We have officially passed the longest day of year and the official start of summer, so that means that school is out and bikinis are making their way to the clearance section.
Hopefully that also means the start of serious vacation time and summer reading.
For me, a good summer book is an easy read either by the beach, or the pool, or even in an air-conditioned cabin the woods (I may have just gotten back from a short camping trip not that long ago, but I am not about that life). I’m a lover of romance — whether the tension is high or the relationship is a natural and light — so my favorite books will almost always features this element.
For those looking to relax by the pool or on a porch swing with a good book, here are my recommendations. They won’t be perfect for everyone, except the first one as Meg Cabot can do no wrong.
1) “Every Boy’s Got One” by Meg Cabot
Yes, the title is an innuendo, for either hearts or the other thing. Still, I probably wouldn’t have anyone younger than a mature teenager read this. Although don’t go by me, I don’t have kids, I know nothing. When I was a kid, if I ever read something that I didn’t think my parents would be okay with me reading, I just hid it under the bed. That was the kind of rebel I was.
Anyway, this book loosely follows the author’s own experience of eloping in Italy with the main characters following their friends who do just that: elope in Italy. It’s an epistolary novel, meaning it is written entirely through letters and emails and other documents rather than a traditional novel with chapters and a consistent point of view. This is what makes this book so fun, though. It’s easy to read, and you can pick it up and leave off whenever you want.
Cabot is also my favorite writer, and all of her books feature her hilarious, occasionally self-deprecating humor. She’s like a modern Jane Austen with how the characters’ stubbornness gets in everyone’s way until they confront their faults. Basically there’s a lot of pride and a lot prejudice (you see what I did there?) that gets in the way of characters’ love lives in Cabot’s adult novels.
It was also difficult not to make this list entirely of Meg Cabot novels. All of her novels are perfect summer novels.
2) “The Haunting of Josie” by Kay Hooper
Kay Hooper is a mystery/romance author I’ve recently gotten into even though she’s been writing since the 1980’s, and “The Haunting of Josie” was published in 1994. This novel is about a woman who goes to a secluded cottage in the woods to escape her troubles and runs into a possible little ghost issue and a definitely attractive landlord issue, so of course this is the book I brought with me the last time I went on vacation with my family to Gatlinburg.
The first Hooper book I got into was her novel “Haunting Rachel,” which also featured a ghost as a bit of a side character. These paranormal books by Hooper aren’t like the post-“Twilight” paranormal books where everyone is in the midst of a dysfunctional relationship with a gross vampire. These are for readers who like a light side of suspense and maybe a friendly ghost here or there on top of their romance. She does have books like rely more heavily on the paranormal side, focusing on ghosts, though, and psychic investigators.
It’s the perfect read for someone like me whose extent of engaging in the paranormal is watching two guys on YouTube humorously bicker back and forth about whether or not ghosts are real (it’s a thing, it’s those Buzzfeed Unsolved Mysteries episodes on YouTube, I’m obsessed right now) versus watching literally any horror movie, even the much mocked “Blair Witch.” I can’t handle that movie even though it’s so clearly made up. I recently went on a two-night camping trip, and it’s embarrassing how many times I thought I was going to get kidnapped and murdered while walking to and from the bathroom (which was a glorified porta-potty).
3) “Larkspur Cove” by Lisa Wingate
I tend to vacation more in woody, wildnerous regions, so Lisa Wingate’s novel “Larkspur Cove” was another summer time novel that stuck out to me due to the setting being the secluded fictional community of Moses Lake, Texas. A single mother relocated to Moses Lake with her son where she works as a social worker, and she finds herself connecting with the local game warden.
It may not be the best escapism for an actual single mother trying to raise a teenage boy while working a full-time job and even daring to have a personal life, or she could be the perfect character with whom to connect. I love it, too, when the characters in a romantic relationship can’t fight their connection, like here. There is also a hint of mystery about this little community and the game warden himself.
Another novel by Wingate called “Never Say Never” stuck out to me as a good summer read. A hurricane evacuation brings a girl Kai Miller to small town Daily, Texas, where she develops a friendship with 69-year-old Donetta and a romance with a local guy. While I love romances (which should be obvious by this list), my favorite part of this novel was Donetta, a fun character seeking a little adventure in life.
4) “The Runaway Princess” by Hester Browne
This is another easy but fun read like other Hester Browne novels I’ve read. A landscaper/gardener thinks she’s dating a London banker, when really it was much more of a “The Prince and Me” situation. It covers cute insecurities and the demands of privileged society, such as trying to look and act a certain way. It’s a lovely little romance, although the book itself isn’t too little. It’s about 450 pages, although this means that you only have to pack one book for a week or two-week long trip.
5) “The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories” by Marina Keegan
This is both a fiction and non-fiction option as it is a compilation of essays and short stories by Marina Keegan, who died five days after graduating from Yale in a car accident 2012. While her death and the premise behind this compilation is tragic and heartbreaking, her life and works inspire a sense of hope and connection among strangers, particularly through her title essay “The Opposite of Loneliness.”
It’s a good summer read because it’s a collection of short items to read. It’s easy to set aside and come back to, and it’s hard to lose your place in since you don’t really need to read it in order. Her writing is honest and engaging with her spirit and tenacity coming through her works.
The sentiments expressed in “The Opposite of Loneliness” are also needed now more than ever it seems being in such divided nation. One quote at the beginning of that essay sticks out to me, where she tries to describe the opposite of loneliness, saying, “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team.”
It’s a book that I come back to every now and then as many of the ideas and themes – whether hidden jealousies or concerns of inadequacies or hope in the face of an existential crisis or a sense of community – can almost all be universally felt.
What I will be reading: “Death by Bikini” by Linda Gerber
I have been slowly chipping away at the Andrea Kane novel “I’ll Be Watching You” for last two months, so once I finally decide to either power through it one afternoon or just finally give up, I’m hoping to tackle the “Death by Bikini” mysteries by Linda Gerber. The title alone makes me believe it deserves to be read before the end of summer.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336