Summer Reading List: Height-of-Summer Edition


Seren's novel selections, perfect for long, lazy days in the sun.

There are few times of the year quite like summer.

It’s a season filled with distinctive features and associations, so much so that its use as a setting in fiction works as easy short-hand for readers. They know it’s a time of year where the months seem to stretch as the days get longer, where temperatures run high and passions run higher. Readers expect their summer stories to be filled with lust and hate, mystery and discovery, love and murder.

This reading list is made up of books set during those fuzzy months. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach or are stuck sweltering inside, this is a list of books perfect filled with all your favourite summer activities; from discovering your first love, partying the night away, or maybe even plotting a murder.


The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August...

So says Isabel ‘Belly’ Conklin, the protagonist in Han’s debut romance novel. It’s a quote that sums up the dream-like feel of summer, a time when seemingly anything can happen in the long days of sunshine.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is a fantastic beach-read that uses summer as a backdrop for an innocent tale of first-love and personal growth in a way that is both compelling and undeniably sweet.


Release by Patrick Ness

Release is a part coming-of-age story, part fantasy mystery, taking place over a single summer day. It tells the dual story of Adam, a gay teen in a small town in America, and the ghost of a murdered young girl whose soul has become intertwined with a fairy Queen.

Release perfectly captures the uneasiness around transition points in life and is a poignant book for anyone uncertain on their life’s direction.


Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

One of Virginia Woolf’s most famous novel’s, and the inspiration for Ness’s Release. Mrs Dalloway is set over a single summer day in June 1923, and concerns the titular character in the build-up to her party, telling her story as well as the stories of the people around her.

Just as summer is the mid-point of the year, Mrs Dalloway is at the mid-point of her own life and is contemplating the choices she has made. The use of flashbacks, hallucinations and shifts in points of view give the novel a hazy feel that fits in well with its summer setting.


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Summer novels aren’t only concerned with love and life; they also serves as a great backdrops for mystery. Told from the perspective of Cadence Sinclair, a wealthy 15-year-old who ‘doesn’t suffer fools’, as she tries to piece together memories of a summer she can’t wholly remember.

A novel full of intrigue and mystery, this is a story in which you can feel the bleary heat of summer as you read, and its final twist is sure to have you flicking back through the pages.  


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Arguably one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century, The Great Gatsby follows the narrator Nick during his summer in New York as he follows along with his wealthy neighbour, Jay Gatsby.

Most of you probably already know this classic story, but, as the height of summer approaches, it is well-worth a re-read. It’s almost completely intertwined with its seasonal setting, and has everything you would want out of a summer story; obsessive desire, wild parties, and even a healthy dose of impassioned murder.


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

So begins Sylvia Plath’s only novel, a semi-autobiographical tale chronicling the narrator’s deteriorating mental health following a summer internship in New York.

This fascinating, morbid opener sets up the bleary, suffocating feel of the season, an atmosphere which permeates throughout the novel. While definitely not a light read, with Plath famously committing suicide soon after its publication, The Bell Jar is an utterly engrossing novel that will pull you in almost against your will.

by Seren Livie