Summer Reading: 9 Great Books that Don’t Require a Thinking Cap

Best Summer Reads that Don't Require a Thinking Cap: ‎

Last year, I made the mistake of trying to get through The Goldfinch during summer vacation. As Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer prize for this novel, I figured toting it around the pool would make me look sophisticated it would be worth the read. It took literally four months to get through all 784 pages of this bad boy, which could have been shortened 500 pages if Ms. Tartt wouldn’t have been trying so hard to impress readers with her verbosity.

C’mon… get to the point!

While the book had a great story (or three great stories combined into one book), I don’t want to have to put on my thinking cap when I’m doused in sunscreen, drinking a pina colada, and trying to prevent my kids from drowning.

I got together with some of my favorite bloggers and entrepreneurs to come up with the best summer reading that doesn’t require you to think too hard.

Casey of Fly Away with Me recommends The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. “I couldn’t put this book down one summer. It took me back in time immediately! It’s a historical fiction novel about the building of a cathedral in the town of Kingsbridge. It’s a long but heart-wrenching story about family, love, loss, strength, and the human spirit. It’s also a beautiful story about medieval architecture.”

Kristin of Better Together recommends To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. “This classic is an oldie-but-goodie. It is probably my favorite book of all time, a spot it’s held since it was forced summer reading between eighth and ninth grades. I re-read it every few years, and I feel like I glean a little more from the book each time. The theme that resonates most with me is the main character’s innocence and naivety in the face of racial injustice. If only we could all look at certain parts of life through the eyes of a child. In anticipation of the July release of Harper Lee’s long-lost (and unknown until recently) second novel, dust off your old, highlighted copy from high school and dive right in!”

Julie of The Bedford Wife chose Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews. “I’m only halfway through this one, but like all of her novels. It’s easy to read and hilarious (just don’t be surprised if beachgoers look at you funny if you laugh out loud). The book is written around the life of Mary Bliss McGowan, a southern woman whose husband leaves her and her daughter, without warning- taking all of her wealth with him. To reclaim what’s left, she tells one little lie… that leads to another and another.” Julie’s favorite excerpt is “Mama always said the sign of a lady’s breeding was in her chicken salad. White meat, finely ground or hand shredded, and some good Hellman’s mayonnaise, and I don’t know what all. She used to talk about some woman, from up north, who married into one of the Coca-Cola families. She uses dark meat in her chicken salad. Trailer trash.”

Morgan of Pampers and Pearls picked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. “Set in South Carolina in 1964, the book centers around Lily Melissa Owens, a 14 year old whose life has been shaped around the faint memory of her mother’s death. She lives with her abusive father, and they have an African-American maid, Rosaleen, who is Lily’s best friend and “surrogate mother.” After Rosaleen is arrested for pouring a jar of dip on three white men, Lily breaks Rosaleen out of jail (really a hospital) and they decide to leave town. While hitch-hiking toward Tiburon, South Carolina, Lily begins a journey of learning both about the world and her mother. The Secret Life of Bees is a literary triumph about the search for love and belonging, and is a novel that possesses rare wisdom about life and the power of divinity and the female spirit.”

Tracie of Tracie Domino Events recommends When to Rob a Bank… and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. “This books celebrates the 10th anniversary of their landmark book Freakanomics as a curated collection of their best blog posts over the years. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. They ask and examine a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken? I like it because they examine every day life and provide fascinating insights about the surprising ways our world fits together. Each chapter is just a few pages, so you can easily stop reading between pool days.”

Carlee of Crown and Ginger chose Tell All by Chuck Palahniuk. “Think Old Hollywood ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ mixed with the comical detail comparable to that of Chelsea Handler. It’s a story about a “seasoned” actress who is taken by a young, preppy buck who may be planning her demise, at least that is what her maid thinks. She narrates the entire story and believes this Gaston has planned many ways for her to fall and then sell her Tell All as his own. I love this book because, with my ADD, I need to read something that will hold my attention and not spend a lot of time in a scene or dragging out a setting. The author sucks you in, and you never have to wait for something to happen. Not to mention the amount of humor is enough to keep you bursting out loud on the beach this summer.”

Julie of Everyday Happiness picked two books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Husband’s Secret by Laine Moriarty. “The Nightingale is a heavy beach read, but full of romance and family drama with World War II history and it truly takes you to the place of these characters. I finished the book in two days, tears streaming down my face once it was over. It’s rare you find characters and a story with such depth.” Once you’re finished with The Nightingale and need something lighter, turn to The Husband’s Secret. “It’s a fascinating, engrossing story about Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who thinks she has the perfect life and family until she uncovers a haunting secret. I found myself wanting to be friends with Cecilia and also wanting to yell at her at the same time.”

My choice: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. This collection of the best selling humorist’s [short-ish] essays are purely hilarious. The stories are based on the nuances of everyday life and are Seinfeld-esque. They include anecdotes about trying to make coffee when the water is turned off, having a lozenge fall from your mouth and into the lap of a fellow plane passenger, lancing a boil from someone’s derriere, and moving to Japan to quit smoking cigarettes. When you feel like you are engulfed in flames from basking in hot vacation sunshine, this book goes right along perfectly.


Disclaimer: some of the links in this post contain clickable affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a product from one of these links, TCS receives a commission. I believe in all of the products featured on this site and would never recommend them if I didn’t believe they were awesome.


    16 Comments on Summer Reading: 9 Great Books that Don’t Require a Thinking Cap

    1. Jen
      July 19, 2015 at 11:12 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m in need of one of these now! Thanks for the list. 🙂

    2. theartinpartyplanning
      July 18, 2015 at 10:40 am (7 years ago)

      Sounds like we have similar tastes in books! Thanks for the recommendations!

    3. Janice Wald
      June 22, 2015 at 2:00 am (7 years ago)

      Hi Jennifer,
      I loved Pillars of the Earth and To Kill a Mockingbird too. Thanks for coming tot he Inspire Me Monday Linky Party last Monday. Check back tomorrow to my site to see if you won as most Inspirational. You are in contention!

    4. Kathleen
      June 19, 2015 at 9:23 am (7 years ago)

      Its always good to get a review or recommendation for a book before you read it. Our readers at the #HomeMattersParty will appreciate this list.

      • jenniferdaku
        June 19, 2015 at 10:48 am (7 years ago)

        Thanks so much for the feedback and stopping by, Kathleen! Let me know if you have any tips on good summer book reading.

    5. Keri
      June 17, 2015 at 10:12 pm (7 years ago)

      So glad you stopped by to connect! Looking forward to getting to know you more!

    6. Red
      June 15, 2015 at 10:11 pm (7 years ago)

      Great list! Thank you for this, just went back to the library today after a 5 year hiatus. It….was…..AWESOME! Now I’ve got a few recommendations under my belt for my next visit. THANKS! 🙂

      • jenniferdaku
        June 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm (7 years ago)

        DO Share the recs, I can’t wait to hear them!

    7. Kristi
      June 15, 2015 at 6:53 pm (7 years ago)

      I saw someone yesterday reading The Husband’s Secret. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing at #HomeMattersParty (I was telling someone today about your post about the difference between a 1st baby’s 1st birthday party and the subsequent children’s 1st parties). Blessings!

    8. Jennifer
      June 14, 2015 at 12:44 am (7 years ago)

      I do like an easy read every now and then. Thanks for this list and descriptions.

      By the way, I’d like to invite you to post on my new blog hop ( that is open all weekend, if you’re interested.


    9. Tianna
      June 11, 2015 at 11:54 am (7 years ago)

      thanks for these recommendations – will check them out!

    10. Cristina @ I Say Nomato
      June 8, 2015 at 12:22 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for the recommendations! Pillars of the Earth is easily on my top ten favourite books, so I’m glad to see it made the list, despite its hefty size! I’m going to have to check out The Nightingale for sure, since I’m a history junkie. (I too, tried the Goldfinch… I’m an avid reader, but man… that was a slog!)

      • jenniferdaku
        June 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by Cristina! I started reading Pillars of the Earth a few months back but got sidetracked and intimidated by the size. I’ll start plugging along again.

    11. Ella
      June 7, 2015 at 11:23 pm (7 years ago)

      To Kill A Mockingbird has always had a special place in my heart and I love, love, love anything by Mary Kay Andrews! Summer Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews is also really good, too. Actually, her entire book collection are great beach reads. I haven’t read one yet that I didn’t like. AND they have awesome recipes in the back of them!

      Great list! I will have to check out the rest of the books. Thank you for the recommendations!

      • jenniferdaku
        June 8, 2015 at 8:58 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by, Ella! I never heard of Mary Kay Andrews before I wrote this post, and will definitely add her to my reading list. Cheers!

    12. Kati
      June 7, 2015 at 10:25 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for the list. I always prefer a fun, easier read for summer because I am multitasking while reading it. I will check these ones out!