I confess, I love to read what some may categorize as “beach books” during the summer. And I sometimes reread them during the winter. No genre judging, okay?! Everyone should be able to enjoy a book that’s written at a writing level that is accessible to the general public, unrealistic in it’s summery perfection, and may or may not involve a small town girl summering in a ritzy and/or tropical locale, possibly while working for a very wealthy family.
With that in mind, here is a list of my top ten favorite summer reads, some of which do not actually follow the aforementioned description of what makes a beach book.
1. Summer Sisters
This Judy Blume novel is pretty much the fairy godparent of trashy beach books. It spans several decades and follows two girls from very different backgrounds who still manage to reunite every summer in Martha’s Vineyard. They experience puberty, first crushes, first loves, college and career decisions, marriage, betrayal, children, and everything that comes in between, all while still managing to recall how things were in those first summers when they became the summer sisters. This book is dramatic, realistic, moving, and epic all at the same time, which is quite a feat for any book. I first read it in seventh grade (much to the horror of my mother, since it is a rather mature novel) and it’s been one my favorites to reread ever since.
2. Since You’ve Been Gone
Emily doesn’t know how to define herself without her best friend, Sloane. The two have been pretty much a package deal since they first met. But now that Sloane has disappeared Emily must figure out how to move one without her. Of course, a To Do list left by Sloane certainly gives her a starting place. Assisted by the “ultimate perfect guy” Frank, Emily sets out to spend her summer checking off Sloane’s challenges, including skinny dipping, hugging someone named Jamie, sleeping under the stars, and finding an occasion to wear the ultimate dress. The more tasks she completes, though, the more Emily realizes that rather than staying close to Sloane by completing the list she is actually growing closer to understanding herself. Author Morgan Matson writes in an authentic, unassuming voice that I think many readers will appreciate.
3. Keeping the Moon
Social outcast Colie doesn’t expect her summer by the coast to be any different than her lonely high school existence. She’s in for a surprise though, because her co-workers at a local diner as well as her oddball aunt will wind up teaching her more about what it means to be a real friend and stay true to yourself than she ever could have imagined. Sarah Dessen is one of the best authors for fun, summery reads, and Keeping the Moon is no exception. I think many readers will be able to relate to Colie’s initial insecurities as well as find her blossoming confidence inspiring.
4. Love Falls
Another classic coming-of-age-in-the-summer-tale, this book has a slightly different, darker tone than some of the others I’ve listed. Lara is excited about spending her summer with her father in the Italian countryside, but she gets more adventure than she bargained for when she befriends a teenaged clan of millionaires, complete with their own family drama straight from a soap opera. Written by the Esther Freud, granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, this book seems a bit more…oh, I don’t know, literary than some other summery type books.
5. True to Form
This Elizabeth Berg novel is actually the third to feature protagonist Katie Nash, and though all three books can stand alone, (but, for the record, the other two- Durable Goods and Joy School– are amazing and I highly recommend them) only this one falls into the category of quintessential summer reads. Katie is an extremely bright, sweet, and loving thirteen year old who is mature beyond her years. So when her father suggests she get a summer job, Katie is excited by the opportunity until she finds out what her father has in mind: babysitting for three hellacious brothers and acting as a caregiver for an elderly couple. The summer will wind up presenting Katie with many trials and some difficult life lessons, but she comes through it all without losing her trademark honesty and dreaminess. Though Katie is young, this writing in this book is certainly not like what you might find in a young adult novel. Katie sees the world through very adult eyes, and this is reflected by Berg’s gorgeous, touching prose.