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Classic Novels to Read in Summer

Summer brings with it long days and short nights.  The sun shines so brightly, and everything around is beckoning us to spend more time outdoors.  It’s a time that represents adventure, self-discovery, and love!  It’s also the time for vacations, going to the beach or the mountains, finding moments to break from work, and when lazy living is somewhat acceptable.

But no matter where you are or what your plans are this season, select a book (or three) from this list of classic novels to read this summer!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. First published in 1925, this quintessential novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

Summer by Edith Wharton

Summer by Edith Wharton

Summer, is set in rural New England and is often considered a companion to Ethan Frome.  Wharton herself called it “the hot Ethan”-in its portrayal of a young woman’s sexual and social awakening.

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Set against the translucent beauty of France in summer, Bonjour Tristesse is a bittersweet tale narrated by Cecile, a seventeen-year-old girl on the brink of womanhood, whose meddling in her father’s love life leads to tragic consequences.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare stages the workings of love. Theseus and Hippolyta, about to marry, are figures from mythology. In the woods outside Theseus’s Athens, two young men and two young women sort themselves out into couples–but not before they form first one love triangle, and then another.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

It’s here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith’s five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a “sissy.” Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley’s fascination with Dickie’s debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

At the heart of this 1930 novel is the Bundren family’s bizarre journey to Jefferson to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Faulkner lets each family member — including Addie — and others along the way tell their private responses to Addie’s life.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

Jaws by Peter Benchley

When Peter Benchley wrote Jaws in the early 1970s, he meticulously researched all available data about shark behavior. Over the ensuing decades, Benchley was actively engaged with scientists and filmmakers on expeditions around the world as they expanded their knowledge of sharks. Also during this time, there was an unprecedented upswing in the number of sharks killed to make shark-fin soup, and Benchley worked with governments and nonprofits to sound the alarm for shark conservation. The classic suspense novel of shark versus man, which was made into the blockbuster Steven Spielberg movie.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father–a crusading local lawyer–risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

A consummate prankster with a quick wit, Tom Sawyer dreams of a bigger fate than simply being a “rich boy.” Yet through the novel’s humorous escapades–from the famous episode of the whitewashed fence to the trial of Injun Joe–Mark Twain explores the deeper themes of the adult world, one of dishonesty and superstition, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.

The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway

The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway

In the 1950s, Hemingway and his wife return to Spain, where Hemingway had visited before as a war correspondent to cover the Spanish Civil War, in order to see friends and follow bullfighting events. Hemingway’s time in Spain is most often remembered as his experiences with bullfighting, his passion often conveyed through his writing. He and his wife follow summer-long series events and witness the complexities and danger within the bullfighting community.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Experience a year in the life of Thoreau at Walden Pond in this classic work. Visit the bean-field, the village, and the ponds; learn about our brute neighbors, the higher laws of nature and humankind, and the benefits of reading and solitude.

Have you read any of these classic novels?

Are any of these books on your TBR?  Have you read any books from this list?  What books would you add to this list?

Comments (2)

  • Michelle

    The Great Gatsby and Bunner Sisters are two of my favorites. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is another classic – set in summer – that I think people would enjoy.

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