My Summer Reading List 2014

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

What is the first thing I did with my days off, when spring semester ended? READ. Read read read. I can’t say why, but more than any other year, it felt so good to spend full days reading as summer started this year. 

The first few books I read were ones from my Winter 2014 Reading List, including Amy Greene’s Long Man and Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena(I reviewed Constellation here).

Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

I highly recommend both of them and am excited for the successes both books have seen.

But now it’s time to get excited about the latest must-reads — it’s time for My Summer Reading List 2014! Please do share your own reading recommendations or must-reads in the comments. We all love to learn about great new titles.

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  • Michael Cunningham, The Snow Queen (2014). This made my radar after watching Cunningham give a reading (online) at Bart College. I first fell in love with his writing when I stumbled on a short story in the defunct DoubleTake Magazine — before The Hours — which had me guessing he’d become a notable writer. Snow Queen releases this summer.
  • Aminatta Forna, The Hired Man (2013). I’ve heard this described as a “taut and suspenseful” tale of the relationship between villagers of a small Croat town and outsiders, after Croatia’s War of Independence. The title has appeared on several recommended reading lists. I’m intrigued.
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (May 2014). This novel set in World War II has been surfacing in every reading forum, with rave reviews. I’ve read short stories by Doerr before that were full of beauty and nuanced insight.
  • Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed (2013). This is the novel I just started reading. Hosseini’s prior novels – The Kite Runner (2004) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2008) — were stunning. Read this New York Times review. 
  • Erin Morgenstern, Night Circus (2011). This one made my reading radar before, but finally made it into the stack that came home with me from a recent book-buying trip. This novel had a lot of buzz among my lit friends on Twitter last summer ago. I actually finished reading it just prior to posting this and can tell you that Erin has created a magically unique world, justifying the buzz.
  • Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (2014). This was added to my reading list on sheer faith of this tweet from Anthony Marra, whose Constellation has gotten so much praise from me lately:



Carryovers from Winter

Middle Grade or Young Adult Fiction

You may know that, from my own interests, from reading along with my sons and from teaching middle grade lit, I am an avid reader of middle grade and young adult fiction. These make my summer list:

  • Gae Polisner, The Summer of Letting Go (March 2014). I’m excited to read this new release by a writer I came to know as one of the hosts of the annual TeachersWrite forum. Early reviews have been great! I’ve come to know her as frank, intelligent, and witty, and am interested to see how her voice plays out in the novel.
  • E. Lockhart, We Were Liars (May 2014). Here’s another new release showing up on nearly every recommended reading list. The cover alone has that summer-mystique from childhood to pull me in.
  • John Greene, An Abundance of Katherines (2008). One of my Best Reads of 2014 never made it onto one of my readings lists, and that is The Fault in Our Stars. Forget that it’s a movie this summer; you have to read the book. It will be a classic (and yes, you’ll cry through much of it). Credit to John Greene for being example of why adults read young adult fiction: Fault is one smart and passionate novel. So read that, if you haven’t. I, in the meantime, will be reading Katherines (recommended by a friend) or one of Greene’s others: Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska).
  • Carl Hiaasen’s Scat, and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. I’ll be buddy reading these along with my son, a rising 5th grader — they are part of his summer reading. If you have a child 4th-6th grade, these are great reads.


  • Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012). Boo’s reporting of the “bewildering age of global change and inequality” through the inner stories of families in Mumbai was winner of the National Book Award, the PEN/John Galbraith Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize… should I go on?
  • Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure (January 2014). While it’s possible I’ll end up buying something else by Shteyngart (novels: Super Sad True Love Story or Russian Debutante’s Handbook) when I’m actually in the store, this memoir has been on my target list for some time.
  • Elizabeth Berg, Escaping Into the Open (2012). This book made my reading list, sight unseen, as it is the book being shared by my Wordsmith Studios friends as a summer reading group. Smile at the thought of this great group.
  • Colm Toibin, Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (2001). I look forward to reading this account from one of my favorite Irish authors about the time and place where much of my current novel-in-progress is set. (More about my novel’s Irish connection here.)

 Want more reading recommendations?

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What Are You Reading?

I’d love to hear your own reading suggestions in the comments.  Let us know the favorite books you’ve read this year or ones on your must-reads list.  If this inspires you to blog your own list, share link to your post so we can come read with you.

Where do the book links take you?

For convenience, you can click book titles for their link on Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through

Shop Indie Bookstores

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More on Books and Reading:

Is Novel Revision your summer goal?


Filed under Books, Reading

6 responses to “My Summer Reading List 2014

  1. I have been waiting to see your list! It is so helpful to see what others have picked. I forgot to add “The Goldfinch” to my list. I have been trying to get to it. I think you will like “Night Circus”. It is wonderfully imaginative. We will have to compare at the end of summer!


    • elissa field

      Thanks, Carol! It’s great to see you stop by. I love that we can get the conversation going. I still haven’t picked up Goldfinch. My mom (that’s “Julianne” in the comment below) read it when we were with her at Christmas and said the ending was great, but it keeps losing out to other books at the store. Yes! You’re right about Night Circus. I finished right before polishing this post — it kept me up all night. We definitely need to trade notes again as our reading goes through the summer. :) Thanks for commenting.


  2. Thanks for the list! Joshua Ferris (To Rise Again at a Decent Hour) was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air yesterday and I listened to it this morning on my dog walk. I’ll never feel the same about going to the Dentist.

    My favorite book so far this year is The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan. I was moved to buy it from Audible and what a good decision that was! The narrator, Anna Bentinck, is a British stage star and was truly magical in her interpretation. Mr. Twan is already a lyrical writer but her voice made you feel the air and touch the souls of all the characters. The first thing I did when I finished was to look her up to see what other books she’s narrated because I want to hear every one of them. The second thing I did (and this is very unusual for me) was to go back to the beginning to listen to the Garden of Evening Mists a second time all the way to the end. This link will take you to it. Copy/Paste.


    • elissa field

      It’s good to see you here, Mom. I always think of you when compiling my list since you have such amazing reading taste!

      But, uh-oh — is there something creepy about a dentist in Ferris’s book? I can barely hear the sound of a dry toothbrush without cringing… (Liam taunts me with that — dry bristles are my Kryptonite.)

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the narrated Garden of Evening Mists. Good or bad readers make such a huge difference. It’s great to have this title, as I don’t think I’ve heard of this one.


      • The author of *To Rise Again…*.says it is about a dentist who hates looking into the rotten mouths of all his patients. But then it gets better. Should be good. Well, has good reviews.

        *The Garden of Evening Mist* is about the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during WWII and then the aftermath in the 1950’s. That’s the framework. But really it is about a famous Japanese gardener who leaves his job as the Emperor’s gardener and moves to Malaysia and creates an amazing garden. It is all about relationships between different cultures (South African, Malaysian, Chinese, British) who all live together in Malaysia. I could listen to the authors descriptions over and over again; writing that sooths the soul. Well maybe it was the narrator…but I don’t think so. Lot’s flawed but strong beautiful people. Lot’s of incredible images I will never forget.


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