Grace Notes

a blog about life’s everyday magic

July 12, 2016

My 5 Go-To Summer Reads

Grace Notes | My 5 Go-To Summer Reads

Words: Christen Hammons
Photo credit: Annie Spratt


It’s no secret that I’m a huge bookworm. From the moment my mom taught me to read “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss, I’ve been devouring book after book. My bookshelves are overflowing and I know the employees at the local library by name. Classics, mysteries, young adult … I read it all.


It may sound cliché, but I like my summer reads to be light and fluffy. I want to read books that will make me smile and feel good as I enjoy them poolside or outdoors under the stars. The problem is, there are a lot of those types of reads out there and a lot of them aren’t very good. So, to save you some trouble, I thought I’d share my favorite summer reads.


1. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

This book has it all: romance, family, and a touch of magic. Claire, the central character, is a caterer who has a knack for using edible flowers and herbs grown in the family garden that have the ability to affect those who consume them in powerful ways. It is hard for me to describe why I enjoy this book so much. All I can say is that it is enchanting and delightful.


2. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

I’m a sucker for books that take place in small towns and are centered around a quirky cast of characters. This story takes place in a small mining town in the Appalachian Mountains and focuses on Ave Maria, the town “spinster” and her group of friends as they come together to plan musicals and a parade to welcome a visiting Elizabeth Taylor to Big Stone Gap. This book is both funny and heartwarming. It may also make you want to pack your bags and head to a small town, even if for just a day.


3. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Books about books … Is there anything better? The small, rundown town of Broken Wheel, Iowa, is turned upside down by Sara, a traveler from Scotland. Sara has arrived to visit her longtime pen pal Amy, who unbeknownst to her, has just passed away. The people of Broken Wheel take Sara under their wing and in return allow (albeit reluctantly) her to share her love of books with them. A touch of romance and a whole lot of charm.


4. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

When Alba finds her academic career at a crossroads, she stumbles upon a house she has never seen before. She is greeted by Peggy, an older woman, who invites her to stay at the house under the conditions she has 99 nights to figure out her life. Once inside the house, Alba learns the house is anything but ordinary, and previous guests include Beatrix Potter and George Eliot, who still remain in the home in the form of talking portraits that advise the latest guests. While the premise for this book sounds a little odd, I assure you that is wonderfully whimsical.


5. Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg

Most people are familiar with Fannie Flagg and don’t realize it. She’s the author of “Fried Green Tomatoes.” While I enjoy that book, “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man” is by far my favorite by her. There was a time in my life when I only read classics and turned my nose up a bit at anything contemporary. After finding myself in a huge reading rut, I decided to find something lighter. A trip through the blogosphere had me reaching for this treasure. Again, this book takes place in a small, suburban town and is the story of a young girl just trying to make something of herself. (Aren’t we all?) The book is full of malt shops and debutante balls, and will keep you laughing long after the story is over.


Just writing this list for you has me itching to pick up one of my old favorites. If only my to-read list wasn’t already miles long. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do!


What’s on your summer reading list? Leave a comment below and share which books you can’t wait to spend some time savoring this season.


My best,


Editor-In-Chief, Bella Grace Magazine

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Comments ( 12 )

  1. Tisa

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Love your photo, Christen. I don’t really differentiate as to seasonal reading, as my nose is constantly in a book no matter the weather 🙂 Just finished reading the entire Amelia Peabody mystery series by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia is an intrepid Victorian woman with innate common sense, a flair for finding dead bodies and an abiding love of Egyptology & her family. Good times!

  2. Elizabeth Waggoner

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    This summer I discovered Victoria Twead and her “Two Old Fools” series! It’s the delightful story of how she and her husband packed up and moved from England to a small town in southern Spain and the wealth of characters they met there. Modern day memoir.

  3. Judy H.

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Hello – I have heard and read so many GREAT things about “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! Because my funds are limited, I always borrow my books from the library. Unfortunately, I live in a small city and our library serves us and many smaller towns around us. I put my name on the waitlist, I’m number 22 in the queue. I’m hoping to I’ll have the chance to read it before the year is out!
    Oh, Christen, the photograph is simply gorgeous. It gave me a feeling of comfort, welcome and relaxation…what an art!

  4. Tina

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    During a vacation in HHI we went into a Barnes and Noble where a woman I had never met handed me the Big Stone Gap and told me I had to read it. Having lost a child I feel she was placed in my path for a reason and I went on to read all Adriana Trigiani books and share them with friends <3 Now I must check out the other selections. Currently enjoying Life's golden ticket by Brendon Burchard

  5. Ella

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    I love your list and can’t wait to check these titles out. I am currently reading The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury. I just found out it is a movie and will be on the Hallmark Channel-July 23rd.
    It is about a couple moving to a small town and they believe books change lives.
    They find a house to turn into a bookstore: “It was made of brick and old pine, and it smelled faintly like Lemon Pledge and campfire smoke, a smell that welcomed them from the first time they toured it.”
    Yes, I want to crawl into the book and visit their bookstore called: The Bridge. Funny, I crave Christmas-like reads in July. My weather is in the triple digits and I dream of cooler weather. So, for this month of summer, I find myself reading heart warming , winter books. Thank you, Christen for sharing your list~

  6. Judy H.

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Hi Christen! It’s always nice to find a kindred spirit. Like you, I have always loved a “fluffy” (love your descriptive word) or two during the summer. I’m thrilled with your choices as I’ve not yet read any of these titles, so thank you! I don’t exactly know why I prefer this kind of book in the summer, perhaps it’s because I like to associate this season with being care-free. btw…I’m also a fluffy read fan at Christmas time.

  7. d smith kaich jones

    April 19, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Every summer for years – The Far Pavilions. Mid 19th century India. Afghanistan. Dust and color, heat, love, death, adventure. 1000 pages and you’ll not want it to end.

  8. April

    April 19, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    I have read three of those books, all fabulous! I’m a sucker for Magical Realism and those books all have a touch of that!
    Garden Spells
    Big Stone Gap
    The House at the End of Hope Street

  9. Catherine

    April 19, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    Hi! Have you had a chance to read “First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen? It is the sequel to “Garden Spells” and, in my opinion, even better than the first one. Enjoy!

  10. JoAnn P

    April 19, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    I loved reading “Wishtree” this summer, and I read “The Alchemist” pretty much once a year. The best!

  11. Laura

    April 19, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    I just finished Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan which was purposefully slow…and unexpectedly endearing…kind of like summer. The grace and insights of Henry’s simple days will surprise, delight and draw you in so subtly you’re surprised how much you care after the last page.
    Big Sky by Kate Atkinson is next on the top of the teetering pile, her character PI Jackson Brodie as an imperfect knight is perfect. (there’s even a mini series). Can’t wait to dive in…and the title if not the plot feels summery, lol.

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