Thursday, June 27, 2013

Staff Picks: Beach Reads

No matter where you live, summer is a great time to sit on a lawn chair and devour a really great book. Everyone's idea of a great summer read is different, and we'd love to hear your recommendations too! Here are some of our favorite summer reads if you need a recommendation before you hit the beach!


Rachel's summer reading credentials:
  • Have writing that is complex enough that I find it beautiful, but simple enough that I don't need a dictionary or have to reread passages for them to make sense 
  • Be that amazing paradox between being able to put it down and still pick up where I left off and have it make sense--but also that tantalizing deliciousness that makes me not want to put it down 
  • Be available in paperback
I also confess a bias toward anything set in Latin America or Spain, mystery novels, and/or historical fiction. 

So, all that said, one beach read recommendation: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This is a mystery, a love story, a story within a story, a historical fiction novel set in the Spanish civil war in Barcelona. I am still in the stage of life where I am moving a lot, so trying not to keep books unless they are ones that I know I will return to over and over; this is one of them. Seriously. SO GOOD.

I've never actually done beach reading (having only been to the beach once since I was a child), and frankly, I would have no problem reading Wuthering Heights or Slaughterhouse-Five while lounging in the sun. (I've definitely done Thomas Hardy and John Steinbeck while tanning by the pool.) But I still like the name "beach reads" for conveying the feel we're talking about here, and my recommendation for it is the genre Goodreads has sort of boringly named "Funny Women Memoirs." I've read a surprising number of the books on that list (most recently, ones by Chelsea Handler and Mindy Kaling) and they're just a lot of fun. They're very quick reads, they're usually hilarious, and you get an interesting glimpse of a life that's probably very different from yours. Bossypants, How to Be a Woman, and Wishful Drinking are a few of my favorites.


I’m going to go very literal here and say Eclipse. This is the only fiction book I have ever read while on a beach. Sadly, I read the entire book in one sitting in Huntington Beach, CA without actually ever getting into the water. I waited 4 years after the first book was published to start reading these things. I didn’t want to read them. Ever. But, after one poor Red Box movie choice I was hooked and had to figure out what was going on.

If you were me and near a real beach this weekend, I’d suggest Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua or Suits by Nina Godiwalla. Both are memoirs written by strong, funny women.

Lindsey: I love the beach.  I have read so many things while soaking up rays (read: turning into a lobster), although I tend to go for music and/or audio books so I don't get those pesky sunglasses tans.  Either way, my favorite beach read ever was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It's a fantastic book no matter where you read it, although I think it helped that this particular reading for me occurred on a porch, in a hammock, listening to the waves crash on the shore.  This summer I will be reading Shiver, Linger, and Forever by Maggie Steifvater and probably The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. 

Melissa: Summer is about the only time that I love diving into mysteries. Kate Morton has become one of my favorite authors. I suggest The House at Riverton (which has a very Downton Abbey/Upstairs Downstairs feel to it) or The Forgotten Garden. I also really love reading Jane Austen in the summertime. I'm always in the mood for a good romance at the beach.

I would have to take Stephanie Perkin's two books: Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Stephanie describes her own books: "They have funny bits and kissing, so you should totally read them. If you're into that sort of thing." Both books are fun and easy beach reads that leave you smiling. The kissing is self-explanatory, but here's an example of the funny bits. Lola has two Dads (as in a gay couple), and as she is leaving one night to hang out with a guy, one of her Dads tells her, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" The other Dad laughs and says that it gives her permission to do everything that he doesn't want her to do! It made me laugh out loud, but I guess you really need to read the book to get the whole hilarity of it, so check them out!

Before I sat down to finally pick a book of my own to suggest to y'all I decided to read through all the other lovely ladies' suggestions. I was surprised at how many non-fiction books were chosen, but was even MORE surprised when the first book that popped into my mind as my top beach read this year was ALSO non-fiction: That Woman by Anne Sebba. Y'all don't really know me, so you don't know that to me, "fun" reading is always fiction. There have been so few exceptions to this personal rule that I was bowled over when a biography of the one and only Wallis Simpson was so fascinating that I stayed up until 3 am two two nights in a row to finish it- an honor usually only bestowed on the most delightful fiction books I read. For those of you drawing a blank, Wallis Simpson is the twice-divorced American woman who King Edward VIII gave up the British crown for and she is fascinating, I tell you. Fascinating!

Meg: I am definitely of two minds when it comes to summer reading. On the one hand, I really did used to read a Thomas Hardy novel every summer. I find that lately I've had a little bit of "My reading keeps getting interrupted by a crying baby taking too short of a nap" syndrome. I've enjoyed more chick lit in the last year than I've ever read in my entire life, because it doesn't matter when I pick it up and put it down. However, of the books I've really enjoyed lately that I think I will still care about in a few years that are also light enough to enjoy while you make sure your baby doesn't drown in the ocean, I think my top picks are The Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (I didn't read it on a beach, but I did read it last summer when I was very pregnant and couldn't ever sleep) and What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. One is a lovely, magical, non-cliche love story with a nice dose of fantasy, and the other is a series of fascinating articles about things you had no idea you wanted to know (mustard, dogs, birth control, hair color, pitchmen, etc.), and both are perfect for summer.

I have a huge girl-crush on Maggie Stiefvater and love everything she writes, and her latest book The Raven Boys did not disappoint.  Well, it disappointed my husband because in the two days it took me to read it, he didn't come home to a hot meal or a clean house.  (He's a good sport when it comes to my literary binges.) But that's beside the point. The basic gist of the book is as follows: "Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble." I know,  I know. Forbidden love? Prep schools? Rich entitled boys? That dead horse has been flogged in so many young adult novels, but Stiefvater doesn't stoop to gimmicks or love triangles to keep things interesting. The only flaw with this book is the fact that it's the first in a series that hasn't been finished. This makes my literary heart hurt. But! In the words of Kathleen Kelly, "Read it. I know you'll love it."

I must say I haven't been to the beach in a few years, well I guess I once went to the beach in California in February at 10pm, trust me, it's not the same.  But  the last time I was there I read a book that I truly enjoyed, it was Jody Picoult's Plain Truth.  It's a book about an Amish girl, and her secret baby, and her being accused of killing said baby.  It has some powerful emotional moments. I have to be honest, when I go to the beach it's all about guilty pleasures for me.  I also read pretty much every book Sarah Dessen ever wrote.  What can I say? When I am at the beach I am not really in the mood for deep thoughtful writing, I want to relax and be able to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence without having a hard time picking up again!

My family loves the beach, and we've been several times. I've even camped out on La Push for a night, which was pretty awesome. (I'll give all of you Twilight crazies a chance to catch your breath before reading any further.) There's always a book in my beach bag whenever I go, and I really do try to read while slowly baking in the sun. The thing is, though, that I soon realize that my brain is melting in the heat and the water looks much more appealing. The beach, to me, means giving my brain a break from everything, so I'm going to recommend one of the funniest books I've ever read: I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. It is, without a doubt, hilarious. I received this book from a good friend many moons ago, and it changed my life. I think almost everything is funny, but this book... I don't know. There's just something about it. That's all I'm going to tell you, because you need to figure out how amazing it is on your own. If you've read anything by Jack Handey and loved it, then you'll love this book, too. (If you haven't, then his book What I'd Say to the Martians is another book you should bring. You can thank me later. It also reminds me of Stefon from S.N.L. That skit has my sister and me rolling on the ground every single time.) Anyway, it's that kind of funny that this book entails, so I hope you enjoy it! Oh, and don't get stung by a jellyfish. Those suckers are crazy and will sneak up on you like no other.

Don't get me started on reading while on vacation. My husband always makes fun of me for packing way too many books. What can I say? I don't want to be stuck anywhere without reading material. Back on topic- I usually go for two things when picking books to take with me- one of which being books that are relevant to where we're going. For example, when we went to Moab in March, I read Red: Passion and Patience In The Desert by Terry Tempest Williams. The other genre I like on vacation is teen fiction. Amanda and Lis already mentioned some of my favorites. I also like John Green, and he has some fun road trip-themed books.

1 comment:

Miri said...

If you like YA road trip books, there's one called How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski that I really liked. I once suggested it to an adult patron who visibly recoiled when I told her the title, but I promise, it's not nearly as racy as it sounds. If you've read any of Lockhart's other books (which you should) you'll probably like it. It would definitely be a good summer read, and the same is true of a lot of other books by those three authors.