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Summer Reading: A User’s Guide

Sarah Lawson

Summer is the perfect time to begin reading a new book, but knowing where to look for new reading material is often tricky. Sarah Lawson, Assistant Director for the Virginia Center for the Book with the Virginia Humanities, gives her suggestions on where to start.


“Summer reading” means a lot of things to a lot of people. It conjures books best read on a beach—the fluffier the better—but also required reading lists for school. It includes reading competitions at your public library as well as that book (or, for some, that stack of books) stowed in your vacation luggage. It can also be a chance to make the most of a staycation as an armchair traveler, to work through the tomes that have piled up on your bedside table, or to discover something completely new by experimenting with new from recommended reading lists.

No matter what “summer reading” means to you, one thing is certain: Summer is a season for reading—and doing so with wild abandon. To help you navigate your many options, check out this list of resources to help you find the perfect book(s) to carry you through the coming months:

Micah LeMon

For those who seek the open road (and enjoy a cold beverage): A road trip-inspired reading list from state Centers for the Book—including our own here in Virginia—Route 1 Reads is a great resource for finding books about travel and food this year. In Virginia, our selection is The Imbible: A Cocktail Guide for Beginning and Home Bartenders by Charlottesville-based author Micah LeMon, published by the University of Virginia Press. You can learn more about Route 1 Reads here, but we also invite you to get to know Micah a bit before you dive into reading (and experimenting with) his book. You can also follow the Center on Twitter for weekly recipes from The Imbible throughout the summer!

Meg Medina

For young readers: Every year, the Library of Congress Center for the Book features a book from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the National Book Festival, creating an annual list of Great Reads. For 2019, the Virginia Center for the Book will feature Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Richmond-based author Meg Medina, winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal. Great for middle grade readers but also adults who enjoy a good story, the book tells the tale of a sixth grader as she navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between.

For all the loyal Hoos: If you’re looking for suggestions with a bit more school spirit, check out the New Books by UVA English Faculty, Alums list, featuring Charlottesville favorites with their own share of national acclaim, including UVA’s Creative Writing Program director, Jane Alison, among other favorites.

If you’re more interested in catching up on or revisiting the classics, UVA’s Heritage Theatre Festival will feature Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as one of their summertime productions. Those in the Charlottesville area can also join the play’s director, Estefanía Fadul; Susan Fraiman, UVA professor of English; and Jane Kulow, director of the Virginia Center for the Book, for a discussion of Austen’s influence on contemporary works on July 8 at New Dominion Bookshop.

Something for everyone: Finally, don’t forget to spend some time exploring the Virginia Festival of the Book archives for even more ideas of books and authors to explore—including, for example, another kind of beach book: Susan Hand Shetterly’s beautiful nonfiction book, Seaweed Chronicles. You can browse the list of authors who have spoken at the Festival throughout its twenty-five year history or watch videos of author discussions from the 2019 Festival. Either way, you’re sure to be reminded of old favorites and clued in to some new names to try!