As children, when the bell rang at 3 a.m. on the last day of school, we all longed for summer freedom. That freedom included reading what you wanted, when you wanted. I would say that as adults, “summer reading” should always conjure up images of long days of reading in your favorite spot, whether that be on a beach blanket, a patio lounge, by the pool or indoors curled up on your comfy sofa.
Summer reading shouldn’t be a “guilty pleasure” like the occasional break from your diet, but rather a nonstop cheeky activity. Whether you’re rushing through a pile of adult bestsellers like you’re gobbling down a big bucket of popcorn in one sitting, or just reading a small part of a single great story every day – do it , your way. If summer reading means tackling that pile to read from your bedside table, re-reading a favorite classic, or strolling through a bookstore and just seeing which book cover catches your eye — do it, your way.
Let the books below form just a starting list of suggestions for a delightful season of summertime joy and summertime companionship.
“Remarkably Brilliant Creatures”
“Remarkably Brilliant Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt is a remarkably enchanting, delightfully poignant, truly unique and uplifting story of love, loss and new beginnings.
Tova Sullivan is a no-nonsense 70-year-old widow who likes things done right, especially when it comes to her volunteer job as a night janitor at the Sowell Bay Aquarium in Puget Sound. She is also fond of the creatures that inhabit the reservoirs, especially Marcellus, a highly intelligent and rebellious Giant Pacific Octopus. The cleanup itself helps Tova stop brooding over the mysterious disappearance of her 18-year-old son so many years ago, but it’s the friendships she forms that really keeps her afloat. Not only is Marcellus the key, but also Cameron, a lonely young man who is also looking for painful answers. Together, these three fabulous characters give new meaning to strength in numbers.
“Hotel Nantucket” by Elin Hilderbrand is the absolutely perfect summer read with a bit of romance, mystery, behind-the-scenes hotel escapades, and a “sassy” ghost thrown in for good measure.
The ghost is Grace Hadley, a teenage housekeeper who died under suspicious circumstances in a hotel fire in 1922. Grace’s lonely days wandering the hotel halls are over when a London billionaire reopens the antucket hotel without sparing any expense. Grace joins a wonderful group of hotel employees, including young Lizbet Keaton, who are dedicated to bringing glory to the revival of the “once great” hotel. But add painful relationship breakups, reception staff sleeping with guests, a brave 8-year-old detective trying to solve the mystery of Grace’s death, and Grace herself trying to sniff out guests with “rotten souls.” , and the question is whether the hotel will survive even its first summer.
“Sisters of Night and Fog”
“Sisters of Night and Fog” by Erika Robuck is a must-read, poignant and viscerally powerful story inspired by two little-known real-life heroines who risk everything to help the French Resistance during World War II.
At the start of World War II, young Virginia from Albert-Lake chose to stay in occupied France with her French husband Phillipe despite the pleas of her American family. Knowing the grave risk and with incredible courage, she and her husband help the downed Allied soldiers return them to their home bases. Likewise, Violette Szabo, a young Franco-British woman, driven by rage against the Nazis, is recruited by Britain’s SOE and uses her keen wits and superb handling of firearms to become an invaluable courier. But in time, the dangerous tasks of the two women are devastatingly interrupted when they find themselves in the torturous Ravensbruck concentration camp. Readers will be appalled to wonder how such evil can exist and to root desperately for survival.
‘An Italian Summer: A Novel’
“An Italian Summer: A Novel” by Rebecca Serle is a highly immersive, uniquely refreshing and poignant look at how a young woman processes the loss of her mother and comes to live the best life possible.
When Carol Silver dies, her daughter Katy not only loses her mother but also her best friend. On the eve of a trip to Italy that the two had planned to do together, Katy decides to leave everything behind and fly solo. This includes leaving her grieving father and Eric, the husband she isn’t sure she wants to marry any longer. Before getting married, Carol spent many magical days in Positano and now Katie hopes to do the same. When Katy arrives, she suddenly discovers her own “magic” – including meeting her mother Carole in the flesh, like the tanned, vivacious thirty-something she once was! Amidst the lush sights, tastes and sounds of the Amalfi Coast, Katy rediscovers what it truly means to love and be loved.
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Book Smart is a monthly column by Nancy Harris of Scituate, a practicing psychologist and former professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.
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