Even though we’re in the last month of summer, there’s still ample time to get your summer read on. And there truly is nothing better than a summer read. Whether you’re reading curled up in air conditioning, poolside or with your toes in the sand, getting lost in a good book during the summer months (or what remains of it) is the perfect way to spend those sweltering, humid and sometimes perfect days.
We surveyed some of our favorite authors: Lily Anderson (Not Now, Not Never), Sarah R. Baughman (The Light in the Lake), Brandy Colbert (The Revolution of Birdie Randolph), Katrina Leno (You Must Not Miss), Sandhya Menon (There’s Something About Sweetie), Caleb Roehrig (Death Prefers Blondes). They penned some of the best summer reads, and we asked them about what makes a good summer read, how they go about writing one and what might be the perfect conditions for creating our favorite warm-weather books.
Read on and then make sure to pick up the titles mentioned and featured in this article. These books are some of the best summer has to offer and are sure to delight, inspire and thrill you for the entire season.
Summer reading encompasses so many different types of books and it’s completely subjective to the reader. A good summer read doesn’t even have to be set in that season. So, what do you think makes a book a perfect summer read?
Lily Anderson: For me, summer is about escapism. When it’s hot outside, I want quests or swashbuckling or sweeping romance. A fast moving plot is the only thing that can distract me from triple digit heat. Quiet stories must wait until fall.
Sarah R. Baughman: This is a great question. Though I love summer books that are specifically set in summer, I also think books with fast-paced plots can be great choices because they’re easy to jump back into regardless of whatever fun summer activity might pull you away!
Brandy Colbert: I think the perfect summer book is one that inspires feelings of freedom. Summer has always been my favorite season, and part of that is my memories of being let out of school for the break, knowing I had three whole months to read, write, and spend time with friends without the confines of a daily schedule. So, I guess, traditionally, this means my favorite summer books are ones that have a strong summer setting, like beaches and lake houses and people taking advantage of the long, warm days.
Katrina Leno: It might sound like a cop-out answer, but I do believe any book can be the perfect summer read, depending on what you’re in the mood for! But personally, I tend to go for books that are shorter—they’re logistically easier to pack and carry, and I can take a few with me, in case I finish one or start one that’s not grabbing my attention. It also just feels sort of daunting to me to start a massive chonker of a book when it’s hot out! I gravitate toward contemporary in the warmer months, or something with a good mystery or twist. I also think it’s important that it can be a book you can jump in and out of. You don’t want to get tied down to a complicated historical romance with a hundred characters when you’re hopping in and out of the pool!
Sandhya Menon: To me, a perfect summer read doesn’t need to be set in the summer, it just has to deliver all the summer feels. For me, summer means the promise of new love, of new opportunities, of exciting new places, of blossoming friendship and languorous days spent doing what you love most!
Caleb Roehrig: For me, personally, a perfect summer read is something that’s fun, compelling, and impossible to put down. I want a book that’s a pleasure to read all the way through, and specifically one that doesn’t feel like homework. It’s about letting my brain go on vacation for a while.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book? Is there anything about it that makes it good for the pool, beach or just a hot day?
Lily Anderson: My book Not Now Not Ever is about a girl named Elliot running away from home– using The Importance Of Being Earnest as her guide–as she spends her summer vacation trying to win a scholarship to the college neither of her parents want her to attend. It’s a love letter to Oregon summers and the feeling of being away from home for the first time, full of hijinks, feats of geekery, and plenty of kissing!
Sarah R. Baughman: The Light in the Lake is set in Vermont, a glorious place to be in summer. I hope the vivid descriptions of setting can transport readers to a mountain lake even if they don’t live near one!
Brandy Colbert: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Birdie who’s trying to break free from her parents’ strict rules while also exploring first love. It’s set in Chicago during the summer, which I think makes it a perfect summer book. Chicago comes alive in its (few) warm months; there are festivals for nearly everything you can imagine, outdoor concerts and dining, trips to one of its several beaches. I tried to include that love for summer in this book.
Katrina Leno: You Must Not Miss hits all my above criteria! It’s a quick read, it’s suspenseful, and you can dip in and out of it, working around your vacation schedule. Plus, our main character, Magpie, starts off the book IN a pool, so it will definitely fulfill your waterside vibes. The book takes place at the tail end of Magpie’s sophomore year in high school. She’s just had the worst six months of her life, and she’s feeling (to put it lightly) shortchanged by life. So shortchanged, in fact, that she decides to take matters into her own hands, and get revenge on all the people she feels have wronged her…
Sandhya Menon: I think all my books released so far have those summer feels! My latest book, There’s Something about Sweetie, is perfect for the beach or pool because it’s got all of the rom-com vibes–it’ll have you laughing hard while shipping the two main characters (Ashish and Sweetie), and feeling like one of the friend gang!
Caleb Roehrig: Death Prefers Blondes is an action-adventure retelling of Hamlet, about a rebel heiress and four kick-boxing drag queens who perform a series of art and jewel heists across the city of Los Angeles…and eventually run afoul of a deadly, international conspiracy. It’s the most “blockbuster” plot I’ve ever concocted, full of romance, action sequences, and witty repartee (if I do say so myself.) You can’t bring a movie screen to the beach, but this is the next best thing!
What is your favorite book set in summer? Is it different from a favorite book that you read in the summer?
Lily Anderson: My favorite summer book is Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett! It’s set in a fictionalized version of Santa Cruz, California, where I’ve spent many summers throughout my life. It’s a retelling of Shop Around The Corner (which you might know as either You’ve Got Mail or the musical She Loves Me). While it is low on swashbuckling, it has all of the banter and swoon I require from a summer read.
Sarah R. Baughman: It’s so hard for me to pick just one, because about five immediately come to mind, but my most recent favorite summer read is Kate Allen’s The Line Tender. I’ve never been to Cape Cod, but this book transported me there to smell salty ocean air and search for sharks.
Brandy Colbert: One of my favorite books set in summer has the season in the title: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. It’s a sweet, funny, and poignant story about three sisters who head to Oakland, California, in 1968 to stay with the mother who left them years ago. It’s so fun to go along with these sisters for what ends up being a life-changing summer vacation.
Katrina Leno: Ohh, great question. I love A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I would definitely never grab it during the actual summer. It feels like more of an autumn book to me (maybe because of the forest?). Oh, and I LOVE E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, and this is definitely a book I would bring on vacation with me. Family secrets? A private island? An absolutely insane twist? Yes, please.
Sandhya Menon: Hmm, this is a tough one, but I’ll go with The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella for a book set in the summer! I love reading romances in the summer–some of my recent faves have been Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, and The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory. For young adult fiction, I’d pick You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn, The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding, and Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann.
Caleb Roehrig: One of my favorite books about summertime shenanigans is Nothing Happened by Molly Booth. It’s a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, set at a summer camp, and it is absolutely charming. If you want something a little more sinister, Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is a great, suspenseful read about a college student slowly uncovering a trove of dangerous secrets being guarded by her roommate’s wealthy family. Since I’m a diehard fan of mysteries, my favorite books to read in the summer are potboilers and detective fiction: Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Ross MacDonald…I gobble them down like candy!
What helps make your ideal summer reading experience? A good snack? A poolside or beachside chair?
Lily Anderson: For me, an ideal summer reading experience needs the ocean. Is there anything more zen than reading near the crashing of waves? A cold beverage in a glass bottle (real sugar Coke or a beer) doesn’t hurt either!
Sarah R. Baughman: Give me a dock or beach towel on a lake, a good pair of sunglasses, and something cold to drink, and I’ll be set.
Brandy Colbert: An ideal summer reading experience for me is lots of sunshine, warm breezes, and lazy afternoons.
Katrina Leno: I love a good outside lounge chair (a wide, sturdy umbrella is a must!!), and an endless supply of iced coffee. Also, a bowl of watermelon cubes never hurt anybody :)
Sandhya Menon: The hot, hot sun and a great view! I don’t care if the view is the beach, a lake, or the mountains–I just need to have something pretty to look at while my skin soaks up that vitamin D.
Caleb Roehrig: My ideal summer reading experience: Sitting outside, in the shade, with a chilled glass of rosé (or perhaps a margarita,) just letting time slip by. Heaven.
What helped you write your summer read?
Lily Anderson: Not Now Not Ever could not have been written without Demi Lovato’s Confident and its summertime bop “Cool For The Summer”. Anytime I hear a song from that album, I am instantly taken back to Elliot and her time at Rayevich College.
Sarah R. Baughman: Living in the setting I wrote was the best inspiration; I’ve always been deeply attached to and affected by my natural environment. While I was writing The Light in the Lake, I was also living in Vermont: swimming in lakes, hiking mountains, and joining my husband and kids in our fishing boat. So, Addie’s summer activities grew directly from my own experiences.
Brandy Colbert: Something that helped me write this book was my memories of how special summer is for Chicagoans. Having lived there for four years, I remember that feeling of thinking winter is never going to end and how endless the possibilities seemed once the weather started to warm up.
Katrina Leno: I am honestly inspired by summer in general (I did name one of my previous books Summer of Salt!), and I find myself churning out a TON of writing when the weather turns hot. Just like Magpie begins her journey on a pool float, I began the entire journey of writing You Must Not Miss on a pool float! I was staying at a home in the desert with some friends for Memorial Day weekend, it was boiling hot, and I was floating around the pool on a pizza floatie, when all of a sudden I had a vision of a girl in my head. All I knew was that her name was Magpie and she was NOT your typical heroine. She evolved from there… I think the heat and the sun and the pool really helped set the mood for what Magpie (and this book) would be, and more than anything, the act of writing this book during a super hot California summer greatly informed how it turned out!
Sandhya Menon: Being able to go into my office and spend time in a happy, fun, carefree world in which I knew everything would turn out okay was the best therapy! It really felt like a vacation more than work.
Caleb Roehrig: I wrote the first half of Death Prefers Blondes while on a retreat in Europe. There’s a key sequence that’s set in Venice, and I spent a few days walking around the city just soaking up every possible facet of it that I could. That really helped me get into the mood of the book. The color motifs in Blondes are very important, and Venice is a bright, gorgeous, vibrant place, so the visit really got me focused!
About the Authors
Lily Anderson is the author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU, NOT NOW NOT EVER, and UNDEAD GIRL GANG. A former school librarian, she is deeply devoted to Shakespeare, fairy tales, and podcasts. Somewhere in Northern California, she is having strong opinions on musical theater. Find her online at www.mslilyanderson.com (Author Photo Credit: Chris Duffey)
Sarah R. Baughman is a former middle and high school English teacher who now works as an educational consultant and author. She graduated from Grinnell College and the University of Michigan, then went on to teach English overseas in three different countries – China, Bolivia, and Germany. After six years in rural Vermont, Sarah now lives with her husband and two children in her home state of Michigan, where she spends as much time as possible in the woods and water. The Light in the Lake is her first novel. Sarah invites you to visit her online at sarahrbaughman.com.
Brandy Colbert is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Pointe, Finding Yvonne, Stonewall Award winner Little & Lion, and the upcoming 2020 releases, The Only Black Girls in Town (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) and The Voting Booth (Disney-Hyperion). Her short fiction and essays have also been published in several critically acclaimed anthologies for young people. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, Colbert spent a few years living in Chicago before relocating permanently to Los Angeles. She is very active on social media and also works as a copy editor for magazines and books. (Photo Credit: Jessie Weinberg)
Katrina Leno was born on the east coast and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a photographer and the author of four books published by HarperTeen–The Half Life of Molly Pierce, The Lost & Found, Everything All At Once, and The Summer of Salt. You can visit her online at katrinaleno.com
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi; From Twinkle, with Love; and There’s Something About Sweetie. A full-time dog-servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado. Visit her online at SandhyaMenon.com.
Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich!