Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Books I’ve Judged by Their Covers and Loved

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Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

I judge books by their covers. I’m a sucker for anything colorful and bright. I had a high school teacher who muttered “Guard your retinas” whenever he turned the lights on in the classroom, and that’s kind of the theme I follow for my own home decor/fashion/anything I can make colorful.

So sometimes when I’m looking for a new book, I find one with the most colorful cover and get it without even reading the jacket copy. I know we’re not supposed to do that, but I’m a rule breaker.

Here some are pretty-covered books I’ve read recently and loved, loved, loved.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This cover makes my eyes dance around, and I was in a trance while I read it. Mohsin Hamid’s writing is flawless, enrapturing, and left me breathless.

Saeed and Nadia escape their war-torn country through mystical doors that transport migrants from safe place to safe place. But just because the doors appear doesn’t mean an easy life will also appear.

When I put the book down and stepped back, I had to remind myself that such doors don’t actually exist. Or do they?

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Doll. War. Ocean. Book. Field. The cover is cute and quirky, but the story is deep and beautiful.

Nao is planning her suicide. Her family is in shambles and the bullies at school are too much. Ruth is a writer across the ocean who walks the beach and stumbles upon a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a notebook inside. Nao’s diary.

We hear their very different stories as Ruth reads about and becomes obsessed with Nao’s life and begins questioning all sorts of deep things about life and death and war and love.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

I swooned over this bright cover for months before it appeared at my library. And then I gulped it down.

The colors match the vividness of this story full of drama and secrets swirling around a family of strong and powerful and messy Jamaican women just looking for a better life for themselves.


Wrecked by Maria Padian

Pink! Scribbles! It’s so simple and also not. Each line is meticulous.

We get the discovery and unraveling of a campus rape story from the victim and the rapist and a bunch of people on the outskirts. It’s a hard one to swallow, but it’s so important and so hard to read that you must read it.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki

When I think of summertime, I think of this book. I love the crop on the girls jumping in the water. And boy oh boy, does the art inside live up to this gorgeous cover.

The story is a smart one about two teenage girls who spend their summers together at their families’ lake houses, but they discover a lot about the world around them over the course of this one summer.