Summer books: Southern California independent booksellers recommend what to read

Yes, you could hit the highway this summer, but gas is ridiculously expensive, the freeways are crowded and it’s hot outside.

So let’s stay home instead with a good book or 10.

We called some of our favorite independent booksellers around Southern California and to get recommendations for great summer reads.

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Read on for what they had to recommend.

These are among the books recommended by Southern California independent booksellers as titles for the summer reading seasons. (Courtesy of the publishers)
These are among the books recommended by Southern California independent booksellers as titles for the summer reading seasons. (Courtesy of the publishers)

Los Angeles County

“Mouth To Mouth,” by Antoine Wilson

Why you should read it:It’s a novel about two guys who run into each other in an airport and haven’t seen each other for years. One of them is a writer, who’s writing the story, and the other one wants to tell him what’s happened in the intervening time period. There’s a commanding mastery to this one and it’s interestingly haunting. It’s a literary and psychological thriller, and it’s a pleasure to read.


“Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist,” by Frans de Waal

Why you should read it: “He just explores the way (gender) shows up in his research and the history of primatology. On one hand, it moves you closer to primates but it also defamiliarizes gender at the same time that it reorients it. Because you’re looking at it through another animal it’s a really interesting thing to read.”

Recommended by: John Evans, Diesel, a Bookstore, inside the Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Suite #33, Santa Monica, 310-576-9960,

• • •

“Two Nights in Lisbon,” by Chris Pavone

Why you should read it: “This is one of the finest mysteries I’ve ever read. If you want to hang out by the pool with a page-turner that will keep you guessing until the end, this is your book.


“Counterfeit,” by Kristin Chen

Why you should read it: “When Ava Wong is contacted by her old college roommate, she gets involved in her old friend’s counterfeit luxury handbag scheme. Is she left holding the bag? You’ll have to read this highly entertaining novel to find out.”

Recommended by: Sherri Gallentine, head book buyer, Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-659-3110,

• • •

“The Curious League of Detectives and Thieves 1: Egypt’s Fire,” by Tom Phillips

Why you should read it: “This is definitely one of our big books right now. He’s a local author, and it’s just this really fun mystery about this boy who’s an orphan and he lives in a museum. All these curious things come along and he wants to become a detective and solve mysteries.”


“Swim Team,” by Johnnie Christmas

Why you should read it: “Another one that we are doing for our graphic novel book club for the summer is ‘Swim Team.’ It’s about a young Black girl who has never swum before and she’s overcoming that fear.”

Recommended by: Recommended by: Jessica Palacios, manager and buyer, Once Upon a Time, 2207 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, 818-248-9668,

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“Horse,” by Geraldine Brooks

Why you should read it: “So far, the best book I’ve read in 2022.  Brooks is a master storyteller and historian and this book is a pure pleasure to read.”


“Lessons in Chemistry,” by Bonnie Garmus

Why you should read it: “Elizabeth Zott is my new hero! A chemist in 1960s-era California, Elizabeth takes a job on a cooking show to make ends meet and becomes a huge success despite her best efforts. This book is a delight from beginning to end.”

Recommended by: Sherri Gallentine, head book buyer, Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626-449-5320,

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“Trust,” by Hernan Diaz

Why you should read it: “The making of a vast fortune is told four ways – as a novel-within-a-novel; as a memoir of questionable reliability; as a first-person account from someone who was there; and in a final, honest depiction that I won’t spoil here. This novel is a twisty little puzzle about money, who makes it, and how.”


“Thank You, Mr. Nixon,” by Gish Jen

Why you should read it: “These linked short stories are each great in their own right (“It’s the Great Wall!” is a particular highlight), but together their narrators (at turns wistful, bewildered, and annoyed) beautifully illustrate the fast-changing relationship between China and the U.S., from the ’70s to the present day.”

Recommended by: Mary Williams, general manager, Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles,  323-660-1175,

• • •

“Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” by Jeff Pearlman

Why you should read it: “It provides an insight into one of the most prolific sports dynasties. It’s a fun read and certainly for anybody who is an L.A. sports fan.”


“The Last Picture Show” by Larry McMurtry

Why you should read it: “The semi-autobiographical novel focuses on a group of teenagers coming of age in a small Texas town. It is just a really modern book and it’s incredible that it was written so long ago.”

Recommended by: Brad Johnson, store owner, The Book Shop, 134 N Citrus Ave., Covina, 626-967-1888,

• • •

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon

Why you should read it: “The novel is a murder mystery in the eyes of a teenager who has autism similar to the way Sherlock Holmes is described.”

Recommended by: Danny Tate. staff, Gatsby Books, 5535 E. Spring St., Long Beach, 562-208-5862,

• • •

“This Time Tomorrow” by Emma Straub

Why you should read it: “The story is centered on time travel and the relationship between the main character’s father who is on his deathbed. She travels back in time and meets him as his younger self which provides her with a different perspective of him.”

Recommended by: Karina Bass, staff, Sandpiper Books, 4665 Torrance Blvd, Torrance, 310-371-2002.

• • •

Orange County

“The Summer I Turned Pretty,” by Jenny Han

Why you should read it: “The coming of age story of lovable 15-year-old Belly during the summer at her family beach house.”

“The Palace Papers,” by Tina Brown

Why you should read it: “A well-written account of the British royal family and its scandals. Compulsively readable and Tina Brown at her finest.”

“Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel,” by Bonnie Garmus

Why you should read it: “Two chemists with major chemistry, a dog with a large vocabulary and a popular cooking show are the elements in this terrific book.”

Recommended by: Lisa Childers, manager, Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949-494-4779,

• • •

Various books, by Elin Hilderbrand

Why you should read it: “I think Elin Hilderbrand invented ‘beach reads.’ Her latest is ‘The Hotel Nantucket. Also, ‘Old Detectives Home’ by Mike Befeler is light, funny. ‘The Woman in the Window by Sulari Gentill is Agatha Christie-ish.”


“Lost Luggage,” by Wendell Thomas

Why you should read it: “An older one, but a favorite of mine– think ’30s/’40s screwball comedies.”

Recommended by: Anne Saller, owner, Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin St., Orange, 714-538-3210,

Riverside County 

“Now Wait for Last Year” by Philip K. Dick

Why you should read it: “It’s speculative fiction about an interstellar war but it soon becomes clear that we’ve aligned with the wrong alien race.”


“The Door into Summer” by Robert A. Heinlein

Why you should read it: “Its plot has a mystery, time travel and a cat.”

“The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin

Why you should read it: “It’s based on a scientific issue, but also interstellar contact with an alien race. It’s the first part of a trilogy so I recommend starting with this one first.”

Recommended by: Gene Berkman, owner, Renaissance Book Shop, 3772 Elizabeth St, Riverside, 951-369-8843,

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San Bernardino County

“A Mouthful of Minnows,” by John Hare

Why you should read it: “‘Minnows’ is just lovely because it’s funny but also teaches empathy and how things can change quickly just with one new twist at a time.”


“Drifters,” by Kevin Emerson

Why you should read it: “What would you do if your best friend went missing and you were the only person who even remembered she existed? After a bizarre storm hits their small coastal town, Jovie and her pal Sylvan are confronted with the fact that their town might be the home of many, many more people who have been cast adrift through time and space. A middle-grade sci-fi epic for all ages.”

Recommended by: Erin Rivera, owner, with staffer Morgan’s help, The Frugal Frigate, A Children’s Bookstore, 9 N. Sixth St., Redlands, 909-793-0740,”