Your Summer Reading List, On a Budget


Blog banner image - two books open on a table with shelved books in the background.

It’s #financefriday! You all know my passion for saving money, but I thought today we’d take a different spin on budgeting and finances. If you’re in the throws of a no-spend or low-spend month and need some entertainment, look no further than the free selection of books available on awesome apps like Hoopla, OverDrive, and Libby. Do you have an Amazon Prime membership? Find free books on Amazon using your membership perks. I’ll show you the best ways to read without spending a penny. Oh, and if if you keep scrolling, some of our contributors have shared their favorite reads for you to check out.

Accessing Books for FREE

Let me start by saying, there are a ton of ways to access free books and ebooks (and free audio books, music, and movies). The most obvious is your local library. If you like the feel of a “real” book in your hand, pop on over to your local branch and check one out. There’s nothing like walking the stacks to find that perfect read, but if you’re like me and a busy mom, you can skip the drive and take the five minutes to sign up for a Carnegie Library card that will offer you access to thousands of online materials. You can sign up here. You’ll need a participating library card to access most of the apps we’ll talk about, including Hoopla, Libby, and Overdrive. All the apps we’ll talk about are available for both Apple and Android devices. You can also explore all of the e-resources available with your Carnegie Library card, here.

Google Play icon for the Libby app

My personal favorite reading app is Libby. Once logged into Libby with your library barcode, you can access ebooks, audio books, magazines – you name it. You can filter your search to show only available books, or search all and join the wait list for newer, more popular releases which will then be automatically downloaded to your device when available. You can access your borrowed materials from any device logged into your account with the Libby app, and your most recently read page will be synced between devices. With Libby, you can also tag books, however, tags are device specific and don’t carry to other devices using the same account. For example, you could tag books you want to read or books for your kids. If you like Libby, the OverDrive app is the “original” Libby and simply a different format for accessing the same materials. 

Google Play app icon for the Hoopla appThere’s also Hoopla, which might just be my kids’ favorite. Hoopla features audiobooks, music, ebooks, TV, movies, and comics all in one app! Not only is the app available for most of your handheld mobile devices, it’s also available for your TV with Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and AndroidTV, which means the kiddos can listen to audiobooks on the TV or watch a movie for free! Our favorite Hoopla activity is a bedtime audiobook (or two, or three). My old iPad has become the official audio book listening station for my children’s bedroom and most nights they fall asleep listening to some of their favorite stories.Google Play Kindle app icon

Are you an Amazon Prime member? Prime members have access to the Prime Reading library of books for FREE. Not only does it include tons of awesome books, you can also borrow magazines and Audible books with your membership. Check it out, here. Amazon Prime also offers Kindle First Reads which gives members special early access to one book a month from a selection of choices provided by Amazon. View this month’s Kindle First Reads choices. You’ll also want to download the Amazon Kindle app to make reading a breeze.

Next we’ll take a look at a few apps that can help you keep track of all the books you’ve read and even provide you some suggestions for future reading.

Tracking and sharing

Google Play Bookly app icon

If you’re a pretty prolific reader, you probably like to track what you’ve read recently so you don’t pick it up twice by mistake. Google Play Goodreads app icon

Free apps like Bookly and Goodreads allow you to record what books you’ve read, what you’d like to read, and what you’re currently reading. They offer suggestions for your next good read and even allow you to share your reading log with friends. You can check out reviews and even leave your own if you have a book you feel particularly strongly about.

Are you looking for your next great summer read? Well look no further…

Summer Reads Book Recommendations

Our contributors have shared their recent, favorite reads and hope you’ll enjoy them as much as they did.

From contributor Teresa Glasgow

The Orpheus Clock by Simon Goodman The true story of a man’s quest to uncover his family’s artwork that had been stolen by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust. Follow Simon as he uncovers the Nazi’s “hidden looting machine” and searches for the famed Orpheus Clock – one of several in a prized collection of hand carved clocks. If you thought history reads were boring, you haven’t read this book.

The book jacket for "The Clockmaker's Daughter"

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton This fabulous new release from Kate Morton travels between current day and the summer of 1862, intertwining the narrator and author’s stories. “Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. (Amazon)” You won’t be able to put this book down until you know just who the narrator really is.

From contributor Amanda Piacquadio

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans It’s a series. It documents this man’s life, who lost everything (his wife, job, and money) and he decides to walk from Seattle to Florida. It’s a book about life, time, hardships, friendships, and love. It really puts life into perspective and shows how little time we have on earth.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah This is about two sisters who live in France and about their struggle to survive during WWII. It pictures, vividly, what life was like during the war, how food was limited, and how women were treated. It is shocking and truthful, and in a way, triumphant. Definitely a page-turner and a movie is supposed to be coming soon!

Book jacket for Kristin Hannah's "The Nightingale"

From contributor Liz Hawkins

 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid It was my favorite book of 2018. It centers around an aging Hollywood starlet who grants interviews detailing the events of her mysterious and scandalous life to a young reporter. I was up late into the night as Evelyn’s tale unfolded, because there was no good stopping point. Every page and twist left me needing to read the next chapter!

From contributor Chelsea CrossBook cover for "A Sucky Love Story" by Brittani Louise Taylor

A Sucky Love Story by Brittani Louise Taylor This non-fiction book follows a quirky YouTuber as she meets, and quickly falls in love with, a Serbian man via Tinder. She eventually realizes that he’s not exactly the man of her dreams, but by the time she comes to that realization, she’s in too deep. Without spoiling any big reveals (and there are several), this book is great because you can watch her YouTube videos from the time they were together and see in action the idea that the lives we portray on social media can mask the reality of what we’re going through. It’s also a super quick read, and the type of book you won’t want to put down until you’re finished.

From contributor Maggie Poole

The Mister by E L James It’s definitely a summer, saucy book by the same author as Fifty Shades of Grey. It is the unexpected love/mystery story of a young aristocrat in London. “From the heart of London through wild, rural Cornwall to the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans, The Mister is a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page. (Amazon)”

We’d love for you to share your favorite reads with us! Join the conversation on our social media channels and tell us what book you can’t put down.



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Teresa G is a work at home mom of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 2 months. She has been happily married to her husband Gus for 7 years. She and her family currently reside in the Slippery Rock area, where she has been a longtime resident. Teresa has bachelor’s degrees in both Dance and Professional writing from Slippery Rock University. She has worked in many different fields over the years - dance teacher, aerobics instructor, swim teacher, and most recently, documentation specialist and content manager for a local software company. Currently, she works for The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy, and as a freelance writing professional and content manager for a variety of clients in several different industries. Teresa and her family spend much of their time outdoors, being active, and you can often find them in their “Little Boat” on Lake Arthur, or in the “Big Bass Boat” at Lake Erie. In her spare time, Teresa loves to practice yoga, run, and read anything she can get her hands on.