Bustle's Summer Reading Challenge Will Test You To Finish 7 Warm-Weather-Themed Books This Season

Official summer reading programs may have ended in high school, but that doesn't mean summer still isn't the perfect time to pick up a book. Whether you're hitting the beach, sitting by the pool in your yard, or (most likely) sweating like crazy in your non-air conditioned apartment sitting directly in front of all your fans, books are your perfect companion. And to keep you honest, Bustle has created a summer reading challenge of seven types of books you should read from June until the sun sets at the end of August.

All seven of the books focus on some quintessential aspect of summer, whether it's the first love fling, crazy family vacations, journeys across the globe, or a cross-country trip behind the wheel of a car with your best friends. And, of course, there are books that are set in this glorious season, too. 

If you're thinking, I'm far too busy plotting my road trip on the map to come up with seven titles to read this summer, you're in luck. I've given you two suggestions, all from our adult and YA favorites so far in 2015, for each of the categories that would fit the bill.

Ready for your challenge?

A Book Set In the Summer

Duh. If you're stuck on the under-air conditioned subway going to work like most of us still have to do even though it's summer, read a book where the characters instead get to spend long days at the beach, barbecues, and on vacations. And if you're lucky enough to be doing the same, just try not to brag too hard on Instagram and make the rest of us jealous.

What fits the bill?

Lexa Hillyer's new young adult novel Proof of Forever will transport you back to the summer camp of your youth, as the characters literally do just that. It's a Hot Tub Time Machine-type story where four former friends are sent back to the best summer of their lives — think: first kisses, crazy skinny dipping adventures, and all-night friend chats — to relive it and (hopefully) build back the bond they had before things fell apart. 

Or, try Julia Pierpont's Among the Ten Thousand Things may not be as happy-go-lucky summer, but it's clever, funny, and completely honest, telling the story of a family amid crisis during the summer. An anonymous package is sent to artist Jack's wife Deb, but it's opened by his children — which causes issues because the package is full of printed emails detail their dad's secret life.

A Travel Memoir

All my travel memoirs are Instagram snaps because I'm totally #normcore. But you should dive into a real memoir this summer, because wanderlusting writers are releasing all kinds of exceptional stories set in remote destinations. I don't think it's just to make us jealous comparing our own summer vacation plans, but I can't confirm.

What fits the bill?

In My Paris Dream, Kate Betts tells the story of how she did what we all want to do: leave everything behind and move to Paris on a whim, hoping she could find a job that would allow her to stay once she arrived.

Or, try Driving Hungry by Layne Mosler, which doesn't come out until July, but will absolutely inspire your restaurant exploration this summer. Mosler traveled across New York City, Buenos Aires, and Berlin by cab, asking each taxi driver to take her to his or her favorite restaurant.

A Book Set In a Country You've Never Been To

Even if you can't literally hop a plane and travel this summer, you should venture into new landscapes by reading a book set in a country you've never had the opportunity to visit. Maybe it's somewhere in Africa or in the outback of Australia, or maybe it's along the Mediterranean or somewhere in the Far East. Or hey, maybe it's Canada, you never know. Just read and pretend you're there.

What fits the bill?

Aisha Saeed's Written in the Stars is so evocative of its Pakistan setting that you can practically taste the spices and feel the fabrics. In her YA novel, Saeed, who is Pakistani herself, tells the story of an American teenage girl who travels to her parents' native country ostensibly to learn about her culture but in reality to find a match for a husband. 

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida takes readers to Morocco — and seriously, its lush detail gives you pitch perfect atmosphere — where a woman is robbed of her passport and identity and decides to take that opportunity to become someone else.

A Road-Trip Book

Although we can't all take Kerouac's lead and spread love down Route 66, summer is the one time we feel like we might be able to. A road trip is a quintessential summer activity — after all, it's hard to road trip in blizzards — and so it's the perfect time to read a story about some epic ones.

What fits the bill?

David Arnold's massively buzzed debut Mosquitoland isn't one of those freewheeling roadtrip stories, but the cast of odd characters would probably make Kerouac proud. It follows preteen Mim Malone as she journeys from her dad and stepmother's home in Mississippi to Ohio to see her dying mother.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg also follows a protagonist looking for her mother. The cough-syrup addicted Joy finds herself immune to a memory-loss illness that plagues the nation and takes an opportunity to break out of the hospital she's been confined to in order to travel from Kansas to Florida to find the mother who abandoned her when she was born.

A Book About New Love

To celebrate the quintessential summer fling you've heard about in all the country songs, the season wouldn't be complete without reading a novel about a new love. Whether it's YA or adult fiction, a first big love or infatuation can make you sweat even with the air conditioning is on full blast.

What fits the bill?

You know who is the queen of YA swoons. Sarah Dessen's latest novel Saint Anything is no exception. Sydney is perpetually overlooked because her older brother steals the spotlight with his criminal behavior and, now, his prison sentence. But a new friend also bring a new love into Sydney's life who definitely doesn't see her as invisible.

Re: Jane by Patricia Park is a retelling of Jane Eyre, where Jane is a half-Korean, half-American orphan from Queens and Mr. Rochester is simply Ed. The passionate love affair, luckily, is the same.

A Book About Family

I don't know about you, but summer for me brings back a rush of family vacation childhood memories, from the time you were a kid and it was the best time of the year to when you were a teenager and you were just so over it. To honor the season, you must read a book that centers on family, the more eccentric the better.

What fits the bill? 

Sophie Kinsella's first YA novel Finding Audrey has a romance, yes, but it's really the family that shines from the first page as, literally, a desperate mother is holding her son's video game console out the second-story window because she thinks he plays it too much. 

In Angela Flournoy's The Turner House, the Turners have lived in the same house in East Detroit for more than 50 years, but now the matriarch Viola is forced to sell it, only to find that it's barely worth anything. The set up is perfect for a family reunion-type story where all the children come back to the house to decide its fate.

A Book of Short Stories

Sometimes you are far too busy going on summer adventures to read a complete novel, and we aren't the kind of people to discourage adventure. A book of short stories is perfect to carry along with you and read in between shenanigans, something you can pick up and put down along the way.

What fits the bill?

If you're going to be reading short stories in the summer, you might want to make them super funny, albeit darkly so. Lauren Holmes' collection Barbara the Slut and Other People fits perfectly. It's an honest, open collection of stories about some of the most intimate parts of our lives, tackling stories about slut shaming in high schools, selling sex toys, and growing bored with a fling.

Mia Alvar's In the Country could tick two books off your list: books set in a country you've never been and short stories. Her nine stories in this collection go from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia to the Philippines as her characters search for their elusive homes.

So, go forth and get reading, and I'll see you (at least) seven books later on Aug 31. Let me know how you're doing along the way on Twitter at @caitforestell or @bustle!

Images: Giphy (2), Luke MaChoveeMichael BentleyJamie McCaffreyDavid Cooperamira_aOsamu Kaneko/flickr

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