I grew up in Georgia, where summer was guaranteed to be one thing: hot. Other than the lake, there was another magical escape from the heat which could always be relied upon–the local library. Some of my favorite childhood summer memories involve going to that library every Friday afternoon with my parents, relishing the cold, musty air conditioning and searching for new worlds to explore. My parents and I walked out of the library, each of us with a stack of books, and we spent the afternoon reading together.
Today, I attribute my love of reading to the way my mom and dad showed me how much they loved to read. I think it is very important for us as adults and parents to make time to read—both for ourselves and for our kids. It’s easy to focus on what our children are reading, but sometimes we forget to make our own reading a priority (and a fun one, at that). In honor of these hot, summer months and libraries with good AC everywhere, here’s my challenge to myself (and to you): sit down and come up with a summer reading list. Here are 10 kinds of books that I think should be on that list.
1. A Historical Book
Reading a historically-centered book is a great way to explore your particular interests about a person, time-period or event. You could read about Zelda Fitzgerald, Egyptian pyramids, or the Underground Railroad—there’s really no end to the options. Another great thing about historical books is that they are written in numerous styles which can appeal to a variety of readers. For example, you might choose an engagingly narrated biography, a non-fiction informational text, or even a historical fiction.
2. A Book of Skills
Do you wish you knew some basic expressions in French or Spanish? Maybe you’d like to understand your car engine better, or start a shop for handmade jewelry on Etsy. Or, perhaps you’re already skilled in a craft that you’d like to challenge yourself further in. Do a little research and find a user friendly text that can help you learn or fine-tune whatever skill interests you. Non-fiction books that teach about a particular skill are often organized into bite-sized chunks of information. I really like that because it makes this type of book easy to pick up, look at for ten minutes, and learn something cool.
3. A Cozy Book
If you’re like me, you have certain books that you’ll pick up to read anytime. This kind of book is like a pair of fuzzy slippers—reliable, comforting, safe. Maybe the “fuzzy slipper effect” extends into whole genres. For instance, perhaps you feel the most comfortable with a paranormal romance, Young Adult, or detective novel in your hands. While part of the point in making a summer reading list is to branch out and experience a variety of books, be sure to add one of those cozy books in there for good measure. This might mean re-reading an old favorite from cover-to-cover, or discovering a new favorite in a comfortable genre.
4. A Fiction Book from an Unfamiliar Genre
This book involves reaching for something on the shelf in a genre that you may typically avoid. It may not seem appealing at first, but it can prove to be a surprisingly fun challenge. The key is to make sure you pick a quality representative of an unfamiliar genre. Check out highly rated books in a particular category by searching resources like the New York Times Bestseller list or Good Reads. Amazon book reviews can also be a helpful resource. Chances are, if a book is well-written and has great characters, you’ll be able to enjoy it even while appreciating its differences from the sort of book you would normally read.
5. A Book that Takes You Far Away
Whether they take you to Provence or Middle Earth, books about faraway places are a quick way to take a long trip. This is especially true if you don’t have your own physical travel plans this summer. The same goes for novels set in time periods that you love. Most readers love the trans-portive power of books. Just pick a good book with a setting that you’d love to explore, and don’t even worry about packing your suitcase.
6. A Book From Your Childhood
Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter…those were some of my favorites when I was growing up. Maybe for you it was The Boxcar Children, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When better to re-read a book that takes you right back to childhood than the summer months? You could also read this kind of book with your own kids to truly re-live the experience of reading it for the first time.
7. A Local Book
I’ve spent most of my life in the “Deep South,” and I’ve always enjoyed books with a strong southern flair, particularly in the summertime. For some reason, a lot of books set in the South even take place in the summer. (My theory is that the heat’s effect on pace-of-life is so startling as to merit an honorable mention in literature.) To Kill a Mockingbird is one that I usually read during the summer, and this summer I’m also planning to read The Help. Reading a book that’s set someplace you live (or even somewhere you used to live) can be at once nostalgic and eye-opening.
8. A Book that Challenges You
Specifically, I’m referring to a book that challenges you emotionally, spiritually, martially, etc. A good self-growth book is completely in keeping with the theme of summer reading for discovery. This book could even be something you read together with a spouse, a friend, or a small group. To find the most relevant book like this, ask friends or mentors (like a counselor or religious leader) for suggestions.
9. A Classic Book
Most of us read the same classic novels in high school and college. However, maybe there’s one you always wanted to read but never did. Alternatively, perhaps you read something “classic” as a student but didn’t enjoy it at all. Reading classic novels as an adult can be entirely different than reading them as a teenager. If you want to get serious about your classic novel, check out some commentary on it beforehand. Having some of the “big ideas” already in mind before you start reading can make the process more engaging.
10. An Anthology
An anthology could be a collection of poetry, short stories, personal essays, fairy-tales… whatever floats your boat! A collection of shorter pieces is great for when you’re in a waiting room or (my favorite) the bathtub. Anthologies are perfect for the busy person. They are also great to switch off with while you are also reading a longer novel (like your classic novel). This summer, you could also read selections from your anthology aloud on a road trip or around a campfire.
Summertime is all about discovery, exploration, and a little bit of nostalgia. The “10 books” in this list don’t have specific titles. However, this list is a guideline that you can use to build your own personalized summer reading list that will challenge you, excite you, and take you on all kinds of adventures.
I hope you feel excited to start reading!
What books will make it onto your summer reading list (or have you already read this summer)?