Summer Reading

summer reading

Summer Reading

I've compiled a short summer reading list for adults looking for a leisurely escape while coasting through summer. Nothing intense. You'll find no heavy literature to bog you down these bright and playful months. None of the reading is mandatory. These are just pleasant stories I've read (some I've written) and recommend to enhance your seasonal pleasure.

Can I be candid?

Before we get to it, I’ll tell you a secret. I never read any mandatory summer reading books. Not one. I spent my high school years in a dark, depressed, fugue state. Stepping over the passed-out bodies of my brother’s friends after dressing in the cleanest clothes I could find to avoid arriving in class naked took all the energy I had available.


Every word spewed from the teacher’s mouths went unheard. Life passed in a gauzy, hopeless blur, and I learned nothing. It may be somewhat hyperbolic to say that I had an eighth-grade education, but not aggressively. I attended the school of hard knocks within the walls of a parochial school that was overly focused (as most private and public schools are) on cliques, sports, and subjects that serve very few people in the real world. No one wanted to “touch” the angry girl who spent every break between classes perched on the bathroom sinks while smoking one Marlboro cigarette after another.


Don’t worry. This isn’t my autobiography.

Truthfully, things hadn’t been great before high school and didn’t improve for a long time. So it’s best we quit before sinking in too deep.

One side note as it pertains to summer reading.


Shortly after I had graduated, I woke to find one sister typing a paper written in longhand by another sister. The twelve-page book report on The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was due in a few hours. As I perused the pages, I noticed they comprised roughly three run-on sentences. You may remember those days. The teacher gave you a tedious project with an enormous amount of words, but he never mentioned using commas, periods, or paragraphs.

Congratulations on learning the actual lesson. You're on your way to mastering the art of the loophole.

Hand me a cigarette.

“She can’t pass this in,” I exclaimed.

My sister shrugged and continued typing. “She has to pass in something, or she’ll fail the semester.”

I sat down, rolled up my pajama sleeves, tucked a lit cigarette between my lips, and picked up a pen. “I’ll write. You type.”


We all know the story about Hester Prynne and the crimson “A” she had to wear for the rest of her life. The narrative is such a part of our society, played out constantly on individual and collective platforms, that it wasn’t difficult to weave a tale around the theme of the paper. “How double standards apply then and now.” Not only did my sister get an A+ on the final report, which was handed over two hours before the final school bell rang, but the teacher wrote on the last page how she’d never considered the arguments my sister brought up and that she would be teaching the class differently from then on. Not bad for this uneducated writer!

Okay. It’s starting to sound like bragging, so on with the list.

When we think of summer, we think of the outdoors. Sun, sand, vacation, time. Here are six favorite books of mine that take you into the woods and onto the beach. Please let me know if you’ve read any, if you plan to, and what you think.

For forest wanderers

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, a true story about his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, had me laughing out loud more than any book I’ve ever read. I never wanted the hijinks or the story to end. Read this one if you never plan to go on a long-distance hike or aren’t easily swayed by reading about someone else’s mishaps and misadventures.

Take a Thru-Hike by Jessica “Dixie” Mills is for anyone planning or wishing to plan an AT-thru-hike. She shares some of her experience but focuses on the nuts and bolts of a long-distance hike, like how to have essentials delivered and respecting Mother Nature by using the Leave no Trace principle.

Kathleen Pendoley Trail of the Heart cover

Trail of the Heart by Kathleen Pendoley (That’s me.) follows quirky Jordan Roberts as she thru-hikes the Appalachian Trail and meets buttoned-up Adam Beck. A shock to both, they learn opposites attract, and the best romances begin without the promise of tomorrow.

For water lovers

"Beachy Keen" by Kathleen Pendoley (That's me, too. 😁) has Colleen Madison heading to the shore to connect with her son and only focus for eighteen years as he prepares for college in the fall. Part comedy of errors, part happily-ever-after love story, and all relatable, "Beachy Keen" is a light and airy read that won't distract you from the waves.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves is one of my favorite novels. A plane crash (not drawn out or particularly triggering) leaves a student and his summer school teacher (not perverse as it may sound) stranded on an island in the Indian Ocean. The story never fails to deliver, from how they survived the crash and built a new life to the event that was so devastating in reality that the author used to weave the rescue and fallout.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a coming-of-age story set in the marshes of North Carolina of a young girl abandoned and left to her own devices. I loved how Kya Clark gained skills far older than her chronological age and adapted. A murder mystery and more, the book touched me on multiple levels. But the rich plot and the moving characters stayed with me the longest.


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