Olivia Shares her Favorite Summer Reads
Thanks to years of summers off, summer is universally thought of as the time to read. Weekends spent on the beach, evenings lounging in a garden hammock, days spent sitting in front of a fan on the tile floor of your tiny apartment with a bowl of watermelon chunks to keep you cool… all with a book in one hand. My favorite summer reading memories are of reading outside on holiday in Italy and of staying up until the middle of the night, listening to rain from a summer storm pounding on the slanted roof of my childhood home. Few things compare to the purity of the joy such reading brings, and I try to chase after that when picking my summer reads, to this day. You’ll see “What to Read this Summer” lists coming at you from every direction, and this is something we here at the Attic on Eighth are happy to contribute to. Rather than telling you what to read though (and picking only new releases for #marketing reasons), we’re going to take turns sharing lists of books that we personally love and/or associate with the summer season. Twice a week through July, on Saturdays and Wednesdays, we’ll share our lists with you.
Here, to kick off the series, are ten summer favorites that gave me that elusive summer feeling:
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath Dark though it may be, The Bell Jar is the first book that comes to mind when thinking of summer. It begins in summer, it takes place in summer, and it captures both heat and frustration in just about every word. If you haven’t read it, this is the perfect time to do so, especially if you are in or are about to begin university. (Just like, don’t spend your summer researching and writing a paper on eating disorders in The Bell Jar because I promise that can go very, very wrong.)
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith I included this in my Gentler Women’s Novels list the other week, and it’s back again. With tumbledown castles, gardens, and rain storms a plenty, it’s a wonderfully summery book in setting and in content. After all, what says summer more than self-discovery and growth?
- Summer, Edith Wharton What is a book list compiled by me that doesn’t include at least one novel by Edith Wharton? She didn’t make her way onto my Gentler Women’s Novels list (obviously… I love her, but she does neither gentle nor happy endings), but she has a sure place here, especially when she literally has a novella called Summer. Often paired with Ethan Frome, Summer is a vicious but poignant story that I plan on rereading in the coming weeks.
- The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton I absolutely love Kate Morton. She’s my “light” fiction go-to – masterfully spinning stories worthy of yet far more elaborate than Downton Abbey for the page. The Forgotten Garden was the first of her novels that I read and is perfect for a summer read. A delicious mystery, it’ll suck you in and make you grateful for it.
- Emma, Jane Austen In my opinion the most cheerful and consequently summeriest of Jane Austen’s novels, Emma is perfect for long summer days. Full of humor and social commentary, it’ll keep you entertained for hours.
- Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys You won’t find Jane Eyre on this list (probably because I haven’t reread it since 2002), but you will find Wide Sargasso Sea. Turning to the untouched in the Brontë novel, Jean Rhys tells the story of Antoinette Cosway – renamed Bertha by the unnamed Mr. Rochester, and the life she leads before being locked in the attic.
- Save Me the Waltz, Zelda Fitzgerald Why recommend a novel by F. Scott when you have Zelda? Save Me the Waltz is the novel that inspired Tender is the Night, and I frankly find it to be much more interesting to read. Taking place in the South and then in France and Switzerland, Save Me the Waltz is full of flowers and madness and travel – just what I like to find in my literature.
- The Muse, Jessie Burton Somehow, I never read Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. The plot never appealed to me and so I never picked it up. The Muse though, I picked up as soon as I saw it at the bookshop, even though it was still a hardback. A fantastic story of art and identity, it takes you back to summer in 1930s Spain (and to 1960s London) and is sure to keep you reading through the night.
- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells This is one of those books that I’ve had instilled in me as a “silly woman’s book” and I don’t really know why. I picked it up off my grandmother’s shelf a couple of summers ago and tore through it. It’s a complex story of a mother-daughter relationship as well as one of friendship, but what really sticks out to me beside the bond between women – now that five years have gone by since I read it – is the feeling of hot Louisiana summers.
- Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh Enter the one book on this list written by a man. I originally read Brideshead over a November weekend, but thanks to a June spent watching the 1981 miniseries while snacking on cherries and the “Always Summer” track from the 2008 film, I associate the story with summer… and fairly so: most of the first section of the book takes place in summer. Part campus novel, part retrospective, Brideshead is the ultimate atmospheric read.