There’s something about summer that is so conducive to reading a book. Whether you are on the porch or on a towel on the sand, a book is the perfect summer treat—and one that you probably haven’t indulged in quite a while. So slather on the sunscreen, adjust your straw hat, eye, for a moment, the buff candy playing volleyball, and then turn your attention to one of these printed goodies.
To find books women over 60 will enjoy we polled our readers to find out what they’re reading this summer. The books you’ll find on this year’s summer reading list reflect a range of interests. Something for everyone.
Those of us for whom France has always been the dream—and have recently lost our keys and wondered if it spells the beginning of the downward spiral—will love Do Not Go Gentle. Go to Paris by Gail Schilling, based on her own experience.
At 62, Ms. Schilling impulsively decides to move to France amid disillusionment with her life at home. Her journey through France, her life in a Mediterranean village and her admiration for French women who are beautiful despite their wrinkles allows her to find true joy and satisfaction for the first time in her life. Buy Do Not Go Gentle on Amazon.
In Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt a widowed nightshift janitor forms a friendship with a giant octopus at an aquarium near Puget Sound. Marcellus, the octopus, helps the janitor solve the mystery of the years-long disappearance of her son. Yes, of course you have to suspend disbelief but this story revisits the vital bond between human and animals and their deep level of emotional intelligence and understanding. Buy it on Amazon.
Mary Norris, The New Yorker’s Comma Queen, has had a lifelong love affair with words. So it is unsurprising that her lifelong love of anything Greek and numerous solo trips to Greece resulted in Greek to Me. In her book, she explains the surprising ways in which Greek helped form the English language.
Greek to Me is a paean to the art of self-expression through accounts of her solo adventures in the land of olive trees and ouzo. She irreverently recounts her encounters with Greek words, the Greek alphabet, Greek food, Greek gods, Greek wine—and more than a few Greek men. Buy it on Amazon.
Lilia Liska has shrewdly outlived three husbands, raised five children, and seen the arrival of seventeen grandchildren. Now she has turned her keen attention to the diary of a long-forgotten man named Roland Bouley, with whom she once had a fleeting affair.
Must I Go is a novel about life in all its messy glory, and of a life lived, by the extraordinary Lilia, absolutely on its own terms. With great candor and insight, Yiyun Li navigates the twin poles of grief and resilience, loss and rebirth, that compass a human heart. Buy it on Amazon.
Imagine discovering that your family has a forgotten English castle laying vacant for many years. That’s exactly what Hollywood producer Hopwood DePree did. Hopwood Hall is a 60-room 600-year-old grand manor on 5,000 acres.
This discovery prompts Hopwood to travel to England, only to learn that the Hall has fallen into disrepair and is close to collapse — trees growing in the chimneys, holes in the roof, water raining down the walls. It becomes his mission to repair and reclaim the manor—despite living halfway across the globe in California, having no construction skills and short of the millions needed to do the work. In Downton Shabby, he chronicles his adventures to save the glorious ruin. Buy it on Amazon
Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. Meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. And goes swimming in the sea with her neighbor from the plane.
The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.
Outline takes a hard look at the things that are hardest to speak about. In doing so it bares the deepest impulses behind the craft of fiction writing. This is Rachel Cusk’s finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant, original novels of recent years. Buy it on Amazon.
London, 1941. In a cramped bunker in Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, underneath Westminster’s Treasury building, civilian women huddle at desks, typing up confidential documents and reports. In Churchill’s Secret Messenger Alan Hlad reimagines the scene through the experience of one of those young women.
Rose Teasdale has spent more hours than usual in Room 60, working double shifts, growing accustomed to the burnt scent of the Prime Minister’s cigars permeating the stale air. Winning the war is the only thing that matters, and she will gladly do her part. When Rose’s fluency in French comes to the attention of Churchill himself, it brings a rare yet dangerous opportunity. Buy it on Amazon.
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later she finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Her unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. Elizabeth isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
In Dusk, Night, Dawn, “guru of optimism” Anne Lamott explores the tough questions that many of us grapple with. How can we recapture the confidence we once had as we stumble through the dark times that seem increasingly bleak? As bad news piles up—from climate crises to daily assaults on civility—how can we cope? Where, she asks, “do we start to get our world and joy and hope and our faith in life itself back . . . with our sore feet, hearing loss, stiff fingers, poor digestion, stunned minds, broken hearts?”
We begin, Lamott says, by accepting our flaws and embracing our humanity. Buy it on Amazon.
Rich in sensuous detail, this first novel by Jenny White brilliantly captures the political and social upheavals of the waning Ottoman Empire. The naked body of a young Englishwoman washes up in Istanbul wearing a pendant inscribed with the seal of the deposed sultan. The death resembles the murder by strangulation of another English governess, a crime that was never solved. Kamil Pasha, a magistrate in the new secular courts, sets out to find the killer.
The Enchanted April reminds us that men may come and go but our true friends—those with whom we can truly bare our souls—are our sisters in life, the women we meet along the way. And it helps if we meet in a small medieval castle parked above gorgeous Portofino…
A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in The Guest List, a deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie.
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? Buy it on Amazon.
Can there be any greater challenge to London’s Ambitious Mamas than an unmarried duke?—Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, April 1813.
There was a time, long before Tinder, when romance was secondary to the desperate search for an advantageous match during London’s “marriage” season for aristocratic debutantes. Until Daphne Bridgerton and the Duke of Hastings meet. The Duke & I is the first of eight books that recounts the uncertain and problematic, yet ultimately gratifying, paths to the altar of the Bridgerton siblings.
Regency London is the backdrop for the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn —and the basis for the wildly successful Netflix series by Shondaland, which is why we think it’s perfect summer reading for women over 60. (Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer of the Bridgerton programs, read the books on her summer vacation a few years ago. We plan to follow in her footsteps this year.) Buy one book or more on Amazon.
Dark Dante is set in the city of Florence, Italy, exactly 700 years after Dante Alighieri published his masterpiece, The Inferno, in which the author decides to punish the ill-doers of his day. Now it’s the year 2000, and there are a string of murders in Florence. With the Italian police dragging their feet Maria, niece of the first victim, arrives from England to investigate.
Caught in a web of mystery and grappling to understand the mindset of the Italians she encounters, this unusual detective follows “the Dante trail.” She’s convinced that somebody in Florence, obsessed by Dante, may have decided to mete out the punishments described in the Inferno all those centuries before. The suspense builds and, “you can’t guess the culprit till the end.” Buy it on Amazon.
Not all of us are satisfied by romance and suspense for summer reading. If you’re a worrier anyway and you prefer to stay firmly rooted in reality, the late Madeleine Albright’s brilliant book, Fascism: A Warning, is a stark reminder that fascism now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice than at any time since the end of World War II.
Written by someone who not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past. Buy it on Amazon.
If Paris was in your travel plans this year but Covid stomped on your dreams, enjoy Elaine Sciolino’s book, The Seine, The River that Made Paris. From the comfort of your porch swing or your patch of sand, you’ll take a trip down the Seine—from the plateaus of Burgundy, through Paris and then to the sea—and discover its character through the eyes of a barge woman, a riverbank bookseller, a houseboat dweller, and a famous cinematographer.
Blending memoir, travelogue, and history, The Seine is a love letter to Paris and the river that determined its destiny by master storyteller and longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Elaine Sciolino. The Seine is a vivid, enchanting portrait of the world’s most irresistible river. Buy it on Amazon.
The New York Daily News called The Summer of Katya, “a most exquisite, elegant, ingenious thriller.” The writer lulls you into a delightful sense of place in the beautiful Basque countryside in 1914. You meet Jean-Marc Montjean, the handsome young country doctor who falls in love with the beautiful and seductive Katya Treville. And then you are hit with a twist that will shatter everything you’ve read so far and will drop your jaw to the sand. Buy it on Amazon.
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