Six Books to Add to Your 2023 Summer Reading List

Hi BookRags Readers,

My name is Kathleen Levitt and I’m here with a few recommendations for summer reading. Even if your summer isn’t entirely open, the next few months always make us want to get away with a few good reads. I’ve written for BookRags for five years and studied Creative Writing and Literature for several years prior to that. Even when I’m not studying or working, I’m usually obsessing over some new novel. Below are just a few that have either transported, captivated, or inspired me. What’s better than discovering new worlds, voices, and experiences by sharing stories with each other?

The Guest by Emma Cline

For fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Emma Cline’s new novel The Guest is a must-read this summer. Tracing the protagonist Alex’s experiences on Long Island before Labor Day, the novel immerses you in the sticky possibilities that summer often holds. While Alex isn’t always the most admirable character, like many of Moshfegh’s protagonists, her questions, her downfalls, and her constant cravings immediately captivate you. The narrator’s deadpan tone and bald descriptions are as sensorially intoxicating as the alcohol and medications Alex consumes to transport herself out of reality. While Cline’s narrative can be experienced as pure entertainment, via Alex’s summer at the beach, the author is also asking more challenging questions about identity and the self.

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

If you were as obsessed with Rachel Yoder’s Nighbitch as I was, check out Claire Oshetsky’s Chouette. A work of magical realism, when the narrator Tiny discovers she’s pregnant, she is convinced her baby is in fact an owl. Whether or not you read Tiny’s story as a figment of her imagination or a representation of her reality, Chouette will undeniably unsettle you as much as it will delight you. What might be most arresting about Tiny’s narrative is the way she captures elements of the auditory on the page. A musician and the mother of an owl, Tiny is constantly attuned to the sounds of music and the natural world. So even if you can’t make it outside or to that concert this summer, Oshetsky will bring you there with her. Like Yoder’s Nightbitch, I loved the way Oshetsky both immersed me in a fairy tale while teaching me new things about motherhood, accessibility, and sacrifice. 

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Did you read Ling Ma’s debut novel Severance? Whether you’ve gotten to it yet or not, her short story collection Bliss Montage is not to be missed. While Severance presciently imagined a world not dissimilar to COVID, the eight short stories in Bliss Montage have little interest in reality at all. In one, the narrator lives in a house with her 100 ex-boyfriends. In another, the narrator’s former professor leads her into a world inside his office closet. In another still, the narrator learns how to make love to a yeti. Because I like to spend the summer reading stories that feel as hazy as the hot days, I loved how Ma’s collection smeared the boundaries between the real and the surreal, the imagined and the experienced.

The Best Short Stories of 2022 edited by Valeria Luiselli

If you’re looking for a book you can work through in smaller bursts, check out Anchor Books’ annual O. Henry Prize Winners, The Best Short Stories of 2022, edited by Valeria Luiselli. Although summer gives us more free time, it can be nice to have something you can pick up and put down just as easily, depending on your vacation schedule. This collection is one of my favorite things I’ve read all year. Luiselli has compiled an electric range of narratives, styles, forms, and voices, including writers like Alejandro Zambra, Samanta Schweblin, and Loorie Moore. Even if you’re not leaving town for the summer months, the stories collected between these two covers will carry you on travels of their own, transporting you into new geographic and imaginative realms. Examinations of intimacy, perception, or desire, the stories in this collection have the power to captivate, amuse, and move you.

Some short stories include:
Dengue Boy by Michel Nieva
Face Time by Lorrie Moore 
Horse Soup by Vladimir Sorokin
The Little Widow From the Capital by Yohanca Delgado
Rainbows by Joseph O’Neill
Screen Time by Alejandro Zambra
An Unlucky Man by Samanta Schweblin
A Way With Bea by Shanteka Sigers

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor

Looking for something steamy and intellectually stimulating? Check out Brandon Taylor’s newest novel The Late Americans. Set in Iowa City in the middle of the winter, Taylor’s novel will give you just the escape from the heat you need. The Late Americans traces the entangled lives and love affairs of a diverse network of characters. No matter their artistic proclivities, economic background, sexual orientation, or cultural origins, all of Taylor’s characters’ storylines intersect with and inform one another. Taylor is a master of character, and makes you not only believe the identities he creates on the page, but fall in love with them. Not unlike Sally Rooney, Taylor marries the erotically engaging with the politically challenging throughout. 

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

For years I’ve followed Cheryl Strayed’s column and podcast Dear Sugar with religious vehemence. So you can imagine how excited I was when Vintage Books released a collection of Sugar’s advice under the title Tiny Beautiful Things. I lost sleep reading this one. No matter who’s written to Sugar and no matter their concerns, Sugar consistently writes with unabashed rawness and tenderness. Every enclosed letter to and response from Sugar inspired me to meditate on the importance of being more open, more honest, and more true to myself and others. Reading Tiny Beautiful Things is like eating a bowl of ice cream that’s healthy for you. It’s sweet, but also nourishing. Plus, Hulu just adapted this one into a mini-series. What’s not to love? 

I hope you get the chance to read these amazing books!

Happy Reading,

The Drama of Back-to-School


The leaves are turning and the crisp air announces the arrival of fall. Wherever you are, the start of school brings new experiences. On high school and college campuses, students are assessing their coursework, breaking open new books, and making friends. The novels and memoirs below feature the ups and downs of campus life. From the pressures of academics to the excitement of new relationships, they present the challenges we all face navigating the social life of school.



Educated is Tara Westover’s inspiring memoir that shares her struggles to break free from unhealthy familial bonds in pursuit of her full potential. Bright, but uneducated, Tara is determined to learn more about the world despite her survivalist parents’ choice to live in relative isolation from society, in the mountains of Idaho. Their distrust of the government instills fear and distrust in Tara and her siblings, and prevents them from attending school. Throughout her childhood, the family struggles to survive in the face of limited job opportunities. However, after suffering severe emotional and physical abuse from an older brother, Tara gains the strength to forge her own path in the pursuit of knowledge. She finds the courage to strike out on her own and manages to attend college despite unsupportive parents—eventually attending Harvard and Cambridge Universities, earning both bachelor’s and doctoral degrees.

The Hate U Give

Thee Hate U Give

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, tells the story of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses the shooting of a childhood friend, Khalil Harris, by a police officer. Starr lives in an impoverished inner-city neighborhood but attends a privileged prep school where most students don’t understand the dangers of growing up black in America. It doesn’t take long for the shooting to make national headlines and for protesters to erupt in her community demanding justice. The publicity threatens to plunge Star into an unwanted spotlight. As she navigates between her neighborhood and school, she must decide whether to risk the safety of her family and future by speaking up against the murder of her friend or remain silent about the brutal killing.

A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, is a coming-of-age story about the tumultuous relationship between best friends, Gene Forrester and Phineas. Set at an exclusive prep school in New Hampshire during the early 1940s and World War II, the roommates, who have opposite personalities, become unlikely friends. Although the war is not being fought in their country, the boys feel its threat since they are close to the age of enlistment. Overtime, Gene feels increasingly threatened by Phineas’ athleticism. Eventually, the boys’ close bond devolves into a destructive rivalry that drives Gene to commit a brutal act of betrayal against Phineas. Both boys are forced to confront their motivations, fears, and the grim consequences of Gene’s selfish actions which change their lives forever.


Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is a novel about an odd high-school student who calls herself “Stargirl.” At first, she is embraced by other classmates despite her unusual behavior of carrying a pet rat and breaking out in celebratory song and dance. Stargirl’s enchanting presence entertains and inspires other students, including Leo Borlock, who begins to fall in love with her. However, after she commits a series of selfless, but misunderstood acts of kindness, her new-found popularity begins to diminish. Leo encourages Stargirl to act more “normal” so they can continue their relationship. When she complies, she still can’t shed the negative label of being different; the dramatic change threatens to destroy her magical persona. Stargirl and Leo are forced to question the value of abandoning uniqueness for the sake of conformity.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, is a novel about a gay sixteen-year-old, Simon Spier, who struggles with keeping his sexual identity a secret. He is excited to cultivate a hidden relationship by email with an unknown admirer named “Blue,” until his classmate Martin threatens to “out” him after inadvertently seeing their heart-felt correspondence. Meanwhile, Simon’s involvement in the school musical and interactions with other students keeps him guessing who “Blue” might be. Eventually, as social pressures to disclose his secret mounts, Simon is forced to confront his worst fears and find the courage to reveal who he truly is to classmates, friends, and family.

One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying, by Karen M. McManus, is no ordinary depiction of high school drama. It’s an unsettling murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing. As rumors swirl around four classmates in different cliques, one student outcast, Simon Kelleger, is determined to destroy their reputation through a scandalous gossip app he created called About That. When Simon dies suddenly while serving in detention with Addy, Bronwyn, Nate, and Cooper, all four students become prime suspects. An investigation into the app by police reveals unpublished exposés of each, which leads the authorities to surmise one of them could have committed an act of murderous revenge. As the four classmates conduct their own investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Simon’s death, they soon learn to question the unfounded assumptions they hold about each other.

The Secret History

The Secret History

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, is a novel following six privileged but disturbed students who attend an exclusive college. Each has their own demons to grapple with as they descend into a spiral of debauchery that eventually leads to murder. They are encouraged by their amoral professor, who teaches Ancient Greek studies, to immerse themselves in their research. The group of intellectual deviants push the boundaries of their studies by trying to replicate a Dionysian ritual practiced by the ancient Greeks. Tragedy occurs when their debauchery leads to the accidental, but savage death of a man. Their relationships slowly unravel as drug addiction and blackmail cause them to spiral into further emotional instability and acts of violence and murder.



Bunny, by Mona Awad, is a fantastical novel about a lonely MFA student, Samantha Heather Mackey, who finds friendship with a clique of wealthy classmates. These unscrupulous but imaginative women, who call each other “Bunny,” seduce Samantha with erotic tales, drugs, and magic. When they invite her to collaborate on their collective literary project, she is coerced into the bizarre ritual of turning rabbits into handsome young men that are killed by the “Bunnies” once an inadequacy is discovered. Samantha, desperate for companionship, delves deeper into drugs with the shameless encouragement of her friends. Soon, she must choose between an authentic and healthy relationship with a poetry student or the “Bunnies” guiding her on an uncertain path to self-destruction.