Hello dear friend, and welcome to July! Since we’re officially into summer now, I thought I would start off the month with a reading list of classic books to read this summer. I’ve been sharing more literature-related content lately since books are a huge source of inspiration for me. If you’d like to see some embroidery projects based on classic novels, do have a look at Loving Lilacs in Jane Eyre and Wisteria Embroidery: Inspired by The Enchanted April. I have more ideas for similar projects in the near future! For today, I wanted to share with you ten books I really loved that I think are perfect summer reads. They each take place at least partly in the summer, and feature either a dreamy setting or fun activities (or both) and are generally just very evocative of this season. They’re all classics, but of different genres and time periods. From children’s literature to Regency romance, there’s a little something for everyone <3. I’ve rated all of these books 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads, and wrote a full review for most of them.
1. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Is a classic summer reading book list even a thing without the inimitable L.M. Montgomery? I don’t think so! Honestly, I think all her books that I’ve read so far have given me summer vibes. Whether it’s her short story anthologies or the Anne of Green Gables series, there’s something undeniably summery about LMM’s books. So I thought listing the first of the Anne of Green Gables books was the perfect way to start this list!
A Canadian classic set in idyllic Prince Edward Island in a fictional village called Avonlea (based on real life Cavendish), Anne of Green Gables is the timeless story of the orphaned Anne sent to live (by mistake) with a farming couple. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this story so I won’t go into details too much, but suffice it to say that it is utterly delightful. Anne is spirited and enchanting, and the book is written so beautifully that you will want nothing more than experience life in Avonlea in the late Victorian era. Slow and peaceful living at its finest, with blooming meadows and lakes of shining waters, picnics with friends and afternoon tea, kindred spirits and romantic poetry. Ah, the dream! You can’t miss this book. Or the 1985 movie version starring Megan Follows.
2. Emma by Jane Austen
Can I ever make a bookish list without at least mentioning Austen? Probably not. I must preface this by stating that, although I’ve chosen Emma to feature on this list, anytime is a good time to read (or re-read) Pride and Prejudice. No matter the season. Emma too, but Emma gives off more summer vibes. Probably because I’ve seen so many film adaptations of it and they all feature the most gorgeous outdoorsy summer scenes. So now Emma is forever reminiscent of [disastrous] picnics and strawberry picking parties, with ladies wearing white and yellow dresses, and painting in the garden.
Emma is a charming novel set in the English countryside in a small town where the titular character presides as Queen. With no intention of ever marrying, Emma sets off to marry everyone else around her. She focuses on everybody else instead of herself, but things get even more interesting when a handsome young gentleman arrives in town for a visit.
Featuring an unusual heroine (in that she isn’t particularly likeable in a traditional way for a heroine for most of the book), Emma is a wonderful piece of wit and satire. You can’t take it (and her, especially) too seriously when you read it. You aren’t always supposed to root for Emma. She’s very, very human, and she makes mistakes. Thank goodness her neighbour Mr. Knightley is around to keep her in check! What would become of Highbury without him! You can definitely always root for Mr. Knightley. 😉 As a confirmed Austenite, I will always recommend Austen, but seriously, this is a really great book.
I wrote a quote/pic review of it on Goodreads (see here)
3. Venetia by Georgette Heyer
If I’m a confirmed Austenite, then I’m most definitely a die-hard Heyerite. Probably my favourite author ever, you simply cannot go wrong with Heyer. She wrote many Regency comedies and romances, and Venetia is probably her most romantic work. Set in Yorkshire, 1815, it tells the story of twenty-five year-old Venetia Lanyon, a “spinster” as beautiful as she is intelligent. Sheltered yet wise, Venetia has never been outside Yorkshire and has no real experience with men. But a chance encounter with the rakish Lord Damerel changes everything, and we are treated to one of the best romances every written.
Heyer and Austen are often compared, and while I find their style very different, this one is probably the closest to resembling Austen’s style. More than just a romance, it’s full of depth and style, and of course, Heyer’s brilliant writing. Plus there’s blackberry picking and kittens to rescue in a barn, and just generally the most dreamy, romantic atmosphere. It’s basically a cottagecore fairytale. Venetia and Damerel are like two peas in a pod, endlessly quoting poetry, sharing inside jokes, being the most adorable couple ever. And of course, this is a Heyer novel, so you’re guaranteed razor-sharp wit and many laughs!
Full review of this one on Goodreads as well!
4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Read this amazing book for the first time last September and absolutely loved it. I was hooked from page one, where we meet the heroine journaling away in the kitchen with her feet in the sink. Set in an old half-ruined castle in England in the 1930s, I Capture the Castle is a thoroughly captivating read. Full of rich details and immersive imagery, it’s the coming-of-age story of seventeen year-old Cassandra Mortmain, told through her diary. I’ve always loved novels told through diaries (anyone else used to read those Dear Canada and Dear America series when they were younger??). Cassandra’s is unlike any other, sharp and witty and completely delightful. In it, you’ll find insightful passages about human nature, treasurable moments of childlike innocence, and countless scenes to make you dream of a summer spent in an old castle. There’s moonlit swims and Midsummer rituals, and lots of journaling out in nature.
Cassandra and her sister Rose (and their brother) live in the old castle with their eccentric step-mother and even more eccentric father. They’re incredibly poor and barely scraping by, and rarely have visitors. But when two American gents land on their doorstep one day, that’s when the fun really begins! I Capture the Castle will definitely make you want to capture your own castle. And listen to moonlight sonatas.
5. The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
Ah, Edith Wharton. I’m aware that she wrote a novel titled Summer that might have been more appropriate for this list, but frankly I didn’t like that book very much. The Glimpses of the Moon was a much more interesting read. It transports one to moonlit villas in Europe, where the air smells of romance and expensive jewelry. It teaches one about the true meaning of love, and that money and luxuries truly cannot buy happiness. Set in the 1920s, the book centers around two newlyweds who get married with the only purpose of enjoying living off their wealthy friends’ invites to stay with them for extended periods of time. In short, they are parasites who are about to learn a much-needed lesson in integrity and honesty.
Written in classic Wharton style, the book is full of introspection and character portraits. I found it deep and interesting, and the setting really made everything glitter and come alive. This is the perfect book to read outside in a garden full of dewy roses at dusk. And if I remember correctly, there actually is a happy ending for once!
I wrote a full review of this one as well, on Goodreads.
6. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the 1970s TV series, Little House on the Prairie. It’s such a classic, full of sweetness and innocence! I was introduced to it in my mid-teen years and instantly loved it. The book series is just as charmingly loveable! Little House in the Big Woods is the first book, and it will transport you into the deep wilderness of Wisconsin. You will be completely immersed in nature; meeting a variety of animals, living in a log cabin, learning to play with the simple things around you. You will feel the wind on your face and the comfort of a handsewn quilt. It’s a portrayal of hard frontier life, full of sacrifices and discomforts, but also full of the simple joys of life and the reward of hard work and a loving family.
I love reading the Little House books when I go camping, as I can best imagine what life in the wild must have been like.😉 There’s nothing better than frying the morning eggs and bacon on the camp stove and eating in tin plates (nicknamed “the Little House plates”) before setting off on a hike and imagining ….. And then to end such a splendid day, you read a few more chapters seated around a sizzling campfire (thankful that somebody invented marshmallows, and that someone else had the brilliant idea to roast them).
7. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
This is undoubtedly one of my favourite books ever. A sweeping tale of Victorian farm life in the 1870s in rural Wessex, Far From the Madding Crowd is like a beautiful ode to the country. Filled with descriptive passages of nature, it is the ultimate picturesque novel, full of green hills and valleys and dear little sheep. And while there’s a certain undeniable slow and peaceful tone to it, there is definitely enough going on to keep you interested the whole time. The story might get a little dull if it were just sheep and trees, but what if we threw a good old love triangle in the midst of all this natural beauty?
Ah, then things become most definitely interesting!! Between a hardworking, faithful shepherd, a successful, impassioned farmer, and a handsome young soldier, who will Bathsheba Everdeen choose? Running a farm is no small feat, and while she is certainly up to the task, she could use a little help from one (or all) of her suitors. Descriptive, lyrical, and completely captivating, Far From the Madding Crowd is a classic you don’t want to miss. It is best enjoyed under the shade of a large oak, with a glass of lemonade and a flower crown of daisies on your head. Bonus points if you can acquire a little lamb as your reading companion 😉. The 2015 movie version with Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba is a must-see!
This one also got a full review on Goodreads 🙂
8. Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery
Yes, I’m including a second Montgomery novel, because there are just too many to choose from and I can’t leave it at one. Besides, as the ultimate summer reading experience, LMM deserves a second mention. I read this one a long time ago, but still remember the wonderful atmosphere of it. Jane of Lantern Hill is particularly summer. It tells the story of young Jane Stuart, who spends her summer vacation on Prince Edward Island for the first time. Accustomed to a grey and dull life full of rebukes, she lives the summer of her dreams on sunny and happy PEI. Learning to keep house for her father, this book is full of the joys of homemaking.
Follow Jane as she learns to bake the best pies, keep the parlour tidy, and the garden blooming. Montgomery has such a way with words that any simple action is made interesting when she describes it! This is a very dear, loveable book.
9. So Wild the Heart by Geoffrey Trease
A lesser-known classic, So Wild the Heart is the fascinating and adventurous tale of a young writer determined to find the exact place where the ancient Roman poet Antonian lived and translate his work. A shy, serious man, Mr. Adam journeys to Italy with the sole purpose of working on his manuscript. He has absolutely no intention to relax and have fun or even to meet anyone. But can anyone really do that in Italy? How does one resist the sun-kissed landscape, the delicious food, the allure of the sea?
Adam’s adventure, of course, becomes life-changing, full of romance and discoveries. It is near impossible to stay focused with the two American women visiting and the philosophical neighbours obsessed with Reason. Yet, So Wild the Heart is what we all need – a true vacation. This book will make you dream about holidaying in an Italian villa, sampling wine and rowing from village to village. It’s full of sunshine and summer, long writing sessions and piano-playing at night, interesting neighbours and classical references. I was quite impressed with this book and would love to re-read it.
Full Review on Goodreads!
It seems to be really hard to find a copy of this one, hence why there’s no quote. But I wanted to include it anyways in case anybody happens across it because it is really good!
10. The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan by Beatrix Potter
Last but not least, is it really summer without at least a bit of Beatrix Potter? It was very hard to pick one tale to list here! There’s Peter Rabbit, of course, and Benjamin Bunny, and Jemima Puddleduck, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and so many more, all equally adorable! I considered listing The Complete Tales because it was so hard to pick. But in the end, I chose The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan, because it’s so cute and funny. It features pies and pretty pie dishes, afternoon teas and handwritten letters, all of which are delightful and wholesome summer activities. When a cat invites a dog over for pie and they have very different tastes, something is bound to go awry!
I hope you enjoy this list of classic book recs for the summer and that it motivates you to try something new or revisit an old favourite! What do you like to read during the summer? Have you read any of the books on my list, and if yes, which one(s) did you like best? 🙂 I look forward to sharing more bookish thoughts with you!