Great Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Whether you’re reading to escape into someone else’s story or to educate yourself about social injustice, finding the right book can be incredibly powerful.

GaudiLab/ Shutterstock
GaudiLab/ Shutterstock

Reading can inspire us, educate us, and allow us to tap into a story that’s completely different from our own. As Thrive’s founder and CEO Arianna Huffington recently wrote in her newsletter, “I love that feeling, when I’m reading a great book, of stepping outside time and becoming disconnected from my overly connected life.” Whether you’re reading to escape or to inform, great books can be incredibly powerful.  

We asked our Thrive community to share the books they’d recommend for a summer reading list. Which of these will you read?

Between the World and Me

“I hope to come out of this summer with a much deeper understanding of the practice of racism so that I can work on myself and serve as a better ally and advocate. I recently read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, and I had to read it gradually, bit by bit, as the reality of what Mr. Coates experienced was so difficult to read and yet so important to examine. I know that sitting in that space of discomfort is part of the necessary work, so I will go back to it again before the end of the year. It is a book that I will go back to many times as it impacted me in a very profound way. I want to carry the weight of the book with me on a daily basis to remind me that no human being should have to have his experiences and to help undo the plight that the black community continues to be burdened with.”

—Maritza Zapata, director of marketing and communications, Astoria, NY 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

“I first read this book when it was originally published ten years ago, and I’ve been suggesting people read Michelle Alexander’s amazing work ever since. Today, I see it listed first among many lists of books to read in order to better understand the current movement for equality and justice. Alexander proves that by targeting black men through the war on drugs and pressuring communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, all while claiming that it is colorblind. Since 2010, it has been cited in hundreds of judicial decisions and even inspired the creation of the Marshall Project as well as the $100 million Art for Justice Fund. Right now, this should be number one on everyone’s summer reading list.”

—Raymond Bechard, author and human rights advocate, New York, NY

Forty Rules of Love

“My favorite book at the moment is Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. This story has really resonated with me because it links two worlds in so many ways — the past and the present, spirituality and materialism, pain and hope. It is built on the wisdom and story of the Sufi poet, Rumi, who so many are inspired by today, and tells the story of someone searching for more in her own life. I think especially in today’s world, where we don’t know what is coming next, there are personal values that can allow us to overcome, to thrive, and to be OK.”

—Reshma Khan, executive coach, facilitator, and speaker, Nairobi, Kenya

Meditations

“A book I would recommend for summer reading this year is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Particularly in a time of stress such as this, the profound words of the great Roman philosopher emperor reach across the centuries to offer wisdom and perspective. It is as if you are taking private counsel with the great leader himself. It’s a simple but eloquent read — one that I come back to time and time again.”

—Kristy Anderson, entrepreneur and medical sales, Denver, CO

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

“To my surprise, this Dr. Seuss story has inspired and empowered me the most during lockdown. It was gifted to me by a very dear friend on my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Though it’s a children’s book, the message is raw, honest, and incredibly relevant right now. Reading this book, you are given permission for feeling the various feelings that come with being human and going through changes in your life. It reminded me of the importance of hope, the power of resilience, and the reality that even though there will be hard times in life, there will also be some wonderful ones awaiting us, so you just have to keep on going. I hope we never forget all the wonderful things that are awaiting us and that we remember that nothing is permanent.”

—Marjan Oloumi, human resources, Sydney, Australia

An Hour Before Daylight

“Jimmy Carter’s memoir is a beautiful book that I have already read several times. It shows that even if you are brought up in a segregated community, as Jimmy Carter was, if you have the right role models and a deep faith that supports your thinking, a person doesn’t necessarily follow the accepted credo. He can see the wrongs for what they are, and have that thinking influence his behavior, despite it not being the popular thing to do in his community at the time.”

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, public speaker and public relations expert, New York, NY

Limitless

“During this challenging time, reading Jim Kwik’s book provided me with the ability to focus on what’s in my control. The methods taught in the book unlocked my potential and helped me let go of limiting beliefs. Following his easy actionable blueprint transformed what I thought was possible. Kwik’s powerful story of recovering from a traumatic brain injury amplifies how he’s become the leading brain coach on learning and speed reading globally. As someone who’s dyslexic, his book and reading programs have exponentially unlocked my learning potential in ways I previously thought were unachievable. The book gives me hope that everyone can learn to unlock their potential.”

—Jessie Stuart, founder of NourishX, New York, NY

Hidden Figures 

“The book goes deeper than the movie does into the lives of the three women who are profiled. It busts the myths surrounding the abilities of people of color, particular in the areas of math and science. It also shows the everyday indignities that these women had to go through simply to do their jobs.”

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, public speaker and public relations expert, New York, NY

The Tipping Point 

“This might be an oldie, but it’s a goodie — and worth another read if you already have it in your collection. Gladwell explains the nuances of economic sociology in a way that is easy to digest. He describes historic events and marketing tactics used to create the Stickiness Factor, the idea that you have to change the presentation of a message to have more impact — for example, how one minor adjustment to your slogan can catapult your product to be the next big thing. I find this book stimulating and a great conversation starter. It won’t give you all the answers, but it will provoke you to meditate on the possibilities. It forces you to be aware of your surroundings and to assess who is in your social circles and how messages move. This easy summer read will allow you to ponder what you see as the tipping point for your personal brand or business.”

—Shannon Bex, co-founder and chief communications officer, Portland, OR

The Hidden Life of Trees

“Peter Wohlleben’s book offers a new way to appreciate trees. The reader will be able to support and love nature with a fresh and insightful perspective after reading this book.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and life coach, Royal Oak, MI

The Choice

“Dr. Edith Eger’s memoir shifted my mindset, as her story is incredibly moving and uplifting. Eger highlights her extraordinary experience as a Holocaust survivor and how she learned to heal herself.  It details the author’s Holocaust experiences, but it goes further. Its primary focus concerns how to live life after surviving a trauma, and it is more about living than it is about dying. The tone of the book is positive, not negative. Edith Eger was just sixteen years old in 1944 when she entered the gates of hell at Auschwitz. Her grandparents and mother and father were sent to the gas chamber, and she was made to dance for Mengele. After the war, she went on to become an eminent psychologist, helping people come to terms with the traumas in their lives. This book taught me that changing the past is not possible, but actively choosing how you wish to live in the future is. I would recommend this book to everyone amidst such tragic moments to cope up with the pain.”

—Dipesh Purohit, blogger, Indore, India

Conversations With God

“I love this book series by Neale Donald Walsch because it provides a much-needed helicopter view of the world, while also diving deep into what it means to be a human. Reading any book of the series brings about a feeling of deep connection, inner freedom, and hope for the future.”

—Heidi Hauer, holistic health and life coach, Zurich, Switzerland 

Why We’re Polarized

“I just completed Ezra Klein’s book, which offers a historical and current perspective on how and why we are where we are in our social and political crises. As an immigrant to the US from South Africa, and having experienced the devastation the Apartheid system caused, I found Klein’s view about our current situation absolutely fascinating. As an organizational psychologist, I was also taken by Klein’s thoughts on how we should solve our polarized differences by learning and applying mindfulness. I think this is potentially powerful when included as a learning component in large-scale facilitated dialogue forums. It is a riveting read.”

—Kevin Weitz, Psy.D., organizational psychologist and organizational culture consultant, Auburn, CA

America Is in the Heart 

“I love this book because Carlos Bulosan’s words encapsulate my family’s history. Despite all the prejudice against them, my grandparents found a way to make it in a country that did not welcome them. My grandparents were born in the Philippines when the country was an American colony. I love this book because it  informed me about my personal and cultural history in a way that was not taught to me in school. While summer reading has often taken a light-hearted tone, this book is about the Filipino-American experience, both good and bad. The good is hope, and finding a voice for being treated unfairly, becoming self-educated, and empowering others. The bad is injustice and brutality against Filipinos, and the exploitation of Filipino labor. I recommend this book for anyone that wants to learn more about racism.”

—Gina Caliboso, educator, Los Angeles, CA

Hello, Fears

“We are living through a period plagued by fear from a variety of sources. In this book, Michelle Poler offers practical advice for turning our fears into opportunities and living better, braver lives. This inspiring book challenges readers to face their fears and live unapologetically, something we can all strive to work towards in our lives. I recommend everyone add it to their summer reading list.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Untamed

“I just finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and would recommend this empowering book to anyone. It reminds us to pursue our knowing, our instinct, and to live our lives in a way that allows us to unlock our full potential.”

—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Orange County, CA

Wildpreneurs

“This book is designed to empower, inform, and offer a practical resource to create your dream business and lifestyle. I even wrote a letter to the author this past fall, telling her how her stories, insights, and question prompts helped to direct my inner compass. In March, I launched my own wellness course, and it was the book Wildpreneurs that set the fire and encouraged me to follow through on activating my dream. It not only fueled my pure passion, but equipped me with a plan, helped me clarify my vision, and provided resources through its thoughtful questions.”

—Natalie Jackson, wellness coach, Ashland, OR 

In Five Years 

“This book is our next book club pick. I had never heard of it before, so I had little idea of what it was about. I was just looking for something light to read outside on these sunny days. From the first chapter, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. This doesn’t happen to me very often; it usually takes a while to get invested in a book. But Rebecca Serle’s book was an attention-grabber and I read it in two days. It plays off the question, ‘Where will you be in five years?’ This book is a quick read for the summer, but it keeps you thinking long after. It leaves you asking, ‘What controls over my life do I need to let go of?’”

—Laurie Jonas, blogger, Red Wing, MN

The Giver of Stars 

“This book by Jojo Moyes is top of my list for summer reading. I love books with a strong female character and this one has several. Based on the true story of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky, the book chronicles the lives of five women during the Great Depression who form a group that travels to deliver books within their community. Although it falls under historical fiction, the initiative to bring reading to those in remote regions of the country was started by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. I couldn’t put this one down!”

—Eliza Williams, client engagement, New York, NY.

The Little Prince

“My four-year-old daughter loves stories, and so do I.  A couple of days ago, my sister introduced me to The Little Prince, a novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and I instantly wondered why I hadn’t come across this gem earlier. A story for all ages, this book is a fascinating read for adults and kids alike. To a child, it’s a story of a prince, its beloved flower, and his journey across planets. For adults, there is a deep meaning to everything that happens in the book. We thoroughly enjoyed this one as both my daughter and I were learning something new.”

—Neha Mishra, freelance writer, Noida, India 

Are you reading a book right now that you’d recommend for a summer reading list? Share it with us in the comments!

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