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Summer Reading

Midsummer by the school calendar is approaching and it is hot. We are experiencing record breaking temps here in Tennessee. It is so hot that it is the perfect time of the year to curl up in the air-conditioning with a good book. Sometimes, though, when we let our kids loose in the library they come home with less than stellar choices. While I like to give my children more freedom over what they read in the summer months, I also like to guide them to excellent suggestions. Here are a few series of books which I try to steer my children towards.


  • Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series: These are THE perfect summer books. If you can’t go to the lake and don’t own a boat, just pick up these books and head towards your own childhood summer place.
  • If your family enjoys Arthur Ransome then try E. Nesbit. Her series include The Bastables beginning with The Story of the Treasure Seekers; The Five Children and It series, and The House of Arden series. C.S. Lewis grew up reading Nesbit and her books are fuel for the poetic imagination.
  • The Scout Series by Piet Prins: These books are excellent for the boy just beginning chapter books. After your son finishes the Scout books you will want to look for others by this Dutch author.
  • If your child enjoys the Scout books then he or she most definitely will enjoy the author Hilda Von Stockum who has written The Mitchell series set in WWII America and The Bantry Bay series set in Ireland.
  • Need a little mystery and suspense? Try Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase books or L.M. Boston’s The Children of Green Knowe stories. Both sets are suspenseful and fun. Or if you want suspense with a Christian zeitgeist try Frank Peritti’s eight volume Cooper Kid series. Begin with The Door in the Dragon’s Throat.
  • This summer our family is trying a new series that came highly recommend: Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede.
  • British author Terry Pratchett has written an adult series of fantasy novels titled Discworld which include a very worthy children’s selection: The Wee Free Men. We listened to it on audio narrated by Stephen Briggs. After hours in the car we sat in our driveway for 15 minutes more to hear the end. Here is a quote to whet your appetite:

“If you trust in yourself, and believe in your dreams, and follow your star … you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

  • For the older children L.B. Grahame has written 5 Christian fantasies worth the time and effort to read. Start with Beyond the Summerland.
  • Or how about the newer series by N.D. Wilson: 100 Cupboards, Dandelion Fire, and The Chestnut King?
  • Recently Harrison Ford was spotted shooting a movie in Chattanooga where I live. Reminds me that A little Indiana Jones-style adventure makes perfect summer reading. Try H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines or John Buchan’s Prester John. Prestor John is my oldest son’s favorite book.
  • When my older boys can’t figure out what to read their go-to author is the Frenchman Rafael Sabatini. His swashbuckling stories are fun summer reading.


Now that the kids are busy reading mom might just have time to clean the house. No way! Forget about the dust bunnies. Summer is the time for mom to refill her mental reserves.


  • How about Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books? I am very jealous of those of you who have the opportunity of reading these books for the first time. I love these books. Sayers is a master of wit and wisdom.
  • The Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters are the perfect set of books to get you over a reading slump. Start with A Morbid Taste for Bones.


  • Do you like your mysteries a little metaphysical? Try Tim Powers. His Anubis Gates is top-notch time travel. I always look forward to new Tim Powers titles.
  • Ever hear of Helen MacInnes? Her many books give a compelling look inside The Cold War. Spy novels for the intelligent woman!


  • Carolyn Weber’s Surprised by Oxford
  • Whittacker Chambers’ Witness

Southern Literature?

  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns will have you laughing and nodding. At least if you know any old-time southerners.
  • Or Penhally by Carolyn Gordon will be a somber reminder of what used to be. This is a beautiful book.


  • The books in this category are a dime a dozen but anything by Mark Steyn will keep you laughing through the tears and Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is truly a great book for understanding the history of politics.


  • I know you need a little inspiration before you begin it all over again in August. You could join me in reading through Charlotte Mason’s Towards a Philosophy of Education. I guarantee it will change you and free you.
  • Norms and Nobility by David Hicks is not an easy read but the ideas it presents will bear fruit in your school and home. It is pure distilled whiskey for the mind.
  • I love Vigen Gurorian’s Tending the Heart of Virtue for sheer inspiration.

Christian Living?

  • Trusting God by Jerry Bridges for encouragement that all is well in spite of your circumstances.
  • Deliver us from Evil by Ravi Zacharias. Ravi’s books are highly intelligent while being highly readable.
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is always profitable as a reread and I like to read G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy at least every other summer.
  • Michael Horton’s In the Face of God is one of my favorite lesser known Christian books.


  • Never forget baseball, a sport with a literary history!
  • The Brother’s K by David James Duncan is what I am reading this summer. I just can’t get enough baseball.

I hope this keeps you busy for a while. No need to offer you children rewards and prizes for reading. Just offer them great books appropriate for their age, limit their time on the TV and video games, and get out of the way by reading your own book.

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