Every year, when summer rolls around, it seems like it really might last forever. With the sun shining, and blossom blossoming, winter feels a million miles away. Unfortunately, once we’ve used up the one week holiday allowance we have left over (after all those extra hangover days we had to take back in January), attended 101 weddings and still never caught the bouquet, and spent an unfortunate amount of time inside lining up for the summer sales, there’s a horribly familiar chill in the air and suddenly it’s November and you’re left shivering in the office wondering what happened.
Yup, summer goes way too quickly. It’s a pretty unfortunate side effect of the Earth going round the Sun, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Well, almost nothing. One pretty failsafe way of making summer drag on for weeks is to get lost in a really wonderful book, and to spend day after day with a host of fictional characters you’re pretty certain might be your new best friends. A magical summer-lengthening book will stay with you even as the nights grow longer and you’re back to the daily grind. These eight books are so dreamy, they’ll temporarily stop the Earth from spinning, and leave you in blissful summer for just that little bit longer.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe follows a selection of colorful characters from a 1920s Alabama town, all the way up to 1986 where one of them, now an elderly woman in a nursing home, recounts her memories to a bored middle-aged housewife she befriends. The novel tackles a range of issues from racism to feminism to homosexual love (which was, outrageously, censored from the 1991 movie version), and it has its deeply upsetting moments. Despite its often harrowing themes, Fried Green Tomatoes remains a charming and heartwarming novel to enjoy all summer and beyond.
Tommy Glover's Sketch of Heaven by Jane Bailey
When Kitty Green was evacuated to Gloucestershire during WWII, she was sent to live with the Shepherds, an unhappy couple who disapproved of her cheerfulness. Years later, she looks back on her time in the village spent befriending the other outsiders: gypsies, orphans, German prisoners of war, and her best friend of all, Tommy Glover. As Kitty begins to win over the village, long-buried secrets start to spill out, and threaten to change everyone’s lives forever.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
In A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly explores the true-life murder of Grace Brown in 1906 through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl, Mattie Gokey. Feeding into the story is a medley of other characters: Mattie’s widowed father struggling to raise his children alone; Royal Loomis, Mattie’s handsome but unemotional love interest; and Mattie’s good friend Weaver, “the only black boy in Eagle bay,” are just a few examples. Read this at the same time as a friend, as you’ll want to talk about it for weeks after it ends.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart is a children’s book that transcends the generation gap. It is a love letter to literature, a meta fictional adventure that brings to life the very real magic that happens when you read a good book. 12-year-old Meggie’s father has a gift: when he reads a book aloud, the characters become real. As the young protagonist journeys through the world of fiction, a full-on storm could erupt around you and you’d remain blissfully unaware.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The sultry heat of South Carolina in the 1960s would be an idyllic setting for this gorgeous novel about beekeeping, if it weren’t for the grim racism that drives much of the plot. A young white girl runs away from her abusive father with her black servant, Rosaleen, who has been beaten up for trying to register her vote. The two of them find refuge with three eccentric sisters (rather sweetly named May, July, and August), and discover how honey and beeswax can soothe the pain of their respective lives.
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
This strange and wonderful novel is set over the course of one summer, in which 13-year-old Miles O’Malley discovers a very rare giant squid washed up on the beach, and is plunged into fame. Media outlets across the country want to meet him and use his name, while Miles just wants to spend time with his 18-year-old babysitter Angie, who he is in love with, and visit his elderly neighbor Florence, a rather unconvincing professional psychic.
Letters to Zell by Camille Griep
There’s nothing more magical and potentially summer-lengthening than a fairy-tale, and Letters to Zell contains four of them. The literary version of Once Upon A Time, this delightful novel follows Disney princesses as they question their happily-ever-afters and go in search of a new life. This book is a lot of fun, and will make you wish you could go work on a unicorn preserve like Rapunzel (or “Zell”).
The Rose Girls by Victoria Connelly
The beauty of roses is so vividly described in this novel that the heavenly smell of them will follow you all summer long. Sisters Celeste, Gertrude, and Evelyn (all named after roses), return to their family home after the death of their overbearing and narcissistic mother. Despite their initial spiteful bickering, the sisters eventually learn how to pull together and heal each other from the wounds of their difficult lives.
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