Best summer reads 2021 - Chicago Tribune

Best summer reads 2021

MRI studies on readers show that reading strengthens different areas of the brain, including signaling pathways that can help build empathy.
MRI studies on readers show that reading strengthens different areas of the brain, including signaling pathways that can help build empathy. (BestReviews)

Summer reading

Summer means warm weather, long days and hopefully more time to relax with a great book. This year, fill your reading list with some of the best titles of the season. From adventurous escapes to romantic novels to educational nonfiction, there is a summer read for every set of interests.

Whether you read them all or select a few to add to your bedside table this summer, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the escape these books offer.


Best nonfiction summer reads 2021

Beginning with our top nonfiction choices, here are our favorite titles to check out this summer from various genres, including travel, history and biographies.

Best biography

Dive into the early world of American cuisine through the eyes of James Beard, a man who helped put American food on the map. Beard is now known for the prestigious set of culinary awards named after him. But before the awards was the fascinating life of a gay man in Greenwich Village in the early 1900s who had a short-lived acting career and a long, illustrious career cooking, teaching and writing.

Best poetry

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

This beautiful poetry collection confronts everything from race and feminism to what it means to be queer in America in 2021. Spoken word poet Jasmine Mans compiles touching and haunting poetic stories that will resonate with any reader who has searched for a sense of belonging.

Best autobiography

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Be prepared to laugh out loud and be nonstop entertained with this engaging and honest autobiography written by actor Matthew McConaughey. The book details McConaughey’s comical journey from growing up with two brothers in rural Texas to life as a Hollywood A-lister. If you love audiobooks, this is a great one to listen to, as McConaughey himself narrates the story, which is interspersed with hilarious inflection and spot-on impressions.

Best travel book

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

This book takes you on a journey around the world through the eyes of famously curious culinarian Anthony Bourdain. From Spain to Argentina to Tanzania and beyond, Bourdain saw more of the world than most of us, and this book offers the chance to see — and taste — much of it right along with him.

Best historical book

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the intricate and important history behind Juneteenth, from the early 19th century through Jim Crow all the way up to today. Acclaimed historian Annette Gordon-Reed relies on statistics, historical records and personal stories to shape a clear understanding of America’s troubled history and relationship with this day.

Best fiction books to read summer 2021

If you’re looking to escape from reality with a great read this summer, here are our favorite fictional stories to pick up before heading to the beach.

Best science fiction

Klara and the Sun: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro

This futuristic novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro follows the narration of an artificial friend who patiently absorbs the humans around her. Ishiguro is known for writing stories with deep emotion, and this novel is no exception. Expect to fall in love with the characters at the same time as they fall in love with each other.

Best mystery

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley takes readers to a mysterious, blustery Irish island for a weekend wedding, as narrated by six guests: the bride, the best man, the wedding planner, the bridesmaid, the plus one and the body. When old boarding school friends, estranged family members and strangers gather for a much-anticipated and remote celebration of matrimony, things do not go as expected in this page-turning thriller.

Best novel

This novel immerses readers into the experience of what it’s like to be a teenage girl in rural Nigeria. Brave protagonist Adunni fights against seemingly insurmountable challenges for her right to education and a future that may just change the world.

Best graphic novel

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

This full-color young-adult graphic novel opens the door for readers to experience author Gene Luen Yang’s life growing up to become a high school teacher. Yang confronts bullying as a kid because of his lack of skills on the basketball court, but as a teacher at a basketball-obsessed high school, he develops a new relationship with the game and, more importantly, the players.

Best romance

This light and summery read follows the adorable and quirky friendship of two very different people who take an annual week-long vacation together every year. This year’s trip is their last chance to repair a lifelong friendship that just might have more to offer both parties.

Best young adult novel

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This much-acclaimed book follows a 16-year-old balancing the poor urban neighborhood she grew up in and the upscale prep school she attends. That careful balance is suddenly thrown upside down when she sees her unarmed friend get shot by a police officer. What ensues is a timely discourse on how a community grieves and fights back.

Best children's book

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

This children’s book has quickly become a classic. Cute, colorful illustrations accompany a heartfelt story of dreams and love, told in a rhyme scheme that delights both children and adults.

Lizzy Briskin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.


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