For the first day of summer, I wanted to introduce a list of classic books that I associate with summer. Classic literature can be incredibly speculative to define. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list!
Category One — Water Stories
When I think of summer, I think of water, boats, and islands. This list includes some of the books I associate with those themes.
Stay tuned for more categories of classic books to enjoy this summer!
1. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
I am a passionate lover of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. My husband and I are slowly working our way through her Hercule Poirot series, which this book belongs to. The great thing about Ms. Christie’s work is that it can be enjoyed on its own or as part of the series.
Synopsis: “The tranquility of a luxury cruise along the Nile was shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway had been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything . . . until she lost her life.
Hercule Poirot recalled an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet under the searing heat of the Egyptian sun, nothing is ever quite what it seems.
A sweeping mystery of love, jealousy, and betrayal, Death on the Nile is one of Christie’s most legendary and timeless works.”
2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
This is my favorite Agatha Christie book of all time! It is a standalone and the ending is absolutely impossible to guess.
Synopsis: “Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to an isolated mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they die. . .
Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?”
Shop Paperback Edition #2 here at Bookshop.org.
3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I do not recommend this book to all readers, but if the open sea is calling your name and you feel like giving yourself a challenge this summer: look no further than Moby Dick.
Synopsis: “‘Command the murderous chalices!…Drink ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow – Death to Moby Dick!’. So Captain Ahab binds his crew to fulfil his obsession – the destruction of the great white whale. Under his lordly but maniacal command the Pequod’s commercial mission is perverted to one of vengeance. To Ahab, the monster that destroyed his body is not a creature, but the symbol of ‘some unknown but still reasoning thing’. Uncowed by natural disasters, ill omens, even death, Ahab urges his ship towards ‘the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale’.”
4. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Jules Verne’s works continue to dazzle and amaze readers of all ages. It’s incredible to consider the impact Verne has had on science fiction; just for that fact alone I recommend this to readers or lovers of Sci Fi!
Synopsis: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea tells the classic story of Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus as seen from the point of view of Professor Pierre Aronnax, who was commissioned to find the mysterious sea monster responsible for sinking ships. Written by French science fiction writer Jules Verne in 1870, the novel illuminates themes that transcend time, such as man versus nature, freedom, and revenge. Now available as part of the Word Cloud Classics series, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a must-have addition to the libraries of all classic literature lovers.”
Shop for the Word Cloud Classic at Bookshop.org.
5. The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen
When I think of classics associated with the sea I think of “The Little Mermaid,” one of my favorite stories from Hans Christian Anderson. For those who grew up on the Disney version: be warned that the original stories are darker. I believe that children and adults should enjoy Anderson’s classic tales.
6. The Odyssey by Homer
If we are going to discuss sea faring classics, this list is incomplete without The Odyssey.
Synopsis: “If the Iliad is the world’s greatest war epic, then the Odyssey is literature’s grandest evocation of everyman’s journey though life. Odysseus’ reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces, during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance.”
7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Another seafaring story is Hemingway’s famous novella about loss and grief.
Synopsis: “The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal–a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream, on the water for months without a catch, but refusing to stop trying. Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the timeless theme of courage and commitment in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his talent and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.”
Buy the Scribner Classics Edition at Bookshop.org.
8. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Between the urge to never grow up, adventures with mermaids and fairies, or just battling mean old Captain Hook, Peter Pan seems the penultimate story for summertime. *Note* There are some culturally insensitive and racist moments in Barrie’s depiction of native people in this story.
Synopsis: “One starry night, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell lead the three Darling children over the rooftops of London and away to Neverland – the island where lost boys play, mermaids splash and fairies make mischief. But a villainous-looking gang of pirates lurk in the docks, led by the terrifying Captain James Hook. Magic and excitement are in the air, but if Captain Hook has his way, before long, someone will be walking the plank and swimming with the crocodiles. . .”
9. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
The Tempest is one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. It offers a tragic view on the world; set on an island it involves greed, love, and magic.
Synopsis: “Putting romance onstage, The Tempest gives us a magician, Prospero, a former duke of Milan who was displaced by his treacherous brother, Antonio. Prospero is exiled on an island, where his only companions are his daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the monster Caliban. When his enemies are among those caught in a storm near the island, Prospero turns his power upon them through Ariel and other spirits. The characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes. Prospero seems heroic, yet he enslaves Caliban and has an appetite for revenge. Caliban seems to be a monster for attacking Miranda, but appears heroic in resisting Prospero, evoking the period of colonialism during which the play was written. Miranda’s engagement to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples and a member of the shipwrecked party, helps resolve the drama.”
Shop The Tempest, Norton Critical Edition from Amazon.
10. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
This classic story has been adapted so many times the chances are that even if you haven’t read Stevenson’s book you probably know the story. The time is perfect to read the book this summer and then to watch my favorite adaptation of it Muppet Treasure Island on Disney+.
Synopsis: “Treasure Island is the seminal pirates and buried treasure novel, which is so brilliantly concocted that it appeals to readers both young and old. The story is told in the first person by young Jim Hawkins, whose mother keeps the Admiral Benbow Inn. An old seadog, a resident at the inn, hires Jim to keep a watch out for other sailors whom he fears but, despite all precautions, the old man is served with the black spot which means death. Among the dead man’s belongings Jim discovers a map showing the location of the buried treasure of the notorious pirate Captain Flint. It is not long before he, along with Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney, sets sail to find the treasure. However, amongst the hired hands is the one-legged Long John Silver who has designs on the treasure for himself. The continuing fascination with this tale of high drama, buried treasure and treachery bears out what Stevenson wrote about the book to his friend W. E. Henley: ‘if this don’t fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day.’ The book not only continues to ‘fetch the kids’ but the grown-ups too – in fact all those with the spirit of adventure in their hearts.”
11. Book Sets with Books Mentioned Above
A. Adventure Word Cloud Boxed Set
From the publisher: “There are so many adventures to choose from in this exclusively selected boxed set! Four special-edition Word Cloud Classics are included: Call of the Wild and Other Stories, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, and Treasure Island. Readers will be proud to display these works on their bookshelf when not reading stories of the savage landscape of Yukon territory, the challenges of growing up in the jungle, flying to Neverland, and hunting for pirate treasure—and the pirate ship sailing across the spines is sure to provoke many an interesting conversation.”
B. Discovery Word Cloud Boxed Set
From the publisher: “Discover new realms of thought and fantasy in this exclusively selected boxed set! Four special-edition Word Cloud Classics are included: The Wizard of Oz, The Wind in the Willows and Other Stories, Hans Christian Andersen Tales, and Aesop’s Fables. Readers will be proud to display these works on their bookshelf when not reading folktales and detecting morals set forth by our ancestors—and the hot-air balloon cruising across the spines is sure to provoke many an interesting conversation.”
C. Puffin Hardcover Classics Box Set
From the publisher: “This deluxe set includes six classic children’s novels, colorfully designed with textured hardcover binding for a sophisticated, timeless look readers will treasure. Snuggly packaged in a gorgeously illustrated box to make the perfect gift for the holidays, or any time of year. For the young, and the young at heart! Box includes A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows, and Peter Pan!”
12. For audiobook lovers: All of the above books are available to listen to from Audible or Libro.fm (my favorite two audiobook companies). Click on the company’s name if you want to find out more about becoming a member with them.
Note on affiliate links: While purchases through affiliate links are much appreciated, the purpose of this blog is to educate and spread a love of reading. You don’t have to purchase books to be a reader, that is why we have libraries. However you end up reading these books, I hope that you enjoy them!