Recently, on Twitter, a writer named Tim Schaffert asked his followers to describe their favorite reading experience. “Not your favorite book, necessarily,” he said, “but one of your favorite moments/periods of engagement with a book.” Many people responded with tales of reading books while traveling to the places they were set. For me, many of my most memorable reading experiences have taken place on one of the first warm days of summer: flying through Judy Blume’s Smart Women on the lawn after finishing my last exams during my sophomore year at college, propped up by one of those backrest pillows; spending Memorial Day in a hammock reading Eleanor Lipman’s The Inn at Lake Devine.
In recent years, I’ve discovered a taste for books set near the beach, read as summer begins: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan; Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore; The Rocks by Peter Nichols. I try not to judge a book by its cover, but the beautiful water on the fronts of all these books surely helped them find readers hoping to get swept up by a summery story.
This year, the book I’m going to be recommending to all my friends is The High Season by Judy Blundell, set on the North Fork of Long Island. The first line drew me right in: “Every summer Ruthie gave away her house by the sea.” One I’m going to be reading myself is Elin Hilderbrand’s The Perfect Couple; I’m not sure how I’ve missed Hilderbrand’s Nantucket-set books all these years. Beatriz Williams’ The Summer Wives is set on an island in Long Island Sound and picks up 20 years after a murder in the tightknit enclave. If you’re a cycling fan, try Joe Mungo Reed’s We Begin Our Ascent, set at the Tour de France. I’m saving it to read if I ever get to the Tour—that would be a memorable reading experience! Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.