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Positano, Italy
Positano, Italy
Original photo by Blayre Brent

Your 5 Essential Books for a Hot, European Summer

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Baylor chapter.

If you’re a user on TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest or any other social media platform, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that our society is obsessed with the concept of illustrious, European getaways. From the fashion and fresh-faced beauty to the aesthetic content for posting, Europe appears to be the ideal place to reinvent yourself and throw your worries away. For some of us, however, the price of admission into this lifestyle isn’t the most affordable. Therefore, I propose reading about the adventurous escapades from some of literature’s most iconic characters and escaping to Europe from the comfort of your own home! 

1. Normal people by sally rooney

Normal People, published in 2018, follows the lives of two, young students, Connell and Marianne, as they navigate their complicated lives in Ireland. The novel itself focuses on the value of forming intimate, personal relationships with other people, cherishing those connections and relying on them to provide a sense of normalcy in our own, everchanging lives. However, a few specific sections of the book recount summering in Italy, an experience Marianne and Connell receive through earning scholarships at their university. In Italy, the main characters, accompanied by a small group of friends, make homemade pasta for dinner, eat freshly picked strawberries, drink local wine and venture on long, breezy bike rides in the countryside. My personal favorite quote from this part of the novel is about Connell: “It’s like something he assumed was just a painted backdrop all his life has revealed itself to be real: foreign cities are real, and famous artworks, and underground railway systems, and remnants of the Berlin Wall.” In my opinion, the line perfectly describes the way reading Normal People makes its audience feel: as if they’re journeying throughout life with the characters.

2. Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman 

Call Me by Your Name, the 2007 publication turned 2017 film sensation, tells the story of 17-year-old Elio and his family’s guest, Oliver, who joins them at their home on the Italian Riviera. The two characters ultimately share a short-lived relationship during the period of Oliver’s stay. The novel is filled with extensive imagery of Italy’s beauty and the intense thrill of a summer romance, making it the perfect choice to quench anyone’s thirst for love and wanderlust. 

3. Emma by Jane Austen 

Emma is set in the beautiful, fictional town of Highbury, England, depicting the tale of Emma Woodhouse, a meddlesome, naïve 20-year-old girl. Emma, considering herself a matchmaker, finds herself throughout the novel’s plot in a dispute of love, friendship and the meaning of life. Emma’s lovely, fulfilled life in the lush, quaint English countryside creates an ideal for readers, hopeful for the heroine to find reprieve in her own life and prompting thoughts of splendid scenery and happy endings in the lives of the readers as well. 

4. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith 

The Talented Mr. Ripley is the tale of Tom Ripley, a lower-class, New Yorker dreaming of a life full of glamour and riches. At the beginning of the story, readers are told that Tom has lied his way into an elite circle and made the acquaintance of the character Dickie Greenleaf. Sometime later, Tom is approached by Dickie’s father and asked to travel to Italy on an all-expenses paid trip in order to seek out Dickie, who has apparently moved to the European country. From this point forward, the novel is set in Italy, gradually unfolding into both the fantastical reality of a free vacation and, ultimately, a murder mystery. Either way, the 1955 psychological thriller is filled with detailed descriptions of Italy’s finest sites and scenes alongside the fabulous lives of Dickie Greenleaf and his fashionable girlfriend Marge Sherwood. Like Tom Ripley, many of us would find ourselves jumping at the opportunity to visit Italy as well—even if it meant lying to do so!

5. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch 

Love and Gelato follows Lina, a young woman visiting Tuscany in attempts to meet her estranged father. This plan, however, is not what awaits Lina upon her arrival. Instead, she is met with family secrets, hidden hideaways scattered throughout Italy and a whirlwind romance that comes when she least expects it! Similar to Lina, I’m sure that readers would revel in the chance to experience the exquisite features of Tuscany with impending mystery and a blossoming affair lying ahead of them. 

Passionate loves, glamorous wardrobes and European travel, the perfect summertime trio—in the literary world, at least. For many of us, this combination will not manifest into reality, unfortunately. However, with these five, noteworthy novels, we can all escape to our dream destinations with the simple turn of a page!

Happy reading!

Blayre Brent

Baylor '25

Blayre Brent is a Sophomore at Baylor University, majoring in English and Philosophy and minoring in Apparel Merchandising on the Pre-Law track. Outside of school, Blayre is a Tri Delta and a member of various organizations. She is passionate about fashion, social media, Audrey Hepburn and anything with a bow on it, and strives to emulate the characters Elle Woods and Blair Waldorf in every aspect of life!