Why is it that spending an afternoon reading is seen as a guilty pleasure during most of the year, but when summertime arrives it becomes our due? Somewhere between the deadlines, conference commitments, and family obligations that continue during the vacation season, the authors and illustrators who have responded to our annual summer reading query are all planning to squeeze in time to tackle those teetering towers of tomes and sagging bookshelves. Join Erin E.Stead on her porch, Nova Ren Suma at her local bookshop, Uma Krishnaswami in Paris, Matt de la Peña in his new apartment, and Katherine Applegate by her hammock to see what they plan to dig into this season.
From Michael Buckley, the author of the “Sisters Grimm” titles (Abrams) and Undertow (HMH, 2015):
The stack next to my bed grows taller and more frightening by the day. I’m a notoriously slow reader but that doesn’t stop me from insane impulse buying trips at the local bookstore. This summer I plan to read Sonic Youth bass player Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, and Hold Me Closer by David Levithan. I’ve been eager to get into Kirsten Hubbard’s Watch the Sky, and, because I’m late to the Patrick Ness party, the finale to the “Chaos Walking” series. I also want to catch up with a few classics that I’ve missed, like The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This is, of course, if I can put down the “Hawkeye” titles by Matt Fraction and David Aja. Their take on the Avenger turns him into a part-time superhero and full-time landlord struggling with bad relationships and his own self-destructive nature—a superhero who can’t save himself. It’s maybe the most inspired comic I’ve ever read.
From Nova Ren Suma, author of Imaginary Girls (Dutton, 2011) and The Walls Around Us (Algonguin, 2015):
This summer, I’ve got big plans involving a big pile of books. On the top of my teetering pile of YA and adult novels is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. I’ll also be catching up on some spring releases: Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, and None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio. Upcoming titles I’m really looking forward to include: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson, Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, and The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch.
And the next time I find myself passing my favorite local bookstore (which happens to be McNally Jackson in downtown Manhattan), I’ll be picking up Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll and Kissing in America by Margo Rabb.
From Erin E. Stead, illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011) and the forthcoming Lenny & Lucy (Roaring Brook, 2015):
This summer, I have a bit too much work to do. It’s all self-inflicted, and truthfully, fortunate, but it is still intimidating. During times like these, for whatever reason, I have trouble reading fiction. I think this is a flaw in my personality that should be improved upon, but this is probably not going to be The Summer of Personal Development. And so, with fiction out of contention, I will happily stick to nonfiction.
Phil and I both enjoy reading science books, though lately he leans toward outer space (has anyone out there read about the New Horizons mission to Pluto?! ) and I’ve taken a turn toward biology. I’ll be reading Jane Goodall’s Hope for Animals and Their World and may follow it up with her Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. Next up is the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1. I know, this isn’t a science book, and anyone who has seen its length and notations will agree this should easily take me through the summer. Regardless, the plan is to sit quietly in a rocking chair on a front porch of a very old house and let Mr. Twain tell me about his life, while likely worrying about mine (all that work).
From Phil C. Stead, author of the A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011) and the forthcoming Lenny & Lucy (Roaring Book, 2015):
After meeting and getting to know author Jonathan Auxier, at the Knoxville Children’s Book Festival this spring, I decided it was time to read The Night Gardener. I’ve always been a slow reader. Typically one book will last me at least a month, often longer. I tore through The Night Gardener in about a day and a half. I don’t normally say this, but, man, someone should make that book into a movie! Two thumbs up! Anyhow, I saw the whole summer spreading out in front of me with nary a book to read until a quick scan of my bookshelf revealed a trove of books that I’ve been neglecting for far too long. Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue will be a good start. Maybe Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell? Two Christmases ago I went to five different stores to find a copy of Chris Ware’s Building Stories for Erin. She still hasn’t opened it. Would it be in poor taste to read it first? I guess I’ll find out.
From Matt de La Peña, author of The Living (Delacorte, 2015) and Last Stop on Market Street (Putnam, 2015):
I’m especially excited for summer 2015 because my wife and I are moving out of our tiny one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment and into a slightly less tiny two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. This is a significant, reading-related upgrade because we have a baby. We’re a bit tired of sneaking into our own room at night and reading by way of an awkward book light that only illuminates about 30 percent of the page. Starting this June, I will be reading in bed with about 20 lamps lighting up everything in sight. So, yeah. Really excited about summer 2015. Here’s what’s on my TBR pile:
—Jackie Woodson’s From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun. I’ve read most of Woodson’s excellent work, but a librarian just gave me the hard sell on this one. And when a smart librarian tells me what to read, I usually read it.
—Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock. This is the only Roth novel I haven’t read. Kind of sad this will be it. He recently retired from writing. I’ll have to read it slowly.
—Jason Reynolds’s The Boy in the Black Suit. Jason is one of my favorite emerging writers; I plan to keep up with everything he does.
—A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. King delivers for me every time. Can’t wait to check this one out.
—Thanhha Lai’s Listen, Slowly. Excited to see what she’s done following the excellent Inside Out & Back Again.
—Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree. My favorite novel of all time. I read this book every year. This time I’m going to listen to it so I can close my eyes and hear McCarthy’s stunning language.
From Nikki Grimes, author of Words With Wings (Wordsong, 2013) and Poems in the Attic (Lee & Low, 2015):
Fear not, editors! I vow to spend the summer endlessly revising my current works-in-progress, but I’ll still sneak in a bit of reading. I’m definitely in a memoir state of mind, so Katherine Paterson’s Stories of My Life, is first up. Then, since I can never resist a novel-in-verse (surprise!), I’ll slip into Karma by Cathy Ostlere. I love a book that transports me to a place I’ve never been, and this one ferries me to India, and the world of the Sikh. The next title features a clime slightly more familiar, but is written in a genre that, for me, is less so: the breakout graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese. I shared a panel with Mr. Yang earlier this year, and I’m betting this novel is every whit as engaging as its author. Finally, no summer reading list would be complete without at least one page-turner and one teen romance. Romiette and Julio, an interracial love story by Sharon Draper, should fulfill the latter, while Don’t Try to Find Me, by Holly Brown, should cinch the former. Can’t wait to peel back the pages of all of the above.
From Katherine Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012) and the forthcoming Crenshaw (Feiwel & Friends, Sept., 2015):
For me, summer reading falls into three categories: Auto Audiobooks (hefty volumes to cover many miles, because even in the summer, parental chauffeuring must go on); Bedtime Books (usually novels for adults); and Fun Books (usually books for children.)
For the car, I’ve already lined up Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. I gobbled up Seraphina—such a complex and lyrical work of fantasy—and can’t wait to fall under Hartman’s spell again.
For late night reading, I’m on a short-story kick, rereading some favorites. First up is Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector: Stories. I loved All the Light We Cannot See, and his fascination with the natural world is on full display in these stories, along with his clean and lovely writing. After that comes Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America: Stories. Moore can say more with fewer words than just about anyone, and leave you awestruck while she’s at it.
Finally, just for fun, I never tire of reading I, Jack, by Jack the Dog, as told to Patricia Finney. Best dog book ever written. Funniest dog book ever written. It’s out of print, but you might track one down at your local library. A hammock; a lemonade; and Jack, the big yellow dog: now that’s a perfect summer afternoon.
From Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life (2013) and the forthcoming Tonight the Streets Are Ours (Farrar, Sept., 2015):
First, I want to finish reading Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan’s The Royal We, because I’ve loved every scene in it so far. England, twins, princesses, humor—what could be better? And Bex is one of the best narrators I’ve met in years.
Next, I’ll looking forward to Lexa Hillyer’s debut YA, Proof of Forever, because the author is so smart and talented and I have no doubt her fiction writing will shine. The story is set at summer camp, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to read it while I’m doing a weeklong artist residency at my old overnight camp, in between lip syncs and friendship bracelets.
Ernest Cline’s Armada is coming out this summer, too, and if it’s even half as engaging as the author’s debut, Ready Player One, then it’s for me.
There’s so much more I want to read. But I guess summer is only so long?
From A.S. King, author of Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (2014) and the forthcoming I Crawl Through It (Little, Brown, Sept. 2015):
My to-be-read pile was going to topple over and bury me, so my family and I agreed to tidy up and pick 10 books each to read over the summer.
Mine are, in no particular order: The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov, The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg, Hold Me Closer by David Levithan, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill, Black Shack Alley by Joseph Zobel, The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.
My kid chose all Agatha Christie books, so I may sneak into that group from time to time. Also, as tradition rules my life, I will do my annual brain-sorbet reread of Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Our family read will be This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki.
From Valynne E. Maetani, author of Ink and Ashes (Lee & Low, June, 2015):
I am looking forward to summer more than ever this year. With the debut of Ink and Ashes, I’ve had so little time to read, but I plan to use the next few months to catch up.
At the top of my list are two books written by authors I like to call my “ashes sisters.” The first is Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch. Her story about the journey to publication makes me tear up a little whenever I hear it. The other is Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes.
Because I love a lot of action in books, Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee is on the list. I thought I would be able to squeeze this one in after its release, but there just wasn’t enough time; I am determined to get to it soon. My other must-reads include: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, and every single book in the Class of 2K15 debut list.
Uma Krishnaswami, author of Out of the Way! Out of the Way! (2012) and Bright Sky, Starry City (Groundwood, 2015):
I’ll be in Paris for a week this summer, so I’d love to use Hemingway as a sort of guide, as I’m sure other writers have done before me. (High on my list of places to visit is the current version of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore.) I’m a fan of Lynne Truss’s wordsmithing, so I look forward to her take on fiction and cats—and I can’t possibly spend part of a summer in Canada and not read something by Alice Munro. The others are books I’ve wanted to read for some time. Summer’s always a good time to chase my reading list. I’ll never catch up, but that’s part of the fun. So, in no particular order, in some combination of paper and electronic editions:
Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss
Dear Life by Alice Munro
The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
The Reconstructionist by Josephine Hart
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
From Tamara Ireland Stone, author Time Between Us (2012), Time After Time (2013), and Every Last Word (Disney-Hyperion, June, 2015):
This is the first summer in three years I won’t be on a tight writing deadline, and I plan to spend every spare moment of it with my nose in a book!
My most recent book, Every Last Word celebrates teen writers, so I’ve been eager to read Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness. Keegan was a promising young writer, heading for a job at the New Yorker, when she was killed in a car crash five days after graduating magna cum laude from Yale. She was 22. I’m just starting to listen to this one on audio, and I’m enjoying every minute. Keegan’s stories and essays are funny, insightful, and heartbreaking. She wanted so badly to have an impact on the world, and she did, but not nearly as much as she should have.
A great, take-me-away read I’m excited about is Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash. Set at Woodstock, this one will transport you back in time to the 1960s and that legendary music festival, drown you in incredible music, and introduce you to a couple you’ll never forget. It’s the perfect summer getaway. I’ve read it once, but I plan to read it again!
There are so many new YA books I’m eager to dive into, including We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg (I love Eulberg’s writing style); Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert (I’m intrigued by the way this novel explores faith and family); More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (everyone’s talking about this one and I need to know why); and Lexa Hillyer’s Proof of Forever (a time travel tale will get my attention every time).
I have two young kids, so summer always means extra reading time together. They’re both obsessed with El Deafo by Cece Bell, but I haven’t read it yet, so I’m hoping one of them will read it aloud to me. My daughter is so excited about The Forget-Me-Not Summer by Leila Howland and my son just started reading the “Mistborn Trilogy” by Brandon Sanderson.
Ahh… I see lots of lounge chair reading in my future. Hello, summer!
From Mike Curato, author of Little Elliot, Big City (2014) and the forthcoming Little Elliot, Big Family (Holt, Oct., 2015):
As always, my summer reading list consists of upcoming titles that excite me, and the patient friends who have been politely waiting their turn on my bookshelf.
My summer and fall publication list includes:
Boo-La-La Witch Spa by Samantha Berger & Isabel Roxas
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo & Chris Van Dusen
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick & Sophie Blackall
Also on my list:
Red by Jan De Kinder
Yard Sale by Eve Bunting & Lauren Castillo
American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon
A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
Books that I have read and highly recommend:
The Whale in my Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan, SO FUN!
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
El Deafo by Cece Bell
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I am still reeling from this book.
From Mo Willems, author of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2003) and the “Elephant and Piggie” series (Disney-Hyperion):
Although pretty much everything on deck for my summer reading seems to be filled with a childish wonder, every book is most certainly inappropriate for my audience.
First off, I’ll finish the book I’m currently reading, Nature’s Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves, charmingly explained by Menno Schilthuizen. While I spend a good deal of my time pondering relationships between various animals, I don’t concern myself with their genitalia, so I’m learning quite a bit from Mr. Schilthuizen.
Also on my bookshelf is Matt Diffee’s cartoon collection Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People. Matt is a nice guy, but not so nice that you can’t loath him for his immense talent. I will alternately laugh and seethe.
I have an old copy of Bertand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy waiting for me in my freezer. Once the spores are dead, I’m really looking forward to diving into this volume and reading about wise men (and women, I hope) who examined the world with the wonder and seriousness usually reserved for five-year-olds.
I’m hopeless when it comes to poetry, but will dip into some Rumi from time to time in between bouts of the philosophy book.
From Gary Golio, author of Spirit Seeker (Clarion, 2012) and Bird & Diz (Candlewick, 2015):
Sadly, my mom died at the beginning of April, so I’m seeing her in the spring flowers and feeling the pull of the past. She was (no pun intended) instrumental in my learning to love and appreciate music, and therefore partly responsible for my spate of music-themed picture books. She turned me on to Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, and she loved the Beatles. Thanks, Mom.
That said, there are a number of books and memoirs that make for a fine reading tribute to some great artists and creative souls who also died this year.
For Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand) of Star Trek fame: I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy.
For Ben E. King (“Stand By Me”), Lesley Gore (“It’s My Party”), and Percy Sledge (“When A Man Loves A Woman”): Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick, and Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Rick Coleman.
For Cynthia Lennon and Albert Maysles: second readings of A Freewheelin’ Time—A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties by Suze Rotolo, and Just Kids by Patti Smith.
For Stan Freeberg (brilliant adman-comedy writer) and Joe Franklin (vintage TV host): Memoirs of an Amnesiac, by Oscar Levant (one of Philip Glass’s favorite books about music).
JonArno Lawson, author of Sidewalk Flowers (Groundwood, 2015):
It used to bother me that I’d never get to all the books I wanted to get to—it made me feel anxious and unhappy. Nowadays I feel differently—the best part is lingering over and looking closely at whatever I’m lucky enough to have in front of me. I’m not in a hurry—even so, I can’t wait to read, (and/or reread) these: Walk by Robert Twigger; Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature by Philip Nel; Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History by David Christian; Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women’s Poetry by Sayd Bahodine Majrouh; The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin by Idries Shah; African Laughter by Doris Lessing; Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry by Arnold Rampersad and Marcellus Blount; and finally, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King.
From Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie (Candlewick, 2000 ), the “Mercy Watson” series, and the forthcoming Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon (Candlewick, Aug., 2015):
Summer reading, fall reading, winter reading, spring reading—I (happily) get to read a lot in every season. So here is what I’ve got lined up as we head into summer:
- Last Things by Jenny Offill—I loved her Dept. of Speculation. I read it on a plane ride, when I had a fever and the only thing that made any sense was the book in my hands.
- The Gift by Lewis Hyde—a book about creativity. I picked it up at Louise Erdrich’s bookstore (Birchbark Books) here in Minneapolis, MN.
- Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson—I’ve started this one already and it’s already haunting my waking and sleeping life.
- Maus I and Maus II by Art Speigleman—I reread these books every few years. Each time, I learn something new about history, storytelling, and the power of art.
- The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich is another title I’m rereading. Because I love it. And because I want to write like Louise Erdrich.
From Pseudonymous Bosch, author of the “The Secret Series” and Bad Magic (Little, Brown, 2014):
I spend most of my time alone with my pet rabbit Quiche, so perhaps it is not surprising that I would want to read some good animal yarns this summer. While Quiche himself will no doubt be rereading his old favorite, Richard Adams’s Watership Down, I have in mind two brand-new middle grade books: Appleblossom the Possum by Holly Goldberg Sloan and The Wild Ones by C. Alexander London. The first is about a nighttime creature who braves the daytime; the second is about a young raccoon who makes a run for the city. If these two animal adventure stories are anything like their human authors (whom I may or may not have encountered in my own adventures) they will be hilarious, warmhearted, and full of mischief.
From Tim Federle, author of Five, Six, Seven, Nate! (S & S, 2014) and Tommy Can’t Stop (Disney-Hyperion, 2015):
I’m not sure how I avoided summer school. Maybe because I was so busy doing musicals at camp? Regardless, as a kid who graduated high school with a 2.2 GPA, I can honestly (if not proudly) say I wasn’t the world’s biggest reader—especially in the sunshine months. Everything changed, of course, once I got out of school and the assignments stopped; that’s when I discovered that reading opened up new worlds and voices and even “friends,” and I became a card-carrying library-user as a young (and free!) adult.
This summer, I plan on reading widely. For picture books, I want to dip into everything Bob Shea has ever created; he is one of those guys who is just as funny in person as he is on the page, and I may just deconstruct every joke he’s ever put to paper and figure out how he did it. And then slowly, and methodically, find him and trap him. (Kidding, Bob!)
In middle-grade land, I loved Isaiah Campbell’s The Troubles of Johnny Cannon and have been recommending it to folks who like historical fiction with a laugh; I want to check out Gracefully Grayson, a timely debut about a transgender girl by Ami Polonsky; and, duh, the new “Lockwood & Co,” The Hollow Boy, because when you say “Jonathan Stroud,” I say “Yes,” and loudly, even if I’m in a library.
When I wanna get my YA fix, I’m gonna circle around to last winter’s The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, which promises to be heartbreaking but hopeful (which is also my approach to summer tanning), and will definitely check out Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert. All I know is it involves God and radio hosts and has a killer cover, and that’s all I need other than a hammock and lemonade. And as for recently released books, Lance Rubin’s Denton Little’s Death Date and Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs.The Homo Sapiens has me excited about the state of young adult lit.
Oh, and I’d be remiss not to admit I occasionally read adult novels, and this summer my go-to gift—to myself and my mom’s book club—is Brenda Bowen’s Enchanted August, set on a somewhat magical island in Maine. (I’d read it even if Brenda wasn’t my agent.)
From Melissa de la Cruz, author of the “Blue Bloods” series and the Isle of the Lost (Disney-Hyperion, 2015):
Black Widow Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
I’ve read many drafts of this book as Margie and I are critique partners. The final is AMAZING and I can’t wait to read it in physical book form. Exciting, action-packed, funny and full of Avenger lore and Black Widow kicking butt. Great stuff. Going to be huge this fall.
I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster
I love her memoirs—they are so funny and wise and true. She holds nothing back and I feel like Jen and Fletch are personal friends. I’m invested. Can’t wait to see what’s next for them.
The Young Elites and The Rose Society by Marie Lu
Been saving these up for a long plane ride. Magic and madness in the Renaissance? Evil, abused, powerful girl by the author of the romantic and thrilling “Legend” titles? Sign me up!
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
These first two books in Riggs’s series are on the top of my list; the third book, Library of Souls, is coming out in September, so I want to be caught up by then. Eerie photographs, a Welsh 1940s setting, and kids with superpowers. I know this is going to be one of my favorites!
From Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies (Algonquin, 2015):
This summer, I’m reading Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper, Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, and Martha Brockenbourgh’s The Game of Love and Death. I also plan to go back and read some favorites from when I was growing up, such as Edgar Mittleholzer’s My Bones and My Flute. (It’s so scary I can only read it in summer when there’s plenty of daylight!) Come to think of it, all of these titles have a high spook factor. Is it too late to change my list?