This year has been one filled with change, but one thing that doesn’t have to change is the ability to have an amazing summer adventure. For me, sometimes, all that means is an incredible armchair adventure with a fantastic book and my favorite comfy chair overlooking the front yard. There are a lot of adventures to be had from the comfort of your own home, and these seven reads promise to do just that. Whether it’s an incredible river voyage, a plunge into the Alaskan wilderness, or an introspective journey of personal growth, this list has it all.
THIS TENDER LAND is an odyssey about four Great Depression orphans who flee their harsh school in a canoe down the Mississippi. This is a historical fiction novel that not only captures the time and place of the Great Depression but the characters that lived through it. This is truly an adventure novel, as the children explore the world for the first time, but it is packed with so much heart you won’t be able to put it down. When this book first came out, I heard many describe it as the next Great American Novel, and I’ll be honest, after feeling like I jumped in that canoe after them I am inclined to agree. And since then, I have yet to meet someone who did not find something to love about THIS TENDER LAND.
For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, “a gripping, poignant tale swathed in both mythical and mystical overtones” (Bob Drury, New York Times bestselling author) that follows four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.
1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will fly into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, big-hearted epic that is “more than a simple journey; it is a deeply satisfying odyssey, a quest in search of self and home” (Booklist).
Alright, so here’s the thing: I love amusement parks. I love the 70s and 70s horror. And, of course, I love Stephen King. So really, JOYLAND is the perfect and very mysterious summer adventure novel. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream of working at an amusement park in the summer during high school and college, and Devin Jones gets to do just that while confronting a vicious murder. While working as a carny in the summer of 1973, Devin becomes obsessed with the sinister past of one of the amusement parks' rides. Suddenly, Devin is determined to solve the cold Funhouse Killer case.
College student Devin Jones takes a summer job at the Joyland carnival hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart, but he winds up facing the legacy of a murder, the fate of a dying child, and revelations about life that will change his world forever.
I’ve always been enticed by the idea of the Wild West, and really LONESOME DOVE is considered one of the best western novels out there. LONESOME DOVE follows Jake Spoon, a former Texas Ranger, who’s on the run from a sheriff from Arkansas and would love to be anywhere but Lonesome Dove. While many western novels present stereotypes and action scenes we’ve all seen before, LONESOME DOVE provides fully realized characters for you to both love and hate on this epic journey from Texas to Montana. Truly this story is about carving out a place for yourself in the world and friendship, wall while riding along on the biggest cattle drive ever.
A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, this Pulitzer Prize— winning classic is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic this is a book to that will make you laugh, weep, and dream.
Based on true events, this novel follows the incredible journey of the men and women who carried Dr. Livingston's body and all of his work across Africa so that he could be returned to England and all of his research could be preserved. This is a powerful and adventurous story that leads the reader on a winding tale as his loyal followers attempt to get the Scottish doctor and missionary home. While OUT OF DARKNESS, SHINING LIGHT is an adventurous story that treks through fifteen hundred miles of Africa, it is also a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisies of the human heart and the reality of slavery in the 1800s. Somehow, Gappah is able to brilliantly weave these harsh realities effortlessly into this historical fiction novel of resilience and loyalty.
WINNER OF THE 2020 CHAUTAUQUA PRIZE
ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019
“Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative, Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a novel that lends voice to those who appeared only as footnotes in history, yet whose final, brave act of loyalty and respect changed the course of it. An incredible and important book by a masterful writer.” —Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing
“This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.” So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.
This witty family drama truly feels like an adventure as you flip through its pages. At the last request of their dying mother, three estranged British born Punjabi sisters are forced to take a pilgrim to Amritsar together in order to perform their mother’s final rights. This is a powerful and evocative travel story from the perspective of three very different women. Together they learn about themselves, about their mother and their lives. Jaswal’s writing is so captivating that you’ll feel as if you are walking right beside the Shergrill sisters. This truly is the perfect summer read.
This novel is sure to take you on both an emotional and physical journey as the struggling Allbright family impulsively moves to Alaska. At first, this seems like the fresh start Ernt needed after coming back from the Vietnam war as a very changed man. Cora, Ernt’s wife, is determined to follow the love of her life anywhere, even to the last true frontier. And their daughter, Leni, is hopeful that she’ll finally find somewhere to belong. Yet when the unprepared Allbrights are suddenly faced with the harsh reality of winter and the eighteen-hour nights descend upon their tiny cabin, everything threatens to fall apart. Now they’re faced with the terrible truth that they are on their own, in the wilderness. Hannah delivers an intense and emotional adventure of strength and survival.
As someone who struggled to navigate post-graduate life without the structure of education, I could definitely relate to where Art is at the beginning of this novel, but what follows is a captivating story of self-discovery. THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH is an incredible journey navigating complex friendships, parental conflict, and sexual identity. THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH is more of an internal adventure as Art enjoys, what he believes, is his last summer of relative freedom before figuring out how to be a productive member of adult society. When he’s suddenly drawn into a new social circle lead by Arthur Lecomte an intriguing homosexual man who invites Art into a seemingly forbidden world. The summer that Art spends with Lecomte and his friends sets him on an unforgettable adventure.
Michael Chabon’s intelligence and imagination never disappoint. While his novels tend to be epic adventures, his debut, THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH, is an intimate and penetrating narrative of complex friendships, father-son conflicts, and the awakening of a young man’s sexual identity.
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