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10 Summertime Classics

Jul 24, 2014 08:39AM ● By Erin Frisch

If you’re searching for a page-turner to read this summer, it might be time to return to the classics. You may once have viewed many of the books below with a sense of dread, especially if they were “assigned reading” for school. However, as it turns out, these books are all classics for a reason. They have proven themselves able to withstand time, progress, and technology, all surfacing again and again as literary jewels. All the titles in this list have summer settings, so you can easily transport yourself from poolside, beachside, or lakeside into their pages. Happy reading!

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Set the stage with a summertime play, courtesy of the bard himself. This rollicking tale by Shakespeare is ripe with love, passion, drama, magic, and old-fashioned humor. Enjoy the devious escapades of fairies, sprites, and Athenians. The enchantment of the story will leave you wanting to discover your own adventure on a summer evening in the woods.

• To Kill a Mockingbird. This classic novel of justice and childhood is likely one you read as a middle-school student. You may, however, find a deeper societal message reading it as an adult versed in US history. Soak up the Southern summer heat from the pages of this book as Scout, Jem, and Dill roam from school to the mysterious Radley residence to the Maycomb Courthouse. This compelling yet charming story of family will evoke memories of your own childhood summer adventures.

• The Odyssey. This Mediterranean voyage will captivate you as you trace Odysseus’s journey home from Troy. Enjoy the change of pace with an epic poem instead of prose. The Odyssey is attributed to Homer, the ancient Greek poet, and the story would have been told or sung. Try reading the verse aloud with your family; it’s fun to adopt the role of bard. Additionally, you may find it intriguing to print out a map of the Mediterranean Sea and trace Odysseus’s serpentine route. The imagery of the ocean and coastline will keep your mind in summer mode.

• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Travel down the river with Huckleberry Finn, deep into the heart of the South. Huck and Jim face the challenge of living in a slave-based society and are ultimately bonded by friendship. Mark Twain’s wit, combined with his cunning adoption of Huck’s voice, provide entertainment for kids and adults alike. This book is episodic, with each chapter detailing another adventure, and is therefore ideal for start-and-stop reading.

• Of Mice and Men. This powerful novella offers the tragic story of two migrants searching for work during the Great Depression. George and Lennie have little more than each other’s companionship as they struggle against the odds of finding decent work. With natural dialogue and a tear-jerking ending, you’ll be left craving more Steinbeck.

• The Great Gatsby. You may have seen the recent blockbuster, but there’s no harm in reading the book after the seeing the movie—and no film, no matter how glamorous, can compare to the novel. Summer in Long Island is charged with money, sex, and betrayal, all doused in gin. Gatsby and his band of socialites endlessly seek the things they can’t have, whether a woman, status, or security. This summertime story will make you grateful for the simplicity of your own life.

• Robinson Crusoe. This is a novel of adventure and self-sufficiency, and is perfect for the reader who seeks thrills. Crusoe is stranded on a desert island and must rely on his own resourcefulness to survive. He is the eighteenth century hero, facing the forces of nature and hungry cannibals. With its island setting, this is the perfect summertime read.

• Animal Farm. This volume packs a lot of political satire into its slender size. You’ll enjoy reading about human values and mishaps reflected in the lives of animals. It’s easier to assess our own issues when we see them mirrored in someone else, and Orwell succeeds in mirroring the failings of most political leaders, all in one barnyard.

• The Sun Also Rises. Considered by some to be Hemingway’s greatest and most important novel, The Sun Also Rises is unquestionably a masterpiece. It highlights all the best of Hemingway—the stark simplicity, the wounds of war, the intensity of setting, and the blatant reality of life. From Paris to Pamplona, this is the best of Europe in the summertime. Feel the restlessness of the city night and the fiery running of the bulls.

• Sula. Toni Morrison’s beautiful and sometimes shocking language will give you shivers. Her story is brutally honest. The lyrical quality of her writing makes Sula a song sung in tribute to the African-American women of Sula’s generation. Morrison traces the lineage of women in two families, through their lovers, marriages, blessings, curses, and ultimate deaths. Sula reaffirms the values of womanhood and friendship, while telling a historical tale that every reader can relate to. Enjoy every word of this impassioned novel.

What is the most riveting literary classic that you would recommend for summer reading?

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