Look to the stars to stack that TBR pile.
It’s finally summer time, and for some of us, that evokes flashbacks of required reading lists. Whether you were the kind of student who ran to the library to pick up your copy of The Grapes of Wrath or The Great Gatsby with glee or dread, the teachers and school admins were right—reading is a great way to keep your brain engaged when you’re out of school. So why not continue the habit as an adult, but this time with a new list of modern classics?
Reading is one wellness practice that’s well worth fitting into that “me-time” because of the slew of benefits it offers, like mindfulness and helping to regulate emotions. The only conundrum that plagues bookworms everywhere is deciding what to read next. With so many great books available, you need a way to narrow your TBR (to be read) list—try picking a summer book to read based on your zodiac sign.
Each zodiac sign has defining personality traits that can inform all sorts of interests, including reading. For example, ambitious and meticulous Capricorns revere the past, so that means they might enjoy a historical fiction novel. Similarly, Sagittarians love adventure and exploring the world—getting whisked away into adventure novel can help hold them over until their next trip.
To narrow down our great expanse of literary options, we’re highlighting classic books to add to your reading list. But we’re not necessarily talking The Iliad or Shakespeare here, though you certainly could check those out; instead, these are all books I consider to be modern classics. Some are more modern than others, and they range in publish dates (200 years ago to several years ago) and subject matter, but all are exemplary fiction reads that I thoroughly enjoyed—some of them in the summertime, on a beach chair. Combined with genre suggestions from astrologers Alexandria Lettman and Stephanie Gailing, these are the star-sanctioned book recommendations you should read this summer, based on your zodiac sign.
The best ‘classic’ book each zodiac sign should add to their summer reading list
You move fast, Aries, so you don’t want to spend time on one book necessarily. A short story collection gives your brain lots of ponder and enjoy, plus the chance to experience many stories in one sitting. “You’d like something where you can get a lot off your reading list at once,” says Lettman.
Who’s to say that a summer read can’t be scary, disturbing, or thought-provoking? In this collection of short stories, British writer Angela Carter reimagines classic fairytales through a macabre, and female-identifying lens—no damsels in distress here. Each tale spins a classic story, like “Bluebeard” and “Beauty and the Beast” into something more carnal and complicated. Carter’s sharp writing in this short story collection has been cited by many fantasy and science fiction authors like Neil Gaiman as inspiration, and this classic has been studied for years in college courses on feminism and literature.
Taurus: You love to plot and plan, and you wish you could know the final outcome of all your machinations. Give yourself that break during this summer reading period and pick something that’ll allow you to enjoy the journey and the destination, like a love story that you know has a happy ending, Lettman suggests.
If you’ve never read the original source material for famous 90s romcom Clueless, it’s better late than never—Austen’s beloved novel still hits, even nearly 200 years after its publication in 1815. Described by the author as “handsome, clever, and rich,” Emma Woodhouse eventually gets her happy ending, but you’ll have a great time parsing through her ill-fated attempts to make matches and wriggle away from potential suitors in Georgian-Regency era England.
Boredom is your enemy, Gemini—you crave adventure and excitement. Lettman recommends keeping your mind engaged and focused by diving into a book that’ll take you on a winding journey. If you took French class at any point in school, you probably recognize Antoine de Saint-Exupery as the author of The Little Prince. Turns out, he was also an accomplished pilot who wrote about his aviation adventures, which included a crash in the Sahara Desert (early aviation wasn’t easy or safe business in the 1920s and 1930s). Come for the adventurous account of a life in the sky, stay for the deep philosophical musings that laid the foundation for The Little Prince.
Cancer, you love a comforting, cozy vibe, even in the summertime. According to Lettman, a book that offers both comfort and purpose is the right pick for you this summer. Look for a book that combines humor and wit and offers insights you can apply to your own life.
British journalist Dolly Alderton’s memoir, Everything I Know About Love: A Memoir, goes down easy like a glass of rose, and reads like the diary of a cool older sister who has experienced everything and lived to tell the tale. The vignettes are funny, moving, and brimming with lessons—this book feels like a hug from your wise and hilarious friend.
Leo, as the zodiac’s performer you love the spotlight. For this reason, Gailing says you may enjoy a book about show business. And luckily for you, Leo, there are plenty of dishy and well-written books in this genre.
With Disney’s live action version of “The Little Mermaid” out in theaters, it’s looking like it’s going to be a mermaid summer. Keep the theme going by picking up this autobiography by Esther Williams, the actress and competitive swimmer who leant her skill to films like “Million Dollar Mermaid.” A fascinating star who came up in the studio system of old Hollywood and was known for performing mesmerizing and choreographed pool sequences in her films, Williams was also a gifted athlete who earned a place on the United States Olympic team but wasn’t able to compete because of the outbreak of World War II. So, she brought her glamour and swimming talents to the cinema. Williams details her rise and quest to carve out a niche for herself at Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), plus shares lots of gossip and behind the scenes details about the other colorful characters who populated the ecosystem of filmmaking.
Virgo, your attention to detail and meticulousness make you perfectly suited to follow the intricate plot of a murder mystery. You’ll have fun following a winding plot—and picking it apart for clues. “You’re super analytical and investigative, and you spot key details that others don’t,” says Lettman.
The queen of the whodunnit, Agatha Christie’s books are perfect page-turners for those looking to get lost in an intricate plot. Death on the Nile: A Hercule Poirot Mystery, was written in 1937 and recently adapted into a much-memed film (“enough champagne to fill the Nile,” anyone?), follows Christie’s beloved French detective as he embarks on a cruise up the Nile River that turns into an engrossing murder mystery after a young and beautiful socialite is found dead. A master of the genre, Christie’s engaging and suspenseful pacing is a summer treat.
Libra, your curiosity means you crave the chance to understand someone else’s POV, so pick up a book that follows a character’s journey of discovery. You’ll enjoy a story that sees a character grow and change. “You have a natural curiosity for things that are unique from your own life experiences,” says Lettman.
A classic that’s still relevant even 75 years after it was written, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows Francie Nolan, an 11-year-old girl growing up in Brooklyn in a tenement with her Irish immigrant family at the turn of the century. The poignant story follows Francie’s growth from a child into an independent young woman in a society set against her. Smith weaves an evocative journey of someone determined to break free of her family’s struggles and to find her own American dream. It’s a classic for a reason.
You probably guessed that the astrologers would recommend a mystery for you, Scorpio, but you contain multitudes. Another trait of yours that is often overlooked is your ambition. “Take some inspiration from your summer reading list with a book written by someone successful who you admire,” says Lettman.
The first Black first lady of the United States maps out her life’s journey in her clear and interesting memoir, Becoming. The story follows Obama (nee Robinson) from her childhood in Chicago to the halls of Princeton University to adjusting to life in the professional world where she eventually meets the man who would become her husband, and the president. There’s also plenty of intrigue and advice in here about navigating changing, rocky waters—the book gives an unvarnished look into what it was like when Obama was thrust into the spotlight as a political spouse and life in the White House and beyond. I finished this book in about six hours when I first read it, and it contains lots of life lessons about how to find—and remain—yourself as you navigate the curves and diversions in your path.
You’re the zodiac’s traveler, Sagittarius, so your capacity and interest for the experiences of others from different cultures and lands means you should seek out a book that’ll transport you to those places, says Lettman. You also care deeply about others’ experiences, so your summer reading pick should appeal to your curiosity and desire to learn about other cultures.
Persepolis is a powerful coming of age memoir and account of life in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution that saw the monarchy toppled to make way for the authoritarian Islamic Regime that still rules today. Using black-and-white comics and words, Satrapi paints a rich portrait of a spirited and modern young girl coming of age in a country sliding into authoritarianism and all the heartbreak, determination, and rebellion that requires. This is the first installment in a two-volume story.
You work so hard all year, Capricorn, so give yourself some time off (whether you’re on vacation or not) this summer to dive into another world. You love the past and tradition, so Gailing recommends marrying those interests by diving into historical fiction this summer.
My favorite book ever and the first of a four-part series called the Neapolitan Novels, My Brilliant Friend depicts the start of a lifelong friendship that’s forged in the slums of Naples and strengthens and fractures as the two characters crash in and out of each other’s lives. The series, which is translated from its original Italian, begins in the present day and takes Lila and Elena, our heroines, through every life stage over the course of about 60 years; this first volume depicts their search to carve out rich, full lives for themselves during their childhood and young adulthood in 1950s Italy. This is one of the best depictions of the complexities of friendship, especially among women-identifying folks, ever put to the page.
Visionary Aquarians care deeply about the world around them, and worry about the future of it. Gailing recommends picking up a book that will transport you but also make you think about the other possibilities—try sci-fi or visionary fiction. All the better if you choose a series with several installments so you can get attached to the characters, says Lettman.
In Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, a young woman named Lauren watches as the world and society she knows collapses. Armed with the ability to hyper empathize with others and feel their pleasure and pain, she tries to chart what she thinks is a better path forward for the future. The first in a series, Parable of the Sower is a novel about the darkness and cruelty humans are capable of, but it’s also about hope and creating a better future for your community—a message worth pondering in current times.
Pisces, we all know you’re deeply in tune with your feelings and love a beautifully told story. This summer, you should add a book that depicts a sweeping love story to your reading list, both Gailing and Lettman say. A story that involves fantastical fantasy elements is right up your alley.
This slim book is as haunting as a siren’s song. Filled with lush, watery imagery, The Seas is about a young woman who believes she is a mermaid, but it’s not your typical romance novel. Trapped in her barren town and largely abandoned by her family, our main character is consumed and overwhelmed by the overflowing love she holds for people who are just out of her reach. Author Samantha Hunt has since built a name for herself writing haunting literary fiction, and her debut novel is deeply dark and beautiful in equal measures. Hunt’s gift for magical realism makes every beautiful sentence of this engrossing and weird little story swim off the page.