1. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Beautiful Ruins is the best of both worlds: the complex, twisting storyline of a great historical mystery, coupled with the propulsion of a beach read. Plus evocative descriptions of the Italian Coast, amazing connections to classic Hollywood, AND a love story. Perfection.
2. The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me by Suzanne Kingsbury
Sure it has “summer” in the title. But everything about this summer romance — especially its Mississippi setting — transports you to what it felt like to be 16 and have a summer of longing ahead of you.
3. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
A totally different story than the movie and SO much better. It’s all about the magic of plants, gardens, sisters, the world around us — so perfect for summer.
4. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
If you live somewhere where summer’s so hot and sweaty and the days are endless, Gone With the Wind is the only thing that exudes that same kind of hot, searing, sweatiness. Must be read in bed, with COLD iced tea, or a mint julep for an adult version.
5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Salinas needs to be read when it’s hot and sunny, but with a breeze.
6. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
There’s a reason, of course, that Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize. It’s gorgeous, laconic, meditative, and the best book on faith I’ve ever read. But it also evokes the meandering rhythms of a Midwest summer in a way that’s incredibly evocative and endlessly compelling.
7. Sag Harbor by Coleson Whitehead
Sag Harbor centers on a character often missing from both literature and pop culture: the black nerd. Our protagonist endures struggle I think anyone who’s ever been a teenager has gone through: wanting to kiss people during summer vacation and tell their friends about it.
8. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
It’s English eccentricity and acerbic wit at its best and perfect to read with a cup of tea in the garden with Wimbledon on in the background.
9. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
This series doesn’t evoke summer so much as provide the perfect opportunity to totally lose yourself to a book — to read like a teen again — which is the perfect way to spend a long summer day. Bonus: It’s a trilogy!
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I used to read this book every summer while hiding from the heat in the corners of the basement, and Francie Nolan’s struggles were so real and knowable, especially the descriptions of the dirt-filled vacant lots where she’d watch her brother play baseball and yearn for companionship.
If you haven’t read it, it’ll be a delight; if you haven’t read it in years, you’ll fall in love all over again.