fbpx

Classic Literature

Classic Books to Read in Summer: The Best Seasonal List

These classic books are perfect for reading or re-reading during the long summer days.

Last Updated on May 20, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

Classic Novels To Read in Summer

Summer is that magical time of year when the days stretch endlessly before you, filled with the promise of adventure and relaxation. If you’re looking for a quintessential summer pastime, reading classic books should be at the top of your list.  My carefully curated list of classic books to read in summer is handpicked to enliven your sunny days and warm nights. From the glitz and glamor of The Great Gatsby to the thrilling escapades on the high seas with Herman Melville, these summer reads are your ticket to travel through time and space. So whether you’re lounging by the pool, nestled in a corner of your couch, or under the shade of an old oak tree, each page turn brings a new discovery, a new friend, or a new world to explore. So get ready: grab yourself a cold beverage and settle in because no matter where you are or what your plans are this season, select a book (or three) from this list of classic books to read this summer!

Classic Books to Read in 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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

“Giovanni’s Room” is a novel about a young man named Giovanni, who is living in Paris and struggling with his identity, masculinity, and sexuality.  Baldwin explores the themes of love, desire, and identity in this novel, and he does so in a way that is both sensitive and thought-provoking.  This is an excellent book for anyone interested in LGBT literature or wanting to read a good novel about love and desire.

BUY FROM: AMAZON or BOOKSHOP

P.S. Check out my deep dive on Giovanni’s Room in this article: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin: A Literary Masterpiece.

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

Moby-Dick or, the Whale by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick or, the Whale by Herman Melville

Dive into the depths of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, an epic adventure that combines thrilling sea voyages with the profound exploration of good versus evil. Follow the enigmatic Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest across the seven seas to find and destroy Moby Dick, the white whale that maimed him. Through the eyes of Ishmael, the novel’s narrator, we are introduced to a diverse crew aboard the Pequod, each contributing to the novel’s story of life at sea and the human condition. Melville masterfully weaves themes of revenge, fate, and man’s struggle against nature, inviting readers to ponder deep philosophical questions amidst the dramatic chase. Moby-Dick is not just a story about whaling; it’s an unforgettable exploration of the depths of madness, obsession, and the resilience of the human spirit. A must-read classic, it promises to captivate, challenge, and inspire, making it a perfect companion for your summer reading adventure!

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma by Jane Austen

Beautiful, clever, and wealthy, Emma Woodhouse is content being single. She enjoys meddling in others’ love lives, but her matchmaking schemes lead to unexpected consequences. With a charming yet imperfect heroine, “Emma” by Jane Austen is a witty exploration of relationships.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

P.S. Interested in reading more Jane Austen? Check out my 3 Must-Read Jane Austen Books: The Ultimate List article.

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Guy Montag, a fireman, burns illegal printed books in a society where they are banned. He lives an unquestioning life until meeting Clarisse, who challenges his beliefs about fear, knowledge, and the value of books. This encounter sparks Montag’s journey of self-discovery and questioning the norms of his world.

BUY ON AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

Interested in reading more Ernest Hemingway? Check out my 9 Must-Read Ernest Hemingway Books: Where To Start Reading article.

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.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey from their native Sandleford Warren, through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, and toward the dream of a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

BUY FROM AMAZON OR BOOKSHOP

List of Classic Books to Read in Summer

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Summer by Edith Wharton
  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  • Moby-Dick or, the Whale by Herman Melville
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams

Frequently Asked Questions about Summer Classic Books

What makes a book a summer read?

A book becomes a quintessential summer read when it captures the essence of adventure and relaxation that defines the season, transporting you to places far and wide from the comfort of your sun lounger. It’s those page-turners filled with vivid settings, compelling characters, and narratives that resonate with the spirit of summer—freedom, discovery, and a hint of nostalgia—that earn their place in your beach bag. So whether it’s the light-hearted escapism of a romance novel, the gripping intrigue of a mystery, or the warm familiarity of a classic literary gem, a summer read is your companion under the sun and stars. It’s the kind of book that demands to be read in the open air, whose pages flutter with the summer breeze, leaving you inspired, rejuvenated, and perhaps a little sun-kissed by the end of your journey.

What is a summer beach read?

A summer beach read is a book that is easy to dive into and hard to put down. It’s light enough to match the carefree vibe of summer, yet deep enough to stir your soul and make you laugh, cry, or dream. From sizzling romances to exhilarating adventures, these books are your ideal vacation buddies, promising to make your beach days infinitely more enjoyable.

How can I read more over the summer?

To read more books this sun-kissed season, start by setting achievable goals. How about a book a week? Or, if time permits, a novel every sunny weekend? Create your very own Summer Reading List, filled with titles that make your heart soar and your imagination leap. Mix it up with short stories, inspiring non-fiction, and those classic novels you’ve always wanted to explore. Keep your book—or eReader—close at hand; in your beach bag, by your bedside, even in the car for those unexpected moments of downtime. Join a summer book club, either locally or online, to share in the thrill of discovery and discussion with fellow book enthusiasts. Make reading a part of your daily summer rhythm, like that refreshing morning swim or the evening stroll. Remember, every page read is a step on an incredible voyage. Here’s to your summer being filled with the magic of stories, transforming each day into an adventure. Happy reading!

How many books should I read over the summer?

The number of books you should read over the summer isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer—it’s your summer, your adventure! Think of your reading as a delightful summer buffet. You wouldn’t want to limit yourself to just one type of dish, right? The same goes for books. If you’re an avid reader, perhaps aiming for a book or two each week could be your sweet spot. If your summer days are packed with activities and you find solace in the quiet moments, maybe a goal of three to five books is just right for you. The key is to set a target that makes you excited, not stressed. Summer is about relishing each moment, and every book you choose is a new world to be discovered at your own pace. Make your reading list as lively and varied as the summer months themselves—blend in some quick reads with one or two challenging tomes. Remember, it’s not the quantity but the quality of the escapades within these pages that will make your summer truly unforgettable. Happy reading, and may each book be a splash of joy in your summer days!

What do you think about these summer classic books?

Are any of these books on your TBR?  Have you read any books from this list?  What books would you add to this list? Let’s talk all about classic books to read in summer in the comments below.

MORE READING:

The Best Classic Books to Read in Summer

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

  1. Michelle says:

    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.

    • Victoria Wood says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your favorites and adding a book to our list. I hope readers will add Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston to their summer classic TBR as well!

Leave a Reply

so hot right now

Free Guide!

get the guide

Summer is a time for relaxation, adventure, and exploration.  So if you're looking for the best new books of the season, this guide is just for you.

The 2024 Summer Reading Guide has forty-five new releases organized across eight categories. You’ll also find some fun things to do at home, summer-themed recipes, plus more.

Download The 2024 Summer Reading Guide

error: Content is protected !!