Every year we put out a summer reading list of 42 book recommendations to keep you busy by the pool, at the beach, on vacation, or wherever you plan to be all summer. Lori Satterlee and Larry Carlson are well known as frequent callers and contributors to the Bennington Show on SiriusXM, friends of ours, and they’re also avid readers and impassioned booksellers. They met and fell in love while working for Barnes & Noble, so last year, we invited them to create our annual Summer Reading List. They graciously and excitedly agreed to put together our list again this year. Their title selections are all available online at BN.com and at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore. If you’re in the Westchester County area of NY, you can pick the books up at their respective stores in White Plains and Yonkers and follow and support their stores on Twitter @BNCityCenter and @BNYonkers. Lori and Larry have spent their entire adult lives, and part of Larry’s childhood, working at several Barnes & Noble bookstores. They can be reached via Twitter @LSatterlee & @LarryMCarlson
Before we sat down to put together last year’s summer reading list, we went through the previous lists and saw that so much had been covered, so we decided not to repeat any of it. We started out with new releases, books that we knew people would enjoy and wouldn’t have shown up on previous lists. After the list came out, we were amazed at some of the questions we received, especially “why 42?” While we didn’t originate the list, it was pretty clear to us that it was a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you haven’t read it that might be the place to start. It is one of the funniest books ever written. If you have read Hitchhiker’s Guide then we present this list of 42, a mix of humorous novels, books by comedians and other new and classic books that we think you, the comedy fan, would enjoy this summer. With a combination of 40 years in the book business, we have read and suggested a lot of books, these are some of the books that have garnered the best feedback in years past and recent months. Feel free to reach out to us with any book related questions and for further book recommendations.
For more Summer Reading ideas, check out our 2016 recommendations, plus a mega reading list combining recommendations from the IBang from 2012, 2013, 2014.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. Loo has been raised on the road and on the run. Now that she’s a teenager, her father, Samuel Hawley, has settled down the best he can in Olympus, Massachusetts, so that Loo can have a chance at a normal life. When Loo goes looking into her parents’ past, to find out about the mother she never knew, the truth gets darker with every turn. A beautifully written story of a father and daughter and the lengths we go to protect the people we love. Order it now at bn.com.
Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. Living off the grid and civil disobedience are even more relevant today than they were in Thoreau’s time. If you’ll be in the NYC area, pair this American classic with a visit to The Morgan Library to see This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal, an exhibit marking the 200th anniversary of his birth. Order it now at bn.com.
Nature and Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nature is the perfect summer read to take on a walk in the woods and become a transparent eyeball, finding a wholly American spirituality amongst the trees. Combine this with Walden for an American literary road trip. Emerson and Thoreau were not only contemporaries; they were friends and neighbors. If you’re in the Northeast take a trip up to Concord, Massachusetts and see Emerson’s house and Thoreau’s cottage on Walden Pond, which is basically in Emerson’s backyard. It is the closest I’ve ever felt to being on holy ground. Order it now at bn.com.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro & Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway. A tale of adventure and regret as only Hemingway can tell it. I can remember where I was when I first read The Snows of Kilimanjaro, standing in a security line in Atlanta in the summer of ’96, hoping the line would move slower so I could finish. If you haven’t read him before or if you feel like you didn’t get him when you read him in high school, this is the perfect way to get into Hemingway. Order it now at bn.com.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. – The tale of Jesus’ missing years according to his friend Biff. Moore is known for his absurdly hilarious novels, this may be his best. Order it now at bn.com.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. A comedy about the birth of the Antichrist and the coming of the Apocalypse by two of the greatest fantasy authors of all time. It’s easy to see why Kevin Smith says that he would have never made Dogma if it wasn’t for Good Omens. If you’ve enjoyed American Gods the show or the book, this is a must read. Order it now at bn.com.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. Independent record store owners and a couple of midwives are our main characters, they are two families trying to keep their businesses going in the ever-changing face of Oakland, CA. A great book for music lovers, check out the Wikipedia page for the list of songs referenced in the book and make your own soundtrack. Chabon is one of the best writers being published today. If you enjoy this, check out his newest release, Moonglow. Order it now at bn.com.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub. One of the more traditional summer reads on this list, The Vacationers takes us to Mallorca for two weeks along with the Posts. Straub’s characters are well crafted and complexly human and her twists and betrayals are often curveballs that you don’t see until the last moment. If you’re in the NYC area, pick up a copy from Emma herself at her recently opened Brooklyn bookstore, Books Are Magic. Order it now at bn.com.
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. Doyle manages to capture the voice of a 10 year old boy as he deals with his ever changing world that makes less and less sense each day. Hilarious and warm, but also desperate and dark, this will start you on a string of Doyle’s books, which include The Commitments, the book on which the film was based. Order it now at bn.com.
I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart. Available June 6th – Ask his friends from the Comedy Cellar and they’ll tell you he is one of the most naturally funny people they know. With his string of successful movies in recent years and his series of hilarious comedy specials, I’m eager to learn whatever lessons he’d like to share. Order it now at bn.com.
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken. I’m trying to stay away from politics in this list, after all, for me, a good summer read is about escaping from reality. However, I can’t put together a list of books for a comedy website without including a new Al Franken book. With some of the bestselling political humor books of the last few decades, Franken makes his return with a question, is he or is he not a Giant of the Senate? You decide. Order it now at bn.com.
Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris. Sedaris is known for his humor essays, including SantaLand Diaries, which turned him into a “minor phenomenon” when he read it on NPR’s Morning Edition. With a keen eye for the absurdity of everyday life, this is bound to be another hilarious success. Order it now at bn.com.
Make Trouble by John Waters. The graduation address turned inspirational book has been a trend for quite some time, but we’re talking about John Waters here, so this is a bit different. Life advice from the creator of Pink Flamingos and Hairspray certainly isn’t going to sound like any other commencement address you’ve ever heard. Chances are you already know if you’re going to love this book. Order it now at bn.com.
Being a Dad is Weird by Ben Falcone. As a new father, I was particularly drawn to this book. Comedian, actor and filmmaker Ben Falcone relays hilarious stories of his childhood as well as his life as a father raising two daughters with his wife Melissa McCarthy, who wrote a wonderful forward. This is a truly endearing look at how you’re childhood shapes the parent you become. Order it now at bn.com.
Chuck Klosterman X by Chuck Klosterman. In his tenth book, Chuck does what he does best, he takes you on a trip through our cultural landscape and makes you question why we care about the things we care about. I haven’t read all the essays in the collection, but if they’re half as good as his first collection of essays, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I’ll be laughing out loud. Order it now at bn.com.
The Thirst by Jo Nesbø. The latest in Nesbø’s Harry Hole series of thrillers, The Thirst begins with the murders of women who have both been using the dating app Tinder, Do you already have a suspect in mind? Harry Hole is a flawed man and a perfect crime novel protagonist. If you haven’t heard of this series, you soon will when Michael Fassbender brings Harry Hole to the big screen in The Snowman. Order it now at bn.com.
Are You Anybody?: A Memoir by Jeffrey Tambor. In this wonderfully hilarious and touching memoir, Tambor takes us from his awkward childhood in San Francisco into his love of theater and the many lessons he learned along the way to becoming the man he is today. The details he relays about the characters in his life make it easy to see how he captures the characters that he plays. Order it now at bn.com.
Sisterhood of the Squared Circle by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy. When Laprade and Murphy delve into the history of Women’s Professional Wrestling we see that the characters and stories are at least as fascinating as their male counterparts. With over a hundred wrestler profiles, this is a must read for anyone who ever loved wrestling. Order it now at bn.com.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg. Andrea is our extremely likeable 39 year old, single, childless heroine, not quite living the dream. As Attenberg darts back and forth between aspects of Andrea’s daily life, you can’t help but fall in love with her along the way. Sad and hilarious at the same time, this isn’t an uncommon genre, but it’s uncommonly endearing. Order it now at bn.com.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. Irby’s unique voice is hysterical and singularly brilliant. This series of essays gives us glimpses of her life that are full of heartfelt candor, self-deprecation, and full-on belly laughs. Order it now at bn.com.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Few people have been able to break complex scientific concepts down the way Tyson does. With his friendly tone and his love of science coming through his words, he makes astrophysics far more accessible than it has ever been before. Order it now at bn.com.
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. I love to read a good travel book in the summer and this is one of the best selling travel books of all time from one of America’s greatest humorists. This account of Twain’s trip to Europe and the Holy Land aboard a retired Civil War ship is both insightful and hysterical as he takes jabs at all parties involved, himself included. Order it now at bn.com.
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. Jeremy works at the local video store in the late 90s in Nevada, Iowa. After several customers complain that their VHS rentals have been altered, Jeremy becomes curious and brings some home to see for himself. What he finds is confusing and frightening and the beginning of an enthralling, not exactly horror novel. When John Darnielle isn’t writing books, he’s the frontman and sometimes only member of a band called The Mountain Goats. Order it now at bn.com.
Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman. Post 9/11 NYC is the friendliest town I’ve ever been in. The scene that started in those days, brought out some of the bands that changed Rock & Roll. Lizzy Goodman paints a portrait of one of the most culturally significant times in the history of New York and makes you remember why you love music. This is the perfect book for those of us that love GPS with Ron & Gail Bennington on SiriusXM’s DeepTracks. Order it now at bn.com.
Believe Me by Eddie Izzard. Available on June 13th, this is the book I’m most looking forward to this summer. Izzard is one of the most successful and groundbreaking stand up comedians working today and also one of the funniest. This memoir starts with his childhood and brings you through his days as a street comic to his rise to headliner at some of the largest venues throughout the world. Pick it up when it’s available and you’ll be reading along with me. Order it now at bn.com.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Hawley is the creator of, as well as a writer and producer of, the FX show Fargo, so you know you’re in for some amazing storytelling. Before the Fall is a suspenseful tale of a wealthy family, a plane crash and media uproar when the one man who shouldn’t have been on the plane is the one adult to survive. Hawley crafts intriguing characters and complicated relationships that pull you further in the longer you read. This book just missed last year’s list but lucky for you it’s out in paperback on June 6th. Order it now at bn.com.
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. The newest book from the writer of Gone, Baby, Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island may be his best yet. After an on air breakdown, journalist Rachel Childs retreats to a quiet, simpler life, until one day a chance encounter sends it all spiraling into chaos. A tense, psychological thriller, you’ll be reading on the edge of your seat and in a few years, when they make the movie, you’ll be telling your friends how much better the book was. Order it now at bn.com.
The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine by Erin French. Sixteen miles west of Belfast, ME, there’s a restaurant called The Lost Kitchen in an old mill in a town called Freedom. You’ll have better luck getting a table at Eleven Madison Park than you will at The Lost Kitchen, and for good reason. Erin’s simple take on fresh ingredients are well relayed in this collection that will have you booking a trip to Maine for next summer. If you do, give us a shout, we wrote a little (unpublished) book on the subject. Order it now at bn.com
The Tao of Bill Murray by Gavin Edwards. An obvious choice for any Bill Murray fan and after reading this book you wonder if anyone isn’t. All the stories you’ve heard about him may actually be true. Whether they’re myth or reality, we can all learn something about how to live from Bill Murray. Order it now at bn.com.
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson. Phoebe brings an endearing levity to subjects such as racism, sexism, and a what seems to be a constant obsession with touching black women’s hair. This collection of essays has garnered quite a bit of praise, but I’m always amazed at how many people have never heard of it when I bring it up in conversation. Order it now at bn.com.
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn. Lucy and Owen live a version of the American dream, but even an ideal life can get monotonous. So when the idea of an open marriage comes up at a dinner party, they find themselves intrigued. Intense and hysterical, you’ll find yourself torn between two versions of happiness, wondering if they can coexist. Order it now at bn.com.
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell. Cat Marnell is not okay, at least not when we meet her at the beginning of her memoir of addiction. Honest in a way that reminds me of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation, Cat takes us on a ride that seems glamorous on the outside, but is clearly quite dark and painful. She leaves us wanting more and wondering how things will turn out. Order it now at bn.com.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Ready Player One is a unique and welcome entry into the world of dystopian future novels. Wade Watts is a gunter (an Easter egg hunter) in a virtual society and role playing game called OASIS whose creator has hidden an Easter egg that will earn the finder a fortune. The movie is being directed by Stephen Spielberg and will be out next year. Order it now at bn.com.
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. Then We Came to the End was Ferris’ debut novel and an instant classic. Set in an advertising agency during the bust after the 90’s internet boom, this workplace satire is masterfully told through the eyes of a group of employees as their company is being downsized and they struggle to deal with the horrifying minutia of office life. A brilliant office satire. Order it now at bn.com.
Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. Wet. Sweat. Leather. Barnyard. Have you ever been confused when you heard someone describe a glass of wine? Cork Dork will take you on an adventure through the world of wine and teach you to give in to taste. You’ll learn enough to never be intimidated by wine and impress most of your friends. The perfect summer book if you loved Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Buford’s Heat. Order it now at bn.com.
Thank You For Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry. Todd takes us along for his tour of some of the more grateful markets in the US, Canada and Israel. His dry delivery comes through on the page in this memoir/travel guide/tour diary. Order it now at bn.com.
The Great Bridge by David McCullough. This tale of one family’s struggle to build the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the greatest engineering feats in human history, is a thoroughly captivating tale of achievement over diversity. Opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is still a vital part of New York City’s transportation system and an iconic work of art. In one of his earliest works, it is easy to see how McCullough has become one of our countries greatest historians. Order it now at bn.com.
BONUS: You’re probably not going to read anywhere near 42 books this summer, and hopefully we’ve already covered something you’d be interested in. So here are a few to read to or with your kids and make sure they grow up with a sense of humor and a love of reading.
The Incredible Book Eating Boy – Oliver Jeffers. Henry loves books, but he doesn’t read them, he eats them. The more he eats, the smarter he gets until one day, he just can’t eat anymore and he must find another way to enjoy books. Weirdly endearing with beautiful die cut illustrations, this is a perfect book for the reluctant reader in your life. Order it now at bn.com.
I Want My Hat Back – Jon Klassen. Told with few words and quite a few visual jokes, even the youngest children will be laughing along with this wonderful tale of a bear who just wants his hat back. Look out for what might possibly be your child’s first exposure to dark humor. Order it now at bn.com.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo. Being a new parent has had a tremendous affect on what I take a second look at in my everyday life among the stacks of books. This caught my eye when we knew that we were having a girl, but before Zoe was actually born. A series of biographies of women who’ve defied odds and made history, as the book says, these make great good night stories. I’ve been known read a few with some Bikini Kill playing in the background. Order it now at bn.com.
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman. This tale of the only living resident of a graveyard is pleasantly spooky and fun to share as a family. Gaiman is one of the few authors who can switch seamlessly back and forth between books for kids and adults. He’s a great author for teaching your kids a love of reading. Order it now at bn.com.
Summerland – Michael Chabon. The store of Ethan Feld, perhaps the worst baseball player in history, who must play baseball to save the world. Along the way, we meet characters from different mythologies as Ethan and friends must figure out the peculiar magic of Summerland and play their way across it. This fantasy baseball novel is a perfect book to read around a campfire. Order it now at bn.com.