I love classic novels as much as the next gal, but there comes a time in every person’s life when you need to set down the Serious Books and pick up what the literati might call “total nonsense.”
This is especially true during summer — school’s out, work might be a little slow, and people are enjoying vacations.
Plus, I’m from Texas; it is just too damn hot to do anything but lay naked on the living room floor underneath the ceiling fan with a wet rag on my forehead, praying for Christmas. Now is not the time for me to try to muscle my way through Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
If you can’t stand the thought of reading Tolstoy or Dickens while lolling around on your beach towel, may I suggest some lighter summer reads?
The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer)
Georgette Heyer is the mother of the historical romance genre, and her children are plentiful. She wrote over 50 novels, most of which are set in the Regency and Georgian eras — they’re Jane Austen novels with the sass levels turned up to 11.
The Grand Sophy is Heyer’s most popular novel, and it’s hysterical. Ms. Sophy Stanton-Lacy is deposited on her cousins’ doorstep by her distracted father and immediately sees that her family is in distress. Cecilia is in love with a nincompoop poet, Charles is engaged to the most pretentious woman on earth, and Hubert is piling up gambling debts as only a young gentleman can.
Fortunately, Sophy is a masterful busybody and sets about wreaking havoc and scandalizing the ton — all in the name of sorting things as they should be.
Re-reading can be risky, but for me, there’re fewer greater pleasures in the world than returning to my favorite childhood reads. As Kathleen Kelly says in You’ve Got Mail:
When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.
Now is a wonderful time to reconnect with the stories that you enjoyed as a kid, when summer days felt endless and you didn’t have to worry about anything except which book to read next.
If you weren’t much of a reader as a kid, I recommend E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books.
Xanth “Trilogy” (Piers Anthony)
I put “trilogy” in quotes because there’s actually more than 30 in the series — it was really hard to stop Anthony once he got on a roll.
Everyone in the land of Xanth has a magical ability, anything from controlling the weather to making a green spot appear on a wall. Some magical powers are useless, but everyone has one…except Bink.
A Spell for Chameleon, the first book in the series, follows Bink as he is exiled to Mundania (a land without magic). There he is captured by an evil magician who once tried to conquer Xanth, and is ready to try again — and he needs Bink’s help.
These books are smart, funny, and so full of so many puns that I almost can’t stand it. Start with A Spell for Chameleon and work your way through. They’re all great.
There’s something delicious about reading a naughty novel in public. You know what you’re reading, the gal next to you at the pool or on the bus knows what you’re reading, and you both know the other person knows.
Romance novels are candy for your brain — whether they’re the gentlest of Christian romance or the hardest of hard-core Harlequins. Fluffy romances are always fun (I enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s The Husband List), but if you’re looking for something steamy with a little meat on its bones, check out Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series.
What’s on your reading list this summer? Let me know in the comments!