10 Classic Stories for Kindred Spirits to Read this Summer
Dear kindred spirit,
I am delighted you could join me today, and I sincerely hope that these first summer days have been the start of a season of joy, laughter and sweetness for you. Spring has slipped away "like golden beads on the necklace of the year" (to quote Anne Shirley) and the days have grown warm and vibrant with tiger-lilies and larkspur to shed a deep-hued radiance over the start of a sweet summer.
This time of year, I'm usually scribbling out several ever-changing summer reading lists and choosing off the shelves which stories will mark this season with their fond memory. It's curious—I often find that all my memories of previous years are mainly connected to what I was reading at the time. I may not be able to tell you what I was up to in the July of five years ago, but I definitely remember I was reading Pat of Silver Bush and its sequel Mistress Pat for the first time. :)
And so, in case you're a little like me and have a tendency to make lovely long reading lists every summer (and if you're even more like me you might not actually end up sticking to them at all), I thought I might help you in your list-making endeavors and share with you my own ever-so-summery classic book recommendations. :)
My Top 10 Summery Classics for Kindred Spirits
1. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
A Montgomery favorite of mine, Jane of Lantern Hill follows young Jane Stuart, a Toronto girl who lives a stifled childhood with her mother and grandmother—that is, until she receives a surprise letter from her father and is invited to spend the summer with him at a country-cottage on Prince Edward Island. I shan't give away any more—you simply have to do yourself a favor and read about Jane's summer of self-discovery yourself. This is such a wonderful story, at times reminding me of Montgomery's The Blue Castle combined with the The Parent-Trap. Utterly good, and will absolutely be sure to join your favorites.
A note on adaptations: There is a Sullivan Entertainment film of the same name, but I advise you to steer clear, as it has absolutely no grounds for even claiming to be based on this book.
2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This one's on my all-time-favorite classics list—a 1930s thrill of a marriage mystery drama. A heroine without a name—a widower with a deadly secret—and the memory, like a ghost, of his late wife Rebecca, driving a wedge between the newlyweds as though she still holds her place as the Mistress of Manderley from beyond the grave. With a backdrop of summer on the coast of Cornwall, this thrilling classic will be perfect for holiday seaside reading-plans.
Recommended age: Teen and up for heavy topics
A note on adaptations: I advise steering clear of the recent Netflix adaptation; instead, enjoy Hitchcock's 1940 Rebecca, which is a true masterpiece.
3. The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene
One of my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries, this story is accessible even to readers not priorly familiar with the beloved super-sleuth. I struggle to summarize it however, as there are actually two versions of the book—the original 1930 text, and the revised 1961 text which is the most commonly known. Whichever version you pick up, you're in for a summery escape with Nancy as she encounters kidnappers and scuba divers (the former in the 1930 text, the latter in the 1961) and unravels one of her most well-loved mysteries yet. I prefer the earlier version myself, but either will be full of fun and light mystery for the summer.
4. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
A summer staple in my books—Heidi is one of those children's classics that only grows more and more poignant and wise the older you get. Whether you read the story in childhood or have yet to discover Heidi's endearing, heartfelt tale on the Swiss Alps, this is undoubtedly one to read—and reread—and share with readers young and old for a wonderful lesson in how to live generously, kindly, and freely for the sake of loving others.
5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
One of my favorite Austens, and undoubtedly one of her most romantic—and summery! Anne Elliot once refused her beloved Captain Wentworth when she was persuaded against marrying him...and has bitterly regretted it for years. When the dashing sea-captain returns to England and once more crosses paths with Anne, it's a second chance to undo the past...if she can govern her heart from her old foe: persuasion.
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A modern classic, I think many readers would agree—Guernsey is one of those stories particularly meant for book-lovers. Set against the backdrop of England in 1946 and uniquely told entirely in letter format, this one's a perfect treat for the summer holiday. Or if you're more of an armchair traveler, you'll find this story a transportive escape as Juliet Ashton sails to Guernsey to meet a book-club whose members are every bit as endearing, as the classic stories they read and peruse together are beloved.
Recommended age: Teen and up for heavy war topics
7. Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
For the mystery-lover, the Queen of Mystery herself deserves a place on this list—and I particularly think this Christie is not only one of her most summer-y, but truly one of her best. Featuring the beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and his partner-detective Captain Hastings, the pair are invited to the Cornish riviera to help a young woman who has lately experienced several near-dashes with death—in the hope that he can catch her would-be killer before it's too late.
8. Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien
Perfect for readers young and old, this less well-known Tolkien story follows a little dog called Rover who gets turned into a toy dog by an irritable wizard and is sold and bought, lost and found, and is sent on many travels—including the moon and under the sea—longing to become a real dog once more and return to his beachside home. Tolkien originally wrote this story for his son after he lost his toy dog while the family was away on summer holiday. Whimsical and adventurous, this will be a perfect read-aloud for young readers that parents will enjoy, too. :)
9. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
Summer on Prince Edward Island is full of delight and adventure for the King cousins and their friends at the turn of the 20th Century. Fourteen-year-old Sara Stanley (more commonly known as "The Story Girl") enlivens every summer day with the King children with her storytelling talent, following the lively group through scrapes and adventures both heartwarming and hilarious. Serving as the inspiration behind the Road to Avonlea tv-series and being one of Montgomery's favorites of all her works, The Story Girl is a real gem among the lesser-known of her brilliant stories.
10. Emma by Jane Austen
Lastly, my personal favorite Austen—and one I really feel must be read in the summer. Emma Woodhouse may be "handsome, clever and rich," and know it very well—but her vanity lies in her (so far) successful matchmaking schemes. Emma may think she knows best...but it just might turn out that love knows better. Austen's own satirical comedy about finding love and happiness (and all the mistakes that come along the way) is a true classic that will be sure to bring laughter and delight your way this season. Bring a copy to a picnic, a lakeside, or simply out in the warm golden sunshine this summer—it'll be a core memory to recall for years afterward. :)
I hope this list provided you with a few additions to make to your summer reading list! For myself, this summer I'm enjoying a delve through Maud Hart Lovelace's works amid biographies, rereads, and an Austen or an Alcott along the way. ;) If you would like to share some of your own summery classic recommendations with me, I'd love to hear from you! You can drop a comment below to start the conversation. 🤍
I wish you a joyous start to the summer, dear heart. Many blessings, and happy reading!
Until next time,
Want to follow along on Instagram? You can find me @austensandalcotts for mini blog-posts, a glimpse into my reading life, and giveaways for products from my shop. You can also subscribe to the Austens & Alcotts mailing list to receive my twice-monthly newsletter direct to your inbox, where I share personal encouragement for kindred spirits longing for a simpler, lovelier life, as well as news on shop releases, subscriber-exclusive sales, and more!