Hunger Games, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and the 10 Books that Best Capture the Summer Feeling


If you're searching for a good book to read this summer, look no further. Whether you want romance or philosophy, there's something for everyone, and every book captures a particular feeling of summer.

1. After Dark—Haruki Murakami:


Murakami is one of the most if not the most famous Japanese writers, especially in the West, and this novel makes clear why. Shorter than his most famous works, such as Kafka on the Shore or his newly translated tome 1Q84, After Dark takes place over the course of one night in Tokyo. I’ve never read a book that so perfectly captures the magical summer-night feeling that anything could happen, and will. Though Murakami’s novel is set in late autumn, its blending of the paranormal and the just plain odd is quintessentially summery. 

2. A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones)—George R.R. Martin:

Let’s be honest for a second. You’ve probably already watched the show. Even so, if you’re anything like me, it wouldn’t be summer without burying yourself way too many pages into a fantasy series. (So far, I’m two books in, which is 15,035 pages.) This summer, make that series A Song of Ice and Fire. Really get to know the characters, and watch the ones you love do terrible things and the ones you hate grow to surprise you. At their core, these books are brilliant explorations of the different forces driving each individual and the things that happen when they collide.

3. Less Than Zero—Brett Easton Ellis:

Like After Dark, Less Than Zero is a book that gets the season wrong but the feeling right. Although its college-aged protagonists are home for winter vacation, the book is set in LA, where it’s basically summer all year round. Weather aside, this book might even outrank The Catcher in the Rye for how accurately it captures the ennui of young adulthood and the desperate quest to escape the desperate quest for meaning. Though sex and drug usage abound, this book is far darker than your typical beach read. Anyone who’s ever felt like the days are just passing without meaning anything, though, will empathize with these characters and find solace in the fact that your life is less screwed-up than theirs. At least, I really hope it is.

4. The Last Summer (of you and me)—Anne Brashares:

This is much more your typical beach read. Although I loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, my possible-English-major book-snob self initially scoffed at the premise: two sisters, and the boy they both love (in very different ways), return in their early twenties to the house on Fire Island where they spent their teenage summers. Let me tell you; I devoured this book in one sitting. Without spoiling anything, there weren’t just tears. There were sobs. If you’re looking for a beach read that actually has beaches in it, and that yanks at your heartstrings so hard you worry they’ll tear, read this book.

5. Memoirs of a Geisha—Arthur Golden:

Summer, ideally, should be all about traveling. If you can’t get away on an international adventure, why not dive into a book that’s set in a different place and a different time? Yes, it takes some liberties with the history, but what makes Memoirs of a Geisha such a popular book isn’t the history it teaches you. It’s the beautiful, lush imagery that vividly recreates WWII-era Japan and the coming-of-age story that brings its protagonist to life. 

6. A Walk in the Woods­­--Bill Bryson:

For some reason, I read this book believing that the protagonist’s friend, with whom he travels the entire Appalachian Trail, dies in the end. The last 100 pages were torture, everything looked like foreshadowing, and when I finished the book with (not-really-spoilers) nobody dead I was seriously confused. You won’t make this mistake, which means that for you this book will be a hilarious story about two friends conquering nature together. If you love the wilderness or love Bill Bryson’s sense of humor, pick it up.

7. The Hunger Games Series—Suzanne Collins:

Summer is pretty much the only season when it’s considered acceptable to stay up all night reading a book, which is the level of commitment these books demand. The discovery of the Higgs Boson has scientifically proved that it is impossible to put one of these books down unfinished, which is why you’ve probably already read them. If you haven’t, get to a bookstore and see what everybody was talking about before they’d even heard of 50 Shades of Grey.

8. Ficciones—Jorge Luis Borges:

Short stories are perfect for summer because you can read one, put the book down for a week, and pick up right where you left off. The stories contained in Borges’s Ficciones are, quite simply, magical. They bundle the biggest questions of the nature of the human mind, memory, reality, and society into allegorical tales told in a lyrical voice unlike any other.  

9. Strangers on a Train—Patricia Highsmith: 

If you find yourself on a train, a plane, or a long car ride, dive into Strangers on a Train. The source novel for one of Hitchcock’s most famous films is even more darkly psychological than its more famous adaptation, and this gripping tale of the evil that lurks within each of us will have you frantically turning pages to see what happens next. 

10. Secret Diary of a Call Girl—Belle de Jour:

I first read this in blog form, and I was captivated. It’s not just that the story—a high-priced escort spills all—is vicariously thrilling (although it is.) Belle, as she calls herself, has a dishy, conspiratorial narrative voice that makes you want her as your new best friend, makes you laugh at the most ridiculous of her customers, and makes you genuinely hope that things will work out alright for her. Now published into a book and adapted into a Showtime series starring Billie Piper, The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl is the perfect fun summer read.