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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

4 Summer Books To Read

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

On the beach. On your deck. In bed.

No matter where, here are 4 summer books to read!

June 22, 2023


Summer is almost here – and with it comes a host of sizzling new releases.

But what actually accounts for the choices we ultimately make in our leisure reading?

While factors such as cost, accessibility and genre preferences play a role, social psychologists offer a few additional insights about what seems to motivate our choices.

Peer pressure is a prevalent factor in many areas of life, and apparently the literary arena is no different.

As with any other habit, most readers tend to pick up the habits and preferences of the people around them.

“The Secret Book of Flora Lea”

by Patti Callahan Henry

Set in 1939, The Secret Book of Flora Lea is the story of two young children who were evacuated from London to the countryside under Operation Pied Piper in order to protect them from aerial bombings.

Hazel, 14, and Flora, 5, are placed with a kind woman and her teenage son Harry, who live in a cottage along the Thames. Hazel learns to soothe her young sister by telling her vivid stories of an imaginary and magical world called Whisperwood; their own world of escape that can only be accessed from their private spot along the river.

But one day, tragically, Flora vanishes from the banks of the river. It is presumed that she has drowned, and Hazel carries unrelenting guilt and sorrow into adulthood, and the story of Whisperwood is lost forever.

By 1960, Hazel is finishing up her work at a London bookshop when a parcel arrives from America that contains an illustrated children’s book called ‘Whisperwood and the River of Stars’. It is the fairy tale she created with Flora many years ago. Having never given up hope that Flora was still alive, Hazel begins a feverish quest to find her missing sister as no one else could possibly know their magical Whisperwood.

Why Read It? "This exquisitely beautiful, poignant, and enchanting tale is an extraordinary blend of mystery, faith, and sisterly love that will utterly captivate history buffs and storytellers alike."

“The Spectacular,” by Fiona Davis

In 1956 New York City, 19-year-old Marion Brooks must make some difficult choices.

As is expected of women in that era, she is on track to settle down and marry her longtime boyfriend. But Marion, a talented dancer, dreams of so much more. When she learns of an opportunity to audition for the Radio City Rockettes she leaps at it despite the prohibitions of her protective father.

At the same time, a mysterious madman has been terrorizing New York City for nearly 16 years, leaving explosives in some of the most popular Big Apple locations.

When the “Big Apple Bomber” targets Radio City, Marion is pulled into the investigation alongside Dr. Peter Griggs, a young man who is developing a radical new technique called psychological profiling, to help identify the bomber’s identity. Marion becomes intricately involved in a dangerous and terrifying plan to capture him.

Why Read It? Based on the story of the real-life “Mad Bomber” who planted bombs across New York City for 16 years, this brilliantly researched, powerful page-turner is an explosive, gripping, not-to-be-missed read from this wonderful New York Times best-selling author.

“All The Days of Summer,” by Nancy Thayer

This tale of family drama and conflict between a mother and her son's girlfriend is set against the backdrop of beautiful Nantucket.

Heather Willette, a middle-aged wife and mother, has had a good life in Concord, Massachusetts, but now that her marriage has fizzled out, she decides to leave her husband and rent a cottage on Nantucket for the summer. Her plan to rediscover herself is off to a good start until her son, Ross, a recent college graduate, suddenly decides to move to the island and work in construction for his girlfriend Kailee’s father.

Ross is in love with Kailee Essex, a bright, bold young woman, but she has clashed with Heather since the first day they met. Kailee is clearly less than thrilled that Heather will be living nearby. Will even the most beautiful summer setting be able to unite this small family struggling with growing pains?

Why Read It? Nancy Thayer artfully captures the beauty and ambiance of Nantucket as she sensitively delves into the complexities of family love and strife.

“Daughters of Nantucket,” by Julie Gerstenblatt

Set against Nantucket’s Great Fire of 1846, this absorbing tale spotlights three determined and courageous women.

In 1846, Nantucket was a small, isolated island where the women are left behind for long periods of time, even years, while their seafaring husbands seek a living on the seas. With her husband gone, Eliza Macy struggles to make ends meet while caring for two young daughters. Meg Wright, a pregnant free black woman is facing both racial bigotry in town and opposition from Eliza Macy as she works to improve her family’s financial status.

Meanwhile, Maria Mitchell, an astronomer who single-handedly manages Nantucket’s Atheneum, is struggling with her own painful secrets.

When a massive fire breaks out in the town, fueled by densely packed wooden buildings, these three very different women must decide how to overlook their differences if they hope to survive and hold on to what they hold dear.

Why Read It? This incredibly fascinating, emotionally moving and remarkably well-researched work of historical fiction offers an unforgettable story of love, loss, friendship, and redemption.

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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