15 Great Books for Summer Reading
How Do You Choose a Summertime Book?
"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
~ Henry James
Now if you just add a good book into the mixture and you're in heaven. Books and summertime seem to go together for me because there is no better way to take advantage of being able to sit outside in the fresh air than with a good book.
Then, of course, you have to decide what the good book or books should be. What sort of thing does anyone want to read in the summer? I should think there are as many different ideas as there are people.
When I go on holiday I choose three different types of books that I think make great summer reads:
- Light and easy reads that can take a bit of interruption, ideal for the journey or by the pool or beach.
- Something more substantial, something you may have been wanting to read for a while but never seemed to have the time.
- Summery reads that conjure up that bright and balmy feeling whether by sunshine or warmth or maybe just the book cover illustration.
In my suggestions below, all of which I've read and enjoyed myself, I have tried to cover the three types and occasionally two or three at once.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson - Published as Down Under in the UK
I first read this book relatively recently, and purely because I wanted to read a book about Australia - and I ended up loving it.
It is a light and easy read and the UK cover art (see introduction for the image) or the US title are both very reminiscent of summer, not to mention the heat and dryness of Australia itself.
"I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. "— Bill Bryson on the sport of cricket
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Chosen because it fits into my easy reading category. If you're like me, you'll find it compulsive, something of a page-turner, entertaining and yet at the same time gives you something to think about. It has now been made into a movie and I can't wait to see that.
"She's wearing a tight red sweater and a red skirt and enough makeup to scare a hooker."
"I wait on white ladies who walk right out the bedroom wearing nothing but they personality..."— Kathryn Stockett
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A book from my childhood and memories for me. I first read it when I was nine years old, at school, and I still love it.
It sits nicely in both the summer atmosphere and easy to read sets.
"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."— Frances Hodgson Burnett
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The first of two by Barbara Kingsolver but I make no apologies. This one is obviously chosen for its name and because it does indeed describe the course of one summer. It's a wonderful book.
An alternative by the same author is Flight Behaviour, and I'd recommend that equally.
The loudest sound on earth, she thought, is a man with nothing to do.— Barbara Kingsolver
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
This definitely fits not only into the easy reading category but also the long books requiring time to finish, though in this case it's so much of a page-turner that it may not take as long as you think. All the same, the 500+ pages in the edition I'm reading is undoubtedly long.
She had put on make-up in a colour scheme that indicated she might be colour blind.— Stieg Larsson
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
What could be more evocative of summer than bees? I dream of being "alone in a bee-loud glade" (WB Yeats) reading a book.
Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about— Sue Monk Kidd
The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
Not only has this book "Summer" in its title, so it cannot be ignored, but it's also set in the champagne region of France during a summer holiday.
On and off, all that hot French August, we made ourselves ill from eating the greengages. Joss and I felt guilty; we were still at the age when we thought being greedy was a childish fault and this gave our guilt a tinge of hopelessness because, up to then, we had believed that as we grew older our faults would disappear, and none of them did.— Rumer Godden
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
This was very obviously chosen for the cover art of my own copy, but it is also because it is set on a South Pacific island which turns out to be Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. On the face of it, it sounds an idyllic situation where you might happily take a holiday but...
It tells the story of the island devastated by war, where the only person left to teach the children is an eccentric old man and the only schoolbook he has is a copy of Great Expectations. I suppose the basis of the novel is the power of stories and their timelessness. The children are completely absorbed by the daily readings from Dickens, so much so that when the book disappears, they set about recreating it, piece by piece.
It isn't all happiness and light however, in fact, far from it. This is a quick and easy read that I enjoyed more than I'd expected.
A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames.— Lloyd Jones
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This is a long, long story but ultimately it's a page-turner because it is so fascinating.
Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?— Audrey Niffenegger
Driving over Lemons by Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart started a variety of careers but ended up in Andalucia, in Spain. This first book of what ended up as a trilogy is an amusing, fast read, set in a sunny country.
The next two books are Parrot in a Pepper Tree and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society.
Dogs slept in the road in the shade; cats slept in the road in the sun. The creature with lowest priority on the road was the car. I stopped and backed up a bit to go round a lemon.
'Drive over lemons,' ordered Georgina.
There were, it was true, a hell of a lot of lemons.— Chris Stewart
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This cannot be described as anything but a long book, but for me, an amazing one. It is firmly in the top ten of my favourite books of all time.
Maybe he's been in Africa so long he has forgotten that we Christians have our own system of marriage, and it is called Monotony.— Barbara Kingsolver
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
A light and easy read, perfect for a holiday, maybe even to visit Guernsey itself.
I am to cover the philosophical side of the debate and so far my only thought is that reading keeps you from going gaga.— Mary Ann Shaffer
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book you cannot rush. You will need time to read it.
Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. All the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below.— Khaled Hosseini
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Again, a book chosen purely for its name. Years ago I sent The Summer Book to a friend as a summer gift without having any idea what it was about. It was a success!
"A very long time ago, Grandmother had wanted to tell about all the things they did, but no one had bothered to ask. And now she had lost the urge."
"It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and fall is not ready to begin. There are no stars yet, just darkness."— Tove Jansson
Footprints in Paris by Gillian Tindall
This is the book I have most recently read and it fits resoundingly into the category of long books you might not otherwise have time to read.
The whole concept of a restaurant - a 'restoring place' - was new then and specifically French. In England and in most other countries, there were only inns to serve travellers or parties gathered there for a special occasion. Otherwise, places to sit down to a meal, outside private houses or guest houses, hardly existed.— Gillian Tindall
Video: Top Books
I started looking for a video to offer somebody else's selection of summer reading. I quickly discovered that almost all books/reading videos are presented by shrieking young girls who start of "Hi guys!!!!!" I'm sure the content would be perfectly good but I couldn't get past the start.
This one, too, started in a similar way but not to the same extent. One day I'll find something by a more mature presenter who doesn't feel the need to be over-enthusiastic.
Do tell me if you have a book I absolutely must read this summer, or maybe let me know how you choose a summer book.