Five: My all-time favorite summer books

These are the books I read again and again- but only during the summer, and usually when it's raining. 

I've never been one to read at the beach- I quickly feel sleepy, or distracted, or disinterested. I agree fully with Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The beach is a place to meditate and enjoy the present. 

Instead, my favorite summer reading memories are in my bed, with the window open, and a steady rain falling. Lately, any evening (or morning) it rains, I crack my tall window open and lay down with a book.

One. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I've read this book at least a dozen times, and have gifted it so often that some friends have mistakenly received two. 

There's no other book that brings me the same deep sense of peace- reading GFTS is so calming! I first read it at age 20- I remember feeling so young yet SO wise. 

Every life season has a shell equivalent. Soon, I was bracing myself for the bumpy "oyster" mid-life stage, and dreaming of the "Argonaut" stage when I'd finally be free of all those mundane distractions. Talk about jumping the gun!

Now that I'm older, I sit with the moment and my current life situation a bit better- though I'm still prone to getting ahead of myself.

GFTS also kicked off my obsession with shells- I decorate with them, paint them, and include them in our collection

Two. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

A more perfect coming-of-age story has never been written- this one is the best. 

Cassandra Mortmain dreams of becoming a writer and lives in a decrepit, crumbling castle in the 1930s English countryside, with her sister, parents, and a few eccentric neighbors. They are DIRT POOR (obviously not in spirit!)

She falls in love. Others fall in love. Things don't go to plan.

It's beautifully narrated and has an incredibly hopeful ending.

I consider Cassandra to be a kindred spirit and as I've aged, I appreciate Rose (her older sister, the "beauty") a lot more. She's really quite funny and practically minded.

Cassandra has a night filled with special rituals on Midsummer Eve, and I think about it every single year when the solstice finally arrives. This book gets inside of you and never leaves.

Also, the movie is so dreamy. 

Three. The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

This one can be hard to find- I only know of it due to the Folio Society (my family collects their books.)

An English family visits the French battlefields on holiday (the Champagne region) and the mother quickly falls ill. The father is away. The children are left in the care of a glamourous but mysterious guardian and learn some uncomfortable truths about adults.

Things are not always as they seem.

The Greengage Summer has a palpable sense of place and atmosphere- you can feel the August heat, hear the smarmy French accents, and picture the children wandering around, eating greengages, and soaking in some unexpected life lessons.

It's a book that feels like summer, through and through, and packs a few thrills. 

Four. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Okay, so I'm currently reading My Brilliant Friend (the first of four books) so it hasn't become a classic for me QUITE yet. 

This is the story of two lifelong friends, set in 1950's working-class Naples. The prose is raw and shows how much chance, class, and outside forces can dictate the path your life takes. I can't put it down.

Five. Beach Blondes by Katherine Applegate

A total throwback, but I wanted to include this because it was my favorite YA series when I was young (written in 1995!) If Clueless was your favorite teen movie, then these books will probably resonate.

Not really for adults (except for nostalgia) but amazing for its intended audience. These consumed my life for a bit. The author went on to write the popular Animorphs series, so I think the Summer books (that's what they used to be called) are often lost in the shuffle.

According to one reviewer, they have been updated so that a "Stone from General Hospital" reference is now a newer heartthrob. There are a TON of pop culture references in this book, so I think it would be funny to read an older copy. 

Summer Smith, a girl-next-door from Minnesota, moves down to the Florida Keys to visit her glamorous aunt and cousin over summer break. She meets three handsome men, a fun best friend, and learns more about her mysterious and guarded cousin. There's a lot of transformation.

She lives in a little stilt bungalow on the ocean, behind her aunt's (a romance novelist) mansion. I yearned for this living situation SO badly when I was 13. I think the author just took any escapist summer fantasy element and RAN with it. 

I haven't read them in years, but I'd definitely read these poolside in the sun. They are less contemplative (i.e. not at all) than my other choices, so rain is not the ideal backdrop.


P.S. If you're in downtown Annapolis, stop in Annapolis Book Store (35 Maryland Avenue moving to 53 Maryland Avenue in August) and buy a book or two from them.

P.P.S. A couple of my old friends from NYC, Eliza and Payton, started Girls at Library. Their pictures and interviews are beautiful!