Sweat beads on my skin and drips down my back as I walk next to my mother-in-law making footprints on the shoreline, marking her birthday and chatting about the future.  Our once lonely beaches are slowly transforming into a landscape of bright colored towels, bikinis and bare-chested boys scooping sand for works of art.

Walking serpentine behind a row of ponytails and french manicures in beach chairs with open books on golden laps, I admit that the writer in me desperately wants a glimpse of the covers.

Are they reading something I haven’t read yet?

While the sun kisses my shoulders I want to read a page turner, a story I can devour not tolerate. And binge reading is completely appropriate when the only thing on the agenda is waiting for your skin to change color, yes?

Perhaps Annie Dillard says it best when she reasons, “Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”


As the final bell rings on this school year and vans become carriers of vacationers instead of school children, I’m revealing the titles of my favorite summertime fiction books to take along in your beach bag, purse or carry-on. These titles are permanently on my shelves; stories I can’t part with because the words have somehow shaped me.


Mostly, great writing and storytelling motivate me as a writer. So if great writing is a priority for the books you purchase, here are my recommendations:

The Help by Katherine Stockett – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this one is responsible for inspiring me to write my own book.

Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – I’ve given more copies of this book away than any other fiction title. I read this and became an immediate raving fan of Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – And then she wrote this one. My family postponed dinner during Christmas vacation one evening so I could finish it. Riveted.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I asked Bonnie, my local bookstore guru for an “I can’t put it down book” for a trip and she delivered. I almost brought her flowers after I finished it. I hugged her instead and asked for another recommendation.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – This recommendation made me skeptical if you want to know the truth. But, Bonnie delivered, it’s fabulous. I transposed several lines I loved in my “favorite sentences from books and new-to-me words” journal.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – I still think about the imagery in this book, every single summer. Maybe that is because I live on the Atlantic and we once lived in a coastal community near lighthouses. But I think the writing is that good.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – My agent, Chip MacGregor recommended I read this so, of course. And I loved it, every page of it. It’s about community and love and redemption, all through letter writing. Glorious! Agents who love to read are a gift not to be taken for granted.

Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff This one is a treasure, recommended by Kate Morton (see above) and the first purchase from my favorite store in London, Persephone Books. (I just discovered you can get it on Amazon when I wrote this post – sheesh.)

So, there you have it. My favorite go-to books that are dog-eared and smell like suntan lotion; the titles I most often recommend when someone asks me for a good summer read. And I realize that most of the stories take place in England or the South which isn’t a shock for those who know me.

What would you add to this fiction list?


Next week I’m sharing the most important non-fiction books God has used to shape my life. Stay tuned. For  book recommendations in other genres, check out my What I Read tab where I’ve listed titles by category.