I love to read, and will read upwards of 100 books a year. When I was little, if I got into trouble my mother would punish me by taking away my reading privileges. Even though I love discovering new books, there are a handful that I return to again and again. I have a list of my favorite “summer reads”–none of them are just published books, though one or two have been published in the last decade. These books simply feel like summer to me, and I always pick them up during this time of year.
Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set on the French Riviera, this is to me a quintessentially summer novel and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best work. Nicole and Dick Diver are based partially on my favorites, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and partially on Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda.
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, Ramona Ausubel
This is a new addition to the list. I love this quote: “As the children understood it, there were places where it was summer all year and they could not believe that their parents had chosen this northerly, four-season land. The parents did not have a good explanation. Only that their kind of people did not live in warm places. They could visit […] but then they had to go back to New England or Chicago or St. Louis of Kansas City, as if the particular ratio of city to country, winter to summer, brick to grass, was necessary for their species to survive.” The novel looks at two parents who decide, without talking to each other, to each take a journey. Their children are inadvertently abandoned at their home in Cambridge. It has a strange, fairy-tale quality to it, which greatly appeals to me.
Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead
Set on an island that is based on Nantucket, this book looks at a family preparing for the wedding of their oldest daughter, Daphne. Told from the perspectives of Winn, the patriarch, Biddy, the matriarch, and Livia, the youngest daughter, it is a fascinating glimpse of the inner desires and histories of these characters.
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
I don’t know what it is about Brideshead Revisited, but I first read this book when I was fourteen and have reread it at least once a year since. The story of the Marchmain family, as told by friend and partner Charles Ryder, is immediately gripping. Waugh’s prose is beautiful and has always particularly touched me.
Coming Home and The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
Choosing between Coming Home and The Shell Seekers was too difficult, so both are on this list. These very long (700+ pages) novels seem to be read and reread in the flash of an eye. Both are long family stories partially set in Cornwall. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil them, but believe me–you must read them if you haven’t already!