Summer has traditionally been a time to relax and catch up on your reading. But it's also a time when you may have a little space in your day (and your head) to actually do some serious thinking about your life and your future. And that future – whether it's next month or years from now – is likely to include retirement.

So in between the mystery novels and thrillers, think of spending time with at least one of the four books on the list below. Each will help with a different part of planning your retirement and organizing your life. If you find yourself feeling ambitious, read all four. Who knows, by next summer you could be moving on to travel books and planning your season under the Tuscan sun. 

‘Get What’s Yours – Revised & Updated: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security’

By Laurence Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller and Paul Solman

Social Security gives you income for life, inflation protection, tax benefits and built-in spousal protection – all with no annual investment fee and no market risk. Still, many Americans know little about their Social Security options and how to maximize their benefits. You can claim benefits when you turn 62, for example, but your check will forever be smaller. If you wait until age 66 (your full Social Security retirement age – it's 67 if you were born in 1960 or after) your monthly check will be 33% higher. Wait until age 70 and your check will be 76% higher compared with what you’d collect if you started at 62. But the longer you wait, the fewer checks you’ll end up collecting. So what’s the best approach?

“Get What’s Yours” answers this question and shows you how to navigate Social Security to achieve the highest possible benefits for your situation. It has been updated to reflect the new regulations that took effect on April 29 this year (which ended the so-called “file and suspend” strategy).

Why you should read it:

  • Comprehensive guide on all things Social Security – a source of retirement income you’ll likely depend on
  • Covers things you should know about the best age to claim spousal benefits, marital status, Medicare and benefits for the disabled, plus 40 things that can reduce your benefits forever
  • Written smartly and with wit to keep readers (surprisingly) entertained
  • Far better alternative to wading through the Social Security system’s 2,728 core rules

‘How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide’

By Jane Bryant Quinn

There are dozens (hundreds?) of books on retirement that focus solely on investing and building your nest egg. But what happens once you’re done saving and ready to start spending? As Bryant Quinn points out in her introduction: “I found books and websites on how to invest but practically nothing on how to prudently parcel your money out. If you take too little from savings, you’re depriving yourself of some of the comforts that you worked for. If you take too much, you’ll go broke.”

“How to Make Your Money Last” focuses not on investing but explains in easy language the steps you can take to stretch your money once you’re in retirement, as you move from the role of earner to the new status of “engaged and interested citizen, retired.”

Why you should read it:

  • Packed with actionable ideas written with clarity and style
  • Tips to “rightsize” your life: finding that place where the annual income you expect for the rest of your life matches (or exceeds) your annual cost of living
  • Chapters enable you to read it from cover to cover or skip around
  • Assures readers that financial and personal anxiety are common when first entering retirement – and then shows how to take control

‘The New Rules of Retirement: Strategies for a Secure Future’ (Second Edition)

By Robert C. Carlson

But what if you're a lot farther from retirement? This book, just updated for 2016, is a comprehensive book for people who are earlier in the process – still at the saving stage, to be precise. It's a thoughtful, real-world look at the different life patterns that are emerging as more and more Baby Boomers are retiring and how to plan for the one that fits you best.

It does tell you how to manage your nest egg and make it grow – plus 14 other chapters that cover everything from relocating and taxes to planning for long-term care, avoiding scams and how to help your grandchildren.

Why you should read it:

  • It's a global book that will help you get your mind around the whole subject.
  • The individual chapters are detailed, but easy to read
  • It gives you a choice of approaches
  • It's based on reporting from retirees at various stages.

‘Quicken Willmaker Plus 2016 Edition’ (Book and Software Kit)

By Editors of Nolo

This sounds a little grim for summer reading, but it actually is a task that could require some of your deepest thinking. Writing a will is a major task that's best handled along with your retirement planning. If you're like many younger (or even older) Americans, you don't have one.

The majority of Americans (51%) age 55 to 64 don’t have wills, according to a recent survey from Rocket Lawyer, a website that offers low-cost legal services. In the 45 to 54 age group, the figure jumps to 62%. Many people mistakenly believe that when they die all their worldly possessions will automatically go to their next of kin, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you die intestate (without a will), probate courts get to determine what happens.

Making a will ensures that your belongings will go to the beneficiaries of your choosing and saves your family a lot of grief, trouble and potential conflict. “The Quicken Willmaker Plus 2016 Edition” provides a solid foundation for anyone thinking about writing this important document for the first time or updating an earlier one.

The accompanying software makes it easy to create an estate plan using a step-by-step approach. While the book advertises “make your will in minutes,” plan on spending an entire day or weekend (not in a hammock, alas), as there are lots of decisions to be made.

Why you should read it:

  • Tackles a subject most people like to avoid in a concise and practical manner
  • Explains why you need a will, what to include and things to avoid – and how to make it all legal
  • Covers wills, plus other important documents including durable power of attorney for finances, heathcare directives, final arrangements, letters to survivors and naming an executor
  • Helps you create a will and the other documents using a DIY approach but explains when you might be better off with a lawyer

The Bottom Line

While perhaps not as exciting as the newest Clive Cussler novel, these four books can make good additions to your summer reading list, whether you’re years away from retirement or already there.