Updated at 1:43 p.m. June 21

Summer 2023 is upon us, and we're ready to bury our faces in a book we can’t wait to read. As bestselling author Stephen King notes, “books are a uniquely portable magic,” and they're often on the move during the summer months: jammed into jean pockets, lining beach towels, and stacked up on vacation bedside tables.

For our annual summer reading special, three local librarians return with their curated lists from 2023’s best offerings — from thrillers to young adult novels, to romance and science fiction.

“The book opens right here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1910, where Agnes Carter, a wealthy donor to a university, which is presumably Harvard, hires a naturalist and glassblowing phenom from Bohemia to create a collection of glass botanical models,” said Susannah Borysthen-Tkacz, senior librarian at the Cambridge Public Library, about one of her summer reading favorites, Glassworks by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith. “Meanwhile, Agnes is struggling with her own suffocating marriage and becomes increasingly enmeshed in this glass artist's life. … And the common thread through all of it is glass. And it sort of is a metaphor for the delicate structure of the family. We see their families shatter and sort of rebuild itself over and over again.”

Robin Brenner, teen librarian at the Public Library of Brookline, chose Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song by Austin Paramore in part because it is written for younger teens: “It plays on the idea of making a deal with the Crossroads Devil, for music, which is something I've always enjoyed as a trope and certainly comes from true jazz mythology and jazz history. And in this case, it's a young man who is trying to prove that he wants to be a musician and, specifically, playing piano, but cannot afford his own keyboard and is kind of desperate to prove to his dad, who's very disapproving of the idea of this as a career. And he reconnects with an old friend from the neighborhood and ends up making a deal that he doesn't realize he's making with this very shady store owner who gives him a keyboard for free. Of course, there is a different price for it.”

“There's a king; he has three sons; he sends them out on various, completely ridiculous quests," said Veronica Koven-Matasy, reader services librarian at the Boston Public Library, about the fairy tale one of her recommendations is based on, White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link. “And the youngest son finds himself at the house of a white cat who mysteriously can talk. And all of her servants are cats, and they mysteriously produce all the things that he needs to succeed in his quest. … He is supposed to bring back a bride. And he says, ‘Oh, I don't really want to bring back a wife.’ And the white cat says, ‘Oh, you bring me.’ And he has to prove his faith in her by cutting off her head when she tells him to. And then immediately a beautiful woman springs out. And, you know, it’s the perfect woman. And obviously he's the superior son who brought back the superior bride. And he gets to be the king. … You enjoy being surprised by stories as well as well as just really enjoying the beautiful prose that's carrying you through. I really recommend [this], I was shocked many times.”


Susannah Borysthen-Tkacz, senior librarian at the Cambridge Public Library

Robin Brenner, teen librarian at the Public Library of Brookline

Veronica Koven-Matasy, reader services librarian at the Boston Public Library



  • Family Lore - Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Last Animal - Ramona Ausubel
  • The Celebrants - Steven Rowley
  • That Summer Feeling - Bridget Morrissey
  • Glassworks - Olivia Wolfgang-Smith
  • King of the Armadillos - Wendy Chin-Tanner
  • Girls and Their Horses - Eliza Jane Brazier
  • Mimosa - Archie Bongiovanni
  • Quietly Hostile: Essays - Samantha Irby


  • Blood Debts - Terry J. Benton-Walker
  • Family Style - Thien Pham
  • Darkhearts - James L. Sutter
  • This Is Not a Personal Statement - Tracy Badua
  • The Grimoire of Grave Fates - Hanna Alkaf and Margaret Owen
  • Six Times We Almost Kissed - Tess Sharpe
  • A Song of Salvation - Alechia Dow
  • The Brothers Hawthorne - Jennifer Lynne Barnes
  • Romantic Killer - Wataru Momose
  • Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song - Austin Paramore and Sarah Bollinger
  • Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • My Dear Henry by Kalynn Bayron


  • The Water Outlaws - S. L. Huang
  • The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen - KJ Charles
  • Lady Tan's Circle of Women - See, Lisa
  • Witch King - Martha Wells
  • Kiss the Girl - Zoraida Córdova
  • Quietly Hostile: Essays - Samantha Irby
  • Much Ado About Nada - Uzma Jalaluddin
  • Translation State - Ann Leckie
  • White Cat, Black Dog: Stories - Kelly Link
  • Yellowface - R.F. Kuang
  • Her Good Side - Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • The Beast You Are - Paul Tremblay
  • Psyche and Eros - Luna McNamara


Clarification: This story was updated to clarify that Veronica Koven-Matasy was describing the fairy tale one of her book recommendations is based on, rather than the book itself.