I’ve always disliked the term “beach book”. What on earth is a beach book? If a book engages me, it’s going to engage me whether I’m at the beach, on a plane, on my couch, or in bed. (Well, maybe not in bed — too much likelihood of falling asleep, no matter how riveting the book.) CNN recently interviewed some well-known authors about their summer reading habits, defining beach reads this way: “While there are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a ‘beach read,’ the idea is that they can be read quickly, or that they’re light in tone. Always, they’re captivating and preferably escapist.”
Joshua Ferris is a man after my own heart. He says, “What I bring to the beach is whatever I’m reading at the moment, and what I’m reading at any given moment usually concerns death, misery and marital discord, which don’t seem too beachy . . . I find it impossible to alter my reading for the sake of a season.”
Emma Donoghue, who “wants a meaty plot; brilliant language; extra points for hilarity”, is a very sensible person. She says she actually prefers to read magazines on the beach, due to the mess factor. So if I make it to the beach this summer, I’ll bring a pile of magazines — although here on Lake Michigan, we have these pesky little biting flies that make it almost impossible to read anything, or even to remain on the beach.
Here are 10 recommendations for summer reading. They’re all either available now or will be later this month.
Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest by Jen Doll
The New York Times (which called Jen Doll “Emily Post’s worst nightmare”) gave journalist Doll’s nonfiction account of weddings she’s attended a so-so review, but I thoroughly enjoyed her take on modern-day weddings. And yes, she needs some help in the manners department.
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
From the Oregonian: “Set deep in the backwoods of Reagan-era Montana and containing all the necessary ingredients of a slow-burn literary thriller — prickly characters, graphic writing, creeping suspense, Fourth of July Creek spins quite an unsettling yarn.” I’ve been waiting to read this ever since I picked it up at Winter Institute in January.
Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
From the publisher: “Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the “great green room” might have come to be.” I’ve just finished reading this and it is truly delightful.
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
If you liked The Dinner, you’ll love Herman Koch’s latest. If you found The Dinner too dark . . . skip this one. From Publishers Weekly: “In Koch’s equally devious follow-up to The Dinner, civilization is once again only a thin cover-up for man’s baser instincts . . . very few real-world events will distract readers from finishing this addictive book in one or two sittings.”
The Other Language by Francesca Marciano
From the New York Times: “What makes these tales stand out as captivating exemplars of storytelling craft is Ms. Marciano’s sympathetic, but wryly unsentimental knowledge of these people’s inner lives; her ability — not unlike Alice Munro’s — to capture the entire arc of a character’s life in handful of pages; and her precise yet fluent prose (the result, perhaps, of writing in a second language), that immerses us, ineluctably, in the predicaments of her men and women.” Every list of recommendations needs a short story collection, and The Other Language is the best I’ve read in a long time.
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
I’m slowly becoming a fan of (good) YA literature — and this one is excellent. From the publisher: “The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern’s insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.”
The Arsonist by Sue Miller
From Publishers Weekly: “A small New Hampshire town provides the backdrop for Miller’s provocative novel about the boundaries of relationships and the tenuous alliance between locals and summer residents when a crisis is at hand.” Several colleagues are highly recommending The Arsonist, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything Sue Miller has written.
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
I loved this memoir of Rakoff’s stint as an assistant to J.D. Salinger’s literary agent! From the Chicago Tribune: “Her memoir is a beautifully written tribute to the way things were at the edge of the digital revolution, and also to the evergreen power of literature to guide us through all of life’s transitions.”
China Dolls by Lisa See
From Publishers Weekly: “In the beginning of See’s stellar ninth book, three young women, Grace, Helen, and Ruby, meet and form an unlikely but strong bond in San Francisco in 1938, as the Golden Gate International Exhibition is about to open . . .The depth of See’s characters and her winning prose makes this book a wonderful journey through love and loss.” I’m thrilled that Lisa See is coming to our community for an event in late June.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
From the New York Times: “For those unable to jet off to a Spanish island this summer, reading The Vacationers may be the next-best thing. Straub’s gorgeously written novel follows the Post family — a food writer named Franny; her patrician husband, Jim; and their children, 28-year old Bobby and 18-year-old Sylvia — to Majorca . . . When I turned the last page, I felt as I often do when a vacation is over: grateful for the trip and mourning its end.” I felt the same way!
Hop along the Hump Day blog hop at Julie Valerie’s Book Blog! Click to return to the Hump Day blog hop.
37 thoughts on “10 Books to Read This Summer (At the Beach or Not)”
Love the Josh Ferris quote. You’ve given me some great suggestions for my July beach/pool vacation!
Have a great vacation — one of the most fun parts of vacation planning is deciding what to read!
Finally the very long winter is over .. My summer reading list is growing. Thank you …
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Hi Barbara! So glad to say goodbye to winter. I got to read outside today! What have you been reading?
I love Lisa See…I’ve read four of her novels, and this one is going on my TBR list now.
This is one of her best, I think.
I’m glad to see if you liked The Dinner, you’ll like Summer House…because I was definitely a fan of The Dinner but haven’t been sure about the newest.
It’s really good — but I’ve noticed there are some people who really disliked The Dinner, and I wanted to make sure they knew this was pretty dark as well. But I like dark books . . .
I really want to read Say What You Will! i’ve heard nothing but good things about it! its for sure on my TBR 🙂 great summer picks!
I’ve never read much YA before but this one is a real gem.
Great picks! Say What You Will sounds really amazing so I can’t wait to read it. I seriously adore the cover. 🙂
Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian
I agree, it has a great cover.
I don’t think I’ve heard of any of these before. I’ll have to check them out!
Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know
Let me know if you do — I’d love to hear what you think!
Nice choices, I’ll add a few to my list!
Thanks for recommending Goodnight June — what a treat!
Great list! I’m just finishing My Salinger Year and really enjoying it. Say What You Will is at the top of my YA list too.
My Salinger Year has (deservedly) been getting some great reviews!
Fourth of July Creek is on my list as well. I attended an author signing event at BEA recently and can’t wait to get started. My Salinger Year has piqued my curiosity as well.
A couple of my colleagues are reading 4th of July Creek and loving it.
I finished ‘Summer House with Swimming Pool’ last week. I really enjoyed it but I haven’t been able to organize my thoughts yet for a review.
I’m also with you in that I don’t alter my reading with the season. I use beach reads interchangeably with ‘airplane reads’ just basically to mean something that’s not going to be too cerebral.
I have The Dinner waiting for me when I finish Our Mutual Friend. So if I like it, and I think I will, I’ll think about his new one as well. My Salinger Year really looks good and Goodnight June.
I’ve really been wanting to read Say What You Will. It looks good. And I’m super jealous that you got to go to BEA! I live in the south and we don’t get that kind of thing down here…..I hope you had fun!
Every summer, my thoughts about what constitutes a “beach book” resurface, and you’ve inspired me to try and collect them into a post! If I ever get back to posting and reviewing, that is. (I seem to be in a slump right now.) I just finished The Vacationers and that seemed like a perfect beach book to me! I want to read Summer House with Swimming Pool and have been avoiding all reviews for fear of inadvertent spoilers.
Hello! Love this list! Thanks for curating this fun collection of books.
I love, love, love how you curate books by topic. (Any chance you’d like to collaborate and curate a few book collections as a guest post on my blog…? Seriously. If you’re interested, let’s chat via email… You’re fantastic.)
So super grateful you’ve added this blog post to the Hump Day Blog Hop. I always look forward to the end-of-month blog hop because your links are so great and because I know I’ll discover great books.
This post is particularly wonderful because you’ve reunited me with My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff – a book I learned about while in NYC last month at BookExpo – but then lost memory of the title. I remembered the premise and storyline of the book and wanted to read it because I just finished Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and wanted to do a join blog post/book discussion featuring both books. When I read this blog post and saw that title I was searching for I said, “Woo-Hoo! That’s it! Oh, thank goodness.” Now I can get started planning my book group discussion. THANKS TO YOU, ANN!!! 🙂
Julie — Thanks very much for your kind comments! I can’t wait to hear what you think of My Salinger Year. I would love to guest post on your blog. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can make plans!
Am I the only one who chooses my beach books based on size? I like to lie on my back with my book up over my face to block out the sun. That means I prefer a paperback that isn’t too heavy, yet is large enough to cast a decent shadow. I save the massive hardcovers for sit-down sessions 🙂
Good point: size is important, both for the beach itself and for transportation / luggage weight!
I’ve seen My Salinger Year mentioned elsewhere and will definitely look out for it. And, having had a tiny wedding myself, I’m always fascinated by other people’s. A book with ‘mortifications’ in the title must be worth a try!
I adored My Salinger Year — if your ear it, let me know what you think!
Thanks for the list, Ann! I’ve been wanting to start checking out young adult titles, so I’ll have to add “Say What You Will” to my reading list. 🙂
YA is new to me — I’m trying to decide what my next YA choice will be. I’ll be interested to hear what your thoughts are when you begin exploring YA!
Thanks for the list! Can’t say I go to the beach much either–ours (on Lake Ontario) opens for the season and then promptly closes “indefinitely” due to an algae bloom. Every. Friggin’. Summer. Eh, no loss. The lake smells like dead fish, and I prefer to read anywhere and everywhere else anyway. 🙂
Our beach on Lake Michigan frequently closes for “high bacteria count” — ugh! My porch is much more pleasant.
I agree about the term ‘beach’ reads and I live in Florida. Stopped going to the beach years ago but reading will last forever. Great choices on your list. 🙂
Thanks — I’ll be interested in your thoughts if you read any of them!
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