The BIG List of 2024 Indie Summer Reads.

By Michele Mathews

Summer is here. Have you made a list of the books you’d like to read? If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. This list of fifty books will give you some ideas you might like to check out. From general fiction to memoirs and everything in between, you’ll find a variety of genres listed below to help you with your own list of to-be-read books this summer.


General Fiction:

1. Moments Between Dreams

By Judith F. Brenner

Carol misses red flags about Joe’s need for control before she marries him, dashing her dreams for herself and her family. Trouble escalates after their daughter Ellie is paralyzed by the polio virus and Joe returns from WWII. Carol realizes how brutal waking life can be, and she conceals bruises and protects her children the best she can.

The Moments Between Dreams is a captivating story of a 1940s housewife who conforms to the rulebook of society until Joe pushes her too far. His constant intimidation shrinks Carol’s confidence while she tries to boost Ellie’s. Church-going neighbors in Carol’s tight-knit Polish community are complacent, but Sam, a handsome reporter, stirs up Carol’s zest for life. Despite impossible circumstances, Carol plans a secret escape. Along a risky path, she empowers her daughter to know no limits and teaches her son to stop the cycle of violence and gender discrimination.

2. My Good Son

By Yang Huang

In My Good Son, award-winning author Yang Huang explores both the deep power and the profound burdens of parental love through the story of Mr. Cai, a tailor in post-Tiananmen China, and his only son Feng. Like many of his generation, Mr. Cai’s most fervent desire is for his son to succeed. He manages to get Feng to pass his entrance exams, and turns to an American customer, Jude, to sponsor his studies in the States. This scheme, hatched between the older Chinese man and a handsome gay American ex-pat, exposes readers to the parallels and differences of American and Chinese cultures―father-son relationships, familial expectations, sexuality, social mobility, and privilege. Huang’s writing abounds with sharp insights and a quiet humor, revealing the complexity of family relationships amidst two rapidly changing cultures.

3. Paper Airplanes

By Tabitha Torney

It’s the end of summer, 2001. Erin O’Connor has everything she’s ever dreamed of: good friends, a high-powered career at a boutique Manhattan firm, and a husband she adores. They have plans for their life together: careers, children, and maybe even a house in the country. But life has other plans. Daniel works on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center.

Erin is drinking margaritas on a beach in Mallorca, helping her best friend get over a breakup, when she hears aiplane has crashed into Daniel’s building. On a television at the smoky hotel bar, she watches his building collapse. She makes her way home with the help of a stranger named Alec, and once there, she haunts Ground Zero, nearby hospitals, and trauma centers, plastering walls and fences with missing-person flyers. But there’s no trace of Daniel.

After accepting Daniel’s death, Erin struggles to get her life back on track but makes a series of bad decisions and begins to live her life in a self-destructive fog of booze and pills. It’s not until she hits rock bottom that she realizes it’s up to her to decide: Was her destiny sealed with Daniel’s? Or is there life after happily ever after?

4. The Pelican Tide

By Sharon J. Wishnow

After disaster strikes, a Louisiana family and their community need to prove to each other and the world that their bond is thicker than the oil threatening their shores in Sharon J. Wishnow’s stunning debut novel.

It’s taken Chef Josie Babineaux six months to reconcile the debts left from her husband Brian’s gambling along with her broken heart. But now with a promising tourist season heating up and a travel magazine declaring her the spice queen of the bayou, she may be able to save her family’s historic Cajun restaurant. Repairing her relationship with her daughter, Minnow, while hiding the true reason she left her husband is a bigger issue.

Just as the first tourists arrive, an explosion on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico shatters their fragile plans. With her island community at the epicenter of the oil spill, everything is endangered, including the restaurant’s beloved mascot—a brown pelican dear to the family’s heart. Josie realizes her family needs more than financial recovery. Only reconciling her past and revealing the truth can clean up the guilt and hurt pooling under the surface. And maybe, with enough honesty, this family can find renewal.

5. The Moon Always Rising

By Alice C. Early

In 1998, fiery Eleanor “Els” Gordon thought the new century would find her married to her childhood soul mate, rejuvenating her family’s Scottish Highlands estate, and finally earning a managing director title at her investment bank. Maybe she’d even have the courage to discover why her estranged mother ran home to Italy thirty years earlier.

But when 2000 dawns, Els is mourning her fiancé and her father, and she’s unemployed, broke, and sharing an antique plantation house on the Caribbean island of Nevis with the ghost—or “jumbie”—of Jack Griggs, the former owner. Jack’s jumbie wangles Els’s help in making amends for wrongs committed during his Casanova life, and in exchange he appoints himself Cupid on behalf of a charter captain who’s as skittish about vulnerability as Els. Meanwhile, Els lures her mother to Nevis in hopes of unraveling the family secrets—but will the shocking truth set her free, or pull her fragile new happiness apart?

6. Chicken Dinner News

By Jeff Billington

Ryan Shipley wouldn’t have recognized his grandfather if they were the only two people in a room. So when an unwanted inheritance lands in his lap, Ryan is overcome with obligation. Does he leave his life as a journalist in LA to run his grandfather’s weekly newspaper and revive a dying Ozark town, half of which he now owns?

The overwhelming amount of casserole dishes brought to his door, along with being stopped by anyone and everyone to be regaled about the virtues of his grandfather, don’t sway him. But when he starts to fall in love with more than just a girl named Olivia, Ryan sees a future there.

Change is due for this small town, and Ryan is all in. But when there is talk of a chicken processing plant being built on the outskirts, he writes an editorial in its favor and stirs up trouble. An arsonist and a rigid bigot turn the uproar of the townspeople into mayhem. But it only makes Ryan more empowered to guide the town, and with Olivia by his side, they begin to turn the tide.

Charming and humorously thoughtful, Chicken Dinner News is contemporary fiction for open-minded soul searchers that enjoy books by such authors as Richard Russo, Robert James Waller, and Boo Walker.


7. Ghost Tamer

By Meredith R. Lyons

Sarcastic, aspiring-comedian Raely is the sole survivor of a disastrous train wreck. While faced with the intense grief of losing her best friend, she acquires a stalker… that no one else sees. For a ghostly tag-along, Casper’s not so bad. He might even be the partner Raely needs to fight the evil spirit hell-bent on destroying her.

Raely and her transparent friend must learn who this demonic spirit is, why he’s after Raely, and what she has to do to stop him before he destroys her life—and potentially her soul. Which, much to her chagrin, means she’s going to need the help of a psychic, and she’s going to have to rid herself of the pesky ghost hunter who’s interested in exploiting her new abilities.

8. The Jinn Daughter

By Rania Hanna

A stunning debut novel and an impressive feat of storytelling that pulls together mythology, magic, and ancient legend in the gripping story of a mother’s struggle to save her only daughter. Nadine is a jinn tasked with one job: telling the stories of the dead. She rises every morning to gather pomegranate seeds—the souls of the dead—that have fallen during the night. With her daughter Layala at her side, she eats the seeds and tells their stories. Only then can the departed pass through the final gate of death.

But when the seeds stop falling, Nadine knows something is terribly wrong. All her worst fears are confirmed when she is visited by Kamuna, Death herself and ruler of the underworld, who reveals her desire for someone to replace her: it is Layala she wants. Nadine will do whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe, but Kamuna has little patience and a ruthless drive to get what she has come for. Layala’s fate, meanwhile, hangs in the balance.

Rooted in Middle Eastern mythology, Rania Hanna deftly weaves subtle, yet breathtaking, magic through this vivid and compelling story that has at its heart the universal human desire to, somehow, outmaneuver death.

9. New Rock New Role

By Richard Sparks

With millions watching on live stream, Daxx and his teammates Qrysta and Grell win the role-playing Games (RPG) Grand Championship. But winning the game was a piece of cake compared with what comes next.

Daxx wakes up to find he’s turned into his own avatar and is in the middle of a wilderness he doesn’t recognize. Armed with a crappy sword he has no idea how to use and dressed in beginner-level gear he must figure out how  to survive quickly because he can already hear the bloodthirsty howls of wild animals from the jungle that surrounds him.

Thus starts a fantastic epic fantasy adventure. Once the three friends finally find each other they need to puzzle out their new world, gain skills, combat enemies, and make alliances with all kinds of characters and creatures from the different territories of this new world in order to survive.


10. Blood to Rubies

By Deborah Hufford

Blood to Rubies is the scorching saga of injustice, love, and redemption in the western wilderness. A young frontier photographer goes West to escape the Civil War draft and settles in the Bitterroot Mountains, ancestral home of the Nez Perce Indians. There he becomes obsessed with a young Irish pioneer woman he spies swimming nude in a mountain lake. He comes to admire the Nez Perce and photographs the young leader, Chief Joseph, and a Nez Perce woman warrior (based on a real historical person). Their stories tangle in a ruthless convergence of fates. As he chronicles Chief Joseph’s desperate struggle to save his people and their harrowing 1,500-mile exodus to the Canadian border–the medicine line–to join Sitting Bull in freedom, he feels complicit in their demise. Blood to Rubies has already garnered early praise from many New York Times bestselling authors, praising  the debut novel as  “brilliant,” “heartbreakingly beautiful,” “unforgettable,” “gritty and lush,” “a masterpiece of a debut.”

The foreword of Blood to Rubies is written by a descendant of Chief Joseph and former Chair and Chieftain of the Nez Perce Tribe, as well as Founding Board Member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Allen V. Pinkham, Sr. Other leading Nez Perce elders have endorsed Blood to Rubies, as well. 

A portion of Blood to Rubies’ sales goes to the Chief Joseph Foundation (CJF) in Idaho for its amazing Mounted Scholars Program, mentoring Nez Perce youth to learn about their tribal culture and horse legacy, as well as empowering them to become first-generation college and trade school students. CJF also sponsors Nez Perce youth to ride the annual Chief Joseph Ride and provides them with Nez Perce-bred Appaloosas for the trek so they can learn about the heroic and historic Nez Perce struggle to remain free. Many of their ancestors fought and died along the trail, so the experience is profound and life-changing for them. 

11. Of White Ashes

By Constance Hays Matsumoto & Kent Matsumoto

The bombing of Pearl Harbor propels America into WWII and two Japanese Americans into chaos. Separated by the Pacific, each embarks on a tumultuous path to survive childhood and live the American dream. Ruby Ishimaru loses her liberty and uproots from her Hawaii home to incarceration camps on the mainland. Koji Matsuo strains under the menacing clouds of the Japanese war machine and atomic bombing while concealing a dangerous secret—one that threatens his family’s safety.

When destiny brings Ruby and Koji together in California, their chemistry is magnetic, but wounds of trauma run deep and threaten their love as another casualty of war.

Inspired by the true stories of the authors’ family, OF WHITE ASHES crosses oceans and cultures, illuminating the remarkable lives of ordinary people who endure seemingly unbearable hardship with dignity and patience. Their experiences compel us to reflect on the resilience of humanity and the risk of history repeating. 

12. An Enemy Like Me

By Teri M. Brown

How does a man show his love – for country, for heritage, for family – during a war that sets the three at odds? What sets in motion the necessity to choose one over the other? How will this choice change everything and everyone he loves?

Jacob Miller, a first-generation American, grew up in New Berlin, a small German immigrant town in Ohio where he endured the Great Depression, met his wife, and started a family. Though his early years were not easy, Jacob believes he is headed toward his ‘happily ever after’ until a friend is sent to an internment camp for enemy combatants, and the war lands resolutely on his doorstep.

In An Enemy Like Me, Teri M Brown uses the backdrop of World War II to show the angst experienced by Jacob, his wife, and his four-year-old son as he left for and fought in a war he did not create. She explores the concepts of xenophobia, intrafamily dynamics, and the recognition that war is not won and lost by nations, but by ordinary men and women and the families who support them. If you are a fan of historical fiction with a love for heartfelt, introspective war stories, then you’ll enjoy An Enemy Like Me by award-winning author Teri M Brown. This emotional saga explores war and its impacts in unique ways that few military fiction novels do.

13. Flags On The Bayou

By James Lee Burke

In the fall of 1863, the Union army is in control of the Mississippi river. Much of Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is occupied. The Confederate army is retreating toward Texas, and being replaced by Red Legs, irregulars commanded by a maniacal figure, and enslaved men and women are beginning to glimpse freedom.

When Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman working on the Lufkin plantation, is accused of murder, she goes on the run with Florence Milton, an abolitionist schoolteacher, dodging the local constable and the slavecatchers that prowl the bayous. Wade Lufkin, haunted by what he observed—and did—as a surgeon on the battlefield, has returned to his uncle’s plantation to convalesce, where he becomes enraptured by Hannah. Flags on the Bayou is an engaging, action-packed narrative that includes a duel that ends in disaster, a brutal encounter with the local Union commander, repeated skirmishes with Confederate irregulars led by a diseased and probably deranged colonel, and a powerful story of love blossoming between an unlikely pair. As the story unfolds, it illuminates a past that reflects our present in sharp relief.

James Lee Burke, whose “evocative prose remains a thing of reliably fierce wonder” (Entertainment Weekly), expertly renders the rich Louisiana landscape, from the sunsets on the Mississippi River to the dingy saloons of New Orleans to the tree-lined shores of the bayou and the cottonmouth snakes that dwell in its depths. Powerful and deeply moving, Flags on the Bayou is a story of tragic acts of war, class divisions upended, and love enduring through it all.

Literary Fiction:

14. The Blue Maiden

By Anna Noyes

It’s 1825, four generations after Berggrund Island’s women stood accused of witchcraft under the eye of their priest, now long dead. In his place is Pastor Silas, a widower with two wild young daughters, Beata and Ulrika. The sisters are outcasts: imaginative, oppositional, increasingly obsessed with the lore and legend of the island’s dark past and their absent mother, whom their father refuses to speak of.

As the girls come of age, and the strictures of the community shift but never wane, their rebellions twist and sharpen. Ever capable Ulrika shoulders the burden of keeping house, while Bea, alone with unsettling visions and impulses, hungers for companionship and attention. When an enigmatic outsider arrives at their door, his presence threatens their family bond and unearths – piece by piece – a buried history to shocking ends. All the while Berggrund’s neighboring island the Blue Maiden beckons, storied home of the Witches’ Sabbath and Satan’s realm, its misted shore veiling truths the sisters have spent their lives searching for.

A Nordic Gothic laced with the horrors of life in a patriarchy both hostile to and reliant on its women, The Blue Maiden is a starkly beautiful depiction of lost lineage and resilience.

15. Tell Me One Thing

By Kerri Schlottman

Outside a rural Pennsylvania motel, nine-year-old Lulu smokes a cigarette while sitting on the lap of a trucker. Photographer Quinn is passing through town and captures it. While the image launches Quinn’s career, Lulu fights to survive in a volatile home.

Decades later, when Quinn has a retrospective at a major museum and “Lulu & the Trucker” has sold at auction for a record-breaking amount, Lulu is surprised to find the troubling image of her young self in the newspaper. She attends an exhibition talk with one question in mind for Quinn: Why didn’t you help me all those years ago?

Tell Me One Thing is a portrait of two Americas, examining power, privilege, and the sacrifices one is willing to make to succeed. Traveling through the 1980s to present day, the novel delves into New York City’s free-for-all grittiness while exposing a neglected slice of the struggling rust belt.

16. The Banana Wars

By Alan Grostephan

Urabá, Colombia, 1990: A violent strike at plantations across the banana zone leads to crops in flames, managers murdered, and the local economy teetering on the brink. In retaliation, the banana producers finance right-wing paramilitaries to cleanse the zone of guerrillas and their supposed collaborators.

Through the intertwined lives of four characters—a banana worker making a play for power in the guerrillas, a decadent Colombian banana planter who runs his business from the safety of Medellín, a widow in Urabá struggling to stay on the right side of the local paramilitaries, and an American banana executive wading ever deeper into troubled waters—The Banana Wars charts the struggle to survive in impossible conditions, in a place where no one is to be trusted and one false move can lead to death.

Starkly drawn from the true history of Urabá and this period of conflict, including the unseen role of US corporate interests, celebrated author Alan Grostephan’s latest is an incandescent historical novel for fans of Jesmyn Ward, Roberto Bolaño, and Fernanda Melchor.

17. Attribution

By Linda Moore

Art historian Cate Adamson, desperate to succeed to console her grieving parents, leaves the Midwest to complete her doctorate in New York—only to find herself assigned to an impossible sexist advisor. She struggles to impress him until she discovers a hidden painting, possibly a Baroque masterpiece. Risking her career, financial disaster, and further alienation from her family, she flees to Spain with the painting to consult art experts.

Antonio, an impoverished duke, meets Cate on the train to Seville, and joins her search while attempting to rescue the decaying legacy of his family. They find clues and uncover evidence that will shock the titans of art history, may destroy her prospects as an art historian, and shatter her future with Antonio.

Written with vivid prose, rich references to seventeenth century Spanish art, compelling characters and a historical puzzle, Attribution is the story of one contemporary woman’s journey to understand the past and unlock her future.

Mystery & Thriller:

18. Bad, Bad Seymour Brown

By Susan Isaacs

When Corie Geller asked her parents to move from their apartment into the suburban McMansion she shares with her husband and teenage daughter, she assumed they’d fit right in with the placid life she’d opted for when she left the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force of the FBI.

But then her retired NYPD detective father gets a call from good-natured and slightly nerdy film professor April Brown—one of the victims of a case he was never able to solve. When April was a five-year-old, she’d emerged unscathed from the arson that killed her parents. Now, two decades later, April is asking for help. Someone has made an attempt on her life. It takes only a nanosecond for Corie and her dad to say yes, and they jump into a full-fledged investigation.

If they don’t move fast, whoever attacked the April is sure to strike again. But while her late father, Seymour Brown, was the go-to money launderer for the Russian mob – a mercurial and violent man with a penchant for Swiss watches and cheating on his wife – April Brown has no enemies. Well-liked by her students, admired by her colleagues, her only connection to crime is her passion for the noir movies of Hollywood’s golden age. Who would want her dead now? And who set that horrific fire, all those years ago?

The stakes have never been higher. Yet as Corie and her dad are realizing, they still live for the chase. Savvy and surprising, witty and gripping, Bad, Bad Seymour Brown is another standout hit from the beloved Susan Isaacs.

19. Code of the Hills

By Chris Offutt

With his signature crackling prose, literary master Chris Offutt has staked out his own territory in crime fiction, a place of familial allegiances, old wounds, and revenge—the code of the hills. His new book, a sharp, twisty southern noir with echoes of James Sallis and Daniel Woodrell, will force Mick to face up to the way of life he thought he’d escaped.

Mick Hardin is supposed to be retired, transitioning to civilian life. Back in the hills of Kentucky after a two-year absence, he’d planned to touch down briefly before heading to France, marking the end of his twenty-year Army career.

But in Rocksalt, trouble is brewing. Mick’s sister Linda, recently reelected as sheriff, and her deputy Johnny Boy Tolliver are investigating the murder of Pete Lowe, a sought-after mechanic at the local racetrack. Mick doesn’t want to get involved—he wants to say his goodbyes and get out of Dodge. But when he reluctantly agrees to intervene in a family dispute requiring a light touch, he uncovers evidence of an illegal cockfighting ring and another body, somehow linked to the first. And then, Linda steps into harm’s way, leaving Mick to solve the crimes himself.

Code of the Hills is a harrowing novel of family—of what we’re willing to do to protect and avenge the ones we love.

20. Holy City

By Henry Wise

After a decade of exile precipitated by the tragic death of his mother, Will Seems returns home from Richmond to rural Southside Virginia, taking a job as deputy sheriff in a landscape given way to crime and defeat. Impoverished and abandoned, this remote land of tobacco plantations, razed forests, and boarded-up homes seems stuck in the past in a state that is trying to forget its complex history and move on.

Will’s efforts to go about his life are wrecked when a mysterious, brutal homicide claims the life of an old friend, Tom Janders, forcing Will to face the true impetus for his return: not to honor his mother’s memory, but to pay a debt to a Black friend who, in an act of selfless courage years ago, protected Will and suffered permanent disfigurement for it.

Meanwhile, a man Will knows to be innocent is arrested for Tom’s murder, and despite Will’s pleas, his boss seems all too content to wrap up the case and move on. Will must weigh his personal guilt against his public duty when the local Black community hires Bennico Watts, an unpredictable private detective from Richmond, to help him find the real killer. It would seem an ideal pairing—she has experience, along with plenty of sand, and Will is privy to the details of the case—but it doesn’t take long for either to realize they much prefer to operate alone.

Bennico and Will clash as they each defend their untraditional ways on a wild ride that wends deep into the Snakefoot, an underworld wilderness that for hundreds of years has functioned as a hideout for outcasts—the forgotten and neglected and abused—leaving us enmeshed in the tangled history of a region and its people that leaves no one innocent, no one free, nothing sacred.

21. Don’t Turn Around

By Harry Dolan

The police call him Merkury. He’s a killer who seems to choose his victims at random. He leaves no evidence behind, and no witnesses. Except for one.

When Kate Summerlin was eleven years old, she climbed out her bedroom window on a spring night, looking for a taste of freedom in the small college town where she and her parents were living. But what she found as she wandered in the woods near her house was something else: the body of a beautiful young woman, the first of Merkury’s victims. And before she could come to grips with what she was seeing, she heard a voice behind her, the killer’s voice, saying: “Don’t turn around.”

Now, at the age of twenty-nine, Kate is a successful true crime writer, but she has never told anyone the truth about what happened on that long-ago night. When Merkury claims yet another victim—a college student named Bryan Cayhill—Kate finds herself drawn back to the town where everything started. She sets out to make sense of this latest crime, but the deeper she gets into the story, the more she comes to realize that it isn’t over. Her search for the truth about Merkury is leading her down into a dark labyrinth, and if she hopes to escape she’ll have to meet him once again—this time face to face.

22. Citizen Orlav

By Jonathan Payne

Journey to an unnamed mountainous country in central Europe at the end of the Great War. Enter Citizen Orlov, a simple fishmonger and an honest, upright citizen, who answers a phone call meant for a secret agent and stumbles into a hidden world of espionage and secrecy. Recruited by the Ministry of Security, he is sent on assignment to safeguard the king.

But Orlov soon discovers that his ministry handler, the alluring femme fatale Agent Zelle, is planning not to protect the king but to assassinate him. Caught in a web of plot and counterplot, confusing loyalties, and explosive betrayals, Orlov finds himself on trial for murder. Given the opportunity to clear his name, he finds that the lives of his friends, mother, and fellow citizens hang in the balance.


23. Catch Me When I Fall

By Donna Stoneham

Losing your mother is a transformational event at any age, and yet the number of books on the subject of adult children grieving a mother’s death is meager. In this moving collection of poems and letters, Donna Stoneham chronicles the healing power of love between an adult daughter and her elderly mother—across the boundaries of this world and the next, and over the course of four years—and how that connection teaches her to love more deeply, to fully forgive, and to grow into her authentic self.

An embracing solace for anyone recovering from the loss of a loved one, Catch Me When I Fall reveals how our grief journeys can be a powerful transformative force and offers readers a courageous, healing path to the other side of sorrow’s dark passage. Through the conversations between mother and daughter that take place in these lyrical pieces, readers are provided with the opportunity to explore a beautiful notion: as long as we keep our hearts open to the mystery and transformational power of transcendent, eternal love, it will always be possible to heal and continue our most pivotal relationships—even after death.

24. Ghost Man on Second

By Erica Reid

Erica Reid’s debut collection, Ghost Man on Second, traces a daughter’s search for her place in the world after estrangement from her parents. Reid writes, “It’s hard to feel at home unless I’m aching.” Growing from this sense of isolation, Reid’s poems create new homes in nature, in mythology, and in poetic forms—including sestinas, sonnets, and golden shovels—containers that create and hold new realizations and vantage points. Reid stands up to members of her family, asking for healing amid dissolving bonds. These poems move through emotional registers, embodying nostalgia, hurt, and hope. Throughout Ghost Man on Second, the poems portray Reid’s active grappling with home and confrontation with the ghosts she finds there.

25. Indigo Hours

By Nancy Stone

Artist and author Nancy Stone took life for granted–until she was thrust into the unchosen role of caregiver for her spouse of fifty years. Her husband’s decline has changed every aspect of their relationship–except their love. In poems that show the change of emotions along with insights for coping with loss and grief and the metaphor found in nature–water, light and shadow–Stone breaks down the silence and stigma associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and offers a calming guide for others dealing with the devastation and exhaustion of caregiving. Her poems and art offer glimmers of gratitude, courage, and resilience for moving forward with love in your heart during challenging times.

26. Morning Leaves

By Laing F. Rikkers

In the wake of the untimely death of the author’s younger sister and isolated by the pandemic, Rikkers produced Morning Leaves, a book of vulnerable, evocative, and ultimately hopeful poems. She introduces her story and explains how counseling, the artistic process, and nature helped her through the healing process.

Her poems, paired with Kelly Leahy Radding’s stunningly realistic botanical paintings, metaphorically describe the range of emotions she passes through while grieving. Rikkers seizes the opportunity to be attentive to who she is and, more importantly, who she wants to be, leaving space for the reader to do the same. Her writing is soulful, open, and accessible and the artwork is exquisite. Ultimately, readers are invited to reflect on themselves as they address the grief and loss they have experienced in their own lives.

27. Ghosted

By Sarah Ready

Jillian Nejat is the only dating and relationship expert on the planet who is incapable of speaking to men. If they’re living, if they’re breathing, it’s game over. With her bank account at zero, her career a dumpster fire, and her dating life in a ten-year slump, she moves into a tiny, dirt-cheap NYC apartment.  Unfortunately, the apartment is already occupied.

Daniel (no-last-name) is a sexy, shirtless, six-pack wielding heartthrob who is also…dead. He isn’t living. He isn’t breathing. He’s a ghost. He’s also the only man on the planet that Jillian can talk to. Soon, Daniel’s convinced that it’s his afterlife mission to resurrect Jillian’s love life. He knows, if he helps her fall in love then he can move on. Jillian agrees. The last thing she needs is a Lothario ghost haunting her living room. But then, one practice date leads to another, one confession leads to more, and suddenly Jillian fears she’s falling for the one man she can never have.

28. Love in War

By Stewart Lytle

Love in War is a new historical romance novel that portrays a passionate story of young love growing out of the cauldron of war. Based on a true story, it is being made into a feature film. The Spanish Civil War, waged in the late 1930s, was one of the most destructive in European history, pitting families against one another. The fascist regimes supported the Nationalists, who ultimately won the war, while the Soviet Union, and American and European artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway, backed the Second Spanish Republic.

29. Summerhaven

By Tiffany Odekirk

Hannah Kent and Oliver Jennings pledged their hearts to each other as children. Now, years later, Hannah is thrilled to receive an invitation to spend the summer at Oliver’s family’s country estate. The path to wedded bliss is clear―so long as Oliver’s highbrow older brother, Damon, has ceased his juvenile antics, Hannah’s future looks bright indeed.

But from the moment Hannah arrives at Summerhaven, nothing is as she expected. Oliver seems disinterested in renewing their acquaintance, and Damon is not the brutish boy she remembers but a man intent on avoiding marriage. Although she has loathed Damon her whole life, when he contrives a ruse designed to win them both what they desire, Hannah warily agrees. All she has to do to reclaim Oliver’s attention is pretend to be madly in love with Damon. But when Damon is surprisingly convincing in his role as a suitor, it proves difficult to discern the line between pretense and true love.

Science Fiction:

30. The Oxygen Farmer

By Colin Holmes

After 35 years of living on the Moon, cranky old oxygen farmer Millennium Harrison has stumbled onto a hidden facility in the shadows of the Slayton Ridge Exclusion Zone with a radiation leak and a deadly secret. Mil’s discovery leads to the death of a young astronaut, sabotage, murder, and cover-ups that may go all the way to the Chief Administrator of the space agency. Unfortunately, she happens to be Mil’s estranged daughter, busy trying to secure her own legacy―the first international mission to Mars.

With time ticking down to a limited launch window, enemies, friends, and even family may do anything to ensure the truth doesn’t come out. Or will history finally catch up with a deadly scheme that has the potential to destroy the moon and eradicate all life on Earth? It seems the planet’s only hope is a cantankerous guy who never really liked those people in the first place.

31. Hot Moon

By Alan Smale

Apollo 32, commanded by career astronaut Vivian Carter, docks at NASA’s Columbia space station en route to its main mission: exploring the volcanic Marius Hills region of the Moon. Vivian is caught in the crossfire as four Soviet Soyuz craft appear without warning to assault the orbiting station. In an unplanned and desperate move, Vivian spacewalks through hard vacuum back to her Lunar Module and crew and escapes right before the station falls into Soviet hands.

Their original mission scrubbed, Vivian and her crew are redirected to land at Hadley Base, a NASA scientific outpost with a crew of eighteen. But soon Hadley, too, will come under Soviet attack, forcing its unarmed astronauts to daring acts of ingenuity and improvisation.

With multiple viewpoints, shifting from American to Soviet perspective, from occupied space station to American Moon base under siege, to a covert and blistering US Air Force military response, Hot Moon tells the gripping story of a war in space that very nearly might have been.

32. Maximun Capacity

By Troy Suesse

For every baby born, another human must die. Unthinkably, planet Earth has run out of room. There’s not enough food nor resources to sustain the masses. Those who do not contribute toward the common good and survival of humans are considered expendable. Man has devised a fascinatingly morbid survival competition to eliminate anyone who deviates from the law. The good hunt the bad to keep the population in check. Those who cross their neighbors tally a high “violation count” and will be marked for termination.

Maximum Capacity challenges the reader’s imagination with fascinating new concepts. They will immerse themselves in a dystopian world where planet Earth is dying, the good people of the world are taking control, and man desperately searches for new, habitable planets in an attempt to avoid extinction.

33. Orbital

By Samantha Harvey

A slender novel of epic power, Orbital deftly snapshots one day in the lives of six women and men hurtling through space—not towards the moon or the vast unknown, but around our planet. Selected for one of the last space station missions of its kind before the program is dismantled, these astronauts and cosmonauts—from America, Russia, Italy, Britain, and Japan—have left their lives behind to travel at a speed of over seventeen thousand miles an hour as the earth reels below. We glimpse moments of their earthly lives through brief communications with family, their photos and talismans; we watch them whip up dehydrated meals, float in gravity-free sleep, and exercise in regimented routines to prevent atrophying muscles; we witness them form bonds that will stand between them and utter solitude. Most of all, we are with them as they behold and record their silent blue planet. Their experiences of sixteen sunrises and sunsets and the bright, blinking constellations of the galaxy are at once breathtakingly awesome and surprisingly intimate. So are the marks of civilization far below, encrusted on the planet on which we live.

Young Adult:

34. Because I Loved You

By Donaldson Brown

East Texas, 1972. Sixteen-year-old Leni O’Hare spends her free time drawing and galloping her mare across the chaparral. Horse crazy and rebellious, she fears her dream of becoming an artist will be thwarted by her strict mother, the small-town values of her community, and her family’s meager finances. A desperate bid to save her beloved mare from being sold brings her together with Caleb McGrath, the brainy and gentle scion of the county’s richest rancher, whose dream of becoming a physicist also pushes the bounds of their town and defies his family’s expectations. When tragedy strikes Leni’s family, and Caleb’s brother returns from Vietnam angry and dangerous, the two grow closer and make a plan to leave and start a life together. Before they can go, though, Leni learns of something she fears will derail Caleb’s hard-earned shot at the future he wants. Choosing to keep what she’s learned secret, she sets them on sudden and separate paths.

New York City, 1986. Leni, now an artist and activist, and Caleb, now engaged and working on Wall Street, meet once again. Their old passion reignites. Can their love for one another overcome the choices made in the past? And when Leni’s secret—one that impacts not only Leni and Caleb but also four generations of Leni’s family—is finally revealed, will it be too late for them?

35. The Truth About Horses

By Christy Cashman

Fourteen-year-old Reese’s dream of winning the Black Elk race is shattered when her beloved horse, Trusted Treasure, falls at the last jump and the vet suggests they put him down. While still reeling from that loss, her family suffers a second tragedy—one that results in the end of their family business, the sale of Trusted Treasure, and irreparable damage to Reese’s relationship with her father.

Heartbroken and still longing to find Trusted Treasure, Reese meets Wes, a selective mute, whose way of training horses is unlike anything she’s ever seen. If anyone can win the Black Elk, it’s Wes—but he’s struggling with his troubled past, and having a teenage girl hanging around his barn isn’t exactly what he’d planned. Through heartaches and triumphs, Reese must prove her worth if she wants to heal her family, help Wes, and show them all that some dreams are worth fighting for.

A spellbinding tale in which every teenager has magical powers within them just waiting to be discovered, this book will have you laughing and crying—sometimes on the same page—all the while rooting for Reese, the most unlikely of heroes.

36. The Take-Over Friend

By Carol Dines

On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a witty and outgoing newcomer recently moved from France, and the girls become instant soulmates. The two teens are euphoric about their blossoming relationship, relishing a depth of understanding for each other they’ve never experienced with anyone else. Frances is charmed by Sonja’s energy and worldliness, while Sonja adores Frances’s sense of calm and dependability. She’s also taken with Frances’s close-knit family, especially her older brother, Will. Led by Sonja, the girls declare their goal to become “visible” at their high school, dubbing themselves “The Poets” and rallying their classmates to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances’s father’s old band bus.

But as their friendship grows, so do the expectations. Family crises impact both girls—Sonja’s parents are caught in a bitter divorce, and Frances’s father suffers from bipolar disorder. When Sonja’s mother attempts suicide, Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances and her family. Sonja’s dominating personality begins to overwhelm Frances, causing her to doubt herself and her own talents. And when Sonja’s infatuation with Will becomes obsessive, Frances feels manipulated and attempts to set some boundaries. For Sonja, there is no middle ground, and she sees Frances’ efforts to regain her independence as the ultimate betrayal.

37. The Byways

By Mary Pascual

Neurodivergent high school student CeeCee Harper has a temper and a reputation for trouble. Angry at the rumors and afraid she’ll never fit in, she makes a wrong move—and lands in the byways, a world of alleys, magic, and forgotten people . . . some that aren’t even human. And if she doesn’t escape quickly, CeeCee learns, she’ll be trapped for good.

Searching for a way out, she gets lost among monsters, drug pushers, the homeless, and political upheaval, and soon finds there are those who will stop at nothing to keep her from leaving. But the byways pull people in for a reason. CeeCee must figure out why she got stuck in the first place—before her loved ones are put in danger and she loses them forever.

A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland meets Neverwhere, this contemporary fantasy will enchant Neil Gaiman and Christina Henry fans. 

38. The Phantom Firefighter

By J.W. Jarvis

Noah loves his nighttime reading ritual with his dad. Stuck in a small new town after the pandemic caused his parents’ marriage to fracture, the curious thirteen-year-old happily explores the peculiar local bookstore. But when the lonely youngster takes home a firefighter’s old diary, he’s amazed when it transforms him into the book’s owner and transports him across space and time to a blazing building.

Distracted by a close friendship he’s developing with a smart schoolmate, Noah is certain the heat and confusion were just a frightening dream. But when he sits down to continue the fascinating story, he realizes he’s facing scarily real life-or-death situations… and his actions could change history.

Can he master the weird magic and make sure no one gets hurt?

The Phantom Firefighter is the action-filled first book in the First Responder fantasy series. If you like adventurous kids, clever humor, and pages jam-packed with suspense, then you’ll love J.W. Jarvis’s blending of reality and enchantment.

39. The Djinn’s Apple

By Djamila Morani

Historical fiction meets crime fiction in The Djinn’s Apple, an award-winning YA murder mystery set in the Abbasid period—the golden age of Baghdad.

A ruthless murder. A magical herb. A mysterious manuscript.

When Nardeen’s home is stormed by angry men frantically in search of something—or someone—she is the only one who manages to escape. And after the rest of her family is left behind and murdered, Nardeen sets out on an unyielding mission to bring her family’s killers to justice, regardless of the cost…


Biography & Autobiography:

40. Queen of the Court

By Madeleine Blais

In August 1939, Alice Marble graced the cover of Life magazine, photographed by the famed Alfred Eisenstaedt. She was a glamorous worldwide celebrity, having that year won singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles tennis titles at both Wimbledon and the US Open, then an unprecedented feat. Yet today one of America’s greatest female athletes and most charismatic characters is largely forgotten. Queen of the Court places her back on center stage.

Born in 1913, Marble grew up in San Francisco; her favorite sport, baseball. Given a tennis racket at age 13, she took to the sport immediately, rising to the top with a powerful, aggressive serve-and-volley style unseen in women’s tennis. A champion at the height of her fame in the late 1930s, she also designed a clothing line in the off-season and sang as a performer in the Sert Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York to rave reviews. World War II derailed her amateur tennis career, but her life off the court was, if anything, even more eventful. She wrote a series of short books about famous women. She turned professional and joined a pro tour during the War, entertaining and inspiring soldiers and civilians alike. Ever glamorous and connected, she had a part in the 1952 Tracy and Hepburn movie Pat and Mike, and she played tennis with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and her great friends, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. However, perhaps her greatest legacy lies in her successful efforts, working largely alone, to persuade the all-white US Lawn Tennis Association to change its policy and allow African American star Althea Gibson to compete for the US championship in 1950, thereby breaking tennis’s color barrier.

41. Dear Readers and Riders

By Lettie Teague

In certain circles, her name inspires immediate recognition and pronouncements of a committed admiration that has likely spanned decades. As an author, Marguerite Henry was indeed remarkably prolific, with 59 books published, millions of copies sold, and nearly 80 years of her life spent writing them—or responding personally to the stacks of fan mail she received—at her typewriter. Her books, most meticulously researched historical fiction about influential horses and the hosts of fascinating characters who surrounded them—to name just a few, her Newbery Award winner King of the Wind, the book that changed an island Misty of Chincoteague, and the glowingly reviewed Justin Morgan Had a Horse—have had an outsized influence on those who grew up reading them, ultimately leading to writing careers, lives dedicated to riding and caring for horses and other animals, and even fan memoirs describing Henry’s impact.

But despite a professional existence that became profoundly public, particularly after Misty of Chincoteague, published in 1947, became a bestseller and eventually a popular feature film in 1961, Henry’s own life was mostly shielded from view.

With particular purpose to uncover what is little known about the author, as well as superb instincts for illustrating fascinating details that help readers construct the settings in which Henry’s creative mind, intensive historical and scholarly research, and storytelling ability matured and evolved, accomplished journalist and author Lettie Teague has provided a unique biography that is as much a pleasure to read as her subject’s own books. Highlighting over a dozen titles that represent, to Teague, not only the best of Marguerite Henry’s work but help tell the story of Marguerite Henry herself, and following the trail of some of her remarkable collaborators—most importantly, the charismatic and talented artist Wesley Dennis—Teague gives Henry fans what they always strived for through their thousands of letters: personal connection. 

42. Finding Joy on Death Row

Dewey Williams

Based on the sermon series that garnered top honors from Yale Divinity School, Finding Joy on Death Row is the powerful story of a broken preacher’s transformative experience learning about joy from Death Row prisoners, combined with dramatic handwritten responses from more than twenty men currently sentenced to die.

In Finding Joy on Death Row: Unexpected Lessons from Lives We Discarded, Williams journeys into the hearts and minds of those sentenced to death, illuminating for readers the ways in which the human spirit can suffer–and soar.

Finding Joy on Death Row includes dozens of handwritten statements from those facing capital punishment. The testimonies and contemplations of those sentenced to die offer readers a unique opportunity to hear from individuals whose lives are marked by their looming execution. And yet these prisoners have–in the midst of grim circumstances–managed to find joy.

43. Two by Two

Nancy Bedsole Bynon & Kathryn Lavallet Tortorici

If you or someone you love just found out they have cancer, more specifically breast cancer, this is a must-read or must-gift book. Follow two friends diagnosed at the exact same time through their varying journeys. Realizing that the bond with each other and their relationships with the Heavenly Father became the key ingredients to healing, these women share their stories, devotions, and recipes to pay their good fortune forward to others facing similar battles. Their conversations inspired and encouraged each other and will do the same for all those who read this personal and beautifully illustrated memoir.

44. Drafted! My Year in Vietnam

Morgan Miller

Drafted! tells the story of Henry Morgan Miller’s year in Vietnam at the invitation of Lyndon B. Johnson. It is the story of a meat-cutter—wannabe commercial airline pilot—whose life was rudely interrupted by being inducted into a war that he considered someone else’s battle for a lost cause. It’s a story that could describe many of the almost 300,000 men drafted in 1968 along with Morgan, or, for that matter, the 1.85 million drafted between 1964-73. It is the story of your brother, your son, your friend—some who came home safe and sound, and others who perished, or were no longer whole.

In his book, Morgan also exposes a major mechanical issue with Vietnam-era Cobra helicopters; so serious that had they been Ford cars they would have been subject to a major recall. He suggests that Cobra helicopter pilots were guinea pigs for aircraft plagued with serious, not to mention deadly, hydraulic problems.

Drafted! is for readers who want to experience what it was like, on a day-to-day basis, to go through basic training, learn to fly gunships, and then be shipped out to the Vietnam warzone. What it’s like to be shot at and shot down. To serve your country honorably, while fighting a war you don’t believe in, only to return and be ostracized by a misguided faction of the general public.

45. The Fine Art of Camouflage

Lauren Kay Johnson

Lauren Kay Johnson is just seven when she first experiences a sacrifice of war as her mother, a nurse in the Army Reserves, deploys in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. A decade later, in the wake of 9/11, Lauren signs her own military contract and deploys to a small Afghan province with a non-combat nation-building team. Through her role as the team’s information operations officer-the filter between the U.S. military and the Afghan and international publics-and through interviews and letters from her mother’s service, Lauren investigates the role of information in war and in interpersonal relationships, often wrestling with the truth in stories we read and hear from the media and official sources, and in those stories we tell ourselves and our families.

A powerful generational coming-of-age narrative against the backdrop of war, The Fine Art of Camouflage reveals the impact from a child’s perspective of watching her mother leave and return home to a hero’s welcome to that of a young idealist volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan who, war-worn, eventually questions her place in the war, the military, and her family history—and their place within her.

46. My Vietnam Your Vietnam

Christina Vo & Nghia M. Vo

A chronicle of the divergent journeys of a Vietnamese father, who fled his home country in desperation, and his American-born daughter, who ventured to Vietnam as an adult, capturing the stark contrast between their perspectives as they strive to heal the long-term wounds of war refugees.

In this captivating, heartfelt dual memoir, Christina Vo and her father, Nghia M. Vo, delve into themes of their identity, heritage, and the tragic multi-generational ordeals of war, with intertwined stories that present a multifaceted portrayal of Vietnam and its profound influence on shaping both familial bonds and individual identities across time.

Nghia M. Vo left Vietnam in April 1975 with only the clothes on his back, following the US withdrawal of troops and the fall of Saigon. After a harrowing two month journey, he found himself in a refugee camp outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he began the painful process of reconnecting with his family and rebuilding his life as a medical doctor. Christina Vo, Nghia’s daughter, grew up in the US. As a restless young adult, she felt a longing to connect with her heritage and soon moved to Hanoi in the former North Vietnam—much to her father’s distress—to discover a country that had changed dramatically since the war, yet retained many of the ancient traits experienced by her ancestors.


47. The Unvanquished

Patrick K. O’Donnell

The Civil War is most remembered for the grand battles that have come to define it: Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, among others. However, as bestselling author Patrick K. O’Donnell reveals in The Unvanquished, a vital shadow war raged amid and away from the major battlefields that was in many ways equally consequential to the conflict’s outcome.

At the heart of this groundbreaking narrative is the epic story of Lincoln’s special forces, the Jessie Scouts, told in its entirety for the first time. In a contest fought between irregular units, the Scouts hunted John Singleton Mosby’s Confederate Rangers from the middle of 1863 up to war’s end at Appomattox. With both sides employing pioneering tradecraft, they engaged in dozens of raids and spy missions, often perilously wearing the other’s uniform, risking penalty of death if captured. Clashing violently on horseback, the unconventional units attacked critical supply lines, often capturing or killing high-value targets. North and South deployed special operations that could have changed the war’s direction in 1864, and crucially during the Appomattox Campaign, Jessie Scouts led the Union Army to a final victory. They later engaged in a history-altering proxy war against France in Mexico, earning seven Medals of Honor; many Scouts mysteriously disappeared during that conflict, taking their stories to their graves.

An expert on special operations, O’Donnell transports readers into the action, immersing them in vivid battle scenes from previously unpublished firsthand accounts. He introduces indelible characters such as Scout Archibald Rowand; Scout leader Richard Blazer; Mosby, the master of guerrilla warfare; and enslaved spy Thomas Laws. O’Donnell also brings to light the Confederate Secret Service’s covert efforts to deliver the 1864 election to Peace Democrats through ballot fraud, election interference, and attempts to destabilize a population fatigued by a seemingly forever war. Most audaciously, the Secret Service and Mosby’s Rangers planned to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in order to maintain the South’s independence.

A little-known chronicle of the shadow war between North and South, rich in action and offering original perspective on history, The Unvanquished is a dynamic and essential addition to the literature of the Civil War.

48. Burma ’44

James Holland

In February 1944, in one of the most astonishing battles of World War II, a ragtag collection of British clerks, drivers, doctors, muleteers, and other base troops, stiffened by a few dogged Yorkshiremen and a handful of tank crews, managed to defeat a much larger and sophisticated contingent of some of the finest infantry in the Japanese army on their march towards India.

What became known as the Battle of the Admin Box, fought amongst the paddy fields and jungle of Northern Arakan over a fifteen-day period, turned the battle for Burma. Not only was it the first decisive victory for Allied troops against the Japanese, more significantly, it demonstrated how the Japanese could be defeated. Lessons learned in this otherwise insignificant corner of the Far East set up the campaign in Burma that would follow, as General William Slim’s Fourteenth Army finally turned the tide of the war in the East.

In Burma ’44, acclaimed World War II historian James Holland offers a dramatic tale of victory against incredible odds. As momentous as the Battle of the Bulge ten months later, the Admin Box was a triumph of human grit and heroism and remains one of the most significant yet underappreciated conflicts of the entire war. In Holland’s hands, it is finally given its proper place in the history of World War II.

49. Churchill’s D-Day

General Sir Richard Dannatt & Allen Packwood

On June 6, 1944, the landings from the greatest armada of ships ever assembled began at 0630hrs. Overnight, paratroopers from the British 6th Airborne Division had secured the eastern flank of the landing zone with the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Division securing the western flank to reduce the risk of German counterattacks. The Allied battle, codenamed “Operation Overlord,” had begun.

In Churchill’s D-Day, Richard Dannatt, former leader of the British Army, and Allen Packwood, one of the world’s foremost Churchill experts, capture the British Bulldog’s emotional turmoil and epic decision-making before, during, and after the world-defining action of D-Day. Culled from the official Churchill Papers at the Churchill Archives Centre, this book features historical documents, photographs, letters, and more, for a documentary Churchillian experience of D-Day leadership, military strategy, and humanity.

As the people of Great Britain awake to the news of the landings on their radios, the burden of making a formal statement to the House of Commons falls on the shoulders of their prime minister. While Churchill is aware of the huge responsibility he bears for the British soldiers and French civilians, knowing his political opponents will question his leadership, no one else in the world is aware of the conversations, innermost thoughts, and deliberations leading up to the decisions he’s made and will continue to make on this day. Everything hangs in the balance.

Now that you’ve read through this list, what books did you add to your own list to be read this summer? With fifty books, hopefully, you found a few that you’d like to read, and maybe you could even share the list with a friend. 

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Article originally Published in the Summer 2024 Issue: Indie Summer Reads.

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