5 Quintessential Summer 2023 Reads
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5 Quintessential Summer 2023 Reads

Pop Culture

April 05, 2023

In mere months, summer vacation will be upon us. Soon, days will be spent lazing by the beach or traveling by airplane, book in hand. The quintessential summer book is one that serves to distract from all that will come in the fall. Whether a classic romance novel or a modernist mystery, look no further!

Here are some tried and true summer novels.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

| Originally Published: 1972 | Page Count: 184

| Goodreads rating: 4.05


Tove Jansson, the author and creator of the beloved Moomin books weaves a dual-coming-of-age story in The Summer Book. Translated from Swedish by Thomas Teal, it is a light and charming read intertwined with the natural world. In the summer of 2023, a film adaption directed by Charlie McDowell starring eight-time Academy-Award nominee Glenn Close and Norweigan Academy-Award nominated actor Anders Danielsen Lie will begin shooting on an island in the Finnish archipelago.


In The Summer Book, Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland.

The grandmother is unsentimental and wise if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a new parent. Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice, write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God, and of love. “On an island,” thinks the grandmother, “everything is complete.” In The Summer Book, Jansson creates her own complete world, full of life's varied joys and sorrows. (New York Review Books)

I loved it and it's a perfect read for a summer which will, I think, be memorable for many of us as a kind of shadow season, a time carved out from normal life and defined by the absence of normality.

— Eve Tushnet, Patheos

Amazon | Goodreads

The White Album by Joan Didion

| Originally Published: 1979 | Page Count: 224

| Goodreads rating: 4.09


The revered American writer Joan Didion examines the reality of the counterculture of the 1960s in her collection of essays, The White Album. These essays had been previously published in magazines such as Life and The New York Times. The subjects of her essays have a wide range and represent an assortment of memoir, criticism, and journalism, with a focus on the history and politics of California in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Due to it being a collection of individually published essays, it can easily be completed over the summer without full dedication, as some 'heavy' novels require. Whether read during a relaxing vacation or between classes at school, Didion's essays are enlightening and thought-provoking, and an easy summer read.


First published in 1979, Joan Didion's The White Album records indelibly the upheavals and aftermaths of the 1960s. Examining key events, figures, and trends of the era—including Charles Manson, the Black Panthers, and the shopping mall—through her own spiritual confusion, Joan Didion helped define mass culture as we now understand it. The White Album is a central text of American reportage and a classic of American autobiography, written with a commanding sureness of tone and linguistic precision. (Macmillan Publishers)

The White Album is assorted into five sections:

I. The White Album

II. California Republic

III. Women

IV. Sojourns

V. On the Morning After the Sixties

All of the essays--even the slightest--manifest not only [Didion's] intelligence, but an instinct for details that continue to emit pulsations in the reader's memory and a style that is spare, subtly musical in its phrasing and exact. Add to these her highly vulnerable sense of herself, and the result is a voice like no other in contemporary journalism.

— Robert Towers, The New York Times Book Review

Amazon | Goodreads

A Room With A View By E.M. Forster

| Originally Published: 1908 | Page Count: 119

| Goodreads rating: 3.90


A Room With A View is a great recommendation for die-hard fans of Jane Austen's works, particularly Pride and Prejudice or Northanger Abbey. It is fresh, poignant, romantic, and a beloved classic. While a romance, it is also a humorous critique of English society at the dawn of the 20th century.

The novel was adapted into a film in 1985 starring notables such as Helena Bonham-Carter, Maggie Smith, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Judy Dench, among others. Initially set in Florence, the vivid descriptions of landmarks such as the Basilica of Santa Croce and Piazza della Signoria will illuminate any summer (especially if the reader is visiting Italy).


Visiting Florence with her prim and proper cousin Charlotte as a chaperone, Lucy Honeychurch meets the unconventional, lower-class Mr. Emerson and his son, George. Upon her return to England, Lucy becomes engaged to the supercilious Cecil Vyse, but she finds herself increasingly torn between the expectations of the world in which she moves and the passionate yearnings of her heart. More than a love story, A Room with a View (1908) is a penetrating social comedy and a brilliant study of contrasts – in values, social class, and cultural perspectives – and the ingenuity of fate. (Penguin Random House)

The armour of falsehood is subtly wrought out of darkness, and hides a man not only from others, but from his own soul.

― E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

Amazon | Goodreads

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

| Originally Published: 2021 | Page Count: 369

| Goodreads rating: 4.07


An acclaimed novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising was both a New York Times and IndieBound best seller. Reid is known for her growing 'multiverse' with every published novel; each is connected in some way. For example, Mick (a character in Malibu Rising) is one of Evelyn's husbands in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and attends a party in Daisy Jones.

For lovers of her previous works, Malibu Rising will surely be a good summer pick. Set in the beach setting of Malibu and at the end of summer, it will be an ideal Summer 2023 read for any fan of contemporary literature.


Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, the family drama that ensues will change their lives will change forever. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind. (taylorjenkinsreid.com)

Malibu Rising will be the sought-after book of the summer.

— Booklist (Starred Review)

Amazon | Goodreads

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

| Originally Published: 2022 | Page Count: 255

| Goodreads rating: 3.63


One Italian Summer was an instant New York Times bestseller and is truly a powerful transcendental novel. It examines the transformational love between mothers and daughters and is set on the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy. With the Italian coast set in the background and armed with a captivating plot, One Italian Summer is enrapturing and perfect for a long-awaited vacation.


Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue. (Simon & Schuster)

An unconventional love story that embraces people’s flaws and selfishness as part of what makes them human.

— Kirkus Reviews

Amazon | Goodreads

These five novels are excellent additions to any summer reading list, and are sure to prove great reads.

Sophia Benito
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Writer since Mar, 2023 · 4 published articles

Sophia Benito is a 16-year-old writer from San Diego. She writes creatively for online teen publications and loves reading.