Books can have a powerful impact on us – from how we think to how we interact with people. They can be used for therapy, and open up completely new worlds to us.
One of my favorite things about books is how they can immerse you in an atmosphere and a mood so fully. To me, books are comparable to a sense of smell in their ability to summon up memories of time and place. For example, whenever I think about Court Duel by Sherwood Smith, I think about the family vacation where I first read it, in a cabin at Lake Arrowhead in the dead of winter. Anne of Green Gables, on the other hand, always brings me back to my tiny bedroom in High School, with crickets singing outside.
Studies show that we enjoy books even more on vacation than we would otherwise. On a vacation, your mind is at rest and primed for immersion in another world. Your cognitive load is low and you have the luxury of letting your mind wander. It can also imprint on your memory, and create a souvenir of your trip that will be echoed every time you pick the book up again.
Here are some of my favorite summer books. Most of them are young adult reads because the truth is, summer just isn’t quite the same thing after you grow up. For me, these books contain an entire summer vacation in their pages. They bring back exotic vacations, lazy days by the beach, the taste of popsicles, and the languid feeling of waiting under the shade of a porch for the heat of the day to pass.
Looking for a sensory-rich story?
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
My favorite thing about Ray Bradbury is his ability to saturate your senses with the feel of a time and place. That’s why Dandelion Wine is one of the ultimate summer reads to me. It departs a lot from his usual suspense dramas, instead portraying human vignettes of a summer in a small town, largely taken from his own experiences as a boy.
Also in this category: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
Looking for a little bit of mystery?
We Were Liars by E. Lockheart
This is a visceral, terse book about a golden family. During summers on their personal island, these privileged teens run free and wild, ducking under the tension and power plays of their prosperous family. However, as beautiful as this family looks on the outside, no one’s perfect, and this island holds dark secrets and echoes of trauma. This book has shocking secrets and (as the name will lead you to expect) lies.
For more suspense check out: Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
Looking for a classic?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
If you read this in school, you probably forgot that it’s set against the backdrop of a sweltering southern town in the summer. But if you read it in the summer, the sun’s hot glare on the empty street while a rabid dog limps through the neighborhood, the programs fanning sweaty necks in church meeting, the long days full of play between Jem, Scout, and Dill… they all take on another level.
Another classic set in the summer: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Want something adventurous?
As Easy As Falling off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
This book is by one of my favorite authors. Her other book (also set in a rich summer atmosphere) Criss Cross won my heart years ago, but I wanted to bring in the adventurous feel of her newer book. In it, a 16-year-old boy is, by sheer accident of luck, abandoned in nowhere, USA, and has to find his way home. This story is told with quirky details and drawings, echoing the eclectic feel of its unique characters and odyssey-ish format.
Want to hear about another quirky roadtrip? Try Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Want something sentimental?
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
I love these books so much. Every summer I feel like reading them again. If you’re scared away by the girl-power-sentimentality behind it… I feel bad for you. You’re missing out on some of the most fantastic characterization and relationship dynamics to ever grace the stage of YA fiction. Each girl is such an individual, and written with such a sympathetic perspective. Furthermore, the exotic locales and summer jobs do a great job of summoning up your own summer memories… or the ones you wish you could have had.
If you like Ann Brashares, but you’re looking for something more adult, try The Last Summer (of You and Me)
Looking for something suspenseful?
Jaws by Peter Benchley
This book inspired the movie classic, but you can expect the text to be a little more gritty and nuanced. If you’re a hardcore fan of the movie and you want the book to be exactly the same, you might be disappointed. I also don’t recommend reading it if you’re on a beach vacation and you were planning to go into the water. But if you want a chilling suspense tale, check it out.
What are your favorite summer reads?
Hello! I am Camille, a wife, mother of four, Disney obsessed, certified teacher, and reality optimist. Motherhood comes with its ups and downs, and I hope while you’re here you’ll find something that makes your #momlife easier!