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MMD 2023 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide

Trying to figure out which Summer Reading Guide selections to read? We've got you covered.

Today we’re welcoming summer in style, along with a bright and beautiful new reading season: the TWELFTH annual Summer Reading Guide is here!

We always say that summer’s too short to squander on books that aren’t right for you, or aren’t right for you right now. The guide includes books I personally adore—though that doesn’t mean they’re right for every reader. That’s why in every description I give you the information you need to help you decide if that book sounds like a good fit for you.

This year’s guide includes 50 titles. That’s a lot of books—and that’s why every year since 2014, I’ve narrowed the choices down to five or six total for my fellow minimalists and decision haters.

It’s never easy to whittle down the list to so few titles to spotlight.

This year marks another change: there are a DOZEN titles in the 2023 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide.

For each minimalist edition, I strive to select a variety of titles across many genres that keep you turning the pages but also have serious substance. You could inhale these titles quickly but find yourself thinking about them for weeks, months, or even years to come. And while easy to read, these titles are wonderfully thought-provoking and discussable.

Speaking of discussable: it’s no coincidence that six of these titles are Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club selections for our summer season. I’m thrilled that each author (and one translator) will be joining us to chat. Get the details on our MMD Book Club summer lineup here. I hope you enjoy this short and sweet summer list!

(Psst—our team members had the option of choosing one book for inclusion in this year’s Summer Reading Guide. Sometimes the book was brand new to me, sometimes it was one I’d already read and loved! That’s why you’ll see team member names introducing some of these book descriptions below.)

Want the full 2023 MMD Summer Reading Guide?

Visit the Summer Reading Guide HQ page to sign up and get the 2023 guide delivered to your inbox, along with Unboxing access (if you hurry!).

The 2023 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide

Talk about a strong premise! In 1960s London, a young woman named Hazel unwraps a parcel from America while working at Hogan’s Rare Book Shop. She is gobsmacked to find an illustrated children’s book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. This book shouldn’t exist, because only two people in the world know about Whisperwood: Hazel and her sister Flora, who created the fairy tale together while billeted in Oxfordshire during WWII. Hazel believes the book is proof that her sister didn’t die, as presumed, back in 1940, and embarks on a quest to find her. A heartfelt historical novel about the power of stories, forgiveness, and love. For fans of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life and Susan Meissner's Secrets of a Charmed Life. Publication date: May 2. More info →

What: Live discussion with Patti Callahan Henry

When: Thursday, June 22 at 7 pm ET

Details: Join Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club for a discussion of

The Secret Book of Flora Lea with Patti Callahan Henry!

(Events are available as replays for members who cannot attend live.)

Romantic Comedy Author: Curtis Sittenfeld From team member Sara: Sittenfeld's latest release packs a one-two punch of celebrity romance and pandemic drama. Comedy writer Sally Millz and heartthrob musician Noah Brewster cross paths when he guest hosts The Night Owls (think Saturday Night Live), but Sally dismisses their obvious chemistry as a one-time anomaly. But when the pandemic hits, they reconnect and realize their spark is still alive. Epistolary novel fans should know that this story delivers some fantastic email exchanges. The ending is satisfyingly hopeful—the perfect summer read. For fans of Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta's The View Was Exhausting and Linda Holmes's Evvie Drake Starts Over. Publication date: April 4. More info → The Late Mrs. Willoughby Author: Claudia Gray I loved The Murder of Mr. Wickham, and was excited to hear the series continues with this second installment. (This new entry stands alone—though the perpetrator of Book 1’s crime is referenced in the opening pages.) Jonathan Darcy (son of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam) and Juliet Tilney (daughter of Catherine and Henry) seek to investigate the sudden death of Mr. Willoughby's unhappy wife, formerly Miss Sophia Grey, who suffers a very public death by poisoning at a dinner party at Barton Park hosted by Sir John Middleton. The premise—that all the characters in Austen's six major works are somehow all in each other's social orbits—continues to be audacious, but this book is such good fun for Austen fans and mystery lovers. For fans of P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley and Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders. Publication date: May 16. More info → Talking at Night Author: Claire Daverley How to describe this emotional debut? This is the story of Will and Rosie, total opposites who fall in love as teenagers despite every single person they know thinking they’re all wrong for each other. (They’re not.) A sudden tragedy drives them apart, but through the decades they keep finding their way back to each other. I rooted so hard for this couple, willing their tumultuous relationship to find steadier ground as they navigate love and loss, overwhelming grief, familial expectations, and missed opportunities, and as they wrestle with the idea of pursuing their own happiness when it feels like it might come at the expense of another. I loved it. For fans of David Nicholls's One Day and Sally Rooney's Normal People. Publication date: June 20. More info → The Postcard Author: Anne Berest From team member Ginger: Translated from the French by Tina Kover. This book is all wrong for summer. Its page count is long and its subject matter weighty. But here’s the thing: in the hands of a compelling writer and a brilliant translator, I could not stop turning the pages. If you’re in need of a light read this summer, steer clear. But if a mysterious postcard, star-crossed lovers, and a chain-smoking, meticulous genealogical note-keeping mother sounds good to you, use the sunny days of summer to balance out this heavy but moving French novel. Plus, I love a book based closely on a true story. So close in fact, it was almost hard to parse out what’s fact and what’s fiction. For fans of Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française and Dani Shapiro's Inheritance. Publication date: May 16. More info → Congratulations, The Best Is Over!: Essays Author: R. Eric Thomas If I wasn’t already an R. Eric Thomas fan for life, this collection would have clinched it: I’m not sure I have words for what it meant to me. In his sophomore book of essays, the Here for It author tells hilarious, moving, and deeply insightful tales of love, adult friendship, family, and marriage, and also therapy, Zoom funerals, working alone, COVID isolation, middle age, and his home city of Baltimore. There’s no weak link in this collection: every story feels immediate, intimate, and real. I’ve thought of “Break Room Cake Communion” and “Jericho” nearly every day since reading them. I can’t stop talking about this book. For fans of Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You and Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for Our Lives.. Publication date: August 8. More info → Yellowface Author: R. F Kuang From team member Shannan: R. F. Kuang’s work always brilliantly probes the world around her and in Yellowface she goes meta, offering a candid look into the lives of authors, the books they write, how those books are published and then wind up in our hands. Starting off slow, it quickly turns into a compulsive page-turner; I had to know “What’s going to happen?” Yellowface raises questions typical of Kuang’s writing, including who gets to tell certain stories, and why. She is on the record saying she doesn’t necessarily answer the questions that she asks, leaving that task up to us. I’m still thinking. For fans of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot and Zakiya Dalila Harris's The Other Black Girl. Publication date: May 16. More info → No Two Persons Author: Erica Bauermeister “No two persons ever read the same book, or saw the same picture.” These words frame the story for Bauermeister’s new novel in linked short stories about how a debut novel changes the lives of eleven people. First we meet Alice, an aspiring writer who struggles for years before finally completing her novel Theo. Then we meet the publisher’s assistant who plucks it from the slush pile, the out-of-work actor chosen to narrate the audiobook (perhaps my favorite story), the teenager who finds the book while she hides her homelessness, and more readers who subsequently stumble upon it at just the right time. A testament to the invisible threads that tie us together, and the power of books and reading. For fans of Ingrid Hill's Ursula, Under and Diane Chamberlain's The Last House on the Street. Publication date: May 2. More info → The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi Author: Shannon Chakraborty City of Brass author Chakraborty kicks off a new trilogy with this spirited tale of a renegade pirate captain—who happens to be a middle-aged mother simply trying to enjoy her retirement. But after a former crewmate’s daughter is kidnapped, Amina reluctantly accepts one last job and pulls her long-retired crew together again to help. The historical fantasy unfolds on the high seas of the twelfth-century Indian Ocean and bursts with period detail and magical adventures. From the book’s touching dedication to the detailed author’s note and acknowledgments, I found this imaginative tale and irresistible protagonist unique, exciting, and just plain fun. For fans of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows and Brandon Sanderson's Tress of the Emerald Sea. Publication date: February 28. More info → Banyan Moon Author: Thao Thai This stirring debut novel follows three generations of Vietnamese American women in the wake of the death of their beloved matriarch. “Secrets never stay hidden,” muses one character. “Someone always has to deal with the fallout.” Across the generations and in rotating points of view, we see each woman deal with both the burdens she inherited and the secrets she keeps from her daughter out of love, and how this well-intentioned choice causes terrible harm to all. But even after one family member dies, it might not be too late for the surviving women to reunite in their Florida home under the banyan tree for one more attempt at understanding and redemption. For fans of Asha Lemmie's Fifty Words for Rain and Charmaine Wilkerson's Black Cake. Publication date: June 27. More info → If We’re Being Honest Author: Cat Shook This was a deeply relatable, laugh-out-loud, busy and buoyant delight. Debut novelist Shook has a lot of plates spinning: the vast character count and rapidly shifting narrative perspective made me a little dizzy in the early chapters, but once I figured out who was who, I was hooked. (Tip: the print copy has a family tree!) The story opens with a shocking revelation at the patriarch’s funeral and unfolds over the course of one chaotic week in fictional Eulalia, Georgia. Every member of this large family has been keeping big secrets from each other, and by week’s end they all come spilling out. I don’t like to say “should,” but I’m strongly tempted to call this a must-read for fans of contemporary family dramas. For fans of Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You and Emma Straub's All Adults Here. Publication date: April 18. More info → The Museum of Ordinary People Author: Mike Gayle This lovely story opens with Londoner Jess wrapping up a torturous project: she’s clearing out her late mother’s things, and one of the few remaining items is an encyclopedia set her mom gave her when she was young. She can’t keep the books, but she can’t bear to give them to just anyone. Then her friend tells her about a strange museum dedicated to the ordinary stuff of life—her encyclopedias would be perfect for their collection. Soon enough, Jess’s quest leads her to take on a passion project, get to know a handsome stranger, and question what she wants from life. A sweet and earnest redemption story of meaningful connections, found family, and the inherent dignity of ordinary lives. For fans of Ruth Hogan's The Keeper of Lost Things and Lizzie Damilola Blackburn's Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?. Publication date: May 30. More info →

What’s on YOUR summer reading list?

If you find something great in this Minimalist Guide or our full Summer Reading Guide, would you spread the book love? Our hashtag is #MMDSummerReading. (Follow me on Instagram at @annebogel, the podcast at @whatshouldireadnext, and Book Club at @mmdbookclub for summer reading goodness all season long.)

Happy summer, and happy reading!


1 Comment

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May 29, 2023


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