Summer books are my fave because summer is the perfect time to kick back, relax, party, lose oneself and create anew. Whether you’re lounging on the beach, enjoying a rest day in the park, or simply relaxing in your backyard, there’s nothing quite like a great summer read to transport you to another world. With so many summer books, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best summer books to help you make the most of your reading time this season.
Alluring Summer Books
One relentlessly hot summer, six children explore the scorched wheat fields that enclose their tiny Italian village. When the gang find a dilapidated farmhouse, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano makes a discovery so momentous that he dare not tell a soul. It is a secret that will force Michele to question everything and everyone around him, and will bring his innocent world toppling down.
An unputdownable thriller, I’m Not Scared has become a contemporary classic in Italian literature, read and celebrated the world over. A gem among summer books.
Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver
It is summer in the Appalachian mountains and love, desire and attraction are in the air. Nature, too, it seems, is not immune. From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and interrupts her self-assured, solitary life.
On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer’s wife, finds herself marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land that has become her own. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly feuding neighbours tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected. Over the course of one humid summer, these characters find their connections of love to one another and to the surrounding nature with which they share a place—a lovely novel among summer books.
The Go-Between – L. P. Hartley
‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’
When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. He becomes drawn deeper and deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, until his role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. The haunting story of a young boy’s awakening into the secrets of the adult world, The Go-Between is also an unforgettable evocation of the boundaries of Edwardian society. A classic among summer books.
The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A perfect beach read among summer books.
Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman
A must-read among summer books – Andre Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time. One of my faves among summer books.
The Magus – John Fowles
On a remote Greek Island, Nicholas Urfe finds himself embroiled in the deceptions of a master trickster. As reality and illusion intertwine, Urfe is caught up in the darkest of psychological games. John Fowles expertly unfolds a tale that is lush with over-powering imagery in a spellbinding exploration of human complexities. By turns disturbing, thrilling and seductive, The Magus is a feast for the mind and the senses. One of the perfect summer books.
Outline – Rachel Cusk
Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her student in storytelling exercises. She meets other writers for dinner. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her seatmate from the place. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves, their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face great a great loss. An interesting one among summer books.
Atonement – Ian McEwan
‘A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended’
On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house.
Watching her too is Robbie Turner who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone—a modern classic among summer books.
Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussmann
A popular one among summer books. Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha’s Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their ‘real lives’: Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war.
Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena’s husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena—with their children, Daisy and Ed—try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same.
Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment among summer books.
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Poet and pervert, Humbert Humbert becomes obsessed by twelve-year-old Lolita and seeks to possess her, first carnally and then artistically, out of love, ‘to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets’. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert?
A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these? Humbert Humbert’s seduction is one of many dimensions in Nabokov’s dizzying masterpiece, which is suffused with a savage humour and rich, elaborate verbal textures. Filmed by Stanley Kubrick in 1962 starring James Mason and Peter Sellers, and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne starring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith, Lolita has lost none of its power to shock and awe. A classic among summer books.
The Evening of the Holiday – Shirley Hazzard
Passionate undercurrents sweep in and out of this eloquent novel about a love affair in the summer countryside in Italy and its inevitable end. It takes place in a setting of pastoral beauty during a time of celebration — a festival.
Sophie, half English, half Italian, meets Tancredi, an Italian who is separated from his wife and family. In telling the story of their love affair, author Shirley Hazzard punctures the placid surface of polite Italian society to reveal the intense yearnings and surprising responses in sophisticated people caught up in emotions they do not always understand—an exquisite read among summer books.
The Rocks – Peter Nichols
Looking for a beach read? You’ll love this among summer books. Set on the island of Mallorca, The Rocks is a double love story told in reverse. Opening in 2005 with a dramatic event that seems to seal the mystery of two lives, the story moves backwards in time, unravelling over sixty years, amid the olive groves and bars, the boats and poolside parties, the lives and relationships of two intertwined families within an expat community of endearing and flawed characters. As one story is revealed, another, sweeter one, a love story of a couple from the younger generation, arises in the wake of their elder’s failures. A nice read among summer books.
The Beautiful Summer – Cesare Pavese
It’s the height of summer in 1930s Italy and sixteen-year-old Ginia is desperate for adventure. So begins a fateful friendship with Amelia, a stylish and sophisticated artist’s model who envelops her in a dazzling new world of bohemian artists and intoxicating freedom. Under the spell of her new friends, Ginia soon falls in love with Guido, an enigmatic young painter. It’s the start of a desperate love affair, charged with false hope and overwhelming passion – destined to last no longer than the course of a summer.
The Beautiful Summer is a gorgeous coming-of-age tale of lost innocence and first love, by one of Italy’s greatest writers. A beautiful novel among summer books.
Three Summers – Margarita Liberaki
Three Summers is a warm and tender tale of three sisters growing up in the countryside near Athens before the Second World War. Living in a ramshackle old house with their divorced mother are flirtatious, hot-headed Maria, beautiful but distant Infanta, and dreamy and rebellious Katerina, through whose eyes the story is mostly observed. Over three summers, the girls share and keep secrets, fall in and out of love, try to understand the strange ways of adults and decide what kind of adults they hope to become. An easy and fun read among summer books.
Seven Days in June – Tia Williams
A popular one among summer books. When Eva Mercy, a single mother and bestselling erotica writer, and the enigmatic, award-winning novelist Shane Hall meet at a literary event in New York, sparks fly. But what no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one week together, madly in love. While they may pretend to be strangers, they can’t deny their chemistry.
Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect. But Eva is wary of the man who broke her heart and wants Shane out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before he disappears, though, she needs a few questions answered…
One of my faves among summer books. The story begins in 1962. Somewhere on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and views an apparition: a beautiful woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an American starlet, he soon learns, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away in Hollywood, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot searching for the woman he last saw at his hotel fifty years before.
Gloriously inventive, funny, tender and constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a novel full of fabulous and yet very flawed people, all of them striving towards another sort of life, a future that is both delightful and yet, tantalizingly, seems just out of reach. A good choice among summer books.
Midsummer Mysteries – Agatha Christie
Summertime – as the temperature rises, so does the potential for evil. From Cornwall to the French Riviera, whether against a background of Delphic temples or English country houses, Agatha Christie’s most famous characters solve even the most devilish of conundrums as the summer sun beats down. Pull up a deckchair and enjoy plot twists and red herrings galore from the bestselling fiction writer of all time. The perfect beach read among summer books.
Lizzie and Dante – Mary Bly
On the heels of a difficult break-up and a devastating diagnosis, Shakespearean scholar Lizzie Delford decides to take one last lavish vacation on Elba, the sun-kissed island off the Italian coast, with her best friend and his movie-star boyfriend. Once settled into a luxurious seaside resort, Lizzie has to make big decisions about her future, and she needs the one thing she may be running out of: time.
She leaves the yacht owners and celebrities behind and sneaks off to the public beach, where she meets the unfairly gorgeous Dante, his battered dog Lily, and his wry daughter Etta, a twelve-year-old desperate for a mother. Soon Lizzie is confronted with a new dilemma. Is it fair to fall in love if time is short? Are the delicacies of life worth tasting, even if you savour them only for a short while? A fun read among summer books.
The Feast – Margaret Kennedy
Cornwall, Midsummer 1947. Pendizack Manor Hotel is buried in the rubble of a collapsed cliff. Seven guests have perished, but is it murder, and what brought this strange assembly together for a moonlit feast before this Act of God – or Man? Over the week before the landslide, we meet the hotel guests in all their eccentric glory: and as friendships form and romances blossom, sins are revealed, and the cliff cracks widen… A fun mystery among summer books.
Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan
Sylish, shimmering and amoral, Sagan’s tale of adolescence and betrayal on the French Riviera was her masterpiece, published when she was just eighteen. However, this frank and explicit novella was considered too daring for 1950s Britain, and sexual scenes were removed for the English publication. Now this fresh and accurate new translation presents the uncensored text in full for the first time.
Bonjour Tristesse tells the story of Cécile, who leads a carefree life with her widowed father and his young mistresses until, one hot summer on the Riviera, he decides to remarry – with devastating consequences. In A Certain Smile, which is also included in this volume, Dominique, a young woman bored with her lover, begins an encounter with an older man that unfolds in unexpected and troubling ways. A modern classic among summer books.
Check out my other lists about books!
- 10 Uplifting Books
- Great Novels by Poets
- Feel-Good Cozy Mystery Series
- Summer Books – 20 Sexy Novels
- Autumn Books – 20 Cozy Novels
- Winter Books- 20 Atmospheric Novels
- Spring Books – 20 Lovely Novels
- 20 Captivating Gothic Books
- Japanese Books Under 200 Pages
- 20 Best Campus and Academic Novels
- 25 Intriguing Dark Academia Books
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- 20 Best Food Culture and Food History Books
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- Standalone Fantasy Books
- Fantasy Book Series
- Novels Based on Mythology and Legends
- Tarot Books to Learn From
- Books About Astrology
- Books About Esotericism
- Books for Book Clubs
- Magical Realism Books
- Mindfulness Books
- Captivating Reincarnation Books
- Remarkable Break-Up Novels
- Books for Travel Lovers
- Brilliant Mythology Books
- Egyptian Mythology Books
- Train Journey Books
- Books Set in Museums
- Books Set in Hotels
- Books Set on Islands
- Books Set in Forests
- Novels Set in Ancient Egypt
- Novels Set in Bookshops
- Novels Set in Libraries
- Books Set in the English Countryside
- Books Set in Edinburgh
- Books Set in Oxford
- Books Set in Istanbul
- Books Set in Rome
- Books Set in Portugal
- Books Set in Egypt
- Books Set in Greece
- Books Set in Mexico
- Books Set in South Africa
- Books Set in New York
- Books Set in Paris
- Books Set in Barcelona
- Books Set in Berlin
- Novels Set in China
- Books Set in Tokyo
- Books Set in Bali
- Novels Under 100 Pages
- Novels Under 150 Pages
- Novels Under 200 Pages
- Novels About Older Woman, Younger Man Relationships
- Novels About Fortune Telling
- Novels About Translators and Interpreters
- Novels About Books
- Best Books About Books
- Novels About Vincent Van Gogh
- Novels About Leonardo da Vinci
- Books About Picasso
- Novels About Marriage
- Novels About Food
- Novels About Writers
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- Books About Witches
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- Best Books About Birds
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- Novels About Scents & Perfume
- Exciting Thriller Novels of All Time
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- Mind-Expanding Philosophy Books
- Historical Fiction Novels
- Beautiful Poetry Collections
- Powerful Books About Peace
- Beautiful Romance Novels
Are there any summer books you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?