Even as people grumble about the humidity and fan themselves with a stack of office papers, I revel in the freedom of summer. We grant ourselves a little more leniency and a little more extravagance during those magical, tepid months from June through September. Time is a little slower, and we treat ourselves a little better.
One of my greatest summer splurges is that extra time dedicated to my reading list. Whether sprawled out on a towel beside the pool or on the beach, the words on the page just seem a bit sharper, a bit more satisfying under the glow of the sun. These are a few of my favorite recurring summer favorites, ranging from the light to the more serious, but all of them providing the escapism and magic realism that is summer.
Skyward: by Mary Alice Monroe
A classic love story. However, this one rises above the rest because it has a little more to it than just boy meets girl. This is boy meets girl who has to save him because he is too busy saving eagles. That’s right. Eagles.
This story is an ode to second chances, deserved, earned, and ones that turn out to be mistakes to have given. A nurse suffering from severe burnout after managing too many cases of dying children seeks refuge by serving as a nanny to a man and his young daughter outside of Charleston, SC. The hot winds and wide trees act as a salve to her shattered spirit, and she finds herself caring a lot about this man, who manages a wildlife center dedicated to saving birds of prey. You’ll find yourself sweeping down the currents of this story as fast as they canoe down the river, and when you come out on the other side, you’ll wish the journey was still happening.
A light story, but a fulfilling one. And, as an added bonus, it is based on the real work done by the Carolina Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, SC.
Water for Elephants: by Sara Green
The hot winds of summer seem to carry train whistles better than any other season. An old man, Jacob Jankowski, recalls the summer he joined the traveling circus. Shattered by recent family events in the Depression era, Jacob wanders down the path to a train track and hops on board a passing train. This story details how he spends his summer outfitted to the circus, swept away by the forceful nature of the horse trainer and his beautiful, strong-willed wife.
We have all harbored a secret image of walking out our doors, leaving behind the television and our twelve remote controls, to join the circus. This story delves into that fancy, exposing its faults and horrors while still preserving its magic. Few things are what we expect them to be, whether that relates to our career, marriage, or our expectations for ourselves. Through this tale, we are allowed to entertain that fancy, test our own limits, and pick ourselves up at its conclusion when the summer comes to an end.
Life of Pi: by Yann Martel
One of my summer favorites. When I sit on the edge of the beach, with my toes buried in the sand, I glance out over the surf to the line where the water meets the sky and wonder what it would be like to sit in its center. This book strands our young protagonist, named Pi, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after a storm at sea, but he isn’t alone. He shares his journey, and his small boat, with a full-grown tiger.
As you read through the novel and get lost on the waves, the sights that play on the water, and the trials that surviving it bring to Pi, the line between reality and magic blurs. It is like summer itself: time slows and the world reflects itself to us differently. At the end of the book, we are asked to make a decision between the real and the imaginary. Pi reminds us that life is what we believe it to be.
Before the summer completely slips away, take some time to escape into a fictional world. If you try my picks, I hope you love them as much as I do. But if not, I hope your choices provides the same enchanted feeling these give me.
Tell us, what are your favorite summer reads?
Hallie Lipsey currently works as a teacher and writer. She has spent the last several years teaching outside of the United States while living in apartments without air conditioning. When not teaching or writing, she enjoys eating bowls of spicy salsa and rescuing small, fuzzy critters. Follow her on Twitter @.