Books to Help You Beat the Heat

Hot enough for you? I don’t know about you, but where I am, it’s been hot and sticky for weeks and doesn’t look like it’s going to let up anytime soon. Here are some reading suggestions for summer…

Beat the Heat

If you’re dreaming of a good snowstorm, these might help.

1. Rider at the Gate by C.J. Cherryh. Set on a snowy alien planet. Cherryh takes the well-worn concept of telepathic bonds between human and animal — and twists hard. The half-tamed nighthorses are intelligent and highly dangerous, but they and their riders are necessary for travel, because what’s out there in the wild and the cold is even worse. There’s also a sequel, Cloud’s Rider.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Begins and ends in the Arctic with a frame story aboard a ship. This is a tragic tale in the classic sense, but the question is, who’s the tragic hero, Victor Frankenstein the scientist or his hapless creation?

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. “Winter is coming…” and by coming, they mean “already here” in some parts of the world. Enormous walls of ice and snowy wildernesses abound, though there are also hot deserts. I’ve written about Martin before, so I’ll leave it at that.

4. Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome. This isn’t science fiction or fantasy — it’s a British children’s classic. At a frozen lake, an adventurous group of children mount a polar expedition, led by Nancy Blackett, one of the strongest girl characters around. (I’ll be writing more about Ransome for a future Nostalgia piece.)

Honourable Mention: Another children’s classic that fits the bill is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, full of prairie blizzards and trying to keep warm.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

On the other hand, maybe you’d prefer some warm-weather books, since you’re already in the right mindset (or you’re in Australia or New Zealand).

1. Dune by Frank Herbert. Okay, it had to be said. This is a book that some people love and others love to hate, but it does have plenty of sand, deserts, and blazing sunshine. If you’ve never read this science fiction classic, maybe now’s the time.

2. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Set in a stifling summer in Victorian London. This very early steampunk novel is more firmly in the milieu of “alternative history” than most, jumping off from real technological developments and extrapolating not terribly far.

3. The Scar by China Mieville. This book makes the list not so much because of heat (though that’s there, too) but because it’s a sea adventure novel. Floating cities, pirates, and quests, ahoy! If you’re near a beach, or dreaming of being near one, this might just hit the spot.

4. Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis. No heat, because this is Mars, but plenty of sand. In this near-future hard science fiction tale, an expedition lands successfully, only to realize they must trek across the planet to get back to Earth…and they’re not all going to make it.

Honourable Mention: Not science fiction or fantasy, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient is a historical literary novel that follows an archaeologist in the Sahara Desert and a WWII nurse in an Italian villa.

Over to you. What novels in hot (or cold) settings can you recommend for summertime reading?

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4 responses to “Books to Help You Beat the Heat

  1. How about retellings of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairy tale? EAST by Edith Pattou and SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW by Jessica Day George come to mind.

    I love stories set in wintery climes.

  2. Great suggestions! I just finished reading Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder (fantastic book, btw) which is set in the Amazon jungle of Brazil. The descriptions of the hot, steamy weather were actually enjoyable to read and imagine because the weather here was in the high 60′s and rainy.

  3. Oh, I knew I forgot something!

    ICEFALL by Matthew Kirby. A beautiful historical YA. One of my favorite reads from last year.

  4. Those all sound great — thanks for the recommendations, Rabia and Tami!

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