Summer Books!

Ah summer reading.  It's the best.  Today I'm here to talk about books I particularly love reading in the summer in hopes that you'll find one (or five) to read over the ensuing months as well.

I'm just going to start at the bottom of the stack I've accumulated on my bed, so first up: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  A quintessential classic I have re-read countless times and one that never fails to make me all weepy by the end (okay, truthfully, the last time I read it I bawled the whole way through).  Summer is my favorite time to re-read old favorites, and that's why this one makes the list.  It feels like home and for me, there is never a time when I don't want to read Little Women over again.

Another classic summer re-read for me, one that I've managed to squeeze in quite a few summers in a row: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I actually remember not being crazy about this book the first time I read it in school, but since then, every time I crack it open, I love it more and more.  To me, this is the quintessential summer book - it takes place during summer and Scout and Jem have all kinds of escapades that just smack of kids free of school in the summer.  I love that this classic is so much fun but also deals with heavy issues.  That's a winner in my book (no pun intended.)  One of my favorite quotes that illustrates the way this book makes me feel about summer:
"...summer was Dill by the fishpool smoking string, Dill's eyes alive with complicated plans to make Boo Radley emerge; summer was the swiftness with which Dill would reach up and kiss me when Jem was not looking, the longings we sometimes felt each other feel."
Next on my list: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  I'm sure I've gone on about the incredible BBC adaptation of this book as a miniseries (it's so so good), but not sure I've really talked about the book.  I read this one a couple years ago over a weekend at the lake, and despite its length - around 500 pages - I remember getting through it quite quickly.  North and South smacks of Pride and Prejudice, with two characters who are evidently in love but unwilling to bend.  As with Pride and Prejudice, the setting and place in this book is significant and plays into the story a lot; the origins of the two main characters has a lot to do with their prejudices against each other.  There's an element of social justice for the mill workers of the English North, which adds an interesting dynamic, and the two characters are fleshed out so well and thoroughly, that the reader is able to connect with them.  I recommend this book for summer because it's one of those rare classics that is actually a quick read, and for me, summer is the time for love stories.  Also, after reading the book, watch the show.

Ugh, this next book is such a great read.  If I had to pick a top five out of all my recommendations in this post, this one would be towards the top.  The book I'm talking about is Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson and oh my goodness, this book is fantastic.  I read it last summer on a whim  – I flew through it, really – and immediately went on to read Simonson's second book, which I won't talk about here.  I described this book on Twitter in the following fashion: "Charming British war vet bookworm slowly falls in love with Pakistani shopkeeper.  Brilliant." And I still feel the same way about it.  That's all the premise I needed to want to read this, and the less you know the more fun it is.  This is the best kind of summer book: tons of fun but also heartwarming.  Also, it was so good to read a romance of a different age group – so often they are about flighty twenty-somethings, but this one is about a couple somewhere in their 60s(?) and it is just the greatest.  I highly recommend this book for your summer list.  Get it here.

The next book I have on my stack is Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  I'm not recommending this particular book, rather I'm recommending Jane Austen in any capacity.  I love reading Austen during the summer because her books are nostalgic and satisfying and I know the romance will always be just right.  As I've chronicled on this blog, romance and I typically don't get along, so anything by Jane Austen is reliable and never disappointing.  Her last novel, Persuasion, is my favorite, but Sense and Sensibility is great too.

I mentioned The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James recently and talked about my confused relationship with it.  Well I would describe this next book, A Room With A View by E.M. Forster as a more accessible, enjoyable, satisfying, and much much shorter version of that book.  I read a Room With a View soon after the Henry James and I was struck by the books' similarities.  As with The Portrait, A Room With a View is set in Italy and has a great love triangle.  The characters are fully developed and wonderfully eccentric and it's just the most fun summer read.  Bonus: it's less than 300 pages, so it's a fast one, too.  Find it here.

This next book needs no sort of introduction.  The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery I consider one of the formational series of my childhood, and yet it's a series I can re-read again and again (as evidenced by the beaten up cover).  The later books in the series are especially engaging for non-children readers.  I love the character of Anne and the whole series is just made to be read in the summer.  I actually have the last two books in the series on my list to read this summer, and I am very excited about it.  Just read the whole series - you'll fly through it.  Find the complete boxed set here.

Okay, last three, almost done!  Next up is Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.  I think any Agatha Christie novel is great for the summer, but Death on the Nile is one of my favorites.  I also love the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries – those are great.  I love mysteries for the summer because they are so much fun and really engaging.  You'll have a hard time pulling away to do something else.  Death on the Nile is a Hercule Point mystery, and it is a brilliant mystery with an impossible-to-guess solution.  Agatha Christie is a master of her genre.  Find it here.

Second to last book is probably also (unintentionally) my second-favorite book here.  Cinnamon and Gunpowder is the ultimate summer read.  I recommend it to EVERYONE.  It is so great.  Here's my abbreviated premise, once again Twitter-style: Female ginger pirate captures gourmet chef and forces him to cook weekly meals in exchange for his life.  If that premise doesn't immediately sound crazy-good, I don't know what would.  I have a thing for pirates, and the ragtag group in this book fearlessly and recklessly lead by a crazy red-head is nothing short of amazing-ly, mind-blowing-ly good.  This book has a great love story, fantastic descriptions of food, and such interesting and complex characters.  It is impossible to put down.  I've re-read this one twice, both times on the pier at the lake, and the second time I read it, it struck me in new ways and made me fall in love even more.  This book is a trip, it's more emotionally potent than you would expect, and ohmygosh it's just so great.  Please read it.  Find it here.

Finally, at long last, a book I've waxed on about continually since I read it.  The only nonfiction book in this list, I'm talking about Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber.  I did a whole long-winded review of this memoir last year, but I'll quickly mention why I am recommending it now, for summer.  This is one of those books that is deep and hard-hitting and emotionally powerful while also being the most engaging and enjoyable.  There are references to literature, there's a love story and a conversion story that made me cry and I fell more in love with God and the way He works and loves in our lives through this book.  This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I recommend that you make it a priority this summer.  It is so so good.  Find it here.

Those are the books I think you should consider adding to your list for this summer.  All of these are appropriate for reading at the lake, on vacation, or laying out in the backyard.  All of them are awesome.  I hope you find some new favorites.

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