An image of an ice cream van, where books are being given out
An image of an ice cream van, where books are being given out

In the UK, at least, the mercury doesn’t have to rise much higher than around 18 degrees to legitimise excitement at the sound of an ice cream van. From childhood nostalgia to sweet-tooth satisfaction, the range of frozen desserts on offer means that there's a summer treat for just about everybody.

Dangerously few people, however, are aware of the strict correlation between ice cream choice and taste in books. To remedy this, we've called in a crack team from the Literary Office of Lickable and Luscious Iced Extravagant Somethings to weigh in and help the populace connect their hot weather delicacy of choice to their next reading pick. No need to thank us.

‘99’

The 99 is so much more than the sum of its parts: a pointedly dry, crispy cone, some overly sweet soft-serve ice cream, and a flake, if you’re feeling fancy. The 99 is a summertime totem, the symbol of a golden afternoon. It is timeless, it is chic – it can, at times, be a little boring.

That said, it’s a classic for a reason, which is why should be enjoyed with something well established from the canon: Brontë, Dickens, Dostoevsky – all those heavy hitters. You're telling us you're holding anything other than a 99 in one hand, and big Tolstoy in the other? Unthinkable. 

Twister

The Twister, as the name suggests, is full of twists and mysteries – we challenge you to name all fruits involved in one. Go on. You forgot the pineapple, didn't you? Lime, pineapple and strawberry collide in this bizarre tricoleur that can induce a kind of awe if you think about how it was constructed.

Which is why Twister fans should direct their attention towards psychological thrillers; bold, clever fiction with an ending you can never quite figure out untill you get there. The perfect example? Anything written by Lisa Jewell over the past decade – and in particular her superb latest, The Night She Disappeared

Magnum

Sure, the adverts are famously sultry - all that provocatively cracking chocolate and women with blow-dries enjoying themselves - but don’t let that fool you. Eating a Magnum is no idle undertaking; the clue’s there in the name. The rich bulk of premium vanilla ice cream, the thick coating of chocolate, the nuts, the caramel? That’s not an ice cream one eats on a whim.

Eaters of substance are readers of substance, which is why crime novels go hand-in-hand with these behemoths of the freezer aisle. John le Carré, Agatha Christie, Raymond Carver; the kind of hefty, unputdownable (have you ever tried to put down a Magnum, though) tomes that will change your reading habits for life.

Feast

Ah, Feast. There’s little to complain about with a Feast. Chocolate? Delicious. Biscuit bits? Delicious. Secretly chunky nuggety core? Surprisingly delicious. To appreciate layers like that – flavours; textures; mouth-feel – takes a connoisseur. And those connoisseurs, familiar as they are with feasts and flavour, must be reading cookbooks.

While we’d approve of indulging in any cookbook while eating a Feast, but we recommend you start with something from the bibliography of Nigella Lawson – truly, a writer who lures you in with chocolate before astonishing you with serious literary bite, and fit, we hope, for a palate as refined as yours.

Tub of Ben and Jerry’s

We're busy people; we don't have time for the kind of petty bickering that would ensue if we suggested the best Ben and Jerry’s flavour. What we do know, for certain, is that you're kidding yourself if you think you're eating part of a Ben and Jerry's tub on the evening. You, bestie, are about to eat that whole thing; that or split it very carefully with a much-valued – and trusted – friend. And either way, that's an achievement. You're going to want a suitably epic book to accompany that.

Classicists may opt for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or even Moby-Dick. Those looking for more contemporary reads may want to plump for Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. 

And hell, might as well just say it: the best Ben and Jerry's flavour is obviously Phish Food.

Mini Milk

Do you ever find yourself wistfully craving the soft, soothing comfort of a Mini Milk on a stressful summer’s afternoon? Small, perfectly formed and containing an honestly staggering amount of calcium, this wholesome treat is steeped in nostalgia for simpler times.

If you’re eating Mini Milks on the reg, chances are you’re a bit of a nostalgist, familiar with children’s books. You’ll have your favourites, we're sure, but can we direct your attention to Zadie Smith and Nick Laird’s Weirdo, Moomin and the Midsummer Mystery or Kiki’s Delivery Service? We can’t put them down.

Viennetta

If you have ever turned up to a picnic with a Viennetta, then congratulations, friend: you are a baller. You see a challenge, and you aspire – nay, rise – to it. 

You may have already transfered these baller affectations to the world of books, but if not, may we suggest a comparable literary endeavour? It's time to apply your skills of determination to book series.

Excellent to share and ambitious to master solo, fans of Viennetta would do well to channel such energies towards series such as Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City or Lee Child’s gargantuan Jack Reacher series. Or, go for the Viennetta XXL pack: stuff the entirety of Terry Pratchett's incredible Discworld novels into that to-be-read pile.

Calippo

Cheery, bright and packing a punch, the humble Calippo is something of a rite of passage for all ice cream eaters. Have you even lived, if not to have experienced the chilling humanity of spilling defrosted Calippo down your front? To eat a Calippo is to cool down, grab a second and return oneself to the slings and arrows of raw youth – like reading YA fiction.

With Calippos and YA fiction alike, there’s no strict age limit. Our top summery picks are Camp by L.A. Rosen, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson and Savannah Brown’s The Things We Don’t See

Solero

Refreshing, indulgent and with no business being that creamy, the genius creators of the Solero clearly ignored the parental advice not to mix citrus and dairy. And thank heavens they did: nothing says 'summer' like a Solero. We're not sure it’s physically possible to eat one between October and March; like a flower that doesn't bloom until the spring, the wrapper, we're told, won't open.

Which is why, fond fan, we think you’ll be enamoured by a good beach read. You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry is an extremely solid start (as is, of course, her debut Beach Read), or perhaps crest a wave with Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Whatever you plump for, make it pacy, fun and with a whiff of romance – like your favourite summer treat.

Cornetto

The Cornetto is a complex all-rounder. Let's review: waffle cone not to be messed with; elaborate topping of nuts; chocolate; other flavourful goodies; the satisfyingly expensive shiny cardboard you’ve got to peel from its cliff-like sides; and, of course, that not-so-secret nugget of chocolate smuggled into the base of the cone. Only a fool would throw away a Cornetto before getting to the end.

This complex cream-of-the-people is complicated enough for serious thought but has absolutely nothing to prove, making it the sweet, frozen equivalent of the kind of popular non-fiction that captures the minds of millions of readers: think the erudite but accessible work of Stephen Fry, Yuval Noah Harari and Caitlin Moran. If you have an issue with a Cornetto, the Cornetto has a smart, well-argued rebuttal. And yes – they're good to the very end.

Foot Lolly

If your favourite ice cream is a Foot Lolly, we think erotic fiction might be right up your street. We'll thank you kindly not to ask any follow-up questions. 

Fab

Sure, a Fab may look simple enough, lovely retro classic that it is, but anyone who’s experienced the unsettling feeling of biting through vanilla-flavoured ice while sprinkles sit on your tongue knows that a Fab contains strange, hidden depths – what inner flavour looms in your future? Following us yet? Fabs are sci-fi.

Whether you opt for the classily minimalist covers of Penguin’s Science Fiction series (Anna Kavan’s Ice would be a particularly fitting choice, we think) or go old school with Necromancer, Nineteen Eighty-Four or Frankenstein, do it with a Fab (or a Zoom – those are sci-fi too, obv). 

Gelato

Look, there are some dandies out there really do insist on being the kind of person to order stracciatella in Skegness. Is that you? Well, be sure not to get any on your copy of Mr Palomar, then – and buon appetito.

Ice pops

Sometimes you don’t want a great big indulgent ice cream; whether it's a time constraint, a simple inclination, or a drastic rise in temperature, sometimes you want to skip the overly rich, creamy faff and opt for a cool, refreshing ice pop.

Lurid, tiny and potentially jaw-breaking, the smallest in the ice cream family are nevertheless perfectly formed for a good time, not a long time – just like short stories, which is all our heat-addled attention spans desire come August. Whether you plump for the captivating brief tales of Carson McCullers or Tessa Hadley, throw an ice pop in while you read. You can use the wrapper as a bookmark if you only manage a paragraph or two. 

Choc ice

It’s easy to overlook a choc ice. Perhaps it's even been a good while since you unwrapped one of these childhood friends. And yet, who could feel negatively towards them?

Choc ices go as hand-in-hand with school holiday nostalgia as slippy slides, daytime TV and youthful days spent immersed in a book. Here's what we'd do if we were you: we'd grab ourselves a box, dust off our much-loved copy of Anne of Green Gables or I Capture The Castle, and dream of the days when we still assumed teachers lived at the school.

Disagree with our ice cream experts? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

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