The Lists

The Perfect Books to Read in the Month of July

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

What are the best books to read in July 2020? We’ve previously shared our top picks of 2019 (many of which are now out in paperback) and our most-anticipated new releases for 2020. We’ve also shared a list of the fantastic new book releases in July 2020.  If you’re in search of still more ideas, here’s our take on the perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of July. Not just July 2020 – any July.

recommended reads for the month of July

So many books, so little time! Reading can be one of life’s sweetest luxuries. But how to quickly find the next great volume to dive into?

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

To lend a hand, every month we share our Dandelion Chandelier Recommended Reads: books that we’ve personally read and loved – some brand new, and some published long ago. Selected to suit the season, we think they deserve a place on your nightstand. Or your e-reader. In your backpack. Or your carry-on bag. You get the idea.

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In this edition: the perfect books to read in July. We think these books best capture the mood and the essential spirit of July.

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

what is the essential spirit of july?

Here at the office, we did a quick word association with the word “July,” and here’s what was top of mind for us: Blue. Beach. Lake. Boat. Fireworks. Freedom.

That pretty well sums up the mood of July: sunny, sparkling, adventurous, natural, and carefree. There’s not much shade to be had in July – and mercifully, less shade being thrown at other people, too. Even in our fractured world, most people are still mellower when the temperatures rise.

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

what makes for the best July reading list?

So what’s the perfect reading list for the month of July? It has to include something to make us laugh out loud. A breezy lightness of spirit needs to permeate most of what we dip our noses into in July.

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There should also be a tale of adventure; a steamy summer love affair; a road trip; a beach book; a thriller set at an iconic summer vacation spot. Also, there should be something about summer camp.

perfect books to read in the month of july

Given all of that, here’s our list of recommended reads for the month of July. Read one by flashlight in your tent after everyone has fallen asleep. Or under your beach umbrella. Or poolside. On the train home from work. In the hammock in the backyard. Before the concert starts. At sunrise. Or moonrise.

It’s July. And it’s all good. Let’s revel in it.

Our top picks for the books that best capture the mood of July. Courtesy Photos.

1.

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave wins the prize for “most July of all.” It’s clever, modern, and fun, and just serious enough to qualify as an intelligent beach read.  Sunshine Mackenzie has it all – until her secrets come to light. She’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. But then she gets hacked, and all her professional and personal secrets are revealed, with catastrophic results. She’s forced to return to Montauk, to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—that she’s tried hard to leave behind. Summer is the time for second chances and leaps of faith, and this one’s no exception. We anxiously await the sequel.

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2.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. We just finished this lovely novel, and its a perfect companion for your July adventures. The narrator has lost her closest friend to suicide, and in her struggle to recover, she finds herself the custodian of his Great Dane who is nearly as large as her rent-controlled Manhattan studio apartment. It’s smart, surprisingly funny (we laughed out loud several times, despite the dark subject matter), and deeply honest about loneliness and the hard work of grieving. Plus the enduring power of friendship and loyalty, both human and canine. Brilliantly done.

3.

Kudos by Rachel Cusk. It’s always a joy to spend time in the presence of Rachel Cusk, and this final entry in her trilogy — the first two are Outline and Transit — is splendid. Protagonist Faye attends a literary festival in Europe, and as in the two prior entries in this series, we listen as she probes and questions the people around her while revealing very little about herself. The writing is crystalline, the meditative tone is both soothing and provocative, and the characterizations are so vivid and natural that we keep thinking that we actually had these conversations.

In the most subtle way possible, this novel explores the dichotomy between what’s true and false; earned and undeserved; individual and universal. Between what women want and need, and what men want and need from them — and which gender can outlast and ultimately prevail over the other.

The last couple of paragraphs are a shock and a release. Perhaps the best line in a book full of them, though, is this one: “it was of course true that few notable women were ever really recognized . . . at least not until they had been judged to be no longer a public danger by having become old or ugly or dead.” It’s a deeply-felt exploration of what it means to be held captive, and what it means to become free, and how easy it is to confuse one state for the other. A perfect read in a month that celebrates both revolution and independence. Kudos to Ms. Cusk — and these particular ones are well-deserved.

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

4.

The Last Laugh by Lynn Freed is a novel about the passion-filled adventures of three women who thought they were past their prime. To escape their grown children, husbands and lovers, three self-proclaimed “old bags” head for a quiet Greek island. The plan is an idyllic year by the water. But the peace they seek doesn’t materialize. One has an affair with a poetry-writing taxi driver―who has a territorial wife. Another receives menacing phone calls from a psychotic patient. An ex-lover shows up unexpectedly. And then the  children arrive. It’s good fun and a frothy reminder that its never too late to chase your dreams.

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5.

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen is, despite its title, a perfect July read. Four New Yorkers who don’t know each other well (or at all) agree to rent a large house on an island in Maine for a month. After arriving, they’re transformed by the salt air; the breathtaking views; the long, lazy days; and the happy routine of lobster, corn, and cocktails on the wraparound porch. By the time of the blue moon, though, real life and its complications begin to catch up with them, provoking them to question the possibilities of lives quite different from the ones they’ve been leading. It’s charming, sweet and thoughtful, and it will make you long for an authentic old-fashioned New England clambake.

6.

Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos is a torrid tale of summer romance in a small Midwestern town. The simmering tensions beneath the surface of a seemingly happy marriage explode in bedrooms and backyards over the course of a long, hot summer. It’s also the story of other kinds of love and loss, and by the end of the season, the chaff has been burned away, leaving what’s precious and true behind.

What are the perfect books to read in the month of July?

7.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful. But almost everything else has changed. Jules surrenders her dreams to become an actress. Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash become shockingly successful artists. Illustrating with great sensitivity the differences in the fates of this group of friends, in their true talents, and the shapes of their lives, this is a lovely read about old friends and what becomes of our summertime dreams.

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8.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. The author won the 2019 Booker Prize  – she’s the first black woman ever to win it – for this fluid novel set in current-day Britain. The twelve central characters are all black women living in the U.K. – and leading vastly different lives. A playwright, a teacher, an investment banker, a housekeeper – their stories cross class, age and sexuality, each one rendered with clarity and poignancy. This novel reads in many ways like poetry, and it’s the perfect novel to get lost in during this moment of rapid and enormous change in Western society. If you want to be a strong and effective ally of black women, you need to get these voices inside of your head.

9.

Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; now, in the twenty-first century, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what about water—despite its dangers—seduces us and why we come back to it again and again.

What are the books that capture the essence of the month of July?

10.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. Sometimes a great July read is one that you can easily dip in and out of – you know, in between naps and ice cream breaks and the like. This essay collection from a writer at The New Yorker is smart, funny and provocative – like engaging in a great dinner party conversation, you’ll learn some odd facts, hear a few stories, and end the experience feeling oddly happy.

books that capture the essential mood of july

What to read in July? Those are our picks for 10 books to read in July that we think beautifully capture the mood of the month. What’s on your reading list this month?

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