ove Knausgaard (see NYT review)
    – a beautifully written memoir

    The Twin, Gerbrand Bakker – fiction

  • Sarah

    Anything by David Mitchell, especially Cloud Atlas or the Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet–entering the worlds he constructs is absolutely delightful.

  • Jon Gold

    …having just started with Some Hope, one of The Patrick Melrose Series Novels by Edward St Aubyn, based on St Aubyn’s life, I am enthralled! With British edge and humor, St Aubyn presents life in it’s complexity, adversity and triumps.

  • SachaQ

    A great summer read is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. It is very humorous and beautifully written.

  • Two Bay Area authors:

    The Trouble With Gumballs: humorist Jim Nelson’s memoir of his “start up” running iconic the gumballs machines, circa 1957. It’s a funny portrait of life in Northern California in the 1950s.

    Another Bay Area read: Cleft Heart. Technically a book about growing up with a cleft palate, but the memoirist grew up with Joan Baez and his constant bullying led him to the non-violence movement, and to travel around the world.

  • dorothy

    Our book club is reading The Round House by Louise Erdrich. This novel takes readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the brink of manhood, seeking justice and understanding in the aftermath of a terrible attack on his mother that forever changes the family dynamics. It’s fascinating and I’m very glad we chose this book to read.

  • Anne Abrams

    Anne: What is Visible by Kimberly Elkins is at the top of my list. Heard interview with Kimberly and her novel based on life of woman who at age two loses her sight, hearing, and sense of smell and taste. Sounds so interesting! What a challenge to attempt writing this story.

  • dfordscriba

    Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, “The Invention of Wings,” a fictionalized history of early abolitionist and suffragette Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina from South Carolina. Important subject.
    P.S. Let’s emphasize that reading is a year-round activity. Thank you!

  • Claudia in San Jose

    Scorpions, by Noah Feldman The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court
    I was not a reader of “history” before hitting on this book….now I am an addict…a fascinating look behind the scenes

  • Ben Rawner

    The Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins is my favorite book. The author has such amazing skill at explaining smells. Any book by Tom Robbins is a good fun read.

  • Hally

    I love a good summer reading list.
    A great adult read for me was ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’ by Jenny Lawson, famously known as The Bloggess. It’s a mostly true memoir filled with hilarious moments.
    A great YA read ‘Ungifted’. The story of student who gets mistakenly placed in a class for gifted students and the benefits/responsibilities that come with it.
    A great read aloud for younger ones – anything in the Mo Willems ‘Don’t Let Pigeon…’ series. And his ‘Knuffle Bunny’ books are some of our family favorites.

    The catch for us to remember that our kids see us reading books with paper pages, not just eReaders.

  • David Piff

    Perhaps too grim for summer but excellent – Redeployment by Phil Klay – short stories about Iraq Marine veterans.
    Also an engrossing non-fiction read about modern China -Evan Osnos – The Age of Ambition.

  • Carlos

    Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo and David Malki

    It’s a collection of short stories by various authors in which the premise is the there is a machine that can tell you how you are going to die with a sample of your blood. You are given a slip of paper with a few words revealing your end. No dates, no details. All too specific and at the same time vague. The stories range from lighthearted to heart breaking to outright ridiculous. A wonderful existential read!

  • Tamara

    My book club just read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, about a young woman who becomes a companion for a quadriplegic man and how their relationship changes her life. It’s entertaining and bittersweet, and raises a lot of important issues about life and love, and is a quick engaging read.

  • Elizabeth

    To fill in a bit about Americanah, it’s about a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the US and discovers what it means to be Black in the US. A very good read. Also, the Goldfinch was a wonderful book about a 13-yr-old boy whose life is upended by circumstances beyond his control. It’s almost 800 pages so a good book to bring on vacation when you have some time for languishing.

  • Kathie

    “A Change in the Weather” by local author Ray Welch. It’s a thriller about what happens to one family in the Bay Area in the near future when the ice cap suddenly melts. Great read, and thought provoking for those concerned with possible consequences of climate change.

  • Ellen Hauptli

    I loved, loved the series of mysteries set in Laos in the mid ’70s starting with The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill. Informative, laugh out loud funny but not skirting the horrors of the time, and every situtuation/idea is fresh.

  • Ben Walker

    or Wazdot? by Michael Slack. Sci-fi for small fries.

  • Amy Margolis

    Disturbances in the Field by Lynne Schwartz is out of print but absolutely worth the search. It was given to me by Jane Light, San Jose City Librarian, who has said she has reread it more times than any other book. Same here. I’ve recommended it to many, all of whom were taken by it.

  • Claudia in San Jose

    I love Michael Chabon’s novels and just finished his 2009 memoir: Manhood for Amateurs, The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father & Son……utterly charming

  • Piper

    Great read for 4th of July about a little known founding father: Timothy Matlack, Scribe of the Declaration of Independence. Author is Chris Coelho.

  • Jackie

    My husband and I got into a habit of reading about the places that we plan to visit. Be it a foreign country or a local day trip, reading about a place gave us an added perspective and really enriched our visits. This doesn’t need to be limited to a travel guide or history book. We’ve read novels set in our destination, cook books of the local cuisines, and books about notable individuals from the place. Whatever you normally like to read, pick something that has to do with your summer vacation destination.

  • Carrie Swing

    “Over Easy” by Mimi Pond is a new graphic memoir on life as a waitress in Oakland in the 70s – feels like watching a film with highly expressive drawings and pithy words. Can’t get enough of it!

  • Sarah Ellison

    Magic Marks the Spot, by Caroline Carlson. It’s a rollicking good fantasy book for middle grade readers and adults alike. It’s about a girl who’s been packed off to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies, but who plans to run away to be a pirate.

  • William Bishop

    Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien-the book about a Vietnam deserter who decides to walk to Paris. Told from the POV of the man who hunts him down. A good book.

  • Ggisela Nass

    The most beautiful novel I have ever read and would
    recommend to anyone with a great interest in the mid-20th century history of
    China is “Till Morning Comes” by Han Suyin, It was published in 1982 and
    is still available. It is the story of a young, bright, but naive and
    unsuspecting American Journalist who comes to China in the early 1940s and
    opens her mind and her heart to a people and a culture so different from her
    own. It is a great love story, both for a man and his family and an ancient
    country that is undergoing heart-wrenching changes. The author weaves history
    as it happens and the personal stories of several interesting characters
    together into a beautiful moving picture. Although 500 pages long, it is
    difficult to put the book down. I highly recommend it! …. Sincerely, Ggisela

  • Claudia in San Jose

    “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, terrifying memoir about the author’s harrowing escape from Islamic oppression

  • Stan Hartzell

    In honoring WWI’s 100 anniversary this summer I’m reading “The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman.

  • Annette

    This is how you lose her- great hip funny!Anything by Mohsin Hamid a literate Pakastani melding US and Pakastan

  • deborah wade

    Have to recommend a local author Michelle Richmond, THE YEAR OF FOG. Fantastic page turner, from the very first sentence. “This is the truth, this is what I know… ” It starts at Ocean Beach in San Francisco where she is walking with her fiancee’s 8 year old who disappears from the beach. It’s a fantastic story with a poignant and exciting narrative.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Three excellent books:

    1) Forty Chances — Finding Hope in a Hungry World, by Howard G. Buffett and Howard W.Buffett (with, I must say, a delightful and meaningful introduction by grandfather Warren E. Buffett.)

    How great is it when the son and grandson of one of the world’s richest men make it a point to travel (and photograph) the world and its poor, picking up the cause of the subsistence farmer and the “food insecure” (the latter including almost 50 million Americans.) Extremely informative and well-written, with style and reasoned passion. Really a “must” for those interested in enlightened public and business policy.

    2) Hiroshima — Bridge to Forgiveness, by Takashi Tanemori with John Crump. The authoritative detail provided by this living survivor about post-war Japan and America is stunning. The conclusion about forgiveness is deeply practical as well as a spiritual key to a better world. A towering historical and human achievement. An extremely rewarding book that reads like a fascinating novel. Readers should forgive, apropos, a few social “faut-pas” in pc languaging and take them in proper context!

    3) Real Love — What it Is and How to Find It, by Theodore Isaac Rubin, MD. No nonfiction book about love is going to be perfect, and this one isn’t either, but it is wonderfully practical and digestible in its “bite size,” mostly one-page sections. Contains many important insights into the work and joys of the world’s arguably most important subject.

  • Linda Raffel

    I recently attended a reading given by John W. Evans, poet, who wrote a memoir,
    “Young Widower” about a bear killing his young wife while they were in Romania.
    His terrifying experience is so well expressed , as is his bravery to go on to lead a good life. A very up-lifting read.

  • Steve Douty

    Here are a few by topic:

    > Any book by Nick Hornby
    > “This is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel Levitin

    Civil War
    > “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara
    > “Gods and Generals” by Jeff Shaara (his son)
    > “The Last Full Measure” by same
    Great trilogy on the Civil War written in a changing first-person fashion.

    > “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz, a look deep inside startups and the Valley
    > “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell – my favorite by him, goes beyond business

    > “Blockbusters” by Anita Elberse, about how blockbuster movies, etc. are made (or not)

    > “Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History” by William Safire

  • Lindsay Stallones

    The Auralia Thread by Jeffrey Overstreet is fantastic – tells the story of a young artist born into a kingdom that has banished color. It’s also the rare fantasy series that doesn’t feel like a rehash of Tolkein.

  • tripada17j

    Any suggestion on a feel good book . some thing which can evoke nostalgia, nature, travel etc. Some thing which can take us to the child level of perception where we feel world is beautiful even in a simple setting like a summer day under a shady tree with a pond in front of you.

  • Judith O’Rourke

    Short stories are receiving more attention these days. I recommend The Pulaski Chronicles, short story gems set in the Kentucky of the mid 1950s. Universal themes told through the lives of the complex people of that era and place. The author is Norman Gover, a local Bay Area author who worked in the book business for many years. He writes with a spare, clean style that packs a punch.

  • Paul Steinberg

    “Neither wolf nor dog” by Kent Nerburn. Beautifully written, evokative and thought provoking story following a man’s search for an interview with a Lakota native elder. (with credit to (and apologies to Michael Krasny for my lazness in writing my own) : “In this 1996 Minnesota Book Award winner, Kent Nerburn draws the reader deep into the world of an Indian elder known only as Dan. It’s a world of Indian towns, white
    roadside cafes, and abandoned roads that swirl with the memories of the Ghost Dance and Sitting Bull. Readers meet vivid characters like Jumbo, a 400-pound mechanic, and Annie, an 80-year-old Lakota woman living in a log cabin. Threading through the book is the story of two men struggling to find a common voice. Neither Wolf nor Dog takes readers to the heart of the Native American experience. As the story unfolds, Dan speaks eloquently on the difference between land and property, the power of
    silence, and the selling of sacred ceremonies.”

  • MM DB

    I’d like to recommend some manga. Step outside of the usual and get into what can be light reading with great graphics but also some deep thought about right, wrong, motivations, relationships.
    One to start with is DEATH NOTE by Tsugumi Ohba. It is also an anime. There are many genres within Japanese manga but some are very thought provoking about our role in the world and the yin yang of all aspects of life. You can read it as lightly or deeply as you like.
    I got turned on to manga by my teenage son that did things like read DIVINE COMEDY then segued to THE MASTER AND MARGARITA for his own summer reading when in high school. Last summer’s read for him before he started his college career as a physics major was THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. Why? Because he segued to it from a manga. The kid has good taste so I took him up on trying manga and anime. It takes a bit to switch expectations and get into the style, sort of like the first 5 minutes of a Shakespeare play, but once you do a whole world opens up as does another culture and way of thinking.
    So why is such a well read young man that has devoured more books and classics than can be imagined and that analyzes them by structure and plot lines and character decide to go into physics? That is what I asked him. He said that physics is very similar to being inside a well written book because of all the connections. He asked me to imagine standing at the center (?) of the universe and imagining all the connections and interactions from atom to universe. He said reading is the same way for him and described it very 3 dimensionally. He likes good books and physics for the same reason: the wonder or their worlds and the discoveries to be made, be it the connections of character and place or the connections of atoms and forces. Okaaay, I said, I will pay for physics. He scored perfect on PSAT for reading and missed only 1 on math SAT so it is a good risk. Ironically, he scored only average on the writing portion that they added despite all his reading.
    Next up for me though is not manga but LES MISERABLES. I saw the movie and was struck by the yin yang brought into play throughout the movie. I can’t wait, because as well know, the book is always better than the movie. (aside, I thought the movie REMAINS OF THE DAY was just as good as the book) Guess I could go on and on.

  • Kate

    I’m disappointed that Michael Krasny acted so ignorant about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, Americanah. It was an NPR “Great Reads” book. Terri Gross
    interviewed her on Fresh Air. The book was a National Bestseller. I
    expect more from NPR than to butcher her name and act like he’s never heard of her. Expand your horizons. White men aren’t the only people who write books.

    • clare

      I’m disappointed that an interesting point was negated by the poster’s last sentence. I would like to count on public radio listeners to maintain civil discourse.

  • Henry W.

    One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul is the one book I’ve read this year that I could not put down. That would be my top recommendation followed closely by We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

  • Here are two recommendations:

    “Road Fever” by legendary American travel writer, Tim Cahill, chronicles a road trip you’ll never do: Driving from the tip of South America to Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and trying to break the speed record for the trip while dodging bad roads and bad guys.

    “Shadow on the Crown,” the debut historical novel by Bay Area writer, Patricia Bracewell, and first in a trilogy about Emma of Normandy, an English Queen that you’ve never heard of, during a period when Viking raiders wreaked havoc on England.

  • Alex Sack

    Well, don’t YOU wanna know what your cab driver’s thinking?
    San Francisco TAXI: A 1st Week In The ZEN Life… by Alex SacK

  • Kate Farrell

    For those of us who were there and remember, I like “Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & ’70s,” a stimulating and entertaining collection of 48 personal narratives and poems. Women who were coming of age then tell it like it was!

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