Summer reading lists are some of our favorite lists to create, looking ahead to the summer months and discovering what historical fiction titles will be coming out during that time period. For summer 2022, we found 10 titles, with stories ranging from two books that address the Haitian Revolution to a story about Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress designer to several books set during World War 2.
The Surgeon’s Daughter by Audrey Blake (May 10, 2022)
In 19th-century Bologna, Spain, Nora Beady is the only female medical student, which makes her an oddity; everyone takes her accomplishments for granted but finds fault with any mistake she makes. Then she meets the only female doctor on staff, Magdalena Morenco, and the two women begin working on perfecting a new surgery technique, the Caesarean section. But they meet stiff resistance from their male colleagues who not only denounce the procedure but also prevent their wives from having it, even in life-threatening conditions. When Nora is faced with the dilemma of providing the dangerous surgery to hopefully save a patient’s life, she must decide whether she is willing to risk failing and setting back the role of women in medicine as a result.
By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley (June 7, 2022)
Based on the true story of one of the 20th century’s forgotten clothing designers, By Her Own Design tells the story of Ann Lowe, the Black woman who designed Jacqueline Kennedy’s bridal gown and bridesmaid dresses. In 1918 Tampa, 12-year-old Ann meets an older man who sweeps her off her feet and marries her. When things quickly turn rocky with him due to his drinking problem, Ann realizes that her dream of designing dresses may be gone forever. But Ann is saved when a prominent socialite sees Ann’s work and offers her a job designing clothes for the wealthy Tampa crowd. In 1953, Ann is dealing with the damage to her shop which ruins the dresses she so carefully designed and created for the Kennedy wedding. With only two weeks left until the wedding, she and her seamstresses must work to have the dresses ready to go in order to show the world Ann’s immense talent.
The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer (June 28, 2022)
Set in a dual timeline format, The German Wife toggles between 1930’s Germany and 1950’s Huntsville, Alabama. In the earlier timeline, Sofie and Jürgen Rhodes are uncomfortable with the Nazi regime’s rise to power, but Jürgen takes a job in their rapidly expanding rocket program to avoid losing his wife, his children and his home. In the second timeline set in 1950 Alabama, Sofie and Jürgen find themselves in the United States where Jürgen has been pardoned for his war work and then recruited to work on the United States space program. However, when word leaks that the Rhodes family had ties to the Nazis during the war, the vitriol directed their way threatens to destroy their lives in Alabama.
Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley (July 12, 2022)
Abdaraya Toya (“Gran”), a member of the “Dahomeyan Amazons”, a term coined by the Europeans, was sold into slavery and sent to Saint Domingue, a French colony. Within the slave community there, she becomes both a healer and a mother to the many children without their own mothers, including to the revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Marie-Claire Bonheur is a free woman living in Saint Domingue who was raised to help those suffering under the injustices of slavery. When she and Jean-Jacques meet, sparks fly and even though Marie Claire is married, she and Jean-Jacque fall in love and have children. When the war finally breaks out pitting the various groups against each other, both Marie Claire and Gran Toya take part in the revolution that brings freedom to the Haitian people.
The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin (July 26, 2022)
Ava works as a librarian at the Library of Congress until she is recruited by the U.S. military to spy during World War 2. She is sent to Lisbon to pose as a librarian while gathering intel for the war effort. Meanwhile, Elaine is working in Lyon helping to operate a printing press run by the French Resistance, but the Nazis are frantically searching to locate the press and silence the printer. As the war continues, the two women begin communicating through coded messages and working to help win the war.
The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman (August 2, 2022)
After helping crack the German Enigma code, Isabel Cooper is sent to Pearl Harbor’s Station HYPO, its code breaking center, to help break the Japanese Magenta codes that are being grabbed from the airwaves in an attempt to win the war. Angry that her brother was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Isabel believes the only way she can avenge her brother’s death is to crack these codes, but she quickly learns that life may have more in store for her when she meets her brother’s best friend, a pilot with his own secrets. Two decades later, a young journalist is sent to Hawaii to cover the opening of the Rockefeller’s latest project, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and is roped into the hunt for a prominent guest who goes missing. While searching for the guest, she uncovers a wartime secret that she must work to unlock.
Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak (August 2, 2022)
The daughter of an enslaved woman and a wealthy landowner, Sylvie de Rosiers lives a privileged lifestyle but never feels like she belongs in Saint Domingue. When the Haitian Revolution commences, she and her brother head to Paris where they unwittingly find themselves enmeshed in another revolution. In Paris, Sylvie encounters both Robespierre and his mistress, each of whom offer her different things. In the midst of the French Revolution, Sylvie must determine what she truly believes and what she is willing to sacrifice for those beliefs.
Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra (August 2, 2022)
Mercury Pictures Presents follows a group of individuals connected to a floundering movie studio at the beginning of World War II. As the war ramps up, the studio is enlisted to help create propaganda reels. In addition, the studio becomes a home for the various emigres from Europe, a strong female producer who wants to make her mark in the film world, an actor struggling to find non-stereotypical roles, and other similarly disenfranchised people. Toggling between Italy and Los Angeles, Mercury Pictures Presents focuses on how a group of ordinary citizens are affected by war and its long-lasting effects, and their stories are woven together in moving and occasionally surprising ways.
Midnight on the Marne by Sarah Adlakha (August 9, 2022)
Marcelle Marchand is a nurse and undercover spy in France during World War I. An American soldier, George, falls in love with her but must put his duty as a soldier first. When George’s best friend Phillip attempts to win the Second Battle of Marne by sacrificing his own life, George stops him. Together, George, Phillip, Marcelle, and Marcelle’s twin sister Rosalie flee the Germans and make a new life for themselves in occupied France. Years later, George has the chance to go back in time and change the course of history. But doing so could change his own life.
Madwoman by Louisa Treger (August 23, 2022)
Young Nellie Bly is determined to succeed as a journalist in New York City where jobs are hard to come by, especially for women. In an effort to grab the attention of Joseph Pulitzer, she hatches a plan to go undercover by faking insanity and getting committed to the asylum on Blackwell’s Island to see what life is really like there. Rumors abound about the horrific conditions at the asylum and the facility’s high mortality rate. But reality sinks in when Nellie finds herself trapped on the island where she must switch to survival mode to have any hope of ever leaving. While there, she discovers the horrible way that patients are treated by the staff, the extreme cold and hunger, the mental abuse and more. While she chose to enter in order to write an expose’ of the facility, she slowly begins to wonder whether she will ever be able to leave.
The Thread Collectors by Shaunna Edwards and Alyson Richman (August 30, 2022)
Set in the midst of the Civil War, The Thread Collectors follows two very different women whose paths collide unexpectedly. In New Orleans, Stella, a young Black woman, sews maps that help enslaved men escape and join the Union Army. Lily, a Jewish woman in New York City, creates a quilt for her husband, a Union soldier stationed in Louisiana. When she goes months without hearing from him, she decides to journey to Louisiana to find him. Loosely based on both authors’ family histories, the novel focuses on the threads that bind people and ultimately save them.