Looking for the Perfect Summer Read? Here's Our 2018 Summer Book List

May 31, 2018

Summer is a great time to crack open a book and escape into worlds both imaginary and real. During this episode of Talk of Iowa, Jan Weismiller and Tim Budd of Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City and Kathy Magruder of Pageturners Bookstore in Indianola join host Charity Nebbe to share their favorite reads for your summer list.

Most of the books are new, and there are a couple of older favorites mixed in. We've included quotes to help you understand why our readers chose these books and you can follow the links for full descriptions or listen to the show. Happy reading! 


Jan's selections:

The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel

“It’s light in one way, but serious in another, which I think is kind of a great thing for a summer read...The title comes from the fact that her father tells her, sort of, ‘You get one optimistic decade in your life, and this may be yours.’”


You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld 

"Most of these characters are women with children - with young children - in their 40s that are sort of looking at changing their lives somehow, or in some subtle way." 


The Great Believers by Rebekka Makkai

“It’s really a moving and clear portrait of these characters. You read about them outside of their circumstance, they become larger than their circumstances, which I think is probably what makes a great novel.”

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg by Deborah Eisenberg

“['Twilight of the Superheroes' is] a remarkable story. It's really remarkable. But there’s a line in it where the uncle is remembering how he ended up having the care of this sort of feckless 23-year-old.  And it was because he was on the phone with his mother. And the mother was just - the boy's mother, his sister in law - was just talking and talking and he said, 'So, eventually I would have promised her anything if she would only hang up.’ And I think about that all the time.” 


Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson

"It's really a wonderfully told book. I learned a lot about the Nazis in France that I hadn't known, but in the context of their relationship and their relationship to art. It's just a really wonderful book."

Tim's selections:

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

“In some other author's hands, this could be horribly sentimental and really sappy, but in Mr. Haig's hands, it’s a really lovely book about finding meaning in your life, no matter how long or short it may be.”

The Changeling by Victor Lavalle

“It’s so refreshing to read a really wonderfully written book - I mean I can still remember some of the sentences in it - that has a great story and at the same time is culturally more diverse than most books we’re used to reading.”


We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

“It's really a novel about family, about staying together, about doing what you need to do to survive. There really aren't any soldiers or battles in this book. What we're really trying to do is see how war can inflict so much hardship on people who really have nothing to do with the actual fighting, they're just trying to maintain their family relationships. It's very compelling, very positive, and a really nice summer read." 

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

“Five years ago, this would have had a male main character. But we have this wonderful, dynamic woman who is the main protector, the main hunter, trapper, food provider. She is really the backbone of this family."

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

"We're in a horribly violent, strange, desolate world and somehow raising this thing that is probably an experiment - could be dangerous, we don't know - taking in this orphan creature, I guess, and raising it - it's a facinating look at what messing with genetics will do to our world, how you find some sort of redemptive qualities in a world that offers very few." 

Kathy's selections:

All Systems Red and Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

“Murderbot is a snarky, self-conscious, and very dangerous character.” 

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

“It’s just fabulous.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

“If you don’t fall in love with the Count by the end of the book, there’s something wrong with you.” 

It Takes One by Kate Kessler

"They get in a big argument. The next day, Maggie's found dead. So Audrey has to figure out what happened and why because, you know, she's already a murderer. People suspect her already." 

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

"One of the nicest things about her is that, although she is brilliant, she's into chemistry, she loves to investigate, she still acts like a normal 12-year-old a lot of the times. This is just a fun, fun series."


Jan's selections:

Educated by Tara Westover

"It’s remarkable that she could have written so well never having trained as a writer. And it’s not just one sided. She has some really beautiful memories of this place, too.”

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

“You can change your mind with a single experience. You can actually cure addictions with a guided experience, with a single experience in which someone – some medical professional is with you.”


Love and Death in the Sunshine State by Cutter Wood

“It’s unremarkable how people will talk to him, in the same way they talk to Truman Capote.”

Tim's selections:

100 Books That Changed the World by Scott Christianson and Colin Salter

"It's a really nice informative book that will help kickstart you into maybe reading some of these historical books that really did change the world."

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone

"This is the kind of book you read on an airplane and annoy the person sitting next to you because you're laughing out loud."

Eager: The Surprising Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Golfarb

"I found this the most charming, enlightening - he's a wonderfully clever, witty writer."

Kathy's selections:

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

"It's an introduction to a world that boggles your mind."

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

“I started reading this and got so sucked in that I was halfway through the book before realizing that I had been reading for a few hours.”

The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death Defying Acts by Tessa Fontaine

"What fascinating story! I mean, seriously - haven't you wanted to run away and join the circus?"