It’s Memorial Day Weekend in the US and where I live that means the pools are opening. Now, I know that this time of year people like to create “beach read” lists. But I don’t always go to the beach for my summer vacation. In fact, I can kind of live without the beach as part of my summer plans. (No offense to the beach. It’s fun for a day or two, but a whole week of all beach everyday isn’t for me.)
But, because I have a young daughter and a community pool at the end of our street, I do end up spending time in the summer staring out at the chlorine blue waters. So for those of you who may not get to the beach for a while, but spend a lot of time at the pool, here is a list of Summer Pool reads for you!
But first, how does a “pool read” differ from a “beach read”?
For me, when I hear “beach read” I think of quick reads, exciting books, adventure books, romance books. It’s a book I’ll enjoy, but I won’t cry if it gets sandy or soaked by a wave because I didn’t realize the tide came in while I sat in my beach chair near the water.
But a “pool read” to me is something different. The pool takes me back to my teenage years, crickets, fireflies. There’s a sense of nostalgia, maybe even malaise with a pool read, less adventure more self-discovery, first loves and friendships.
Now, for the list.
1. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
This one might be a little obvious and I find it hard to believe someone hasn’t read this. But, even if you had, break it out again and get a few more drops of chemical water splashed onto the cover because it’s a perfect pool read.
The story follows 4 close friends Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen on their separate adventures throughout a summer, all tied together by a pair of magical pants that somehow fits them all. It’s really a very clever, sweet, coming-of-age book that you should drop into your pool bag.
Note: Also a really cute movie that stars Rory Gilmore!
2. Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress
Coming-of-age, summertime and a cross country journey, this book was meant to be a summer pool read. It’s an old one I read a long time ago. But it’s still a fitting one for a pool read. Plus I don’t know a lot of funny books about a chopped off head that also make a profound statement about Civil Rights.
It gets points for that. If you saw the lame version of this book as a movie, which came out a long time ago, just forget you ever saw it. The book is great and worth a read even if you were turned off by the movie. The novel’s most important tension also centers around a municipal pool…
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The book is a set of thirteen interrelated stories with a large set of characters all connected to Bennie Salazar, a record company executive, and his assistant, Sasha. At it’s heart, this book is about music. For me, summer and the pool are synonymous with music. As a teen, I’d pop in my headphones and sit on one of those plastic chairs that left striped marks on my legs for hours, only pressing pause to dip into the pool to cool off. That’s one reason why this book might feel like a pool read to me.
Another might be because I also first read one of the stories from this book while waiting for my daughter to finish her swimming lessons. It was part of a short stories collection by a host of different authors that came out prior to the publication of the full novel. In terms of the short story collection, it was the most unique of them all, told in the very difficult and rightfully seldom used 2nd person. The full novel is just as interesting and unique and similarly filled with stories held together by a very tenuous thread, but that’s OK because the thread is music.
It doesn’t really take place over a summer, but it has the dreamy sense of malaise, nostalgia and self-destruction that feels very much youthful summer angst sucked into the pages of a book.
4. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
OK, Judy Blume, really? You might say. She’s OK if you’re a kid or a teenager, but what if you’re an adult. I’d say, I read Summer Sisters when I was in my early 20s and was captivated. I was working at a temp and found it in the drawer of an otherwise empty desk, like it was just waiting for me.
On my lunch break I decided to read it. This was before I could just get a book on my handy phone. I was captivated. Blume describes the complex emotions of first experiences, summers and friendship in a way that is still completely relatable, even to adults. I think, even if you’re over the age of 16, she’s still worth reading.
5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This is a coming-of-age story for women. I like the idea that you don’t always just have one coming-of-age in your life, you can have many at different points. And the coming-of-age story feels very summery to me, things blooming, growing and sometimes languishing in the sun.
Zora Neale Hurston’s classic Their Eyes Were Watching God has that feel to me. In the novel, Janie Crawford grows from a curious, vivacious young girl to a remarkably strong and independent woman, all the while experiencing first heartbreaks and second chances.
Any other summer pool read suggestions?