Our Summer Reading Favorites, For Children and Adults

Education Featured GeekMom
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Creative Commons No attribution required.

Summer is a time for hitting the beach, relaxing, and reading! Need some suggestions? We have assembled our favorites for your reading pleasure this season.

9 and up
Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno (Ages 8 and up)
When Lauren finds herself lost in Userland, she must figure out how to get home by solving logic puzzles. Despite it being for ages eight and up, I think any age could get something out of this.

Why should you read this? Even as an adult with a degree in computer engineering, I found this to be a fun read. The story takes a subject that can be rather boring for some and explains it in a way that anyone can walk away understanding it.- Recommended by GeekMom Dakster Sullivan

Quest for Justice: An Unofficial Minecraft-Fan Adventure by Sean Fay Wolfe (Amazon says ages 9 and up but if they can read and enjoy Minecraft, give it a shot)
Noobs to the Elementia server find themselves in trouble and targeted by the more experienced players. They join together to take on the king and discover the hidden mysteries of Elementia.

Why should you read this? My son says he doesn’t have a favorite book yet, but if he did, it would be this one. In his words, “Three Minecraft friends are trying to get justice on the server ‘Elementia’ and bring peace to all the land. I liked all the action and the book is all in Minecraft.” – Recommended by GeekMom Dakster Sullivan

Summerland by Michael Chabon (Age recommendation: 9 and up but if you are old enough to enjoy a good fat novel, pick this up regardless of age)

Young Ethan Feld is a lousy baseball player, but his dad makes him play anyway. Then a 100-year-old baseball scout and a friendly werefox recruit him to pitch in a game with the fate of the universe at stake, but first, he and his best friend Jennifer will have to contend with giants (including a miniature one), bat-winged goblins, and the toughest magical baseball team in existence. We also learn why the Designated Hitter Rule might have actually been the cause of the end of the world.

Why should you read this? Michael Chabon is a master storyteller, but usually, his stories include content and themes that aren’t generally considered appropriate for children. In Summerland, he brings all of his considerable gifts to a story deliberately intended for children but written in a way that it is a joy for adults as well.

I don’t care about baseball at all, not in the slightest, and I was completely captured by Ethan’s love-hate relationship with the sport, and with Chabon’s contention that baseball is inextricably linked to the existence of summer itself. There is so much delight and wonder packed in here, along with an almost Campbellian adherence to the major themes of all good fantasy; there is a magical world outside of our perception, that our hero enters into, where he learns that the things that made him small and weak in the “real world” are his greatest strengths, that he has a life-or-death mission to fulfill, and that he can only do it by surrounding himself with trusted friends and allies whose varied abilities will all come into play in saving the world. Summerland is the first great modern fantasy since Oz.

The book’s packaging suggests ages 9-13, but Chabon does not confine himself that way. If your reading comprehension is at the level to read a big fat novel, and you’re young enough to accept a little magic in your coming-of-age tales, it’s for you. I was over 40 when I read it the first time. – Recommended by GeekDad Jim MacQuarrie

10 and up
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series) by Rick Riordan (Ages 10 – 14)
Percy Jackson tries to be a good student, but between his temper and his ADHD, he’s really struggling. And then his math teacher turns out to be a real monster. Percy finds his weaknesses are his strengths as he goes on an epic quest against ancient Greek gods and a few more recent demi-gods. – Recommended by GeekMom Marziah Karch

Why should you read this? This is a great middle school read for any kid who didn’t quite feel like they fit in. Who doesn’t that describe in middle school? There’s also some sneaky history since the characters are drawn from classical mythology. My daughter began this series when she was in fifth grade and still eagerly awaits new books in eighth grade. – Recommended by GeekMom Marziah Karch

Once Was a Time by Leila Sales (Ages 10–13 years)
A young girl in World War II-era London gets transported to modern-day Wisconsin, separated from her best friend and her family by time and space. She is trying to find her way back, while also navigating the difficulties of adolescence.

Why should you read this? While there is a fantastical element to the story—the premise, after all, involves time travel—much of the story adheres to realism: what would happen to a lost teenage girl in America? Even though Lottie is constantly pursuing the secrets of time travel, her life also seems quite normal: she ends up in a foster home, makes friends, goes to school. But there’s a poignant undercurrent about the whole thing, too: she has been separated from everything she knew and thrown into a completely different world. It’s a great story, beautifully written.  – Recommended by GeekDad Jonathan Liu

12 and up
A Whole New World: A Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell (Ages 12 and up)
What would have happened if Jafar had gotten a hold of the lamp and not Aladdin? What would become of Jasmine, Aladdin, and Abu? Time to take a trip back to Agrabah and find out.

Why should you read this? I’ll admit and I was initially drawn to this title by the cover and then the idea of Jafar getting the lamp first and seeing how the story would still get its happily ever after that all Disney movies seem to have. I haven’t read this book myself yet, but the adventure possibilities alone have me on edge.- Recommended by GeekMom Dakster Sullivan

Dali Lama’s Cat series by David Michie (Ages 13 and up)
The Dali Lama’s Cat series has had a huge impact on my life. Who knew there was so much to learn about life from a four-legged feline? The story is nicely woven in with life lessons that will leave you never wanting the series to end.

Why should you read this? It’s a fun way of learning about the Buddhist ways without being lectured. From a standpoint of someone with anxiety and depression, some of the methods that Snow Lion learns while living with the Dali Lama are very interesting and have helped me to deal with my personal struggles. – Recommended by GeekMom Dakster Sullivan

Double Down by Gwenda Bond (Ages 12 and over)
This is the second book in the YA Lois Lane series. The story follows a teenage Lois Lane as she moves to Metropolis and finds her footing.

Why should you read this? I love comic books and I love Lois Lane. The story brings in many familiar characters and elements from the Superman mythology. Readers of the comic books will recognize settings and people, however, the author cleverly and seamlessly integrates it all into this world so it is transparent to those who don’t read the comics, like my teenage daughter.

The story filled with mystery and intrigue but, like Fallout (first in the series), it is filled with optimism and hope. This is a welcome respite from the dystopian nature that seems to prevail in some corners of the YA market. – Recommended by GeekMom Maya

The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown (Ages 13+ due to sexually charged scenes)

Join a young girl named Thing who, along with her four animal friends, are enslaved to cruel witch via stones attached to various parts of their bodies. When their mistress dies the group set off on a grand adventure to get the stones removed and their freedom returned. Alas, all freedom has a price.

Why should you read this? I reread this old favorite almost every single year. This year I’m pleased to be reading it as a newly acquired first edition printing of the novel from 1986 that I found for only a few dollars in fabulous condition at a local Half Price Books store.
This story spoke to me in many ways. The protagonist is a young woman and I first read the novel as a young woman. Thing, as she is called as she does not know her real name, is enslaved by a witch/sorceress and wears a mask to hide her hideous visage from the world. Every young woman goes through a phase in her life where she is convinced she is the ugliest creature alive and this book fell into my lap at that time.

In the end, though, I recommend this book because it is just a good old-fashioned fun adventure story that will appeal to anyone who likes an adventure. It has a unicorn, a dragon, witches, knights, and melds all those things into a beautiful story of self-realized redemption. – Recommended by GeekMom Samantha Fisher 

The Rocketeer Jet-Pack Adventures by Various authors, edited by Jeff Conner and Tom Waltz (Teen to adult)

A collection of ten short prose action and crime capers by various authors based on the popular The Rocketeer, created by Dave Stevens.

Why should you read this? The Rocketeer is a great character for anyone who loves, comics, retro stories, pulp, crime-fighting noir and even steampunk tales. This collection of ten prose stories, by both female and male authors, takes Dave Stevens’ favorite characters Cliff and Betty on adventures against a number of villains from sky-pirates to mad scientists.

Compilations are always perfect summer choices, with most stories easy afternoon reads. Plus the tales themselves are exciting little escapes from reality, with “guest appearances” by such famous 1940s figures as Hedy Lamarr and Howard Hughes. – Recommended by GeekMom Lisa Kay Tate

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Ages 13 and up)

The story of America’s forgotten Founding Father. This is the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to pen the smash-hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Chernow examines Hamilton’s harsh upbringing in the West Indies, his role in the Revolutionary War as General Washington’s confidant, his influence in the eventual United States government, and the events that led to his eventual death on the dueling ground.

Why should you read this? This isn’t light reading but if you have been obsessing about the musical Hamilton the way our family and friends have it’s a fantastic work to fill in the gaps and expand on a largely ignored giant in the story of the founding of the United States. The only things I knew about Alexander Hamilton before listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical were that he was shot in a duel by Aaron Burr and he was on the ten-dollar bill. Chernow does a wonderful job of winding together the historical details and the personal experiences of a person who had his hands in almost everything going on at the turn of the 19th century.

You will not believe how interesting and inspiring a historical biography can be. Chernow’s description of Hamilton’s duel with Aaron Burr is as riveting as a book can be and I’ll wager you won’t be able to put the book down once you get started. You’ll feel, perhaps for the first time, like you really understand the revolutionary period and you may actually find yourself inspired to pick up the Federalist Papers. – Recommended by GeekDad Chris Wickersham

AdultThe Fireman by Joe Hill (Adult)
A mysterious illness that causes the host to spontaneously combust destroys humanity and scorches the earth. And that’s the good news. The survivors–healthy and sick alike–may finish off what Mother Nature started. Because, you know, “us versus them.”

Why should you read this? Hill’s best novel to date. Riffing on his popular father (Stephen King), The Fireman is part The Stand, part Firestarter, part Lord of the Flies, part The Road, and part… Mary Poppins?  While there might be better novels that tackle the dystopian remains of the apocalypse on a global scale, you’d be hard pressed to find a better look at what the end of the world as we know it means to the individual and the pockets of humanity that survive the initial destruction. – Recommended by GeekDad Joey Mills

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (Technically adult, but I bet it could resonate with younger–even middle-grade–readers)
A light-hearted epistolary set on a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina honoring the writer of the quote ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,’ which is emblazoned on its town hall. When the letters start to fall, they see it as a sign from above that language is being misused, so fallen letters are omitted from language, punishable by banishment from the island.

Why should you read this? It’s silly, fun, and totally satisfying for a word nerd. It’s light-hearted and easy reading. Recommended by GeekDad Nivi Engineer

Do you have a favorite summer-time read? Leave us a note in the comments! We’d love to hear your suggestions.

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