Teenage girl reading book sitting on beachIt’s time for By Word of Beth to take a break for the summer.

When I think about summer vacations when I was a kid, besides having lots of time to ride my bike and play outside, one of the things I liked best was having unlimited time to read.

I read a lot throughout the year, as I do now, but nothing was quite like summer reading, when there was no pressure to be someplace else or do something else, just the joy of losing myself in a book.

So it seems appropriate as I sign off on this season of blogging to share a few great summer reads with you. Not the Nancy Drews and Donna Parkers of my childhood (although I’d be happy to read some of those again) but just a short list of the books that say “summer” to me now.

A book I like to re-read annually is one I chanced upon in a bookstore. I was initially attracted to the title, then when I read the blurb, I knew I had to have it.

Summer at Tiffany (no ‘s) by Marjorie Hart is a delightful true story of the summer of 1945 when Marjorie and her college friend, Marty, travel by train from the University of Iowa to New York City, believing that it will be easy to find summer jobs there. This proves not to be the case.

After many disappointments, the girls manage to become the first female pages in the history of the iconic jewelry store, Tiffany, on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street. The rest of the book is a tumble of adventures and misadventures as the two young women experience a unique summer, all with the backdrop of the final months of World War II.

I highly recommend this book. But don’t take my word for it! Here’s an interview with the author that was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition in 2010,  and another interview, from 2007, on SmithMag’s Memoirville.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a classic that makes you feel as if you are walking along a beach somewhere (she never says what beach) picking up shells, showing them to your companion, and talking about life.

The book is a series of reflections on the stages of a woman’s life, each reflection inspired by a different type of shell. Since the book was published in 1955, some of the ideas are a little dated, but most of the book transfers to our era quite well.

Not only do I appreciate digging into her philosophy of life, but I love the idea of a time of solitude to walk along a beach and think on such things. (I also enjoyed, when I re-read the book recently, seeing the passages I’d underlined back when I first bought my copy in 1975 or thereabouts.)

This is another book I highly recommend. Here’s an NPR interview with the author’s youngest child, daughter Reeve, from 2006. The link includes an excerpt that will, I suspect, draw you into the book as the author’s writing does me.

While we’re strolling along the beach, the sand firm and wet under our feet, the waves lulling us as they break softly along the shore, let’s look for another shell. Let’s look for a junonia – the rare shell that 9-year-old Alice searches for with hope, and growing despair, in Kevin Henkes’ wonderful book, Junonia.

This book for young readers (and people like me) is touching, well-crafted, and takes us into Alice’s thoughts and into her heart, as she grapples with the discovery that not everything in life works out the way you want it to.

The New York Times reviewed it, and here’s a Harper Teen video of Kevin Henkes talking about his book. Find it and read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Let’s stay on the beach, but let’s move from a cottage near the ocean in Florida to an old house on a lake in New Hampshire. Cynthia Lord’s Half a Chance is a book I could read again and again and again (wait, that’s the number of times I’ve already read it, so add a few more “again” repetitions).

In trying to get her photographer father’s attention through her photography, Lucy learns about herself, about others, about truth. She also learns about the joys and heartaches that come with watching someone you love grow old, as she gradually becomes aware of the way her new friend’s grandmother’s memory is deteriorating through dementia.

It’s a tender and heart-wrenching, yet ultimately joyful and triumphant book. If you haven’t already read it, do. Here’s Publishers Weekly’s take on it and the Kirkus starred review.

Finally, let’s spend some time by Waskesiu Lake in northern Saskatchewan, with Beverley Brenna’s Taylor Jane Simon, in the first book of Bev’s Taylor trilogy, Wild Orchid.

While this book explores the challenges of growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome, Bev also paints a detailed picture of the natural world around Waskesiu, a place where she spent many childhood vacations with her nature-loving parents.

For an excellent review of this book, go to Pat Tilton’s wonderful blog, Children’s Books Heal. To get a taste of what Waskesiu is like, click here.

Here’s some beach sand and water for you. (It’s Spanish Banks Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, which is technically on the Strait of Georgia, but it’s ocean water and changes with the tide.)

Spanish Banks beach

Happy summer! See you back here at the blog in the fall!

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