It is officially summer in the northern hemisphere. You may not be making grand travel plans for this strange summer of 2020, but there is one summer staple you don’t have to forgo even in times of pandemic. The summer reading list. There is something about the long and languid days of summer, seductively stretching out before your very eyes as if it were for show, inviting you to slow down and traipse off to an alternate world, if only for an afternoon.
Whether you’ll be stocking up on vitamin D on a beach (lucky you!) or in your backyard (just as lucky!), it’s best done with a good book by your side. So here it is, our summer reading list as recommended by different members of our team. From classic titles promising major escapism to quirky tales of contemporary life, these books are sure to add that sizzling summer splendor to the months that lie ahead.
The Keeper of Lost Things
By Ruth Hogan
- Setting: 1974-2016, England
- Genre: Drama, fantasy
- Mood: Mystical, serene, heartwarming
The Keeper of Lost Things is a delicate tale that gently envelops you in a sentiment of comfort, just mystical enough to keep you turning the pages until late into the night.
Anthony Peardew is an elderly writer with an unusual hobby – collecting and cataloguing lost objects, from coat buttons and odd puzzle pieces, to an old biscuit tin containing a stranger’s ashes. His one mission in life is to return the objects to their rightful owners, and thus make up for a broken promise he had made many years before. This legacy is passed on to Anthony’s assistant Laura upon his death, together with his house that mysteriously smells of fresh roses in the midst of winter.
The Keeper of Lost Things is a charming and cosy read that looks at the magical ways ordinary objects hold extraordinary meaning, and it quietly explores the unexpected ways in which we are all connected.
By Ray Bradbury
- Setting: The summer of 1928, Green Town (fictional), Illinois
- Genre: Coming-of-age novel
- Mood: Quirky, endearing, magical
Best known for his fantasy and science fiction work, Ray Bradbury temporarily departs from his favourite genre to offer a beautifully melancholic depiction of an idyllic summer in the American Midwest in his classic coming-of-age novel Dandelion Wine. Basing the storyline on his own memories growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury tells a tale of the young Douglas Spaulding, dedicated to exploring all the wonders that a hot summer of 1928 could offer a curious 12-year-old boy. It all accounts for a beautifully timeless experience, replete with little everyday wonders and big journeys into imagination.
If you remember the neverending summers of childhood, bursting with scents, stories, and endless possibilities, you will adore reliving them through Dandelion Wine.
Anne of Green Gables
By Lucy Maud Montgomerry
- Setting: Late 19th century, Avonlea (fictional), Prince Edward Island
- Genre: Drama, comedy
- Mood: Dreamy, heartwarming, languorous
If you haven’t yet met the most beloved fictional character of Canadian literature – the delightfully quirky Anne Shirly – now that Netflix is doing an adaptation of this long-time classic by Lucy Maud Montgomerry, it is the perfect time to do so. And if “Anne with an E” is no stranger, you know that it’s always a good time for a re-encounter, especially if it’s summer.
This first in a series of novels set in the idyllic Prince Edward Island introduces Anne Shirly, a hot-tempered but irresistibly quirky orphan, who ends up mistakenly adopted by a pair of middle-aged siblings and confidently marches straight into their hearts. A classic translated into 36 languages and adapted for TV over a dozen of times, Anne of Green Gables is an invitation to escape to a warm world of natural wonders, poetry, imagination, and friendship. It is as warm and as sweet as a midsummer’s day, and as such an absolute must-read.
My Family and Other Animals
By Gerard Durrell
- Setting: 1930s, Corfu
- Genre: Autobiography
- Mood: Humorous, relaxed, uplifting
My Family and Other Animals is a classic feel-good, laugh-out-loud read, set in the enchanting world of the Corfu island in the 1930s. Gerard Durrell, the author of this autobiographical childhood memoir and a famous British conservationist, is thrilled when his eccentric family of five relocate to Corfu in pursuit of a milder climate and sunnier days. For the 10-year-old Gerry it’s a unique opportunity to befriend a menagerie of new creatures, from scorpios and geckos to butterflies and toads.
The rich, picturesque language which Durrell uses to describe the island and its inhabitants (animals and humans alike) sets up a bewitching atmosphere of luxuriant olive groves and sun-kissed coves. It’s an escape to a kinder and sweeter reality, one where the summers are long and they smell of cypress trees. And it’s an escape we’ll very happily embark on!
By Matt Haig
- Setting: Present day Cambridge, England
- Genre: Comedy, science fiction
- Mood: Suspenseful, pensive, uplifting
If you’re unfamiliar with Matt Haig’s work, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. The Humans is a hilariously funny (but also poignant) look at what it means to be human and how we can find joy in our messy existence on Earth.
Matt Haig creates an unexpected world of fantasy blended with stark reality, in which an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew Martin, an accomplished mathematician at Cambridge University, has solved a major mathematical problem. Taking the form of the professor Martin himself, he goes about the town utterly unimpressed by the human race: their bodies are oddly shaped (what’s with the noses?!), their bodily functions frankly disgusting, and their moral and ethical capacities highly questionable. Yet, as he integrates into his temporary new family, he starts to realise there may be more to this alien species than he had initially thought.
Unexpectedly observant and highly thought-provoking, The Humans is a book whose plot will undoubtedly entertain you, but it’s the implied musings on life that will linger in your mind for long after you’ve turned the last page.
The Shadow of the Wind
By Carlos Ruis Zafón
- Setting: 1940s-19560s, Barcelona
- Genre: Gothic mystery, fantasy
- Mood: Atmospheric, mysterious, beguiling
Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, with its meandering alleys and obscure hidden squares, is the perfect setting for this literary thriller that is as gripping as it is atmospheric. Deep in the heart of Barcelona’s old town lies hidden the Cemetery of Lost Books, a beguiling library of titles long forgotten. This is where the 10-year-old Daniel picks up and takes home The Shadow of the Wind, written by the little known Julian Carax. Many years later, in those same winding alleys, Daniel comes across a figure that eerily resembles one of the characters from the book. This is where the mystery of the life and death of Julian Carax starts to majestically unravel as we follow the protagonist along Barcelona’s secret passageways in pursuit of the truth behind the mysterious author.
The Shadow of the Wind is a lyrical praise to the joys of reading, which combines an intricate plot with superb writing. It makes for a perfectly engrossing summer read.
Nine Perfect Strangers
By Liane Moriarty
- Setting: Contemporary Australia
- Genre: Psychological mystery
- Mood: Suspenseful, witty, quirky
Nine people go on a health retreat at a luxury resort run by an eccentric host, Masha. Their individual stories unravel as we learn about them from multiple perspectives, through the eyes of the participants themselves. The characters are described with much warmth and credibility, as the author gradually casts the light on the reasons that brought them to the retreat in the first place. As is usual with Liane Moriarty’s books, there is a mystery or two to solve along the way.
This entertaining psychological mystery will make you laugh, touch your heart, and maybe even cause you to shed a tear or two. Not a bad cocktail for a day by the beach.
My Life in France
By Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme
- Setting: 1940s-1990s, Paris, Marseille, USA
- Genre: Autobiography
- Mood: Entertaining, laid back, revelatory
This book is different – different from what we’ve listed so far and different from what you would expect it to be. My Life in France is an autobiographical account of Julia Child’s time in France, and how it led her to becoming the household name of American cuisine of the 60s and the 70s. But it is so much more than that. It is a surprisingly entertaining story of a personal transformation, of finding one’s voice and passion later in life than expected, and a charming and vivid depiction of post-war Paris and Julia’s culinary adventures. You don’t need to be familiar with Julia’s character to love or want to read this book. You will love it just as much for her refreshing humour and her eccentric but persevering nature. This book is a beautiful ode to the things Julia loved most in life: her husband Paul, her “spiritual homeland” France, and the “many pleasures of cooking and eating.” Don’t miss it!
The Black Echo
By Michael Connely
- Setting: 1990s, Los Angeles
- Genre: Suspense
- Mood: Thrilling, engrossing, suspenseful
If what you seek from your summer reading list is suspense and thrill rather than a cosy embrace, then we suggest you acquaint yourself with Harry Bosch, an LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) detective and the protagonist of over 20 of Michael Connely’s novels. The saga, later turned into a hit Amazon Prime series, starts as far back as 1992, with The Black Echo. Bosch is assigned a new case, which hits too close to home. The victim is a fellow “tunnel rat” from his Vietnam war days, so the head-spinning criminal chase quickly turns highly personal for Bosch.
Michael Connely’s books are plot-driven thrillers, and the appeal is often in the intricacy and the deep insight into how police procedures actually work. If you like suspense, mystery, and police chases, you will be highly entertained. A word of warning, though: if you start off your reading list with this book, chances are you won’t read anything other than the Harry Bosch novels for the rest of the summer.
By Beth O’Leary
- Setting: Contemporary London
- Genre: Romantic comedy
- Mood: Quirky, humorous, romantic
What better way to wrap it up than with a story set in a flatshare – flat sharing is our bread and butter, after all. Tiffy Moore and Leon Twomey are flatmates. They don’t just share a flat, they share the same bed. Yet, they still haven’t met. Leon works nights and Tiffy needed a cheap place, fast, so rotational occupancy of their one-bed flat seemed like a good-enough solution.
Their unconventional living arrangement breeds a quirky and uplifting tale that is duly funny and entertaining. But there’s a hidden layer of sobering realism beneath the fluffy surface, with characters battling each their own struggles and demons. It’s still a wholly uplifting read, full of character and wit. A recommended summer pastime!
Alright, you’re all set for the first journey of the summer, the one to the magical world of books. And for alternative ways to pass the long days of the warm season ahead of us, check out the lifestyle section on our blog, where we share ideas on how to live your best life at home.