There’s a different quality to summer books: They capture warm evenings and sunsets that linger long into the night. During summertime, the rules are different. It means lazy mornings, stretched-out evenings and kids running around, getting into trouble. Summertime books are often places for camps, first kisses and light-hearted secrets.
I’ve collected some of my childhood favourites, as well as grown-up new reads, that take place during the summer. I kept the younger books and encourage all ages to read them, because summer + childhood gives me the best kind of nostalgia. Young adult novels set in the summer are where we find first loves and first heartbreaks. And grown-ups use the summer to be a little bit spicy and a little bit salty.
I hope this summer finds you lounging by a beach or curled up on a hammock because that’s what summer is for. Relax with some of these great summertime reads – and let me know your favourites!
Encore plus de lecture pour l’été!
Pour mes amis francophones, j’ai dessiné un petit jeu de lecture pour les enfants, pour les garder motivés de lire pendant l’été. Le Jeu de lecture fantaisie est facile à suivre, et garde un récord de tout ce que vos lecteurs lis durant les mois longs et chauds! Si vous êtes intéresser de reçevoir une copie, envoye moi un courriel à firstname.lastname@example.org. Merci!
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall
This is a slice of summertime magic! Deeply character-driven, with a setting that adds so much to the story, this middle-grade read is recommended to pretty much everyone.
The four Penderwick sisters are summering at a cottage behind Arundel Hall, and are delighted to find not a ramshackle old cabin but gorgeous grounds to discover. They immediately set in to have adventures, especially as they meet and befriend Jeffery, who lives at Arundel.
The story is sweet and wholesome; kids love this book, and it reminds me of other childhood classics like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. While reading this, I felt like a kid on summer vacation, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
This magical book stayed with me for a long time. It’s a beautiful tale of a lonely girl who discovers a family with a deeply-guarded secret: the Tucks never age. Not the blessing some would think of but rather a curse, the Tucks must convince Winnie that no one can know of their existence – or the spring that they have become guardians of.
It’s a quiet read and has the feeling of a hot summer evening, lazy and beautiful. I thought the ending was exactly right, although bittersweet. An absolute gem of a story.
The Rest of the Story, by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen always writes really relatable contemporary YA reads. In The Rest of the Story, she does what she does best, writing complicated families that are far from perfect, and yet the right place for us.
It follows Emma, who lives just with her and her Dad since her mother passed away. But for the summer, she’ll spend time with her grandmother at North Lake, where there are two opposing communities: the wealthy resort-bound vacationers, and the more working-class community where Emma finds herself for the first time.
As she connects with her mother’s side of the family, Emma learns new things about her family’s past, as well as about herself. Sarah Dessen is a solid YA writer – you can’t go wrong with this one!
The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo
A fun contemporary YA book about summer love and food trucks. Need I say more?
Clara Shin is known as a prankster, but when a prank goes too far, she’s condemned to work at her family’s food truck all summer. Except, the horrible summer she was expecting didn’t turn out to be as terrible as she imagined.
This is a funny, heartwarming book, about finding yourself. Clara starts off as immature and maybe not that likeable, but as she realizes she does care about her family’s business (and her family), she also begins to imagine she could be more than what she believed she was. Cute friendship and romance included!
Unpregnant, by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan
This book is a riot and a half, while also being extremely timely. It is a buddy comedy about abortion, and yes, you read that right.
When Ivy-League bound Veronica Clarke gets pregnant, there’s no real debate in her mind. It’s not the right time for her to have a child and yet living in a state without easy access to planned parenthood clinics, she has to travel nearly 1000 miles to New Mexico to get an abortion. She has no choice but to ask her former best friend, misfit Bailey Butler, to drive her. Shenanigans ensue.
Veronica’s boyfriend is so over-the-top villainous, he should practically have a mustache to twirl, but it goes with the whole vibe and I dug it when she let loose on him.
This book is genuinely very funny. It also deals with some terrifying realities many women face in the United States right now. No woman should be forced into dangerous situations in order to attend to her own health. Being able to decide the fate of your own body and your own reproduction is a human right – this is a service that must be easily accessible to all women.
Here’s to Us, by Elin Hilderbrand
I adore stories set on the Eastern Seaboard (Hello, Nantucket!) and I LOVE a dysfunctional family, so Here’s to Us was obviously calling out to me. Elin Hilderbrand is a go-to summer read author anyways, so I knew I was in good hands.
When celebrity chef Deacon Thorpe dies suddenly, his children, three wives and best friend all congregate on the island he loved. Obviously, this amount of jealousy and bad feelings in a closed space is going to get tense … and long-kept secrets are revealed.
I love family secrets. If I’m going to read a contemporary novel, it better involve family secrets, is all I’m saying. As the family begins to come together, good times are remembered too. Highly enjoyable, take it to the beach with you!
Park Avenue Summer, by Renée Rosen
A sexy summer novel that is also fiercely feminist? Yes, please, more of this.
It’s 1965 and Alice Weiss, wide-eyed ingenue, has just moved to New York City and gotten the job of assistant to Helen Gurley Brown, the new (and first female) editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Gurley Brown has a vision to create a magazine for women by women, and talk of such taboo topics as female sexuality and independence. She meets resistance every step of the way.
Alice becomes an ally to Gurley Brown, believing in the vision she wants to create of a woman who doesn’t need a man. She goes from a timid girl to a self-assured woman, and this historical fiction is entirely delightful.