Recommended books: summer 2024

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Looking for some recommended books in time for summer reading? Here’s my semi-annual roundup of books I’ve read this year. 

I aim to read 52 books every 12 months, and my habit is to post a complete list of the names of them for you twice a year. Here is a description of the 18 books I’ve enjoyed so far this year. Yes, I’m a bit behind, but I’m confident my summer reading will take me to 52 books by December. (If you want to learn how to read more, see here or watch the video here.)

I give you this list close to the North American summer solstice to help you with plans for your own summer reading. I list my top 5 non-fiction reads followed by my top 5 fiction ones. After these highlighted titles, I’ll name the other books I’ve read in each category, in order of preference.

Please note I don’t generally read sci-fi or fantasy. I pass no judgment on those who do; my tastes don’t usually run in those directions.


  1. Finkel, Michael. The Stranger in the Woods. Exceptionally well written non-fiction book about a 20-year-old man who lives in the woods, off the grid for more than 30 years, without talking to anyone. Really, a remarkable story.
  2. Carhart, Thad. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. Finely written memoir about living in Paris, buying a piano and becoming re-enamoured with music. Beautifully written.
  3. Sterner, Thomas M. The Practicing Mind. The author is an interesting guy — a trained musician — who offers lots of great tips on how to improve your focus.
  4. Charnas, Dan. Work Clean. This book about organizing your life has a brilliant concept — it takes the cooking-related idea of mise-en-place (having ingredients well organized before starting to cook) and applies it to everything in life. I found the whole idea to be deeply fascinating. And the book is written in a highly readable way, too.
  5. Chisholm, Edward. A Waiter in Paris. Well written memoir about the experience of working as a waiter in Paris when you have no experience, no money and you don’t speak the language.

Do you have any non-fiction titles you can recommend? Please name them in the comments section, below.


  1. Austin, Emily. Everyone In this Room Will Someday Be Dead. A morbidly anxious young woman who’s a lesbian accidentally lands a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and soon finds herself obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death. Very funny in parts, but remarkable (and perhaps disturbing) for its ability to capture the essence of anxiety.
  2. Chan, Vanessa. The Storm We Made. Excellent historical novel focusing on the Japanese invasion of Malay during the Second World War.
  3. Alderton, Dolly. Good Material. The story of a standup comedian who breaks up with his girlfriend and has to learn to live on his own.
  4. Winter, Jessica. The Fourth Child. Sophisticated book looking at abortion, adoption, religion and family values.
  5. Barry, Sebastian. Old God’s Time. Beautiful, poetically written story about a retired police officer in Ireland looking back on his working life.

Do you have any fiction titles you can recommend? Please name them in the comments section, below.

OTHER NON-FICTION (in order of preference)

  1. Garner, Dwight. The Upstairs Delicatessen. This very entertaining book celebrates eating and reading — and eating while reading.
  2. Port, Michael. Steal the Show. The author draws on his experience as an actor and a successful corporate speaker and trainer to teach listeners how to make the most of every presentation and interaction. Well worth reading if you ever need to give a speech.
  3. Chamine, Shirzad. Positive Intelligence. I read this book (on leadership? self-improvement? – not sure how to categorize it), as part of a program I was taking. Together, the book and the program worked well. I’m not sure the book stands on its own, though. The jargon will be off-putting to some.
  4. Beard, Richard. The Day That Went Missing. Very sad true story about a young boy who drowns at the beach and cannot be saved by his father because his father doesn’t know how to swim. The results of this tragedy ripple through the entire family. Too bad the writer, a novelist, approached the story in such a non-lyrical way.

Do you have any non-fiction titles you can recommend? Please name them in the comments section, below.

OTHER FICTION (in order of preference)

  1. Nunez, Sigrid. The Last of Her Kind. This story of two women who meet as freshmen at Columbia University in 1968 isn’t as skillfully put together as say, Nunez’s more recent novel The Friend. But it’s still captivating.
  2. Robinson, Roxana. Leaving. Well written novel about relationships, family life and loyalty. Well written, that is, until the ending, when the book totally fell apart. I can’t believe how badly the author botched the final chapter.
  3. Rash, Ron. The Caretaker. Although written in 2023, the book reads as a very old-fashioned novel, exploring old-fashioned themes. Set in an Appalachian town during the Korean war, the book explores male friendship, rivalry and family devotion.
  4. Van Pelt, Shelby. Remarkably Bright Creatures. Enough positive reviews of this novel persuaded me to read it. Unfortunately, the book is exceptionally unevenly written, and while the chapters written from the perspective of an octopus are remarkable, the ones written from a human perspective make me think of a story that might have appeared in the Ladies’ Home Journal of 1968. Still, while the story is often predictable, it’s worthwhile hearing what the very smart octopus has to say.

Do you have any fiction titles you can recommend? Please name them in the comments section, below.


My video podcast last week addressed the difference between prewriting and procrastination. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better, more sustainable writing or editing routine? Learn about my three-month accountability program called Get It Done. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


What’s one of the best books you’ve read so far this year? We can all learn from each other, so please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by June 30/24, I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


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