Ever wish you could go back to summer camp? Same. You got to play outside all day, you made the best friends of your life, and you didn’t even mind that the food was terrible. And while sure, summer camps for adults is now a (weird) thing, it won’t ever be the same as going through your most vulnerable, growing years at a place that specializes in Bug Juice. The good news is there are a number of great books out there that take place at summer camp, allowing you to relive the glory days without having to check for ticks.
So sit back, throw your favorite tie-dye t-shirt on, and enjoy these campy reads:
1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Published in 2014, “The Interestings” has quickly become the quintessential camp book. Spanning four decades, the novel follows a group of friends who met at a creative arts camp in the mid-70s and follows their lives into adulthood–and the intense but complicated bonds that keep them together.
2. Perennials by Mandy Berman
This just released debut novel follows two friends, Rachel and Fiona, who return to the beloved summer camp where they met as counselors after their freshman year of college. Naturally, their friendship is a little more complicated these days, and the novel explores that tricky turning point between childhood and adulthood.
3. Chiggers by Hope Larson
Larson’s graphic novel is technically for the YA set, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out this delightful summer camp story. Internet boyfriends, friends betraying each other, and gross insect outbreaks–this book’s got it all.
4. The Good People of New York by Thisbe Nissen
While summer camp isn’t the sole focus of this 2002 novel by dazzling stylist Thisbe Nissen, it plays an important role in the development of one character, Miranda. As her mother not-so-successfully fights the urge to be an overbearing Jewish mother, Miranda escapes to camp where she finds the promise of sex appealing in all its scandalous glory.
5. On Blackberry Hill by Rachel Mann
Another YA novel that fully grown adults should have no qualms about reading, Rachel Mann’s debut book follows two different stories–a mother and a daughter, twenty years apart–at the same Jewish summer camp. Come for the references to morning prayers and color wars, stay for all the feels.
6. Skinny by Diana Spechler
“Skinny” takes place at a different kind of summer camp–one for weight loss. Narrated by 26-year-old counselor Gray who’s mourning the loss of her father, the book takes on grief, hunger, our relationship with food and how we view our bodies in endearing, meaningful ways.
Bonus: Short Stories!!!
You know what’s great about short stories? They’re short! Check out these campy stories on the subway, during those Hulu commercial breaks, or on the beach while your ice cream melts:
- “Admiral of the Swiss Navy” by Sam Lipsyte, from Venus Drive
- “Brownies” by ZZ Packer, from Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
- “Keeping Time” by Rachel Sherman, from The First Hurt
- “Schwartz, Seigel, Zaverei, Cho” by Rebecca Schiff, from The Bed Moved
- “Adon Olam” by Justin Taylor, from Flings