Summer Reading for the Beach, Pool, or Mountains

The interior of the Paperback Exchange bookshop

Around the world, summer 2021 is edging towards its last chapter. Summer in Italy, however, is just reaching its climax. The public holiday of Ferragosto – celebrated annually on Aug. 15 – will mark the beginning of a country wide vacation season.

What screams holiday more than a book in your hand and toes in the sand? The setting for this grand story is Florence’s Paperback Exchange bookstore (via dell’ Oche 4/r; open Monday to Saturday 10 am to 7 pm, closed Sundays).

“Here in the middle of the city center, it’s a tranquil oasis,” Icaro Rotunda, co-owner of Paperback Exchange, said.

The small family run business is an independent English-language bookshop in Florence, Italy. The current owners, Gianluca Romeo and Rotunda, took over the store in 2019 (read more here on Magenta Florence). Despite having little to no management experience, the new owners were passionate about the forthcoming adventure. What they didn’t expect, however, were the many plot twists incited by the pandemic.

Putting the hardships behind them, Rotunda said, “The most important thing for us is to keep the bookshop alive and full of books.”

In addition to its wide selection, cozy atmosphere and soothing music, the Paperback Exchange gives 25% store credit to those looking to exchange books. For avid readers, this is paradise, and they’re open all year round.

If you’re looking for a book for the Ferragosto holiday period and beyond, however, grab it now. The Paperback Exchange will not be open from Thursday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 22. The store will open back up Monday, Aug. 23 at 10 am.

In the meantime, Rotunda and Romeo provide their summer reading list. It includes this summer’s best sellers, the books they’re currently reading and a few guilty pleasures.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo. Joan’s transformative journey in facing and understanding the trauma of her past at the hands of men.

Circe by Madeline Miller. An imaginative biography of Circe, a powerful female in Greek mythology known as the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and the nymph Perse.  Possessed with magical powers, she turned Odysseus’s crew into swine, and changed them back again, later birthing sons by the hero.

Dune by Frank Herbert. A golden oldie and perennial best-seller for science fiction fans.

Florentine and Torta della Nonna by Emiko Davies. The first details the true cuisine of Florence, the second is a collection of recipes of Italian desserts, sweets and breakfast food traditionally made at home.

Fresh Water For Flowers by Valerie Perrin. A #1 bestseller in Italy and France, the novel is the story of a woman who believes in happiness despite everything.

Intimations Six Essays by Zadie Smith. A series of short essays in a slim volume on the life-changing effects of the pandemic.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro . The latest book by a Nobel and Booker prize winning author on a store clerk who observes her customers and hopes to find love.

Lemprière’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk. An international best seller, the book tells the tale of an 18th century author, who, while working on a dictionary of classic mythology, discovers a conspiracy against his family dating back 150 years.

Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante. The new offering by the author of ‘The Neapolitan Trilogy,” including “My Brilliant Friend,” the protagonist untangles a web of deceit.

Midnight Library by Matt Haig. A young woman who’s lost everything and decides to end it wakes up in a new limbo: a library staffed by her school librarian with works where she could find a new direction.

Penguin Great Ideas Series by Penguin Books. A popular non-fiction series featuring essays by well-known writers and intellectuals on politics, philosophy, science and war.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. A fantasy adventure novel.

Still Life by Sarah Winman. Set in 1944, two strangers—a young British soldier and an art historian who is possibly a spy—meet in a cellar of Tuscan villa to seek shelter from bombings.

The Bookseller of Florence by Ross King. A thriller which also interweaves the biography of Vespiano da Bisticci, the king of booksellers in 15th century Florence.

The Florios of Sicily by Stefania Auci. Described as “an epic tale of power, passion, and revenge” of a family from Calabria who lose all their belongings in an earthquake and migrate to Sicily.

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith.  The author’s name is actually J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym when she decided in 2020 to release a crime mystery set in Cornwall and London.

Tuscan Tales: The Fantastic Tales of Emma Perodi translated by Lori Hetherington. Tuscan fables from the region’s mountains, normally an oral tradition.

Your Brain Explained by Marc Dingman is described as “a friendly, engaging tour of the human brain and its quirks.”

Zofia Turbotynska Mystery Series by Maryla Szymiczkowa. Two engaging books that blend humor and crime.

What are you waiting for? Grab a book and head to the beach or pool. (rachel pellegrino/additional reporting by rosanna cirigliano)

For more information and book suggestions, visit Paperback Exchange’s Facebook and Instagram page.