Summer Reading List :: A Book for Every Mom

I spent a good bit of my summers as a child and young teen in the company of world famous authors and iconic characters. There was something calming in the scent of all those books coupled with the welcoming chill of the air conditioning on days where the heat index in New Orleans rose so high and the temperature became so palpable it could easily been mistaken as the villain in one of stories that captivated my attention for hours during those lazy summer days.

With the days getting longer and Daylight Saving Time “springing” us forward, I can almost hear waves crashing in the background as I bury my toes in the sand and my nose in a book. Here are a few books that I think every mom should add to her summer reading list:

If you’re a fan of nonfiction (and some serious girl power) …

“Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness” by Eric Metaxas. Profiling the lives of seven influential women who changed the course of history, Metaxas pens their stories with historical accuracy and in a way that makes you forget that this is not fiction. Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa – each influenced history not only with feminine dignity but – as Metaxas is quick to point out in his forward – because they were women. 

If you’re looking for some inspiration …

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to me in a way more so than signature novel “Eat, Pray, Love.” Gilbert interweaves her personal journey when looking for inspiration with the idea that all truly great ideas come with a bit of the magical, mystical, inexplicable energy attached to it, and it’s up to each of us to turn that magic into something tangible. As someone who is still silently praying that my letter to Hogwarts just got lost, believing in the magic in me is enough to turn all those “great ideas” into realities.

If you enjoyed “Gone Girl” you’ll enjoy …

“The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel” by Liv Constantine is a story of a well-constructed love triangle set amongst the elite of the Northeast. Like “Gone Girl,” Constantine throws a curve ball that the reader never sees coming. I read the book in less than 48 hours because I just had to see how the story would end for the main characters Amber, Daphne and Jackson.

If you want to sound cultured the next time you visit an art gallery or museum …

“The Art Forger: A Novel” by B. A. Shapiro is equal parts a crash course in art history and technique while following the story of struggling artist Claire Roth and a Faustian bargain she cannot refuse but could also end her. I was equally intrigued by the level of detail Shapiro goes into explaining what makes such notable pieces like Monet’s “Bath” transcend popularity throughout generations versus contemporary art. A thriller along the lines of “The Da Vinci Code,” the novel keeps you guessing Claire’s fate until the very end.

If you once felt misunderstood as a teenager …

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng follows the lives of the seemingly perfect Richardson family and its intersection when they meet the mysterious and bohemian Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. Ng’s description of each character’s journey and eventual crisis of culture is intense and poetic, leaving the reader to marvel over the power of a mother’s love and the danger of following the status quo. 

If you are a fan of learning about all things World War II …

“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer prize in 2015 for fiction. After finishing this novel, I can understand why it was awarded such an honor. Doerr spent a decade researching the intricacies of WWII history from the perspectives of civilians, Nazi officers and the Hitler youth. He delicately weaves the intersection of the three main characters stories that eventually cross at an epic conclusion. This book brought totally new perspectives of WWII that I never considered: what it meant to be a civilian in Europe, the mindset of a Nazi officer and how an entire generation fell under the spell of a madman. 

If you want to ugly cry at the beach …

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah is another WWII historical fiction novel following the lives of two French sisters trying to survive in Nazi-occupied France. Bringing to light the struggles and the agonizing decisions everyday citizens had to make to survive during the Vichy government, I spent a few hours of my vacation in Mexico trying to pretend the guacamole was just spicy and I wasn’t crying into my book. Having a sister and raising two daughters, this story of courage and fortitude and love between these women spoke to me on a different level. 

If you and your sister talk every day …

“Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly is the last WWII historical fiction novel I will include in this list, but choosing which of these I loved the most would be like choosing a favorite child. Again intersecting the lives of multiple women’s perspectives I had never considered: the bravery of two sisters that served as experimental “rabbits” at an all-woman concentration camp, the female Nazi physician that led the experimental operations and an American woman who’s compassion for the “rabbits” crossed oceans and decades. 

If you’re not totally convinced that a few of the “characters” in the Quarter are not really vampires …

“The Casquette Girls” by Alys Arden is a tale of when one New Orleans girl returns home after “the storm to end all storms” to discover that she nor her beloved city will ever be the same. Local author Arden weaves magic, New Orleans history and a vampire romance in the first of this trilogy. Even if YA lit, witchcraft and handsome vampires aren’t your cup of tea, it’s worth geeking out over the New Orleans references.

If you’re a sucker for good celebrity couple drama …

“Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler profiles the life of Zelda Fitzgerald – wife and muse to iconic author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Studded with the mayhem, glitz and excess of the 1920s – and the mercurial (at best) temperature of the Fitzgerald’s moods and marriage, could’ve given the Kardashians a run for their money. 

If you want to remind your children that no matter who you are, you can change the world …

“Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls Vol. 1 & 2” by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli profiles the lives of over 200 extraordinary women from Beyonce to Marie Curie. Each story is one page long (perfect length for a bedtime story) and features beautiful illustrations from women artists from all around the world. 

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