Recently on social media one of my friends asked what people are doing when they are overcome by pandemic stress. My response: I read. That’s always been my MO when life becomes too much. Honestly, I read all the time because it’s my favorite hobby and the reason I became a writer. I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was a kid, including the time I got in trouble for reading in my room at 2 a.m. with all the lights on. After that incident I thought, “What would Nancy Drew do?” and came to the conclusion using a flashlight would be the sneakier option so no one could tell I was reading.
I’m usually reading at least two books at one time, which to some people seems crazy. People watch TV shows based on what mood they are in; that’s how I treat reading. Sometimes I feel like a light, fluffy book, while other days I’m really itching to read something more thought-provoking. The average number of books I read per year is 70-75; right now I’m currently on number 46.
My family members, friends, and even co-workers have begun asking me for book recommendations, and I’m always happy to help them out. It gives me the added benefit of being able to plug some great authors at the same time. I’ve also noticed now that people are going out less, they are reading more. For this blog post I thought I’d focus on some recommendations based on the great books I’ve read so far this summer.
Reading is a great escape for me, a way to really unplug and feel like I’m in another world. I hope one of these recommendations might help you if you really need to de-stress or forget about the present moment. I’ve grouped my recommendations by genre so you can see which ones might interest you the most.
Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams: This book was my favorite that I’ve read so far in 2020. I’m a huge Beatriz Williams fan-girl, so much so that I dragged my friend to go see Beatriz Williams speak last summer. I love all of Beatriz’s books, but her newest one is by far my favorite. It’s very loosely based on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and about what could have happened if she lived. I never knew aviation books would interest me, but Beatriz made this one really enjoyable, and I could tell she really did the research with respect to the time period and flying. I “flew” through this book and can’t recommend it enough. You can follow Beatriz on Twitter and Instagram at @authorbeatriz.
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand: You can’t have a category of beach reads and not mention Elin. She’s been deemed “The Queen of Beach Reads” and I wholeheartedly agree. My friend and I were lucky enough to see Elin speak twice about her past books. She’s from nearby Phoenixville, PA and has a large supporting cohort of her friends and family members that arrive when she is speaking in the Eastern PA area. 28 Summers did not disappoint. It’s about an affair that happens over 28 summers in Nantucket (Elin’s primary literary setting), and at the beginning of each chapter is a quick summary of relevant historical events from that time period. I thought this was a clever technique and well-executed. When the novel setting switched to the 1990s, references to various bands and TV shows from my adolescence really stirred up nostalgia. I not only enjoyed the main two characters, but the side characters as well. If you want to escape to Nantucket and be entrenched in lots of drama, this book is the perfect pick. You can follow Elin on Twitter and Instagram at @elinhilderbrand.
Action Park by Andy Mulvihill with Jake Rossen: I found this book recommended in the Philadelphia Inquirer. My husband, who is a huge theme park fanatic, read it first and told me to give it a try. I was skeptical, because really, how interesting could a book about an out-of-business theme park be? Man, I was wrong. I found myself laughing out loud about the general outrageousness of the theme park, Action Park. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised since it was labeled as the most dangerous theme park ever. After I finished this book, I learned there is also a documentary airing on HBO Max all about the same park called Class Action Park. What really ‘made’ this book in my opinion was that it was written by the son of the park’s creator, who also worked there for many years. Given his background he had quite the laundry list of ridiculous incidents to share that occurred at the park, including a water slide with a loop that never opened because test riders kept losing their teeth. The park was also located in New Jersey, so there were a lot of local references I enjoyed, although I’m glad my parents never took me there!
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: I loved, loved, loved this book. When I saw that You Should See Me in a Crown was named the first Young Adult book read by Reese Witherspoon for her book club, I squealed out loud. The protagonist, Liz Lighty, is a black, queer high school senior who wants to go to the college of her dreams but her scholarship fell through, driving her to find ways to obtain money. Becoming prom queen at her high school awards a college scholarship (wish my high school had that perk), so she decides to run, even though she feels like she’s the complete opposite of prom queen material. The new girl is also running, and the two become close, but Liz thinks all her dreams of going to college could be hindered if she is in a relationship with this girl, because she doubts anyone would vote for her. This book gave me ‘all the feels’. It’s a great LGBTQ YA book, and the characters are super fun. I can’t wait to read the next book by Leah Johnson. You can follow her on Twitter at @byleahjohnson.
Cherrington Academy by Rebecca J. Caffery: So I might have cheated. I didn’t read this book summer, at least not yet. The release date is tomorrow, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, and I couldn’t be more excited for Becka. We’ve become friends on Twitter through the #writingcommunity, and I was one of the first beta readers for this book. I can’t wait to read the final product! The book features Logan, a gay high school boy, escaping his previous school where he was subjected to bullying. He arrives at Cherrington Academy, meets some amazing friends, and promptly falls for one of his closest friend’s boyfriend. Nothing can go wrong in that scenario, right? It’s chock full of memorable characters and has plenty of drama. I can’t plug this LGBTQ YA book enough. You can find Becka on Twitter at @Beckawrites and you can purchase her book here. What’s even more exciting is there is a sequel, Coming Home, being published May 25, 2021.
Wow, I’ve written a lot. I could go on forever talking about all of the amazing books I’ve read, but I should stop for now before I overwhelm everyone! If you ever want more book recommendations, you can check out my Goodreads or send me a message. Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter at @dianebillas for the day when I might be published!