Beach reads. Is there a more evocative reading mood than the idea of lying on the beach, lazily flipping through a romance or thriller? Or maybe you prefer to beat the heat and sit in the comfort of air-conditioning (at home or at the library), killing time until the sun sets with a book in hand. In the summer, the days are longer, inviting you to fill them with books.
But this post isn’t about the perfect book to read on the beach, or on vacation at your cottage. The reality is, the summer isn’t a paradise of hammocks, beaches, and uninterrupted reading time for 8 weeks for everyone! Many people (myself included) won’t be taking vacation time over the summer. So instead, we might be looking for that sunny escape in our novels. Consider those of us not lucky enough to experience a European vacation this summer. For this month’s reading challenge, we might read One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle. In this heartrending novel, Katy takes a trip to Positano, Italy after the death of her mother – the trip that Katy and her mother had planned to take together. But when Katy arrives in Italy, she begins to feel her mother’s presence all around her – and even sees her in person, too. And while the story stands out for its magical realism and emotional punch, the setting is equally vital to this novel – which makes it a great candidate for this challenge. For other novels set in Italy during the heat of summer, also try Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch, or Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman.
Italy isn’t the only hot spot you might want to read about this summer. Anyone who’s spent a day downtown Toronto in July or August knows that summer in the city is different. The vibe is different – the first warm day the city becomes alive, but in the dog days of summer the pace of the city really slows down – especially during a heatwave. In this case, maybe you’re interested in reading about people in their every day life, but with the added inescapable heat of the summer, and see how that changes their behaviour. One novel on our list that matches this description is Seven Days in June by Tia Williams. Set in Brooklyn, the heat of the summer in the city is almost it’s own character – and definitely drives the main characters, Eva and Shane, to act in ways they might not otherwise – including rekindling their romance from twenty years earlier. For other books in this mini category, try Heat Wave by Maureen Jennings, the first book in her new Paradise Cafe series, and set in a record breaking heat wave in Toronto in 1936. Or consider The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – if you haven’t read it since high school, it’s worth rereading to see how the heat of the summer affects Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby, and fuels their inevitable implosion.
Or maybe you’re looking for a literary beach escape. Life is supposed to be easier on the beach – which can make the tension between the idyllic, relaxing setting and dramatic situations that much more compelling (which might have been some of the appeal for The White Lotus). Summer on the Island by Brenda Novak is set on a small island off the coast of Florida, where Marlow Madsen goes to help settle her father’s affairs after he passes away. But this idyllic setting is shattered when his will reveals a shocking secret. Or for a less tropical but still beachy setting, it’s hard to go wrong with novels set in Cape Cod. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner is an emotionally charged drama about two women who meet seemingly by coincidence over an email sent to the wrong person, and realize how much they have in common. However – this encounter was not entirely by chance, but is part of one woman’s reckoning of her sexual assault that happened years ago.
Finally, if you’re really looking for a hot escape in literature, pick up a fantasy novel! There have been several fantasy novels in warm settings published recently. Skin of the Sea is a retelling of The Little Mermaid that blends the Hans Christian Andersen story with West African mythology to create a wholly original story. For something a bit darker (and more violent), try Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. Billed as the African Game of Thrones but so much more than that, the scorching setting and the world-building are as equally as intriguing as the story that James weaves. And finally, for a really hot setting, try The City of Brass series by S. A. Chakraborty, set in 18th century Middle East, with action scenes set in the desert – and literal fire monsters to heat things up.
Is there a different hot setting you’ll be reading about this August? Let us know in the comments!