What are some good books that have strong summer vibes?
May 25, 2023 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I went through a period of reading books with strong winter vibes and those books were easy for me to find. Now I want books with summer vibes, but I’m having a harder time finding what I want.

I walk a lot and mostly listen to audiobooks while I’m strolling. Starting in fall and then into winter and early spring, I realized I got in the groove of listening to books that matched the weather, cold, cozy, dark, moody. Some of my selections were obvious, for example I listened to several of the Shetland thrillers by Ann Cleeves, which I think were a great fit for walking on cold weather days. I also listened to The Power Broker by Robert Caro. That one seems to have less of an obvious winter vibe, but its length and density make it a good candidate for cold weather, in my opinion.

Now it’s sunny and hot and I find I don’t want to listen to winter-vibe books right now. I need books with strong summer vibes, but I’ve found it harder to identify good ones. Recommendations from searching online are too literal: they all take place at the beach or are about vacations. Summer vibes books, in my mind, certainly can be about those things but they don’t necessarily have to be and might be more interesting if they aren’t. Past books I’ve read that give off strong summer vibes are The Country Life by Rachel Cusk and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. This former is sort of obvious because it takes place in summer and the depictions of how the weather factors into the main character’s experience are fantastic, but the thrust of the story isn’t really about summer. The latter is maybe a less obvious choice, but it still gives me some of the strongest summer vibes of any book I’ve ever read. Something about the circus coming to town in summer? I don’t know.

So, what should I be reading or audio booking that has strong summer vibes? I’m open to all genres, fiction and non-fiction.
posted by scantee to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed Peter Benchley's Jaws more than I thought I would.
posted by alex1965 at 1:13 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]

some from my recentish reads

My Sister the Serial Killer
The Beach (ok I know but the mood is endless summer more than the setting)
The Goldfinch
The Secret Garden
Jurassic Park
posted by phunniemee at 1:18 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]

Life of Pi
posted by nouvelle-personne at 1:21 PM on May 25

I haven't read this one myself, but here's an essay about a book that's entirely based on its summer vibes!
posted by babelfish at 1:22 PM on May 25

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Waterlog by Roger Deakin
posted by sk932 at 1:27 PM on May 25 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't say A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley is a "summer book" (spoiler alert: the plot is just King Lear), but there are a lot of scenes that take place in the summertime, and Smiley is such a good writer. There's one scene in particular that sticks with me as one of the most evocative mundane passages in any book I've ever read, wherein the narrator takes her nieces to a public swimming pool and buys them pizza from the concession stand. Just absolutely spot on. It's not really essential to the plot, but Smiley could have been describing my own childhood summers (except I'm a nephew).
posted by kevinbelt at 1:28 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury has extremely strong summer vibes.

The Summer Before the Dark by Doris Lessing is, naturally, set in summer. You might like Lessing if you like Rachel Cusk, I feel like they're of a similar mind.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 1:29 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers has a summer vibe. The whole series (Monk and Robot) does, but especially that first one.

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldarb. Lots of descriptions of dappled, sprawling meadows, past and present.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. Obviously this is relevant because it's about the beach and surfing, but also the whole feeling about it is shimmery, relaxed and fluid, like a perfect summer day.
posted by OrangeDisk at 1:34 PM on May 25 [5 favorites]

Bonjour Tristesse, naturellement.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 1:36 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]

The Guncle by Steven Rowley definitely doesn't just take place in the summer but has a lot of very summer vibes.
posted by SeedStitch at 1:37 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sunburn by Laura Lippman, if summer noir is within your range of desired vibes.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (and it's not quite sequel Flying Solo) both are set in a coastal Maine town and have strong summer associations for me.
posted by the primroses were over at 1:49 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (This is an adult, not preteen, book)

Insomnia by Stephen King (It's been awhile, but the setting felt summery. Maybe it was? Maybe i just read it in the summer? I don't know, but i think summer when i think about this book. Also, not really horror in my opinion.)
posted by BlueBear at 1:50 PM on May 25

Call Me By Your Name.

Mind you, I actually hesitated at that - because I greatly and overwhelmingly prefer the movie to the book, but the reasons why are a bit too long to explain. But - yeah, that's got summer vibes for sure. (And if you've seen the movie - the book actually has a framing device that the movie left out, so just be ready.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:04 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]

The Talented Mr Ripley definitely has summer (gone wrong) type vibes - an idyllic beach town in Italy, among other locations.

A lot of Ray Bradbury has this feeling as well - Dandelion Wine, much of the Illustrated Man and Martian Chronicles (though not all) and so on.

It may not be what you're looking for, but The Stranger by Camus is also a summer gone wrong kind of thing. He spends a lot of time at the beach, which uh, leads to problems.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:38 PM on May 25 [6 favorites]

Some of Taylor Jenkins Reid feels very summery to me - Malibu Rising, about family and parties and surfing and California, might be a bit too beachy, but Carrie Soto is Back is about a tennis player and much of it takes place outside in the heat.

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling also feels summery (perhaps books with a strong California setting feel summery to me, maybe this is not universally true).

Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh takes place over a summer and has that summer feeling for me too.
posted by phlox at 2:44 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

A lot of children's books take place in the summer holidays. Not all have that sense of long days and freedom, but maybe The Growing Summer or Spiderweb for Two (though only part of that one is in the summer). Less realistically, the Bottersnikes and Gumbles always felt summery to me - I think it's the silliness and lack of responsibilities - and one of the books is Gumbles in Summer.

Books for adults - maybe Woolf's Between the Acts, another novel where summer feels like one of the characters.

You might like The Summer Before the War, set in 1914.

And there's Tove Jansson's The Summer Book.

And throwing in Blood and Circuses, the sixth Phryne Fisher book, in case you want more circuses coming to town.
posted by paduasoy at 3:41 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Ok, this may be too specific to me, but Michael Crichton's Congo and Jurassic Park feel like summer to me as well, in a summer blockbuster, popcorn thriller way. This may not translate to people who did not go through a Michael Crichton phase as a middle schooler at summer camp, reading with a flashlight after dark and having to tell yourself that the weird noises outside your tent are almost certainly not silverbacks or velociraptors. (The Great Train Robbery is also in this category for me, and is actually my favorite Michael Crichton book, but it has less of a "blockbuster movie but make it a novel" feel )

The Godfather for similar reasons.

A Time to Kill and other sweaty southern John Grisham legal thrillers for that matter.
posted by the primroses were over at 4:05 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.
posted by plant or animal at 4:05 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Tangerine by Christine Mangan is a psychological thriller set in Morocco and it’s very atmospheric—I really felt like I was in the sweltering Moroccan heat.
posted by bookmammal at 4:20 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

MAINE by J. Courtney Sullivan
posted by tristeza at 4:30 PM on May 25

Best answer: Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott
posted by Redstart at 4:43 PM on May 25

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
posted by Lay Off The Books at 7:25 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

The Last Resort by Alison Lurie. I'm not sure it's actually set in summer, but it's set in Key West so it's always summer there.

Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn. Surfing in Huntington Beach. Again, not sure it's actually set in summer.

Last Summer by Evan Hunter. Teenagers spend summer on the beach. Very dark. I won't spell out the content warning because it would be a spoiler. But, it does get the summer mood - it was the first one I thought of.
posted by JonJacky at 7:58 PM on May 25

My go-to reads the past few summers have been Tony Hillermans Navajo Mysteries series. There's like 20 of them I'm slowly making my way through.

Last summer I read Richard Price's Freedomland during a heat wave and it worked perfectly. It's a racially themed urban crime story set during a New Jersey heatwave where the whole city feels like a ticking time bomb.
posted by mannequito at 8:02 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Anything by Harry Crews. His books are gritty and sweaty and reminds me of summer in the south.
posted by onebyone at 8:19 PM on May 25

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. California apocalypse, lots of sun and desert.
posted by momus_window at 9:23 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

The Ruins by Scott Smith might be too obviously summery and vacation-y but it instantly came to mind; the story definitely gives me sweltering, suffocating vibes (in a good way if you enjoy horror)!
posted by sweetpotato at 9:24 PM on May 25

I feel a little obvious with this suggestion (since if you grew up in the US you probably had to read it in school), but The Great Gatsby is very summery! I like re-reading it when the weather is hot.
posted by catabananza at 9:47 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

The Go Between by L P Hartley takes place during a summer; as the heat rises so does the intensity and psychological pressure. It's a really good book.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:22 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

I am very fond of A Fatal Inversion by Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbra Vine). Weirdly, it's much the same plot as The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which came out around the same time. But it takes place at a country house in the summer and the atmosphere is intoxicating.
posted by BibiRose at 4:28 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]

Nick Offerman's Where the Deer and the Antelope Play has a great summer road trip vibe. He also reads the audiobook himself, which doubles the charm.
posted by CheeseLouise at 5:55 AM on May 26

Nothing to see here!! It has an amazing audiobook version read by someone with a terrific Tennessee accent, it's so funny and surreal but has a thrilling emotional intensity. Also happens to literally occur during the summer.

posted by mwahlalala at 6:48 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Came in to say A Fatal Inversion, so take that as a +1.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 8:50 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]

This might be a little too on the nose, but most Emily Henry books fit this description, especially Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation. She's one of my current favorites even if you're not especially in to the romcom genre... Beach Read was my gateway drug.
posted by youcancallmeal at 12:55 PM on May 26

bridges of Madison county came to mind immediately for me
posted by afterdark at 5:06 PM on May 26

Stay and Fight Madeline Ffitch (lit fic, appalachia)
House Tracey Kidder (nonfic, new england)
Greenwood Michael Christie (specfic, climate, canada)
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing Hank Green (scifi, nyc, fun)
The Water Knife and Ship Breaker Paolo Bacigalupi (climate apoc fiction)
The Dog Stars Peter Heller (apoc fic)
Conversations with Friends Sally Rooney (litfic)
posted by pjenks at 6:25 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]

Is Less the vibe?? If so, Less, and also Nothing to See Here and French Exit.

I also thought, weirdly, of Out Stealing Horses and The Shipping News: vacation books.

For sheer dusty heat: Malgudi Days / the Guide / Painter of Signs / Man-Eater of Malgudi. R.K. Narayan is the best.
posted by athirstforsalt at 9:18 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]

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