Book Corner: Colorful Summer Reading Picks for Adults

Summer Reading at Central Rappahannock Regional Library is here! It’s not just for kids and teens; adults get rewarded for reading, too (though isn’t reading its own reward, really?). By logging the books you read, writing reviews, and participating in activities, you’ll earn points for the chance to win big-ticket prizes including an iPad, tablets, gift cards, and bags of books. Plus, you’ll have the chance to win a gift card every week between now and the end of August. Get started at (yes, there’s an app for that).

This year’s Summer Reading theme is “Reading Colors Your World,” which is perfect because it can mean many different things to everyone. I choose to interpret it almost literally, as reading books breathes dimension and new perspectives into the real world. And because I love the challenge of recommending books on an unusual theme, I’ve chosen intriguing summer reads whose titles all contain a color.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
The hype surrounding this book is real, especially if you listen to it on audio. It’s a feel-good story you can turn to again and again. Linus Baker leads a quiet life. As a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, Linus oversees the welfare of children in government orphanages. Then, he’s given an unusual assignment: travel to the Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children, one of whom is the Antichrist, reside. Linus’s top-secret mission is to determine if these children will bring about the end of days. But orphanage caretaker Arthur Parnassus will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow close, Linus is forced to make a difficult choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting tale of unlikely families and embracing differences.

Red Island House by Andrea Lee
Another stellar novel on audio, Lee’s writing paints a vivid portrait of northern Madagascar as it follows the life of Shay Gilliam, a Black American woman married to an Italian man, Senna, who builds an elaborate vacation property on the island. Each chapter almost reads as a standalone short story as it traces life in the Red Island House over the decades. A complex set of characters come and go from Shay’s life, including the loud, racist house manager Kristos and the head housekeeper Bertine, whom Shay befriends. Over the years, in her life spent between Italy and Madagascar, Shay confronts ideas about race, class, and colonialism. 

The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P. Nimura
In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first American to receive a medical degree after having won over the all-male medical field with her intelligence and intensity. But Elizabeth’s story is incomplete without her often forgotten sister, Emily, the third woman in America to receive a medical degree. Together, the sisters founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, the first hospital staffed by women. From Bristol, England, to the cities of antebellum America, Nimura traces the sisters’ stories of tenacity and ambition while presenting their personalities from all angles, including tendencies to be judgmental, uncompromising, and even misogynistic. Nimura’s fascinating narrative history follows the first sister doctors as they transform the 19th-century medical establishment.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
This fast-paced historical mystery involves three women called to Bletchley Park in 1940 to train to break German military codes to help defeat the Nazis. Osla uses her fluent German to translate decoded enemy secrets, and Mab works the code-breaking machines. Beth, though painfully shy, possesses a genius knack for puzzles, and she becomes one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. Fast forward to 1947: as the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip invigorates post-war Britain, the three women are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter, the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that tore apart the women’s friendship and left one committed to an asylum.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Roanhorse launches an epic adventure series inspired by pre-Columbian societies, filled with rich characters and vivid worldbuilding. In the city of Tova, the winter solstice is a time for celebration. This year also brings a solar eclipse, an event that is foretold by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world. Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and is set to arrive on the solstice. Xiala, the ship’s captain, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a person’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger, Serapio, who is blind, scarred, and is described as harmless. Xiala knows, though, that a man described as “harmless” often ends up being a villain. 

White Ivy by Susie Yang
Ivy Lin, a Chinese immigrant, grows up in a low-income Massachusetts neighborhood, desperate to fit in with her American peers. She develops a crush on golden boy Gideon Speyer, whose aristocratic family embodies the WASP ideal. In the meantime, Ivy finds an unlikely mentor in her grandmother Meifeng, from whom Ivy learns to shoplift for the things she needs. Ivy develops a taste for winning and wealth, and, when she bumps into Gideon’s father years later, she believes it’s fate. She’s worked hard to be the right woman for Gideon. But as they start dating, another man from Ivy’s past appears, and soon Ivy is enmeshed in two very different worlds.

Join our weekly Wednesday night book chats, and enter summer book giveaways on Fridays in our lively Facebook Book Chat group,

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.