The Dog Days of Summer

As summer continues & we slog through heatwaves and rainstorms, library staff sound off on their summer reading habits & share some of their favorite summer reads!

LindaI don’t read terribly different books in the summer, but I tend to avoid anything that seems too depressing. When I think about “summer reads” I think of books that are lighter, fun, funny, and don’t make you have to think too hard. My favorite book from this summer is Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is a fantastic modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

annaDuring the summer, I like to read stories that have a dreamy, otherworldly quality. Maybe I should call them “hazy books” because they all seem to have a glimmering haze that tends to distort things – the way heat drifting above a hot road makes things shift and move in the distance. Sometimes I choose books that are literally otherworldly, like Ursula K. LeGuin’s science fiction Earthsea Cycle series. I just finished A Wizard of Earthsea and plan to bring the next one to the beach.

I’m just starting to read graphic fiction, and read Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole on a recent blisteringly hot Sunday afternoon. A perfect book for summer – and the haze is thick in this one! Reality, imagination, and psychosis blur as two adolescents float through the pages, their thoughts and fears taking physical form in trippy, drippy scenes. The images are stunning, and finishing it felt like emerging from a surreal fog. The stability of reality is challenged in a different way in Sharon Guskin’s The Forgetting Time. A mother must decide what to do about her 4 year old son, who continually begs to be taken “home”, crying for his “real mom”. When she finally gives in and they set out on a journey to find his other home, the tidy edges of reality begin to slip and curl.

And my last example of my perfect “hazy” summer read is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. What is happening here? A boy is slipping back and forth between worlds, between times, in some truly delicious, dark, humid, and terrifying ways!


There’s something to be said for reading about cold climates during the summer, but if you want to go the other way, you can’t do better than Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave (2013). This novel about the Riordan family takes place in England during the heat wave of 1976. Three grown children are summoned to their mother’s house after their father disappears, and many secrets come to light in their search for him. O’Farrell has a genius for character and this book is immersive; the audiobook, read by John Lee, is also stellar.

RobMy reading habits don’t change too much in the summer, except for the fact that I probably read a bit more than I do during the rest of the year due to long car trips & beach days.  I also tend to have a little less patience for really dense books when my brain is melting due to the heat.

My two favorite books this summer have been Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood.

Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical novel in verse about growing up as an African American, a Jehova’s Witness, and a natural born storyteller through the Civil Rights era.  The prose is beautiful and poetic.  It’s made even more lush and magical when you hear the author herself narrate the audiobook.

Wild Swans has the feeling of magical realism without any supernatural elements.  It tells the story of a teenage girl, named Ivy, who comes from a long line of extraordinary women.  Ivy plans to have the perfect summer of relaxation – no classes, no expectations.  Her plans are wrecked when the mother who abandoned her as a baby returns with two half sisters she’s never met in tow.  Love, heartbreak, joy, and conflict ensue.

Have your own favorite summer reads?  Share them in the comments below!
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