There are books that wash over your hands like sunlight and beg to be read on a hot summer's day and maybe even soak into your soul all the better beside a large, lapping body of water to boot.
Here are 5 of my all-time great summertime, sunlight, ocean, and water picks! What books remind you of summertime?
1. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Considering that this book begins with the bliss of summertime and all it's herb-filled, rose-colored joy, this book practically begs to be read in the summertime, whether or not you find yourself lucky enough to dabble your toes in water while doing so. It's the prequel to Practical Magic, once made into a pretty good film, starring Sandra Bullock I believe, but it's an even better book about the Owens sister. This tale concerns their mysterious aunts' coming-of-age in the summertime, and it's just liquid gold sunshine and cool, blissful shadows. Read both if you haven't read either! Particularly salutary for the soul in this cynical day and age of Internet trolls. It's truly bottled up, or I guess paged -up, old-fashioned magic. Your summertime soul will thank you!
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
If you haven't read this classic yet, you're in luck! A. Because it's an immensely readable novel, not a stuffy "classic" at all. And B. because Lydia Davis's translation is as close to the original as to be indistinguishable from the French text, except, of course that it's in English. (I'm French-American, and I've read the book in both, most memorably one summer in my grandparent's sleepy, dull village of St. Aubin de Locquenay. A town in the Sarthe region with more cows than people. It spiced up a dull summer for a teen, although I was way too young to understand any of the sex stuff. In fact, I think I'm the only extremely plain adolescent on the planet who could empathize with Madame Bovary as I did. As for the English translation, I agree with everyone: this is a beautiful translation.) So much of Madame Bovary has to do with summertime lovin' gone wrong. It's a great summer read about the original, realest, baddest housewife of them all.
3. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Best for rainy days. This collection of essays might be best read indoors on days too hot even for dabbling toes in cool bodies of water, because it will have you humphing and hawing with unrepressable laughter, so much so that your neighbors might start giving you funny looks of their own.
4. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
"The desire to freeze reality is about avoiding reality."
I've heard so much about Cixin Liu's Hugo-award-winning phenomenon "The Three Body Problem", but for some reason the book feels too hardcore sci-fi or winter-timeish at least for me to crack it in the summertime. Instead, I stumbled upon a book of short stories by the writer who translated Liu's popular series. Ken Liu's short stories run the gamut from tales of relationships to steampunk to folklore-- or rather a mix of all and more. Most of them are Hugo, Neubula, and Theodore-Sturgeon award-winning tales. These are melancholy, poetic tales, perfect for a quiet night in. I'm so excited to sink my teeth into more of them!
4. The Witch Doesn't Burn In This One by Amanda Lovelace
The Princess Saves Herself In This One won Amanda Lovelace the 2016 Goodread's Choice Award, and the beloved poet is back with another gem in her "Women Are Magic" series. This next book is dedicated to "all the princesses, all the damsels, and all the queens" who "have rescued themselves so many times now...." Enough said. Read this after a particularly low moment of hanging out in your bikini by the pool and rediscover your power!
6. Diana: Her True Story-- In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
I was never particularly invested in the Royal Family. In fact, do you capitalize Royal Family? Well, the fact that I do in my head says it all. Like it or not, they've entered the collective imagination in a major way, following the marriage of an American commoner to one of their handsome princes. The excitement surrounding the wedding made me wonder about the hysteria surrounding an earlier wedding. I had no idea, though, how much I'd be moved and inspired by Diana's humanitarian work and her beautiful soul. Plus, she was only 36 when she died! Megan Markle's age when she married Prince Harry. She accomplished so much through sheer intuition, kindness, and courage. Yes, she was as beautiful and fashionable as the day is long, but she had a uniquely feminine, maternal perspective of world events, and her whole story is very much worth knowing, especially if you've ever admired her photographs! Andrew Morton creates a really interesting work with his unique combination of Diana's own words alongside his incisive explanations of British politics, history, and, most of all, the tangle of family politics. She also definitely spent a good portion of her life on some glamorous escapes, making this a great summer read!
7. The Power by Naomi Alderman
This book sizzles with all the drama and terror of being caught outside in an electric storm in July. I mean, just check out this list of accolades! It definitely stands up to the hype! It's both gorgeously written and a thrilling read!
One of the New York Times's Ten Best Books of 2017
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2017
One of the Washington Post's Ten Best Books of 2017
An NPR Best Book of 2017
One of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of 2017
A Bustle Best Book of 2017
A Paste Magazine Best Novel of 2017
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2017
8. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
I actually haven't read this one yet, but it seems incomplete to have a list of beach reads without a thriller counted amongst them! It got amazing reviews, sounds like the Gone Girl of the summer. If you also thought the latter was a fun, gritty read, you'll probably enjoy this, too. Stephen King calls it, "Unputdownable."
Check my TBR list below for more ideas! What's on yours? Have you read any of the above? What did you think? Any books of you own that you believe should only be read in the summertime?
P.S. Also SO many of my favorite fun writers have books coming out??!! Tana French. Ian Rankin. Alexander McCall Smith. Alan Bradley. It's going to be a great summer/ fall!
Recently, we moved into a new apartment in Philadelphia, which means I went through my regular routine of trying to settle in while experiencing about a month of insomnia. It strikes every time I move, but this time I decided to be more pro-active. Lavender oil was incredibly helpful at helping me reestablish a night-time routine, and in my research I also stumbled upon this recipe for lavender tea (below) and had to try it. Ever since my pregnancy with my first baby, I'd been hearing about the magical, soothing properties of lavender. Here are a few of my favorites that I've learned about since then. Would you try lavender tea? Does it sound as good to you as it did to me?
1. Lavender Scrubs to Revitalize Winter Skin
Not only is lavender great for eliminating the nervous tension caused by, oh, childbirth-- before I gave birth every blog I encountered, insisted I had to pack lavender oil for my hospital stay-- but it improves blood circulation as well. Put a few drops of lavender oil into your next foot scrub or foot soak. Along with epsom salts and sea salt, just add a few drops! (Or check out this recipe for more details for an at-home spa soak.) Keep in mind the smell is pretty strong, so experiment before you dump in, say, a whole tablespoon the way I did to my diffuser the first time I used lavender-- oh dear God, that was an intense two weeks before the smell faded, which brings us to point 2.
2. Lavender for Insomnia
You can add a few drops of lavender oil to your diffuser if you're suffering from insomnia. Again, keep in mind and learn from Mama Izzy's misadventures. A little goes a long way. I love this
diffuser for only $23, because you can also use it as a humidifier and it's super duper easy to refill the water and keep it clean as well. My kids love the changing lights. It's one of my favorite possessions.
3. Lavender as an Ingredient in Dessert
One of the things I've loved most about blogging is having my world opened up to new possibilities. When I first started blogging, I mostly followed either poetry or fashion pages, but as I began to join blogging communities, lots of recipes and interior design inspiration got added to my daily blog intake. I love the idea that you can add lavender to honey and cheese or to cupcakes or to puddings. The result is so pretty a purple it's just guaranteed to be delicious. I pinned a bunch of the yummiest options that I can't wait to try myself. Just keep in mind, it's not lavender oil but loose, dried lavender, which you can ingest and purchase for about $20 a pound. If possible, maybe even find someone to share that pound with. A pound of lavender is A LOT of lavender.
3. Lavender Tea
I was so excited to hear of lavender as an ingredient in tea, because I knew about it's calming, soothing, and antiseptic qualities when applied externally. I had no idea you could also drink it! Lavender is an anti-inflammatory that also helps maintain cardiovascular health. In addition to its antiseptic qualities,
4. Lavender Candles
When I was looking into uses for my giant bag of lavender, one of my followers suggested I try making my own candles. One of my favorite memories from childhood is making candles at Busch Gardens when I was a kid, and I think my kids would really enjoy making candles with me! I love this Town & Country blog post for making your own candles. It sounds like a fun rainy Saturday afternoon activity.
5. Lavender Oil for Cleaning
The cat bathroom has to be my least favorite part of apartment living, although to be fair in our last house, the basement was only half-finished, so I ended up using the top floor bathroom for the kitty litter for the kitties' safety as well. (We have two rescue cats and one large Newfie... and two toddlers-- keeping the house smelling nice used to be, well, challenging. Lavender has really helped our situation!) When I heard I could use lavender for cleaning, I began adding it to the cat bathroom's garbage can after I washed them out and sprinkling it around the litter box. The smell is about 1,000% better in there!
6. Upcycling Garment Bags into Lavender Sachets
Most of the sustainable designers and secondhand shops where I shop, now send their items in little muslin sachets like the ones pictured above. Making sachets is probably not that difficult, either, but it takes about two minutes to gather your muslin bags and fill them with lavender from my pound bag. The kids watched Wreck-It Ralph, and I poured a glass of wine and listened to John Mulaney on Pandora's comedy channel. Maybe it was the soothing scent of lavender filling my nostrils, but it was one of the nicest, most relaxing evenings I've had in a while. And the first two sachets, went straight to the cat bathroom! Thankfully, cats aren't as attracted to lavender as they are catnip, which is kind of what the little bags look like. I've also been leaving them throughout the house.
Do you keep the bags your jewelry or clothes come in? Sometimes I reuse them for gift-wrapping as well! Any other uses for lavender that I should know about? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, and I'll do a follow-up post!