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Round out your summer reading list with these 15 must-read books

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Photo: Emily Faber, Sinclair Broadcast Group

NEW YORK CITY (SBG) - Depending on the current restrictions in your state, it may feel like many of your favorite seasonal activities are inaccessible or unsafe, from gathering with friends at the pool to taking a vacation to a faraway destination. But even during a summer quite unlike those that came before it, reading a good book remains a prime way to spend a sunny afternoon. Let this list point you toward some of the top choices for your summer reading list, and get ready to go on an adventure from the comfort of your own home.

"The Girl with the Louding Voice," by Abi Daré

In Abi Daré's debut novel, a girl growing up in a Nigerian village seeks an education in hopes of finding her voice. Through a series of misfortunes, Adunni remains strong and determined to build her own future. This powerful story of reaching for dreams amidst difficult circumstances became an instant New York Times best-seller and is well-deserving of a spot on your summer reading list.

"Severance," by Ling Ma

Originally published in 2018, Ling Ma's "Severance" is appropriate for the current times, as Candace Chen, a millennial New Yorker, navigates a global plague called Shen Fever. The book alternates between Candace's immigrant backstory and her current journey with a group of survivors to start society anew.

"The Vanishing Half," by Brit Bennett

If you haven't picked up "The Vanishing Half" yet, what are you waiting for? Brit Bennett's second novel has become such a big hit that 17 bidders fought for the rights to adapt the book; HBO won the auction and plans to turn it into a limited TV series. "The Vanishing Half" tells the story of twin sisters who grew up in a southern Black community and took very different paths as adults.

"The Pull of the Stars," by Emma Donoghue

Can't get enough of pandemic-related stories? It was 2018 when Emma Donoghue, author of international best-seller "The Room," began writing this novel inspired by the 1918 Spanish Flu, but her publishers fast-tracked its publication as the coronavirus outbreak magnified its relevance. Taking place in a Dublin maternity ward, "The Pull of the Stars" follows health care workers as they fight for their patients' lives.

"The Dragons, the Giant, the Women," by Wayétu Moore

Wayétu Moore's gripping memoir gives a first-person perspective of her family's escape during the First Liberian Civil War, as well as a look into her postwar life in the United States. The final section of the book takes on Moore's mother's voice, describing how Mam flew from New York City to Sierra Leone to attempt to rescue her family.

"Notes on a Silencing," by Lacy Crawford

In "Notes on a Silencing," Lacy Crawford focuses not only on the assault that she suffered as a student at St. Paul’s School in 1990 but on the elite boarding school's lack of response at the time of the assault and the recently uncovered evidence of institutional silencing. "I'm done with shame," Crawford told The New York Times in a June interview.

"Hollywood Park," by Mikel Jollett

You don't have to be a fan of rock band The Airborne Toxic Event to appreciate frontman Mikel Jollett's memoir about being born into an infamous cult and growing up in poverty after his family managed to escape. Writing the book helped Jollett to process his father's death and explore how his upbringing allowed him to reach the place where he is today.

"Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein," by Joe Yonan

If you filled up your cabinets with beans at the start of the pandemic, this cookbook can help you to find uses for any cans that you haven't quite found an appropriate use for yet. In "Cool Beans," Yonan shares his passion for beans through 125 creative recipes, as well as information on different types of beans and a variety of cooking methods.

"The Guest List," by Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley's "The Guest List" will have you constantly turning the pages after a body is found during a high-society wedding celebration. Thanks to the creepy, remote atmosphere of the wedding and Foley's engaging cast of possibly-guilty characters, you won't be able to put the novel down until the very end.

"Home Before Dark," by Riley Sager

If want another gripping thriller to keep you up at night, "Home Before Dark" will surely do the trick. New York Times bestseller Riley Sager's latest novel tells a story within a story, as main character Maggie Holt returns to renovate a house from her past, a house whose ghostly happenings inspired her father's best-selling memoir. The suspense builds as Maggie, who doesn't believe in ghosts, begins to learn that her father's book may have been more factual than she originally thought.

"Freshwater," by Akwaeke Emezi

Originally published in 2018, Akwaeke Emezi's "Freshwater" remains an intriguing and heart-wrenching read for this summer. The novel, intended by Emezi to be semi-autobiographical, tells the story of a young Igbo and Tamil woman with multiple personalities and poetically describes the effects that mental illness can have on someone's sense of self over the course of their lifetime.

"Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family," by Robert Kolker

Don and Mimi Galvin had 12 children; six of those children ended up being diagnosed with schizophrenia. By studying the Galvin family, the National Institute of Mental Health hoped to come closer to answering the many unsolved questions about schizophrenia. In "Hidden Valley Road," Robert Kolker tells this real-life family's history in a haunting tale of violence, breakdowns, and abuse.

"The Last Flight," by Julie Clark

Julie Clark's best-seller is a psychological thriller about two women looking for fresh starts. Upon meeting at an airport bar, the women decide to switch tickets — and identities. Is there any chance of this risky scheme paying off? What about when one of the planes ends up crashing? You'll find yourself invested in the women's futures and eager to find out what happens.

"Big Summer," by Jennifer Weiner

The fewer plot points you know going into Jennifer Weiner's latest beach read, the better. "Big Summer" starts off as a book about the reunion between two friends who previously had a falling out, but the deeper that you get into the story, the more you'll find yourself surprised by the directions that it takes.

"Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art," by James Nestor

Does it feel like you're going through a lot right now? How about taking a deep breath? In James Nestor's recent New York Times best-seller, the journalist explores the best ways to improve our breathing and the ways in which breath can impact our lives. The book will leave you with methods and exercises to try out for yourself.