Love the summer, and it’s finally here! Summer means sun block, sassy water and a good book. To me a great summer read (or poolside or hammock book) has a dreamy setting, romance, suspense, mystery and adventure. I like substance, too—I don’t want a light, forgettable story, but one that will stick with me for a while and challenge me.
Sometimes I browse the bestseller lists for the latest beach book, but I like to read the best of the past, too. Here’s a short list of classic summer reads. Two are extremely famous and two are relatively obscure. The latter two are free for your Kindle!
Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 Gothic romance, is an archetypal suspense novel with all the right ingredients. Manderley is probably the most famous mansion in all of fiction, and Maxim de Winter is the perfect brooding, rich, handsome romantic hero with a mysterious and tragic past. The climax is a real nail-biter. If you’ve already read Rebecca (like a few million other people), you can try the less well-known Progress of Julius, also a great beach read.
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, ignited a firestorm when it was first published in the US in 1958. The subject is controversial, the style is highly subjective, and the book is often listed as one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century—if not one of the best novels ever written in any language, period.
Summer is a novella by the great American author Edith Wharton. First published in 1917, it starts out with all the promise of a fine and atmospheric romance: a young girl living in a remote New England village meets a mysterious young man from the larger world. A romance follows, but it bears no resemblance to the modern genre. Rather, it is a stark, unflinching work of literary genius that will haunt you.
Youth, by Joseph Conrad, is also a novella. Just 70 pages, it will carry you off on a desperate and epic voyage through storms and vast emptiness at sea. Sail from London to Bangkok on the barque Judea—Do or Die! Just reading it is a magnificent adventure, and it’s short enough to finish in a single summer afternoon.
Enjoy the sunny weather! And don’t forget to take a good book with you to the beach.