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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Best beach classics: the books you should be reading this summer

In a recent article for The Huffington Post, journalist Erin Schumaker advises students not to let their brains waste away over the summer: “you might be better off skipping the beach read this summer in favor of something a little more substantive.” Yet some of us might find the idea of settling down on a sun lounger with War and Peace less than appealing. To help you out, we asked staff at Oxford University Press for a list of summer classics that will help you relax without letting your brain get lazy!

“Every summer in Oxford I go to Christ Church meadow, sit by the river and read Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. Grahame lived most of his life near the Thames so it is not much of a stretch to imagine Ratty and Mole stopping off there for a picnic!” – Katie Stileman, Publicist on the Oxford World’s Classics

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were on my summer reading list at school and bring the memories of long carefree summers full of mischief and adventures. I’ve been recently thinking how much I miss these kind of summers and revisiting these classics is probably as close as I can get to reliving this feeling again.” – Anna Gell, Publicist for Paperbacks 

“I recommend The Complete Short Stories by Oscar Wilde. I read this collection of short stories for the first time a number of years and have gone back to them many times since! My favourites include ‘The Happy Prince’ and ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’.” – Richard Fry, Sales Manager for the Oxford World’s Classics 

“I saw a village production of The Prisoner of Zenda one summer when I was younger. It was raining and the cast all had umbrellas, and I enjoyed it so much that I got the book out of the library the next day. Uncanny likenesses, adventures, and one of the most memorable endings to a book I’ve read.” – Kirsty Gibson, Marketeer for Oxford Dictionaries 

Summer is a perfect time to revisit something from your childhood.

“My summer read is The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories by Jack London. One of my all time favourite films as a child, White Fang, ‘did it for me’!  Whilst I generally advocate book before film there are times when film leads to book and I am not disappointed.” – Kate Farquhar-Thomson, Head of Publicity 

“The last classic I read on the beach was Nana by Émile Zola. It was the first time I had read anything by Zola and had me gripped from start to finish. The way he unravels the corruption of the cosmopolitan elite is delightfully scathing. It’s not a cheerful summer read, but it completely transported me, and that’s what you want on holiday, right?” – Chloe Foster, Publicist for Literature and Dictionaries 

I can’t strongly enough recommend The Vampyre And Other Tales of the Macabre by Polidori. I recently re-read Frankenstein, and I want to complete the set –  and see where it all started. The OWC edition also contains ‘Some Terrible Letters from Scotland’ by James Hogg, which I’m looking forward to as I’m very fond of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (so convincing and terrifying).” – Luciana O’Flaherty, Editor for the Oxford World’s Classics 

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf might not be everyone’s first pick for a summer read – it’s not exactly a comfort read – but the seaside setting and Woolf’s beautiful, fluid, observant writing make this a joy of a novel to immerse yourself in on hols this year. If you’ve never tried Woolf, it’s time to give her a go.” – Simon Thomas, Content Manager for the Oxford Words blog 

Featured image credit: Summer Reading, by CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Pixabay

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