(This is a summer installment in my occasional series of book recommendations. The following post contains affiliate links. You can find previous recommendations right here.)
I adore summer, but I was not made for summer.
I was made for curling up with a book on snowy days. I was made for the slow, careful glide across ice. I was made for the silence of the whole world hushed by snow.
But I love summer. I love raised beds for vegetables and 3 chickens fighting for one worm. I love sun-warmed tomatoes with cracked pepper and babies sticky with a first popsicle. I love that one white lily picked from my flowerbed fills nearly the entire house with its scent.
Summer is sensory overload.
Which means I am having a hard time reading. A novel, especially, is a whole new world of sights and sounds and emotions and ideas. But my small world is full to bursting with those things. At least in summer. And I can’t handle any more.
I tried reading The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone. Someone recommended it to me, though I’ve forgotten who. It seems clever and thrilling. Hip and suspenseful. I only managed a chapter (maybe half?) before I set it aside. It’s summer, and I have no room in myself for cleverness or hipness. I’ve taken to rereading my favorite essays in Amy Leach’s wonderful Things That Are, instead. Somehow, they are clever in a way that moves me deeper into what is right in front of me, like sunflowers grown taller than my husband and a woodchuck who nibbles my daylilies despite the cat stalking him from behind the baby plum tree.
Jonathan and I watch the cat/woodchuck drama while we rinse and load the dinner dishes. Then we go and watch British television shows on YouTube. Comfort-food television like Restoration Home and Great British Garden Revival.
My nightly reading with the kids is also a serving of comfort and nostalgia. Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn is a new book, but it reads like an old favorite. This is an English countryhouse novel for kids, and even my boys love it. The firstborn and I dream of genteel mice making a kind of summer home in a child’s dollhouse, and the boys cheer on General Marchmouse as he advances against the cartoonishly evil Aunt Ivy.
The baby and I are reading Adventures with Barefoot Critters by Teagan White. The illustrations and typography are lovely in this just-released picture book. With its adorable animals in adorable clothes doing adorably fun things, you might call it Tumtum & Nutmeg for the toddler set.
And when everyone is in bed? No, they aren’t asleep. It is summer, after all. But as long as they are in their rooms, and the door is muffling all the not-so-subtle sounds of a sibling “sleep-over,” then you will find me curled up with Empress of the Garden by G. Michael Shoup (an enormous coffee-table book of antique roses) or Private Edens: Beautiful Country Gardens by Jack Staub (another coffee-table-sized treasury of garden inspiration), or maybe The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David Culp (this one weighs a little less and is as practical as it is inspiring).
In other words, in summer, you will either find me in the garden or reading about gardens.
Because there are three other seasons for smart novels and broadening your horizons and ticking items off of must-read lists.
Happy summer, friends.