My inbox is full of summer reading recommendations, which is scant consolation for the icy wind that froze my bones this morning, or for the fact that it’s now dark at 5pm, signalling to most people in my half of the hemisphere that winter has well and truly set in. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help noticing that I’d have a few different books on my summer reading list… if my summer weren’t six months away.
Everyone has their own taste when it comes to a favourite read, and you won’t need my help pulling a beloved old friend from the shelf. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you might wish to consult a list of recommended summer reads. Some believe summer should be used to explore serious works without the pressure of needing to ‘write them up’, others make their list out of whatever is popular, others still have a list so long it’s hard to find a book they haven’t included.
We’ve used the following ‘summer reads’ criteria to make our own list of holiday reading for teens and young adults. It is not meant to be a selection of the best literature of all time, but entertaining lighter fare for the holidays. It is certainly not exhaustive, and every book may not suit every reader. Still, it might offer a helpful second opinion on contemporary (or older) titles that have already taken your fancy.
Good Reading Guide’s summer reading criteria
Summer reads should be fun. There’s no need to kill a bright sunny day with doom and gloom. And while deep thought thrives on crisp weather and hot coffee combined, a heavy tome attempted in a sleepy summer haze could turn your brain into a wad of cotton wool, and anything short on entertainment could feel like torture.
Summer reads should be addictive (though not completely anti-social). In the heat of summer you need to be motivated to do anything at all, and nothing is as effortlessly motivating as being hooked on a good book (or better, a good series). Just don’t become so absorbed that you miss the change of tide.
Summer reads can take you somewhere new. While you have the time, take the opportunity to explore a bit further afield than usual. New needn’t mean difficult, more like ‘holiday-style’ adventurous, perhaps following the recommendation of a trusted friend.
Summer reads should help you to relax. They should not, however, put you to sleep. Engaging action and/or fascinating characters are a great way to take your mind off work.
Summer reads should still be worth the read. It goes without saying, I hope, that seeking something entertaining doesn’t mean we need to turn to trash. We can still require three-dimensional characters, imaginative plots, interesting settings, expressive writing and age-appropriate subject matter.
Summer reads should leave you better off. This follows from the last point; summer reads should contribute something to your life, not take away from it. Things like culture (widening the radius of one’s interests), humanity (understanding love and suffering, misery and greatness), language (discovering words, customs and cultural works, and what they signify), character (the difficult science of distinguishing what is important from what is not).
Now to the books (from younger to older readers).
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, 2011
An historical, fantasy, adventure, mystery as enjoyable for older teens as for younger.
The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan, 2011 – 2012
Historical action-adventure by the author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, for young teen boys. (Flanagan’s characters are great value.)
Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry, 2011
Recent historical fiction with a good dose of adventure for young teens.
Incarceron (Series) by Catherine Fisher, 2007 – 2008
Awesome fantasy that could provoke interesting discussion. Looks like they’re making a movie of this too.
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, 1997
Lord of the Rings meets Pride and Prejudice. Curious?
A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith, 2008
A teenage boy’s ‘coming to greatness’, for teens and young adults. (Like Flanagan’s Brotherband for older readers.)
Frederica by Georgette Heyer, 1965
Regency romance with a superb heroine for teen girls. Runs rings around Twilight.
A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French, 2010
Historical fiction recounting the amazing life of a young pioneer, for teens and young adults.
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl, 2012
Plausible historical fiction for chemistry buffs.
And these you know…
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, 1865
Great characters, intriguing mysteries, insightful social commentary… and after you’ve read the book, the BBC series is brilliant.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 1859
Be warned, it’s highly addictive and not short.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, 1936
Ok, there might be just a teeny bit of doom and gloom here, but it’s great fun!
Clare Cannon is the editor of www.GoodReadingGuide.com and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.