Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Summer Reads

Summer is here. While I’m still enjoying the questionable pleasure of air conditioning altered with a burning sun, I am already thinking about my summer reads for this year’s holiday. Over the years I have come to re-read certain books in summer, either because I find them appropriate and they get me in that relaxing-on-the-beach mood or because they’re big, chunky books that will keep you entertained for your entire holiday.

MY TOP TEN FAVORITE SUMMER READS:

10. Frank Herbert – Dune

I’ve only read two-and-a-half books of this series and I’m not sure yet whether I absolutely love it or think it only meh. But: The setting of the desert planet really goes well with a holiday on sandy beaches. It makes the necessity of water and the brutality of the environment all the more tangible. I’ve read the first few books safe and sound inside my apartment with water within easy reach. But I think I might just tackle the rest of the series this summer when I get to laze around on a sandy beach which will be, I’m told, completely free of makers.

9. J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter

Whether it’s your first time around or another of many re-reads, Harry Potter is the prefect companion for a summer holiday. With the seven books you’ve got enough pages to keep you entertained for a few weeks and if you know them already (who doesn’t, really?) you know you’ll get fun, suspense, magic and the Weasley twins. I recommend these in e-book format as you probably won’t want to carry 7 large books around. I’m re-reading the entire series at the moment and I can’t wait to race through them on the beach.

8. Jasper Fforde – The Thursday Next series

Following literary detective Thursday Next into well-known works of fiction is a pleasure that I can’t describe. Meet Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester behind the curtain and drive a crazy car with Miss Havisham, who turns out to be quite the daredevil (and strangely fond of bodice rippers). Fforde created his own universe, peopled with known fictional characters as well as his very own inventions. Each book in this series is distilled fun. Once you’ve started, you won’t want to stop. The first four books have one larger story arc, so if you don’t want to read all of them at once (there are currently six volumes with number seven coming very soon), just take those four. They are divine.

7. George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire

When I first discovered these books, it was, appropriately enough, winter. However, A Clash of Kings took me a while and so I ended up reading books two and both halves of book three (I got the split paperback copies) in the height of summer. Once you find a book that draws you in enough and has a lot of pages, you really can’t go wrong. I only had three volumes at my disposal at the time but I think for those of you who have only come to know George R.R. Martin through the HBO show, these books are perfect for your summer reading list.

6. James M. Barrie – Peter Pan

I’m recommending this everywhere because too few people have read the original. And the Disney version just doesn’t do it right. Peter Pan is a tragic figure, Neverland a truly amazing place and when the Lost Boys hunt for pirates, who in turn hunt for Indians, who in turn hunt for the Lost Boys, you can feal the heat of the jungle and the smile of Neverland’s sun on your back. You should read this book regardless of the season, but I think it’s a lot more fun during summer – it makes the island of Neverland come to life more easily and you almost believe you just might catch sight of a mermaid at whatever beach you’re reading this…

5. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees

A coming-of-age-story in the southern United States set in 1964. Blacks have just been granted the right to vote but the protagonist is more interested in finding out about her dead mother and running away from her violent father. She finds herself helping a family of beekeeping black sisters, discovering who her mother was, and growing up in the sweltering heat of summer. I loved this book to pieces and I’m glad I first read it in the heat of summer. The atmosphere was tangible and made the book all the more believable because I read it in sweltering heat as well.

4. Diana Gabaldon – Outlander

While Claire’s story is set in Scotland and the weather in the book is usually not too warm, the size and scope of the novel makes a great summer read. If you want 800 pages of thrill and fun and romance and action (and, I might add, men in kilts speaking with Scottish accents) then this is for you. I’m not a romance reader but this book captivated me. And if you’ve got a lot of holiday time, there’s a lot more coming after book one…

3. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

Acutally, insert any of Jane Austen’s books here. Maybe it’s because I read my first Austen on a holiday in Spain that I think they make for perfect summer reads. Feared as classics sometimes are, these are very light reads and most auf Jane Austen’s books are pure fun and enjoyment. They also happen to be one of the very few kinds of romance I like reading. Most recommended: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensitility, Mansfield Park

2. Ian McEwan – Atonement

This book took me by surprise. It really is as good as everybody says! While I didn’t like the movie, I remember the intense atmosphere of that steamy summer day that McEwan created. If you read this in stifling weather, you’ll understand Briony all the more. Other than its perfect setting, this is some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read and tells a compelling story with an unexpected twist. The ending left me crying (I forgot to mention this in my tearjerker list) and craving more Ian McEwan books.

1. Alex Garland – The Beach

Don’t judge this book by its movie. And don’t kill me because of putting a cliché title at the top of my list. The Beach is a lot more than just Leo discovering a remote island with two French friends. It is about Vietnam and Tetris, about really making a community work and how intricate human relationships can be. It’s also very different from the movie as the plot goes. I was surprised myself at how gripping I find this book – after about 4 re-reads I still look forward to diving back into it this summer. I can not recommend it highly enough and I don’t know anybody (who I forced to read it) who didn’t end up liking it as well.

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