Summer reads: 'Hotel Nantucket,' 'One Italian Summer' and more to throw in your beach bag

As children, we all breathlessly awaited summer freedom when the bell rang at 3 o’clock on the last day of school. This freedom included reading what you wanted, whenever you wanted. I would argue that as adults, “summer reading” should still conjure up images of blissfully long days reading in your favorite spot, whether on a beach blanket, a patio lounge, poolside or curled up on your comfy couch.

Summer reading should not be a “guilty pleasure” like the once-in-a-while break from your diet, but rather a nonstop brazen activity. Whether you race quickly through a bunch of adult bestsellers like you are gobbling a large bucket of popcorn in one sitting, or simply read a small portion of a single beautiful story each day,  just do it, your way. If summer reading means tackling that to-be-read pile from your bedside stand, re-reading a favorite classic, or wandering a bookstore and simply seeing what book cover catches your eye,  just do it, your way.

Let the books below form just a beginning suggestion list for a delicious season of summer joy and summer companionship.

"Remarkably Bright Creatures" by Shelby Van Pelt
"Remarkably Bright Creatures" by Shelby Van Pelt

'Remarkably Bright Creatures'

"Remarkably Bright Creatures" by Shelby Van Pelt is a remarkably enchanting, exquisitely poignant, truly unique and uplifting story of love, loss and new beginnings.

Tova Sullivan is a no-nonsense 70-year-old widow who likes things done the right way, especially when it comes to her volunteer job as a night janitor at Puget Sound’s Sowell Bay Aquarium. She enjoys the creatures that inhabit the tanks too, especially Marcellus, a highly intelligent, rebellious, giant Pacific octopus. The cleaning itself allows Tova a break from ruminating over the mysterious vanishing of her 18-year-old son so many years ago, but it is the friendships she forms that really keep her afloat. Not only is Marcellus key, but so too is Cameron, a lonely young man who is also searching for painful answers of his own. Together these three fabulous characters give new meaning to finding strength in numbers.

“The Hotel Nantucket,” by Elin Hilderbrand.
“The Hotel Nantucket,” by Elin Hilderbrand.

'Hotel Nantucket'

"Hotel Nantucket" by Elin Hilderbrand is the absolutely pitch-perfect summer read with a bit of romance, mystery, behind-the-scenes hotel escapades and a ‘sassy’ ghost for good measure.

The ghost is Grace Hadley, a teenage maid who died under suspicious circumstances in a hotel fire in 1922. Grace’s lonely days wandering the hotel hallways are over when a London billionaire reopens The Hotel Nantucket, sparing no expense. Grace joins a marvelous set of hotel staff, including young Lizbet Keaton, who are dedicated to bringing glory to the revival of the “once-grand” hotel. But throw in painful romantic breakups, front desk staff sleeping with guests, a plucky 8-year-old sleuth trying to solve the mystery of Grace’s death, and Grace herself trying to sniff out guests with “rotten souls,” and the question is whether the hotel will even survive its first summer.

'Sisters of Night and Fog'

"Sisters of Night and Fog" by Erika Robuck is a viscerally powerful, heart-pounding, must-read story inspired by two little-known real-life heroines who risk everything to help the French Resistance during World War II.

Early in WWII, young Virginia d’Albert-Lake chooses to stay in occupied France with her French husband, Phillipe, despite her American family’s pleas. While knowing the grave risk and with incredible courage, she and her husband help downed Allied soldiers  return to their home bases. Similarly, Violette Szabo, a young Franco-British woman driven by rage toward the Nazis, is recruited by the British Special Operations Executive and uses her keen intelligence and superb firearm handling to become an invaluable courier. But in time, both women’s dangerous tasks are brought to a devastating halt as they end up in the torturous Ravensbruck concentration camp. Readers will be left aghast wondering how such evil can exist, and desperately rooting for their survival.

"One Italian Summer" by Rebecca Serle
"One Italian Summer" by Rebecca Serle

'One Italian Summer: A Novel'

"One Italian Summer: A Novel" by Rebecca Serle is a highly immersive, uniquely refreshing and poignant look at how one young woman processes the loss of her mother and comes to live her best possible life.

When Carol Silver dies, her daughter Katy loses not only her mother but her best friend. On the eve of a trip to Italy that the two had planned to take together, Katy decides to leave everything behind and fly solo. This includes leaving her grieving father and Eric, the husband she isn't sure she wants to be married to any longer. Prior to getting married, Carol had spent many magical days in Positano and now Katy hopes to do the same. When Katy arrives she suddenly finds her own “magic” of sorts, including meeting her mother, Carol, in the flesh, as the stunning, sun-tanned, vivacious 30-year-old she once was. Amid the lush sights, tastes and sounds of the Amalfi Coast, Katy rediscovers what it means to truly love and be loved.

More Book Smart

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Adolescents in focus: Authors tackle troubled lives of teenage girls, including 'My Dark Vanessa'

Sisterhood: Stories about female friendship, including 'The Woman with the Blue Star'

Novels of self-discovery: The girls save themselves in these new books

Book Smart is a monthly column by Nancy Harris, of Scituate, a practicing psychologist and a former instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

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This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: 'Hotel Nantucket,' 'One Italian Summer' to throw in your beach bag