Books & Movies

Summer Beach Reads

I am a creature of habit. While I generally add a few new books to my rotation each summer, I love revisiting my favorites at this time of year. There’s something about lazy summer days that encourages re-reading, of returning to a familiar place. Here are five of my favorite summer reads.

Gatherings by Marina Rust

As you’ll see from the other selections on my list, I am captivated by family sagas. Gatherings is a fictionalized memoir that the author once described as a series of short stories featuring the same characters. That is indeed how it reads. This novel is elegantly written, but the real star is the description of place, particularly the chapters set in Maine.

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home* by George Howe Colt

Everyone has that place where their most cherished memories seem to live on. The Big House is an amusing and heartfelt tribute to the “big house” of one family. It’s a moving memoir that I eagerly re-read each summer.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

With its French Riviera setting, this is to me a quintessentially summer novel and my personal favorite of Fitzgerald’s works. I love novels that strongly evoke a sense of place, and Tender is the Night brings the South of France to life. This is a favorite that always feels like summer.

Time of Wonder* by Robert McCloskey

This is perhaps an unorthodox addition to an adult summer reading list, but this children’s book captures the joy and poignancy of the all-too-short season through the eyes of the author’s daughters in its simple and direct language and touching illustrations. The artwork is beautiful, and I wish I owned the originals!

The Guest Book* by Sarah Blake

This is the most recent addition to my summer re-reads list, but it’s already one of my favorites. A friend from my book club mentioned it at the beginning of the pandemic. It was exactly the captivating read I needed. The Guest Book is the story of a family across three generations—and the moments, forgotten by some, that shaped their lives. Beyond its personal dramas, historical events play important roles in a way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed, as in some historical fiction. It is an outstanding family saga and a must-read for those who like this genre. The book takes place in Manhattan, Maine, and Oyster Bay.

What are your favorite summer reads? Please share in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Summer Beach Reads

  1. For family sagas, you might like The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. It’s a few years old now, but about a large Italian family, several decades ago. Was so beautifully written.

  2. I appreciate your linking of seasons and reading. I can’t share a summer list this year, because when I started War and Peace it was the winter and I’m only halfway through!

    But I think there is always time for Faulkner in the deep summer, and Edith Wharton and Henry James.

  3. Oh how I love Time of Wonder! The line “A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little glad about the place you are going” sums up the end of summer feeling so simply yet so perfectly.

  4. I’m not a big re-reader, but I am a huge fan of the summer romances and family dramas set in New England! One book I find myself always thinking about in summer time is The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess.

    1. I read that one a few years ago, Mimi! In my post-college years, I used to spend a lot of time in Wellfleet at a friend’s family’s house. I always love reading books set there!

  5. Are you still writing for Ivy Style? I noticed there was no women’s Ivy post from you this week. The editor of that site earlier issued a press release saying they had “signed” you as a columnist; did he release you from your contract? I hope all is well, and I nevertheless look forward to continuing to read your writings on this or that site, or wherever you post.

  6. My now 18 year old daughters and I read Time of Wonder every summer still. They are so torn now between two places, getting older will do that! The Big House is one of my favorites, and I’m adding Gatherings to my list! I love family generational stories.

    1. Time of Wonder is such a beautiful and poignant book. I love sharing it with my little one and hope to continue the tradition every year. Getting older does teach you that there are so many places in your heart. I’m glad that, right now, we’re living in the place with all my happiest summer memories from childhood. It’s so special to share that!

      Let me know what you think of Gatherings! I really enjoy it and I’m eagerly awaiting Marina Rust’s new work.

  7. Thank you for the recommendations. I just checked out The Big House from our local library and can hardly put it down. What a wonderful reminiscence, history and social history all in one fascinating story. Have you read anything by Patrick Leigh Fermor? He was an Anglo-Irish raconteur, soldier and traveler that only the former British Empire could create. His books are absolutely fascinating and available from NY Review Books.

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying! Fermor has been on my list for many years, but I haven’t read any of his works yet. I look forward to checking them out! Thank you for the reminder.

  8. I’m a huge fan of the late, great Laurie Colwin and plan to reread her entire catalog this summer. I also love Amanda Brainerd’s Age of Consent which I read on North Haven Island a few summers ago where I was delighted to learn that her summer spot was a mile from ours. Our book club has loved to reread some summer “trashy” classics and did Valley of the Dolls and Fear of Flying both of which were very popular. I have a much longer list that I’ll share later. But try to Colwin……always a treat.

    1. I have a Laurie Colwin book on my shelf (Happy All the Time) that I snagged from my favorite used bookstore in DC–I’ve picked up multiple times but never settled in to read. I’m going to give it a try this year! Thank you 🙂

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