Around age 11 or 12, I starting tailoring my reading material to the weather. I read mystery stories and Gothic novels on dark and stormy nights; quest stories on April days when the air was full of adventure and spring fever. I found that setting mattered, both within the story and without.
Can you imagine reading Wuthering Heights poolside on an August afternoon? I would feel like a traitor. No–it’s a novel to save for the bleakest November day you can find. The right setting can brand a story into your soul in a way that stays with you for the rest of your life.
I know it’s not always possible to match your physical surroundings with the bookscape, but get it as close as possible. While I’d much prefer to see the ocean when I glance over the horizon of my Master and Commander novel, Lake Michigan will serve in a pinch.
The books I choose for my summer reading list ooze summer with every line of ink. They smell of water and hot grass, and are filled with pages of either high adventure or lazy dog days frozen in time.
Today I’m sharing with you a treasured list of books that evoke summer. They’re all roughly in the “young adult” category, but they would make good read-alouds for younger children. And they are absolutely still viable reading material for adults! I try to read a few young adult novels every summer on principle.
After I compiled this list, I realised that all of them take place near the ocean or in rural areas. Perfectly fitting for summer fare, when the water’s warm for swimming and the countryside is teeming with life!
I’d imagine that you could find most–if not all–of these novels in your local library, or through an inter-library loan. But if you have any trouble, Amazon is your friend! These are absolutely worth owning.
1. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Episodic stories of two boys in a small Midwestern town in the summer of 1928.
2. Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
A 1950s classic about two cousins who spend a summer in the countryside and discover a mysterious abandoned lake resort.
3. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
A survival story of a young girl, stranded on her home island after the rest of her tribe evacuates.
4. Kilmeny of the Orchard by L. M. Montgomery
A sweet and simple love story that takes place on P.E.I. (of course!) about a mute girl named Kilmeny, and Eric, the man who falls desperately in love with her.
5. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Three American siblings spend a summer in Cornwall and become involved in a treasure hunt steeped in Arthurian legend.
6. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
With the promise of a large cash reward, Jay Berry spends a summer in the Ozarks hunting down escaped circus monkeys.
7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Tom avoids chores, falls in love with Becky Tatcher, searches for buried treasure, and witnesses a murder in the graveyard, among other adventures!
8. The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne
Three boys are shipwrecked on a South Pacific island where they must learn to live off the land, avoid cannibals, and match wits with pirates.
9. The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter
Two children in a Scottish fishing village attempt to outwit a dangerous mermaid in order to bring their grandfather home.
10. The Merman by Dick King-Smith
While spending a summer in Scotland, Zeta meets a merman who teaches her how to swim. (Have you seen the movie Babe? This is by the same author!)
11. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
On their way to the New World, a Swiss pastor and his family are shipwrecked on a desert island and must learn to build a new life.
12. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White
Merlyn the wizard tutors a young boy to become the future King Arthur.
13. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
A talking animal story that takes place in the Thames river valley in the English countryside.
14. Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
The discovery of a silver thimble on her family’s farm heralds a lucky summer for Garnet.
15. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The grandfather of all pirate yarns and treasure tales.
16. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
Ten-year-old Winnie meets a family who can live forever.