9 Books to LVL-Up Your Summer Reading List

Nora Burke
July 5, 2024
9 Books to LVL-Up Your Summer Reading List

With longer days, and hopefully some vacation plans, summer is the perfect time to escape into the pages of a good story. You can pick up a book that allows you to explore new ideas, a book to purely entertain, or a book to gain fresh perspectives on life and business. There's no better time to dive into a good book, or a pool if you have one of those around. Whether it's for professional enrichment or simply to unwind, here's my selection of books to add to your summer reading list. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Kickstart your summer with a dose of inspiration and motivation. In this book, Clear discusses the transformative power of small habits and how they can compound over time to lead to remarkable results. Whether you're looking to improve your productivity, health, or happiness, this book offers practical strategies for building habits that last. 

One quote I really liked from this book was, “Never outsource what you enjoy.” It’s a new take on, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Every job has aspects you might not like, but if you build a career that aligns with your passion, then it’s worth keeping!

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

This was on Barack Obama’s book list in 2023, so I added it to my list last year and loved it. 

We meet Moshe Ludlow, a Jewish theater owner, who finds support in Chona, the daughter of the Heaven and Earth Grocery store owner. Chona's wisdom and resilience guides Moshe through his business challenges. Inspired by his Black employee Nate, Moshe opens his theater to Black audiences, facing backlash from racist and antisemitic forces in the community. I loved the character development in this book. As the reader, I became intimately familiar with each character's struggles, triumphs, and deep thoughts. 

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

How has Disney created magic for so many generations? 

Delve into the world of business and leadership with Robert Iger, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company. In the book, Iger shares invaluable lessons learned throughout his legendary career including his insights into decision-making, innovation, and the art of storytelling. A captivating read for aspiring leaders and Disney enthusiasts alike. I used to say to my husband, “I have a dumb question” and he would get so annoyed letting me know if it’s an honest question, asking it will only help me learn. Iger had a similar quote that I caught, “Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can.”

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Lose yourself in this enchanting world where every book is a doorway to a different life. 

Haig's imaginative novel follows the journey of Nora Seed, who finds herself at a crossroads and discovers a magical library that offers her the chance to explore endless possibilities. A poignant and thought-provoking meditation on regret, choice, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Sidenote: It’s always fun to read a book with a character that shares your name!

Monkey Business by John Rolfe and Peter Troob 

People say this book is a lot like Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis, if you’ve read that. It is a humorous insider account of life on Wall Street during the late 1990s. The book provides a candid and often outrageous glimpse into the world of investment banking (picture The Wolf of Wall Street), chronicling the authors' experiences as young analysts at a prestigious investment firm. This is both an eye-opening exposé of Wall Street excess and a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of unchecked ambition. Bonus: it was a quick read!

The Women by Kristin Hannah 

If you’ve read a Hannah book before (The Nightingale), then you’re aware that this book will be an emotional ride. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

This story follows the journey of Frankie McGrath, a twenty-year-old nursing student living in Southern California in 1965. Raised in a conservative household, Frankie has always strived to do what is expected of her. However, when she hears the phrase, "Women can be heroes," it ignites a newfound sense of purpose within her. With her brother deployed to Vietnam, Frankie decides to join the Army Nurse Corps to follow in his footsteps.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez writes a compelling novel set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973 that follows the journey of Civil Townsend, a recent nursing school graduate with a strong desire to make a positive impact in her African-American community. Joining the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, Civil is determined to empower women to make their own choices about their lives and bodies. However, as she immerses herself in her work, she faces numerous challenges and obstacles. The story also jumps ahead to the present day when Civil revisits those pivotal characters from her past.

This is a heavy story including systemic oppression, women’s rights issues, and moral dilemmas, that’s your trigger warning if you’re looking for a lighter summer read. 

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Can you tell I’m in my “thinking about investments” era? 

Sorkin and the book follow the collapse of major financial institutions, and Sorkin offers insights into the personalities, power struggles, and high-stakes negotiations that shaped the crisis response. I found his research to be really thorough and the inside look to be fascinating. He interviews key players and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the decision-making process within the highest levels of government and finance during one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history. 

One quote from the book especially stood out to me. “You are about to experience the most unbelievable week in America ever, and we have to prepare for the absolutely worst case,” Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, told his staff.

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston

We will end with a book that is pure escape. It’s a fast-paced, read-it-in-one-night kind of book that includes lies, secrets, and the power of manipulation. 

This thriller takes readers on a twisted journey where nothing is as it seems and trust is fragile. Don’t worry — there are no scary scenes. I’m too much of a baby to read those kinds of thrillers, let alone recommend them. This is more of a psychological thriller that keeps you intrigued and guessing. So I won’t spoil much with my review. 

Whether you're seeking inspiration or a sweet escape, this summer reading list has something for everyone. So choose one, find a cozy spot, and let the story transport you. Happy reading!

Nora Burke
LVL-Up Strategies