Summers are when my reading traditionally kicks into high gear. I still work full-time but some of my evening or weekend commitments go on hiatus. Also: vacations! Last year, the Fourth of July weekend revived my voracious reading appetite, so that when I took a two-week vacation later in August, my backpack was stuffed with library books. That is a personal reason why summer and books go together in my mind. But I think that for similar reasons, we see summer reading recommendation lists pop up, whereas we don’t see, say, winter reading lists.
So today I brainstormed books that I thought were particularly suited for summer reading and came up with a few titles. There is not a single defining characteristic that makes them ‘summery’, but for most of them, ‘fun’ would be an accurate adjective.
Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews
– I’m not usually a ‘cozy’ mystery person, but this book won me over with its engaging protagonist and nutty mystery. Meg Langslow is a blacksmith / artisan who has somehow ended up being the maid of honor for three summer weddings. She returns to her hometown in Virginia to engage in the flurry of dress fittings (for some outrageous themed wedding ensembles) and insane maid-of-honor duties. Meanwhile there’s a suspicious death and other not-quite-right stuff going down in the community. It is actually Meg’s father that is playing the amateur sleuth and Meg gets dragged into it. Funny, with a bit of romance . . . I think I might have to re-read this one myself this summer. 🙂
any Nevada Barr mystery with Anna Pigeon
– This is a mystery series where each book takes place in one of the U. S. National Parks. Anna Pigeon is a tough but likable National Park ranger / law enforcement officer. The settings are fantastic because almost every mystery ends up involving some survival tale element. It’s not necessary to read these in order. Off the top of my head I recommend Firestorm and Blind Descent.
Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
– The setting is post-WWII England and eighteen-year-old Penelope is befriended one day by an impressively self-confident girl, Charlotte while they are on the train. Through Charlotte, Penelope meets Charlotte’s brother Harry, a would-be magician. The friendship of all three drives the book, along with other delightful characters including Charlotte and Harry’s aunt, Penelope’s brother, not to mention the decaying estate where Penelope lives, a character in its own right. There’s a lot of buoyant energy to this book that totally charmed me when I read it last summer.
Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
This book takes us from an Appalachian girl’s adolescence up through her old age. It is a bittersweet but wholly satisfying story arc that is told through letters written by Ivy Rowe, who lives way up in the holler as a child, spends some time in a coal mining town and a couple other locations as an adult before moving back to her family home. There are some tragedies in her life, but ultimately I was left with the impression of a life fully lived.
The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder
Two British travelers (the authors) ill-advisedly took a trip into the dangerous Darien Gap in Central America. They are captured by guerrillas and held for nine-months. It is a surreal experience for both that involves parasites, orchids and singing a song from Monty Python. This is a great adventure read.
Speaking of Monty Python . . .
Michael Palin‘s travel books are ambitious, entertaining reads. They include Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole and Full Circle. Full Circle is the one I liked the most, where Palin travels through the countries that rim the Pacific Ocean.
The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney
Pretor-Pinney’s enthusiasticc love of clouds will help you appreciate the summer sky, whether the clouds are fluffy or building up into thunderheads. This is a non-fiction book that one should feel free to skim at times, in favor of the most interesting passages. The true story about the guy who fell through a thunderstorm (and survived!) is a must-read. The Morning Glory cloud, a recurring phenomenon off of the Austrialian coast is also fascinating. I was gazing a lot more at clouds after reading the book.
What are some books that you consider good summer reads?