For Coloradans all over the state, summer is the best time of year. School is out, work is light, and the sun is (almost) always shinning. Many of us enjoy time hiking, biking, swimming, road tripping, movie-going and brewery touring. Another activity that many people also enjoy during their summers off is reading! Not only is reading especially good for your mental health, most people can do it before, during or after their favorite Colorado summer activities. Heading to one of Colorado’s local craft breweries? Enjoy your beer and a book on the patio. Taking a road trip with friends? Bring a book along to help pass the time. No matter where you choose to read, read, you must! According to Psychology Today, reading fiction, specifically, not only improves brain connectivity but may also improve cognition and overall brain function. If that weren’t enough reason to hit the books, Huffington Post also gives us several more, less conventional reasons to read including: stress reduction, sleep improvement, ease depression and developing our empathy towards others. Not sure where to start or which books to read? You’re in luck! The Just Be team (along with Penguin Random House Publishers and W.W. Norton & Company) has a few recommendations for your summer reading list.

From the Just Be Team:
Brenda Parker: The Elm Creek series by Jennifer Chiaverini
These lovely historical novels are not simply a look into the past, but also, a look into real womanhood and bravery throughout history. The series involves female slaves, Civil War maidens and even, speakeasy flappers. If you’re looking for a girl power sort of series with great historical perspectives, this series is for you.

Cantrell: The Bean Trees & The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover
The Bean Trees is the story of a young woman—Taylor Greer—from rural Kentucky looking to run free and wild. When she reaches her destination though, something unexpected has happened and the book follows her through her journey to motherhood, friendship and acceptance.
The Poisonwood Bible takes us to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Nathan Price, a Baptist that takes himself, his wife and four daughters on a mission trip with nothing but what their hearts and hands can carry. Narrated by Price’s wife and daughters, this story is diverse, rich and thought-provoking.

Megan Brogdon: Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
In his first novel, author David Joy shares with us the struggles of a young man in rural North Carolina. Jacob McKeeley is not your average teenager, and Where All Light Tends to Go is the beautifully written story of his cruel life in a family run drug ring with a dead beat dad, an addicted mother and a trapped love interest. While this is not the brightest of stories, it is by far the most rich and touching writing of the summer.

W.W. Norton & Company: The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr
Ever wonder if we’ll soon lose our jobs to robots and mechanized processes? Well, Nicholas Carr does too and actually took to writing this intricate and in depth text about automation and the human condition. Filled with research, philosophy, history and poetry, Carr delves further into our relationship with automation and technology and its impact on human interaction. Knowing that technology isn’t going anywhere, this is a good read for those looking to understand and dig deeper into our obsession and connection with the big and little screen.

Penguin Random House: At Waters Edge by Sara Gruen
Another time piece from the author of Water for Elephants, At Water’s Edge is the tale of Madeline Hyde, a young socialite who follows her husband in search of the Lochness Monster while the real monster—Hitler—battles the Allied Forces. Developing close relationships with those in the village, Madeline learns about herself and her sexuality as well as the tragedy of war and the larger world.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon, The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney and his team on a mission to Mars. Thought dead, Mark is left behind and author Andy Weir takes us with him on Mark’s journey to survive his abandonment and return home to earth. Humorous and touching this book is going to be the “must read before seeing” book of the summer.

If you’re looking for more books this summer check out the Indie Next List for a comprehensive list of up and coming books from all publishers, in all genres and styles of writing!