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Summer Nostalgic Reads

I love summer, and I think at least partly it’s because as a rebel (who resists expectations) I am nostalgic for the glory days of few obligations or responsibilities. I wrote about this last week… it’s a theme!

And what is more leisurely than strolling the stacks at the library, then lazily reading on the hammock, couch, in a treehouse, on a blanket spread in the grass or on the sand. I seemed to have the luxury of endless hours of reading in my youth, though now that pleasure is mostly saved for holidays and Sunday afternoons.

I’ve been longing for that feeling of childhood summer, and trying to find or remember books that might take me there. I would love to hear your ideas of quintessential, summer vibe books! Here are some of mine:

Photo: Bethany Douglass

  • A River Runs Through it — Norman Maclean

    This novella is my #1 recommendation. It doesn't matter if you're not interested in fishing, although it is 100% about fly-fishing. It's a tone. Wistful, beautiful... like a deep breath in and out.

    I still (often) want something of substance as a summer read — something for my mind, my heart, my senses to grab onto. This is when I have a bit more patience for prose; for the unhurried stroll through a story, when the writing is measured or interesting and not just for the sake of the plot. A novel like this strikes the perfect tone, and I long for more just like it.

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — Betty Smith

    Definitely a bit more bleak, but captures the Brooklyn in the early 1900s like nothing else.

    Life is not fair. Also: it's hot in Brooklyn 😂

  • East of Eden — John Steinbeck

    That summer, farming vibe without the listless hopelessness of The Grapes of Wrath!

  • The Interestings — Meg Wolitzer

    It doesn't get more on-the-nose than this novel about friendships forged at creative arts camp, and spanning 4 decades of their ordinary lives.

  • The River Why or The Brothers K — David James Duncan

    The little-known author is from the PNW and both of these novels are set in Montana, just like A River Runs Through It. Great reviews on Goodreads, and I think both are excellent, though the Bros K is a slog at the beginning (and, my mom, an avid reader, quit 3/4 through!) Basically just choose fishing or baseball, and your commitment level, and go from there!

  • The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood — Rebecca Wells

    Mix up a mint julep to go with this one.

  • Memoirs

    Try Wild Game (Adrienne Brodeur) for some Cape Cod mommy issues; or, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and me (Ian Morgan Cron) for quarry cliff jumping and daddy issues. Finding Freedom (Erin French) is full of florals and foraging, food and overcoming. I've never read Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand, not a memoir, but narrative nonfiction), though I may tackle it this summer

  • Kid Lit

    It doesn't get much better than Gordon Korman's I Want to Go Home: a story of the dozens of tricks unhappy Rudy Miller devises to be sent home from camp. Charlotte's Web is a barnyard classic, though I think it is The Trumpet of the Swan which is E.B. White's underrated star. 

    And, there's always The Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley High ;)  I don't plan on revisiting another lazy, teen summer read, The Flowers in the Attic, ha ha.

Please, tell me yours! What book am I looking for to capture this spirit of summer? What are your July re-reads? Share in the comments below or contact me. 


A kid’s book that speaks to my adventure seeking child set in a time before kids were bubble wrapped: Swallows & Amazon’s by Arthur Ransome

Catherine Pantsios

I’m with Kerry on the kids’ books. My summer pick is Wind in the Willows, especially the part where Mole and Ratty travel leisurely down the river and picnic on the banks, forming a wonderful friendship as they do.

Kerry Grant

I know they are kids’ books, but Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and C.S. Lewis’s entire Narnia series are still favorites of mine, especially Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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