3 Things I Look for in a Great Summer Read

June has arrived and July is upon us! Now that school is out, summer reading can begin! Summer at my house includes road trips, beach and pool time, and long lazy days. Most importantly, this is the time of year that I read a lot…but I don’t just read anything. I look for specific types of books as I go into my summer reading phase.

I thought I’d share with you my top 3 criteria for picking a perfect summer read. Feel free to use these if you’re struggling to decide on a book to start with!

1. It has to be a story that draws you in within the first few pages and is easy to dive back into without having to re-read the page.

I’m already dreaming of laying out by the pool with the kids swimming and playing…ice cold water or tea at my side with its condensation dripping onto the hot deck and me with an excellent book to keep me company. Of course, when you do go to the pool, or just about anywhere with your kids, you are going to get interrupted. “Look mom!” or “Watch this!” or “I’m hungry,” or “I’m bored” are going to stop you from reading and pull you from the world in which you were so deeply immersed.

This is why a book that “has me at hello” is my #1 criterion for summer reading. I don’t want to wait for 50-100 pages to get into the story. I want to be fully engaged right away because I never know when I’m going to be interrupted and if I have to come back later to the book after I’ve watched my son do his third belly flop into the pool.

2. The book has to be light enough to carry in my bag or available in e-book format.

Don’t get me started on all the things you have to carry with you on road trips or when you are off camping. You’ve got a bag full of snacks and towels and Dramamine for the kid who gets car sick on every curvy road. You spend more time feeling like a pack mule than an actual person!! But when you finally get yourself settled, it’s worth the trouble to find yourself enjoying your summer book with the wind gently rustling the tree leaves above you and the birds chirping their sweet songs.

My #2 criterion is easy enough to meet as e-readers are so readily available now; however, I don’t always bring electronics with me, especially on a camping trip. If I’m going to carry a hard copy of a book, then I don’t want it to be a large tome. Make no mistake, I love big books, but when you are hauling it around with a hundred other things, shorter and lighter is better!

3. I want a book with adventure, mystery, or is set in a faraway land.

Maybe you aren’t taking a big vacation this summer, and your idea of hanging out by the pool is putting your feet in the kiddie pool under a shady tree in your back yard. You’ve got a margarita or piña colada chilling in your red solo cup and you are quite content to escape in a good book and avoid the amusement park crowds.

For this reason, my #3 criterion is about true escape. I love mysteries for summer reading. It keeps my busy mind engaged as I’m trying to puzzle out who done it. I also love books that take me away to places I’ve never been— reading about tropical places, exotic Mediterranean countries, Tuscany, or the French countryside is right up my alley. Oh, the places you’ll go with a good book set in a completely new place!

What are the criteria you use when searching for a great summer read?

Note: This blog post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I considered re-writing the whole thing, but really the 3 criteria are still the same. Even if you can't get to your local pool or your road trips are limited. There are always distractions, bags full of things you need (like masks, wipes, hand sanitizer, etc) and definitely the promise of escape still applies.