-by Emma Bilsborough, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

As we finally move into Summery June, it's that wonderful time of year once again - time for beer gardens, barbecues, and books. Yes, books are year-round, but there's no better time to read a book than when you're lounging about in the sun, with nowhere to be except maybe in the pool to cool off.

Last year, I put together a Big Summer Reading List, to help you decide what to read over the sunny Summer months. Since then, I've had a full year of new reads, and stellar reading experiences, so I figured a Summer Reading list 'take two' was in order.


Don't worry, I'm not about to recommend you E.L. James' new binge-able but most likely awful 'The Mister'. I've had enough of rich dudes and uncomfortable relationship dynamics to last a lifetime. Though if you are the kind of reader who enjoys a bit of 50 shades - pay us a visit, we're giving them away for free...

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But this list isn't about books you shouldn't read, it's about books that you should. I've chosen a selection of books that I have loved in the past 12 months, including ones for the littles, for the teens, a bit of non-fiction; a little bit of something for everyone. So without further adieu, here is the Bookbarn Big Summer Reading List 2019 edition.

For the little ones:


Orion and the Dark, Emma Yarlett


Orion and the Dark is a lovely story about a little boy who is afraid of lots of things, but most of all he is afraid of the dark. One night, however, Dark takes Orion on an adventure, and he ends up not so afraid after all. The illustrations are absolutely stunning, and the story is endearing.

Lost and Found, Oliver Jeffers


I think Oliver Jeffers is brilliant - the use of colour in his illustrations is astounding, I have one of them framed in my house that I'm just obsessed with because of its beautiful pinky sky. Lost and Found is the story of a boy trying to return a missing penguin, and finding that the penguin isn't quite as lost as it seemed, and instead becomes the boy's new friend. Sweet and funny - the perfect story for a lazy sunny afternoon.

I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen


This book is so incredibly funny. Klassen tells the most simplistic story with dry humour and brilliant illustrations, all earthy colours and soft lines. This story is as fun to read for the adults as it is for the kids. At least that's what I tell myself when I read it for the millionth time on my own, no children in sight.

All The Ways to be Smart, Alison Colpoys

This lovely collection of verse was the Independent Booksellers’ Children's Book of the Month in February, and I just fell in love with it. It’s so genuine and full of heart, with lovely sentiments like “smart is kindness when there’s crying”. As a bonus to the words, the illustrations are bright and fun and just what you need to keep your little ones entertained.

Over the Hills and Far Away A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes from Around the World


This is a lovely collection to read with your little ones, to familiarise them with nursery rhymes from all over the world, and open their eyes to what else is out there. It's also really interesting as a more mature reader to learn these nursery rhymes.

For the not-so-little ones:


Kid Normal 1-3, Greg James and Chris Smith


Pretty sure I recommend these books to everyone I know. I love middle grade fiction, I love that it has all of the fun, easy to digest qualities of younger children's books, but with a little more attention grabbing elements to the story to keep the kids interested. The Kid Normal books are the perfect balance of silly, fun and interesting, and also have the added benefit of keeping your rather reluctant readers wanting more.

How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell

As before, but with Dragons.

Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different

I try really hard when reading Children’s literature to read books that mean something and can have an effect on the open-minded-ness of little ones. I think it’s really important to show kids the different forms of goodness - whether it be science, sports, literature, art, activism; this collection highlights all of these things. It’s also a bright and colourful book, so it manages to be educational and super fun at the same time.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket


Darkly humorous, utterly disastrous and filled with dastardly characters - this series is an absolute must read. If your kids like a little bit of a twisted tale, have them read these. They are also really quick reads, so if your little readers are easily bored these should keep them entertained on those road trips this Summer.

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

A genuinely lovely Summer read. All of the different illustrated versions of this classic have the same effect - they make you desperate to get outside and explore a forest or have a picnic. You might even find Ratty or Mole along the way.

For the teens:


Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan

I think the Summer holidays are the best time to dive into a series of books, and Percy Jackson is a great one to get into. Percy thinks himself simple and average, and has his world turned upside down when he finds out he is quite the opposite. If, like me, your imagination runs a bit wild, you might even imagine that your family camping holiday is actually a trip to camp halfblood.

The Edge Chronicles, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell 

I like to think of The Edge Chronicles as the kids version of the Discworld Series. Full of fantastical creatures, incredible places and dramatic tales. Each can be read, interestingly enough, as a stand alone tale, though once you’ve read one you’re desperate to devour them all. You can find the chronological order of the books on the Edge Chronicles website.

Harry Potter, J K Rowling

I probably don’t need to give much info on what the Harry Potter books are about and why they’re brilliant, it’s a rite of passage at this point to read them in your youth. I always read the whole series beginning to end every Summer, because it just feels like the right thing to do. After all, Harry Potter is a Summer baby.

To Kill a Mockingbird & Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

I know, I know - if you’re working on or have just done your GCSEs, you’re unlikely to ever want to hear the words To Kill a Mockingbird again. However, both TKAM and the more recent Go Set a Watchman are fantastic books, filled with life lessons, all seen through the eyes of Scout. Have a go at reading them just to love them, not to try to tear them apart for an essay or two.

The Princess Bride, William Goldman

I love the Princess Bride. It’s my favourite kind of story - two people who against all odds and expectations manage to fit together perfectly in the end. It’s also filled with daring deeds, princesses and heroes. A veritable smorgasbord of goings on.

Non-fiction:


Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies, Scarlet Curtis


In a time where Feminism is the word on everyone's lips, this collection of stories, poems, essays and more manages to feed our activism just right. With personal experiences shared from a range of different women, many of whom are experts in their field, it makes you want to get up and stand for something, which in my opinion is exactly what a book should do.

Educated, Tara Westover


I'm not usually a big lover of memoirs, which is ironic as there are two on this recommendation list; but the two that I've chosen allowed me an insight into two upbringings very different from my own. In Educated, Tara Westover tells the story of her sheltered childhood and her experiences with education. As someone who places the utmost respect and importance in education, this was a really interesting read for me.

Becoming, Michelle Obama


I read Becoming because Michelle Obama is easily the most incredible and coolest woman alive. Except maybe my mum. Becoming is a brilliant collection of essays giving an insight into the life of a powerful woman, and the choices that she has made to help other people. Reading it inspired me hugely. It's also a really easy read to get lost in, so it's perfect for days by the pool or to keep you entertained on the plane.

Mythos, Stephen Fry


I'm always drawn to reading about the Greek Myths, but they're often a little hard to digest. This retelling, by Stephen Fry (who is wonderful), is exactly what I needed to enjoy them properly. It's consistent in its humour and greatness and will definitely be a read I delve into time and time again.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-portrait, Sarah M Lowe


My final non-fiction recommendation is again by a woman who I admire greatly, mostly because she is such a total oddity and eccentric. My favourite kind of people. Frida Kahlo's art is outstanding, strange and brilliant and speaks volumes to her talent, so getting to delve into these eclectic pages of her life felt like understanding her a little better.

Something a bit thrilling:


Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

You know it’s a good one when HBO picks it up and turns it into a TV serial - Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones - excellent books. Sharp Objects follows in this tradition, and is much like Flynn’s infinitely incredible Gone Girl in its twists and turns, filled with characters who, as the story grows, surprise you and alarm you in fantastic ways. Super twisted and sometimes creepy; perfect for lovers of a good thriller. You weirdos, you.

IT, Stephen King


We all know the story of IT, the terrifying something that can turn into what terrifies you the most. Though generally taking the shape of the horrific, nightmare inducing Pennywise, IT also manifests in the story as a werewolf, a witch and Dracula. It is honestly so worth reading the story and not only watching the new movie adaptation(s) - though great, you miss a lot of the gory detail without the words on the pages. Also, you'll look hard as nails reading IT on your Summer travels. Only problem is, if you spot a clown at a festival or day out, you'll probably run screaming in the opposite direction.

The Woman in Black, Susan Hill


Writing these recommendations is beginning to give me goosebumps, but next on our list is the classic ghost story, The Woman in Black. A chilling spectre who follows our Arthur Kipps around a big, creepy old house for 200 pages. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it's impossible to put down. Also, as it's a nice thin paperback, it won't take up too much room in your suitcase.

Codename Villanelle, Luke Jennings


Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you'll undoubtedly have heard of Killing Eve. Killing Eve is the TV show adaptation of Codename Villanelle, which came to us first as a series of e-books, before being published last year in hardback, just in time for the TV show. Villanelle is an assassin who's being hunted down by MI5 agent, Eve Polastri. The TV show took the world by storm, so it's only fair that the book gets a little love too.

And just some generally brilliant reads:


The Rosie Project series, Graeme Simsion


This series comes close to being my favourite, only knocked off the top spot by One Day due to my lifelong love affair with that book. All three books in Simsion's series made me laugh out loud and were wonderfully endearing, genuine and open-hearted - everything I look for in a story. The Rosie Result, the final book in the series, was published this year and was just as great as the first two.

One Day, David Nichols

This book came out an entire 10 years ago (oh my god!), and as aforementioned, is still my favourite book that I've ever read. It is no more or less remarkable than many of the other books I've read, I just ended up loving it the most. I love the idea of belonging - and that's what this story is; Emma and Dexter desperately trying to belong, and finding that in the end they belong best together. I also love the structure of the story, the jump between times in their friendship, all on the same day each year.

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer


This novel tells the story of a young girl and her yearning to be someone, do something, go somewhere. She meets Faith, sixty-three years old and full of magic, completely dazzling and otherworldly. It's about female relationships, power, ambition, and so much more. This is an adjective-filled review but it's hard to explain the complexity of this book without detailing the entire plot. Go ahead and read it.

Swing Time, Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is spectacular. Her stories, essays and novels are captivating in their realism, and Swing Time is just the same. She takes the time to detail friendships and relationships in a unique manner, the intimacy of a best friend is felt so clearly upon reading this book. Also, the cover is such a bright, bold design that it makes you feel summery just looking at it.


So, there you have it! If you've reached the end of this mammoth reading list - well done you. Let us know what you're reading this Summer, and if you're using our list! 

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