Can you smell it in the air? It’s the smell of sand castles, sparklers and cookouts. Yes, summer is nearly upon us, and I cannot wait for long days and cool nights.
One of my absolute favorite things to do after a long day of hanging out in the sun is to come home, pour a glass of iced tea, and curl up with a good book while listening to the crickets chirping nearby. Nothing is more relaxing.
But there are so many choices of books to go with (it’s actually overwhelming) – and I’d like to offer you some of mine to narrow the field.
Here are my top rocking chair reads:
1. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
A perennially good read, this memoir about the author’s childhood with a dysfunctional family, a nomadic lifestyle and persistent bad luck has a way of catching your imagination, both in a good and an unnerving way. Walls’ voice is strong with often blunt recollections of her traumatizing early life, but the book also interweaves colorful passages and descriptions that will entrance you until the very end.
Did I mention that this book is also set to become a film? The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson is set to release August 2017 (so you should definitely check this one out before then)!
2. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
Another book with a recent movie out (I’m sensing a trend …) Anyway, this is a heartbreaking tale with messages of forgiveness, revenge, passion, when a couple living in an isolated lighthouse finds a child in a boat and raises her as their own – to a point. It’s not as top tier as others on this list (I think) but an entertaining read nonetheless. You’ll walk away with the taste of the ocean breeze on your tongue.
3. A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron
I simply cannot resist the simple charms of this book! You’ll be filled with nostalgia and love for your furry friend(s) as you read this tale about Bailey, a dog who lives a series of lives (via reincarnation) to find his purpose – and learns a great deal along the way. With gorgeous description and a quiet humor, this is one that will have you turning the pages until the end, which will most certainly come too soon. Good thing there’s a sequel!
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A classic, The Kite Runner is a tale filled with emotion, suspense, and human nature. Follow Amir, an Afghan boy growing up in time where his country fell into turmoil, and his best friend Hassan, his father’s younger servant, as they go through their early lives and into adulthood. It’s sad, it’s brutally honest, and it’ll entwine you until the very end.
5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
I’ve read several of See’s novels, and I have to say that Snow Flower is my favorite. Weaving a tale of women in 19th century China, readers are thrown into the world of Lily and her best friend Snow Flower, as they go through their childhood and early adulthood, enduring things like the painful process of foot binding. Ultimately, you’ll be led down a path of friendship, marriage, betrayal, and regret. I finished this book in one night, and the movie too!
6. Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert
I didn’t think that I’d like this book as much as I did – but I totally loved it. The gorgeously tragic tale of Rachel, who, as a young girl living in Hawaii during the 1890s, contracts leprosy and is sent to the (real-life) Leper Colony on the Island of Moloka’i – where she remains for years, cut off from the rest of the world. Although the topic of leprosy is oft-considered taboo, Brennert’s story is well-done; touching, and heartbreaking at the same time.
7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
A few years ago, everyone was clamoring to get their hands on this true story about discovery, loss, and letting go. The wildly (get it?) popular film based on the book, starring Reese Witherspoon, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim, and propelled Strayed novel into countless bookshelves; but this tale gains true traction in the nitty-gritty, get-it-done attitude of the author herself. Following the loss of her mother, Cheryl Strayed hit the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking along for months on a journey of self-discovery. It’s a fascinating book, and you’ll definitely want to go on a camping trip when you’re done.
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Who hasn’t read this classic (or at least seen the movie starring Gregory Peck)? A quintessential for all, Harper Lee’s hailed classic follows the children of Atticus Finch – a lawyer who takes on a racially-heated case – as they try to come to grips with how much their lives change during one summer in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. This book is great year-round, but something about reading it on a warm summer night out on the porch is like teleporting to Maycomb yourself.
9. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
I love Ray Bradbury. I love his books, his messages, his narrative voice, and his descriptions of scenery. And this nostalgic summer part-memoir part-fiction is just that. Airy, light, and full of memories that will bring out your own, readers are invited to follow 12-year old David through a series of inter-connected short stories revolving around summer with his family in the 1940s – 1950s. Oozing with the dreamy qualities found in small-town, rural America, you’ll certainly appreciate each hint of your summer to the fullest after reading this one.
10. Jaws: A Novel by Peter Benchley
Can’t you just hear the ominous music coming towards you? This is a no-brainer for a summer read. Infamous thanks to Steven Spielberg’s now-classic 1975 film, this shark-infested thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat – and far from the water. The well-known tale of the man-eating great white terrorizing a coastal town, and the three guys brave enough to try and kill it, this is a summer beach book for the strong-willed. Just don’t go swimming at sunset.
Don’t forget – a book is great on picnics, at the beach, on the boat, or on the porch. Just don’t forget the sweet tea!