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The Power of Standalones: How To Revive Your Summer Reading

best standalone books

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern Alexandra Speck. Find her on Instagram at @alexandraspeckk. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

The standalone: the novel in its purest form, and what most people think of when they hear the word book. Instead of relying on an intriguing prequel or popular spin-off to grab your attention, the best standalone books must hold all the magic between their two covers. When I’m facing a reading slump, a five-star standalone is exactly what I need to start burning through my TBR.

Diagnosing the Reading Slump

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I am the first to admit that nearly nothing beats a solid fantasy series (with a romance subplot, please), but committing to 3+ books can be ferociously intimidating when I’m lacking motivation to read anything at all. I most frequently find myself in this predicament in the summertime, when long-awaited lazy days turn my brain to mush and inspiration to nil. What causes this lull? In my many summers of reading (and slumping), I’ve noticed a trend.

Most bookworms can agree that reading a book before watching its screen adaptation is worth the effort, but drowning in repetitive content is a foolproof way to attract a reading slump. This year’s most anticipated screen adaptations are of series and spin-off books: think Shadow and Bone, Heartstopper, The Summer I Turned Pretty, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Summer is my time to catch up on recreational reading, but this capitalistic surge of sequels, reimaginings, and spin-offs often feels stale and transforms my once-exciting TBR into a dull to-do list.

When nothing feels new, turning away from series media is the best way to reignite your passion for books.


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My prescription for your summer slump involves a lounge chair, some SPF, and a satisfying standalone. Choosing your next read can be simple if you consider what you’ve previously read and loved. 

Fantasy fans don’t need to sacrifice their penchant for creative worldbuilding and uniquely gifted characters. Prior and present Percy Jackson fans can rediscover an interest in mythology through Madeline Miller’s tear-jerking The Song of Achilles and innovative Circe. Dark academia’s moody intrigue will satisfy mystery and fantasy fans alike; excellent introductions to the genre include If We Were Villains, The Secret History, and The Maidens. Classic high fantasy is certainly still an option, despite the genre’s reputation for being series material. Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree is filled with the dragons, magic, and action that high fantasy readers know and love. A prequel was just recently published, but the original stands just fine on its own. 

Romance lovers are already attuned to the wonders of the standalone. Classic beach reads – find our recommendations here and here – are a summer staple and often include some swoon-worthy characters. Another solid romance is Red, White & Royal Blue. Contemporary yet wholesome, this is a fresh and funny standalone that I’d recommend picking up before the film’s release in August. Consider venturing into new genres through novels that have strong romantic subplots; explore magical realism with two of my personal favorites: Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and TJ Klune’s The House in The Cerulean Sea, the latter of which I’d joyfully classify as a Roald Dahl book for adults.


Sometimes the best books are the ones that we don’t find for ourselves. Reach out to a bookish friend for a recommendation, see what’s on display at your local bookstore, and sample from stacks of all genres at your local library. Libraries will also often run used book sales – particularly in the summer months – where you can shop for just a dollar per book. These sales are a great low-risk way to support your library and expand your TBR.

TikTok is a wonderful resource for suggestions; BookTok creators will often tailor their videos to a particular audience or genre, streamlining the cure to your summer slump and the road to your next favorite read.

What do you think are the best standalone books? Leave us your suggestions in the comments below!

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