What We're Reading

15 Books Our Staffers Can’t (& Won’t) Put Down This Summer

From rock band memoirs to life-changing sci-fi, these will stay with you longer than the warm weather.

August  7, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

My summer reading started a little lopsided.

It began with me racing through the final chapters of the second novel in Elena Ferrante’s "Neapolitan" series, and then, some weeks ago, with barely a break, I (triumphantly) cracked open the third.

Last week, however, I threw a new one into the mix (it may have had something to do with the fear of Ferrante fatigue creeping in), and the recommendation came from no less than six friends. Daisy Jones & The Six tells the blow-by-blow story of a renowned ‘70s rock band from formation all the way up to their infamous split. I’m halfway through, and now super invested in a band that never existed and a musical landscape—replete with unbridled excesses—that I never inhabited.

Some of the headiness of that novel seems to have rubbed off on me, because I'm suddenly very optimistic about fitting a few more solids reads into summer—even if we're just past the halfway point. So, I asked the Food52 team to jump in with their recommendations. If you’re still looking for inspiration, just scroll down. And don’t forget to tell us what’s on your list—for bed, beach, and backyard reading alike.

Patrick Moynihan, Senior Social Media Manager

My recommendation is Vacationland by John Hodgman, which is a humorous, and very real, look at what New England summers are like. I was at once transported to my own summers from the past—characters in the book almost perfectly mirror characters I've encountered. Certain parts hit a little too close to home though, like how in New England, there's definitely a feeling of “owning” our beach towns—we’re not always welcoming to newcomers.

Eric Kim, Senior Editor

For months I’ve been telling people that I’m reading Pachinko, which I am—it’s just taking me forever because I only read on my commute to, and from, work. I’d also love to get through Dune (finally), before the movie comes out, and I usually read a Harry Potter or two at the beach, as well.

Rebecca Sutter, UX Designer

I’m finishing up Lie With Me by Phillippe Besson (translated from French by Molly Ringwald). It’s a really great portrayal of restraint versus repression—against the backdrop of a first love. I’m also very excited to start The Plant Messiah, which my turtle guy recommended to me which is about… rare and endangered plants.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“had to read before the movie comes out), Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (the best book I've read all year), Beartown (heartwrenching), The Leavers (topical and necessary), Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (hysterical) and Rich People Problems (soapy and so fun). I'd recommend all of them!”
— Dana E.

(Rebecca, I may have a question about the “turtle guy.”)

Emma Laperruque, Food Writer & Recipe Developer

I just got a copy of Taffy Brodesser-Akner's novel Fleishman Is in Trouble, and am saving it for as soon as I hit the beach. I've loved reading her celebrity profiles for years and I can't wait to see what she does with fictional characters.

Cody Kestigian, Data Scientist

I just picked up Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. I’d never heard of it before, but the book cover was really cool, and the name was intense. It turned out to be a really fun Miss Marple-ish thriller about an old woman living in the remote woods in Poland, who becomes increasingly upset at the extent of deforestation and animal abuse. Not a spoiler alert: The forest decides to get even.

Maggie Slover, Copywriter

While visiting The National Gallery a couple of weeks ago, I snagged a copy of Charlotte by David Foenkinos—it’s the story of a Jewish artist who painted a series of autobiographical works before her death in Auschwitz. While that sounds really bleak, it also promises to be a triumphant tribute to the power of art.

I also finally pulled A Little Life off my shelf after months of waiting for the right time to cry on my morning commute. I’m an eighth of the way in, and the pages still haven’t been water-damaged, but I know it’s just around the corner. (Wish I could say it wasn’t so, Maggie.)

Brinda Ayer, Books Editor

I recently watched the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that stirred something in me and made me want to read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (about the Manson murders) a second time. It's such a well-reported and wonderfully written deep dive into the life and circumstances of this fascinating (but extremely destructive) man and movement.

Also great for summer

Ella Quittner, Lifestyle Writer

My best friend just lent me her copy of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black, and I'm already hooked. I look forward to canceling all of my weekend plans to finish it.

Alex Egan, Senior SEO Strategist

I'm really trying to read the "Neapolitan novels" by Elena Ferrante this summer (finally)....I've been trying for years! I've had a bunch of people tell me that I'd love them, but also that the first one is the hardest to get through. I'm determined to make it happen this summer—I just keep getting distracted by easier and quicker reads.

Max McDonough, Social Media Coordinator

I’m reading So Long, See You Tomorrow—an oldie but (very) goodie. Oh, and the audiobook is available on YouTube, and it's free.

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What books can't you stop reading this summer? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • akvaughn
  • Patcsw
  • MarieGlobetrotter
  • pgsmama1
  • Dana Ernest
    Dana Ernest
Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.


akvaughn August 11, 2019
After binge watching Outlander, I just had to finish the book I had begun ages ago. As a former emergency room nurse now professor, I am in awe of how the author describes in such details her treatment of her 18th patients. I will be making my way through there entire series. While the series is good, the inspiration much better.
pgsmama1 August 11, 2019
I’m a long-time lover of the Outlander series. I’ve read them all & am looking forward to book 9. The series....i still watch but,meh, they’ve watered down the main characters & relationship so much.
Patcsw August 11, 2019
Love sharing books we’ve read- the Overstory is a masterpiece, in my opinion. Since you’re an independently owned business, I just wish your links went to Indie bookstores instead of the behemoth.
MarieGlobetrotter August 9, 2019
Excellent, recommendations. I have read several of these books but I love that you are reading very varied voice, including Foenkinos and Besson who I have read in French since I'm French speaker.
Arati M. August 9, 2019
So glad you enjoyed our list, Marie!
pgsmama1 August 8, 2019
I’ve read Daisy Jones & the Six, Pachinko & A Little Life. Loved them all. A Little Life stays with you though, beautifully written gut wrenching read.
Dana E. August 7, 2019
Great list! My summer reads this year: Where'd You Go Bernadette? (had to read before the movie comes out), Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (the best book I've read all year), Beartown (heartwrenching), The Leavers (topical and necessary), Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (hysterical) and Rich People Problems (soapy and so fun). I'd recommend all of them!
Arati M. August 7, 2019
Ooooh, I'm going to have to carve out MUCH more time to read, to fit all these in (which is always a good idea anyway). I was actually recommended Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, so that might go on my list first! Thank you!!
luvcookbooks August 7, 2019
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
Arati M. August 7, 2019
Ah, thanks for that. The last book I read by him was The English Patient.
Eric K. August 7, 2019
I loved The Cat’s Table.