Escape with this English Teacher’s Summer Reading List

Hanging on the wall in my classroom is a poster featuring the following quote by writer Jhumpa Lahiri: “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

As a teacher, people love to ask me, “so, are you traveling anywhere fun this summer while you’re off?” (I put off if italics because, as we teachers know, we aren’t really off…but I digress). I do love to plan at least one trip with my family during the summer, but the traveling I look forward to most is reading.

As an English teacher, I have to read so much for my job during the school year that I don’t often have the energy to read for pleasure. Instead, for months I create a stack of books on my nightstand. I look at the stack wistfully, waiting for summer when I will travel away to the worlds waiting in those pages. This is one delightful reason for reading…to escape.

Another and perhaps even better reason for reading this summer is that it requires us to be still, an adjective or state of being that rarely describe a teacher’s life. Writer John Green summed it up well when he said, “Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes a place for that.” It doesn’t matter whether you read or listen to an audio book, the calm and stillness you can achieve is the same.

I say let’s deliberately and intentionally make a place for it in our lives. We deserve it!

To that end, I’ve carefully compiled a summer reading list in which to lose yourself, some of which have been sitting on my nightstand, others of which come by way of recommendation. Some are new and some are a few years old. I’ve included different genres, so there is something here for everyone.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a stack of books calling my name.


Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey & Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

These two books are pure, romantic beach reads. The first revolves around a screenwriter named Annie Cassidy who is obsessed with Nora Ephron movies. But will she be able to find her own Tom Hanks? The second starts on the Italian coast in 1962 and ends in modern day Hollywood, following several characters on their search for love. The story is so engaging it’s already being made into a movie to be directed by The Devil Wears Prada director, David Frankel.

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Continuing with more light hearted fare, this book tells the story of a transformative friendship that emerges between retired widower Arthur Moses and teenage outcast Maddy Harris after they meet in a cemetery one afternoon. If you liked Fredrik Backman’s A Man Named Ove like I did, you’ll love this heartfelt tale.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

This is the only young adult selection on the list, but I’ve included it because it is such a fun, insightful read that I know adults will enjoy it, too. Norris Kaplan is a black, French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, TX and realizes that life in America is not like it appears on TV sitcoms. This book made me laugh out loud and at the same time question some aspects of our American culture.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

What would you do if your perfectly normal, average, suburban mom was suddenly attacked and shot by a person from her past bent on revenge? This is the scenario Andrea Cooper faces as she realizes that her mom led a much different, much more dangerous life 30 years ago. Will she follow the clues to figure out who her mom really is? This thriller is already being adapted into what will surely be an exciting Netflix series!

You by Caroline Kepnes

This thriller is already a popular Netflix series, and if you’ve watched it, you should give the book a look. It’s the story of a terrifying obsession that develops after a chance encounter between Joe and aspiring writer, Guinevere, in a New York City bookstore. What lengths will Joe go to in order to transform into Guinevere’s ideal man and win her love? Read to find out.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

If you are a music fan, especially a rock ‘n’ roll fan, this novel will sweep you off your feet. It’s written as a series of transcribed interviews (all of which are fiction but feel very real), and tells the story of the tumultuous rise and fall of a 1970’s rock band called Daisy Jones & The Six. The book is already being made into a documentary-style series for Amazon, produced by Reese Witherspoon.

Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch

If you’re anything like my husband, after finishing Game of Thrones, you feel the need for a new, fresh fantasy series to sink your teeth into. And Aaronovitch’s series, with book 8 just released, definitely delivers. It follows Peter Grant, a detective in London who can communicate with ghosts, into a magical world where he must stop a terrible evil from returning.



I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott & Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

If self-enlightenment and/or improvement are on your agenda this summer, then these two books are must-reads. The first is a series of essays on how we can move forward when we suddenly feel stuck in our lives (a relatable experience for almost anyone). The second contains 12 chapters with each chapter revolving around a phrase we should use to more deeply connect with others. I’m already practicing some of these phrases with good results!

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

When she was fifteen years old at a family reunion, author Georgia Hunter learned that her ancestors were Holocaust survivors. Years later she decided to extensively research their history and learned how they were separated during World War II and ultimately survived. Several friends recommended this as an intense but ultimately hopeful read.

American Fire: Love, Arson & Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

This book came out back in 2017 to great acclaim. In rural Virginia in 2012 a series of arsons occurred. Hesse, a Washington Post reporter, went to Accomack County to report on the hearing of the man accused of starting the fires. Once there, his bizarre confessions led her to do a year of research into how a man and his girlfriend, and their troubled life in a declining rural area fueled the arson spree. It’s been on my to-read list for years, and I can’t wait to dig in this summer!

Where The Lost Dogs Go by Susannah Charleston

This memoir follows Susannah Charleston as she carefully researches tactics for finding lost dogs and then goes on the hunt for several dogs with her trusty side-kick, Ace. Ace is her shelter rescue Maltese mix who has a knack for picking up the scent of the lost pups. Dog and animal lovers in general will love this book that shows the amazing bond that exists between humans and their animals.

The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir by Jenifer Lewis

A colleague recently described this as one of the best books she’s ever read. That’s pretty high praise, plus I love Jenifer Lewis on the show black-ish, so I had to check it out. This book follows Lewis’s rise from Broadway to Hollywood and then details her breakdown from a mental illness that went undiagnosed for years. Her writing is honest, intense, and often hilarious.

Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat

For all the cooks out there, if you haven’t picked up this “cook book” yet, you are missing out! I put “cook book” in quotation marks because it is more of a personal guide to cooking than a traditional cook book. There is a chapter of recipes, but most of the book describes how to use the four elements in the title to create great food, no matter the ingredients. Samin Nosrat’s fun, descriptive writing style makes this a joy to read, and the companion Netflix series delves into the four elements in greater detail, with Nosrat traveling all over the world to showcase amazing cooking.


Megan Panek is a secondary Language Arts teacher and instructional coach. She currently teaches and coaches at a career and technical education (CTE) center in Virginia and believes in CTE with all her heart. She considers herself a life-long learner and is always looking to improve her craft.”

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