The longest day of the year is almost upon us. While most people may take advantage of the extra daylight with drinks on the patio, a lazy afternoon on the beach, or a barbecue dinner with friends on a warm, summer evening, to us bookworms the summer solstice provides a different opportunity…more light to read by! Whether you use the extra daylight to stretch out your reading time outside, or just enjoy reading at home without turning on the lamp, the longest day of the year is the perfect opportunity to curl up with a book.
But the solstice is about a lot more than just extra reading hours. For centuries, the summer solstice has been celebrated by those who like to mark the passing of the seasons. Often associated with celebrations of strength, light, and the sun, it’s a magical day to enjoy the outdoors (even with a book in your hand). In honor of June 20th/21st, we’ve rounded up some of the best books that make the solstice a feature – comment and share with us your favorite midsummer read!
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
With a hugely popular live-action adaptation on Starz and a series of companion novels, this is the perfect time to dive into Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The series begins in Scotland during the 1940s, as nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank reconnect after the war. On Beltane, Claire wanders into a stone circle by accident, and is magically transported back in time 200 years. It’s the start of an incredible journey that takes her through time and around the world. The solstices are vitally important to the story, as Claire quickly discovers that the solstices and associated days on the wheel of the year, are key to time travel. Although the core of the story lies in her adventures with the dashing Highlander Jamie Fraser, the solstices appear just enough to make this the perfect read on the longest day of the year. With eight books in the series and more on the way, this could take you to June 2017!)
The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
This classic fantasy series explores the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but from the perspective of the women involved. Starting with Igraine, wife of Uther, and following the women of Avalon as well as the courts, The Mists of Avalon presents a totally new side to this classic tale. Magic and witchcraft are at the heart of the story, as the women attempt to prevent the Christians from taking over their land. With a very pagan approach to magic, the solstice celebrations appear throughout the book (and the rest of the series). The starting point for another quite huge series, The Mists of Avalon is a perfect read for lovers of female-fronted fantasy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare)
Ok, it may be a play, rather than a novel – but what kind of solstice reading recommendation could leave out this classic by the Bard himself? Taking place on the night of Midsummer, this romantic tale brings together a group of young, star-crossed Athenian lovers, a troupe of actors, and the King and Queen of the fairies. Pranks are played (by the mischievous fairy Puck) and everyone begins to pine for the wrong person (and of course, the unfortunate Bottom is transformed into a literal ass…)! One of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, this selection is perfect for those who want a more romantic kind of midsummer magic.
The Summer Solstice: Enchanted (K. K. Allen)
One for fans of YA fantasy, Enchanted is the first in a new series – and the only one currently published, so be on the lookout for the rest in the future! The story follows Kat Summer, a young girl whose mother dies in a tragic accident, and ends up living with her grandmother. As her birthday approaches, Kat begins to have visions and dreams and learns that her family is descended from the Greek gods. The book is filled with magic and myth, along with the usual teen romance that exists in most YA novels. The solstice, as well as being baked right into the title, is the date of Kat’s birthday, and has special significance to the plot… but we won’t spoil it for you!
The Mayfair Witches (Anne Rice)
It’s common for novels that center on witchcraft to include mentions of the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters, and Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches trilogy is no exception. The trilogy explores intertwining stories of a family of witches, the sprit who haunts them, the Talamasca (a secret society who follow the paranormal), and the Taltos. While much of this classic, romantic-horror focuses on the complex familial relationships of the Mayfair witches and their interactions with the spirit world, the solstices are featured as an important part of the books. Notably, in the final novel, Taltos, the picts, celts, and the old pagan religions of Britain are brought up, along with the celebrations of these important dates on the wheel of the year. A perfect read for anyone who knows that horror isn’t just for Halloween!