Top 5 {Classic} Summer Reads

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I’ve mentioned many times before that I am a teacher. A high school teacher. An English teacher.

I love literature and I love reading.

In the summer I tend to devour books (or I used to, before having kids. Now their nap time is my writing time. Or sitting and staring time. Or working on school stuff time).

My friends refer to me as a “book snob.”  I call myself a “picky reader.”

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to, right?

I can’t read anything with vampires, zombies, or magicians.

I’m (usually) not even into magical realism (although Life of Pi was simply amazing).

But I do like a good read with love and lust and alcoholism and cheating and drama.

Isn’t that what a good summer read is?

People, there are plenty of classics that fit this definition of a great summer read. So if you are looking for your next pool or beach read, look no further than this list.

#5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I didn’t read this book until college.  Why?  Because it sounded stupid:  four sisters grow up. How is that interesting?  And how in the world is it such a THICK book?  The novel follows the four sisters through joys and tragedies. Alcott utilizes realism before it was even a thing. Because women rock, obviously.

#4 Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Brit authors are not usually my favorite (sorry, Brooklyn Dame!), but Dickens gets a free pass. I fell in love with him in high school after reading A Tale of Two Cities, but his coming-of-age story of Pip is one of my favorite tales of all time. The story starts with Pip as an orphaned young boy and follows him on countless adventures. This may be the only book I’ve ever read that I audibly gasped in parts at the twists and turns the plot took.

#3 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ok, so I have read this novel hundreds of times. I teach it to a minimum of one class (max of five classes) a school year over the past decade, and every single read through brings something new to the surface for me. There is a love triangle, three deaths, a massive fight, secret identity, and so much more. Told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, the summer neighbor to Gatsby, we catch a glimpse of the 1920’s overindulgence and the haughty difference between the socioeconomic classes.

#2 A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway
A soldier falls in love while he is at war. Isn’t that what summer books by the pool are made of? This novel is split into five parts (books): Henry meeting Catherine, Henry falling in love with Catherine while wounded, Henry going back to his unit and getting in trouble, Henry and Catherine reuniting, and then, well, I can’t tell you the final book of the novel.

#1 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Probably my favorite book of all time (and one that consumed me one summer years ago – so much so I stayed up until almost 3am one night to finish it), it has EVERYTHING: family secrets, sibling rivalry, suicide, corruption, favoritism, and so much more. It is said that Steinbeck modeled characters on his own family history, which just makes it that much more compelling of a read.

An honorable mention goes to The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.  You might need to read this one with notes on hand if you are new to hardcore stream of conscience writing, but it’s worth it.  The perspective of the different narrators will blow your mind.

After writing this list it occurs to me that my love of the Lost Generation and the American Moderns is quite evident.

What can I say, I am a sucker for a pessimistic view and not-so-happy endings.

So what are you reading this summer?


  1. I love love love this list and have read every book here except….would you believe…East of Eden? I now know what my next book will be. (grapes of Wrath is one of my all-time faves!)

    • JULIE! East of Eden even beats Grapes, if you can believe it. SO GOOD! I look forward to hearing what you think!

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