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How to Build an Awesome Summer Reading List

Woman relaxes in a hammock reading a book from her summer reading list
Ahmet Misirlingul/Shutterstock

A book, a beach chair, and a beautiful day. Is there any better place to read than outside in the sun? But what to read? Let’s look at putting together a great summer reading list.

I read, a lot; I read almost 90 books last year, so I’ve gotten pretty good at always having something ready to go next, but it can be a struggle. You get so invested in the book or series that you’re reading that you really don’t think about what you’re going to do with your evenings when you turn that final page. Here’s how I like to find books to read.

Look for New Releases by Authors You Love

Writing a book can take a long time (just ask George R.R. Martin), and the publishing process is far from speedy. It often takes three or four years for an author to write and release a new book after their last one was published. It’s normal for that book you were obsessing over in 2015 to have slipped your mind.

But, while you’ve gone about your life, that author has been typing away at their keyboard. The editors have done their editing, and the printers their printing. There might just be a new book on the shelves this summer.

ggk author page
It takes Guy Gavriel Kay a few years to put together a new book.

If there’s a book or author you loved from a few years ago, hop on Google and see if they’ve released anything new recently. You might be surprised by what escaped your notice if you don’t follow book news. I know people who were shocked to find one of their favorite authors had released an entire trilogy that they’d missed.

If you’re struggling to think of an author to search for, look through your bookshelves (or your Kindle) for inspiration. I’m sure something will jump out at you.

Revisit an Old Favorite

And while we’re talking about looking through bookshelves, another great way to find a book to read is to revisit one you loved before. Even if you remember every plot beat, lots of books reward rereading. The second time through you pick up on all the subtle foreshadowing, hints, and clues that are impossible to spot when you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Rereading books is one of my greatest pleasures. Some characters are like old friends at this stage. When I’m feeling down or homesick or lonely, I often grab a Terry Pratchett novel and immerse myself in that for a few days. Problem solved!

book read twice
I’ve actually read Guards! Guards! At least four times…

If you can’t be bothered going to the effort of learning a whole new set of characters (or world, or magic system, or mythology) grabbing a book you’ve read before is the surest bet. Trust me; you’ll almost always love the book even more the second time through.

Check the Critics List on Sites You Like

There are a couple of critics and authors whose opinion seems to track close enough to mine. We won’t agree on everything, but our tastes are similar enough that if they rave about a book, I’ll almost certainly love it, so when they recommend a book, I take note. Robin Hobb or Patrick Rothfuss giving a cover blurb is a sure way to get me onboard.

It doesn’t even have to be a specific person. If there’s a website you like that touches on pop culture, and they publish a roundup of books they’ve enjoyed or are coming out soon, then check it out. If you like the stuff they write, there’s a good chance you’ll like the things they read. I always keep an eye on The Verge posts about books.

verge book reveiw

As always, Google is your friend with these things. If you’re not sure whether a site has published a list of recommendations, just search for the site name and a related term like “best books,” “book list,” or “book picks.”

Check the Bestsellers List

Books still can become huge cultural talking points. Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, the 50 Shades series, anything by Dan Brown, and lots of other books sit on the top of bestseller lists for months racking up fans as the buzz builds.

While there might only be one or two things on the New York Times list at a time that interest you, it’s still worth looking at it occasionally to see if anything is sitting at the top, gaining fans. It might be your new favorite book.

Ask Someone in a Bookstore (Or a Librarian)

Woman browsing through the books at an independent bookstore
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Nobody works in a bookstore for the cold, hard cash and a chance at fame. They do it because they adore books and talking about books (plus it’s professionally acceptable when they’re not serving customers or stocking shelves, to read). If you pop into your local independent bookstore and ask the staff for a few recommendations, I can guarantee you’ll be walking out of there with a heavy bag. Just tell them the kind of things you like and let them do the rest.

Also, bookshop employees aren’t the only people who adore books. Librarians are a great source of suggestions too. You can even walk out of their building, bag bulging with books without spending a penny.

Ask a Friend

It’s not just people who work with books that have strong opinions on what you should read next; your friends probably do too. If you’ve got a mate who loves to read—especially one who’s given you a good recommendation in the past—hit them up and ask what book got them excited recently. Boom! A new book on your reading list.

Pick a Theme

One of the most fun ways to find new books to read is to pick a theme. Say, you’re going on vacation to New Orleans at the end of the summer. Why not read a couple of books (maybe, one fiction and one non-fiction?) set in or about the city.

It doesn’t even have to be somewhere you’re visiting. You can pick any theme that takes your fancy. A place that interests you, a particular historical event or period, books written only by a certain kind of author, or just books published in a particular year. What’s great, though, is that by adding a little bit of structure, it’s simple to find your next book. You can’t have New Orleans as your theme and not read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

Books > Netflix. Don’t @ me. Just read some this summer. You can even do it outside.

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like the New York Times and on a variety of other websites, including Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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