None of these are brand-new releases nor are they currently on many bestseller lists. But I like my summer reads to be escapist, whenever they were written, offering adventure whether I’m on a plane or tucked in bed (with the windows open and the fans going because it’s still 80 degrees at 9:30 at night.)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
There was a book. There was a movie. And then, as these things tend to do, it faded from front pages and the public moved on. But Water for Elephants is a rich, interesting book with a touch of whimsy and a touch of melancholy. So if even Reese Witherspoon hasn’t yet convinced you to pick it up, check it out this summer.
The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah
I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this book. It’s part travelogue, part autobiography, part… fantasy?? (Kind of. Not really. Maybe?) Based partially on the author’s real experiences moving from the UK to Morocco and renovating a house there, this book is a fascinating look at the beliefs and customs of another culture.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
This isn’t exactly a new one. It’s still a favorite of mine though, and it’s perfect for lounging on the beach under a palm tree. Now aren’t you glad you don’t have to construct a fort in that palm tree or catch your seafood with your bare hands?
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
I will be honest, I haven’t read this book in quite a few years, and I could probably do with a reread of it myself. I will if you will! This one’s packed with symbolism, metaphor and the kinds of details English teachers love to analyze, but it’s not so heavy you can’t still devour it on vacation. Coelho is always a treat, so give him a shot this summer.
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander
I’ve been a big fan of the Lady Emily mystery series since the first book came out as they combine some of my favorite things: a complex female protagonist, art history, murder mysteries, historical fiction and travel. This is the fourth installment in the series and my favorite, though I was surprised to discover most other readers did not agree with me. In fact, it is consistently the lowest rated of the series. Set in Istanbul, the book deals with a lot of women’s rights issues such as the Ottoman harem and the taking of European women as slaves as well as Lady Emily’s own struggle with her desire to remain childless despite being a recently married Victorian woman. For some reason, many reviewers seemed to find Lady Emily less relatable and less sympathetic in this installment but I found quite the opposite. She became all the more layered and complicated for me in Tears of Pearl.
The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott
Set in the fascinating by oft-neglected period in France after the Battle of Waterloo, this book tackles some complex and tangled ideas about post-Revolution France and the theory of evolution. I think I devoured it the first time in one or two sittings, completely absorbed. It follows characters through a tumultuous period that was already looking to the future in terms of science and philosophy and asks some intriguing questions.
I’ll see you on the beach: what’s going to be in your beach bag this summer?