I am not a "beach read" aficionado. Probably because I am constitutionally unable to do a lot of reading at the beach... or any place or time during a summer day. I am of the tribe of ants, who spend their summers toiling under the hot sun, rather than the grasshopper cohort, who fiddle from morning til night as the balmy breezes waft. When faced with a stretch of sand, whether a shell-strewn beach along the Gulf of Mexico or a pebbly shoreline on one of the Great Lakes, I am much more likely to set off on a hike to find a lightning whelk or a gnarled piece of driftwood or just exactly where that path up the dunes leads, than pull a book out of my totebag and settle in under the umbrella. However, this being the time of year when I am frequently asked to recommend "beach reads," I took some time out from spreading mulch to do a little research...
Apparently, the main requirements of a good beach book is that it (1) be engaging and (2) you can finish most of it before your sunscreen wears off, i.e., it's not likely to be "literature," but it must definitely be entertaining. So, whether you like thrillers, chick lit, or something smart but not too heavy, with these books in hand (or on your e-reader), all you need to grab is your towel and sunscreen and you're ready to read.
What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories
By Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman
Oh, the stories women could tell. And 58 of them were willing to spill their guts in this Oprah-recommended read. They're funny and smart. But whoa, are they stooopid when it comes to knowing a relationship is dead. It can take years in breakup "Crazytown." Usually, despite countless clues, there's an epiphany: Mr. Right invites you to have dinner with his married girlfriend so you can be pals. He thinks deploying faux dog excrement at a party is hilarious. He uses "invertebrate" when he really means "inveterate" or comes home one day proudly flashing a cubic zirconia nipple ring. Try to top this heartbreaker: at the altar, he tells you he can't stand the embroidery on your wedding dress, would you mind wearing it backward? So many red flags wave in these witty, woeful tales, you'll think you're in China. A must-read for lovers of Schadenfreude.
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
By Anna Quindlen
She's one of my favorite essayists, so, although I won't be reading this at the beach, it's definitely on my summer reading list. In this collection, she gives us rueful insights into a generation that's "still figuring things out" and still wishing to have it all, even at 60.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A delightful book club read (yes, I actually have read this one) that might serve well as a beach read. It's a light piece of historical fiction set on the Isle of Guernsey after World War II that will make you chuckle, bring a tear or two to your eyes, and give you something to think about (without weighing you down with thoughts too heavy for day full of cottony cumulus clouds).
Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Imperative
by Eric Van Lustbader
Okay, so it's not by the original master, but if you are into thrillers, this one should serve to idle away a few hours while you are baking in the sun (and waiting for the next Bourne flick ("The Bourne Legacy") to premiere in August). Just remember the sunblock if you are prone to burns! Jason Bourne's rescue of a drowning man not only reminds him of himself (the man's an amnesiac too), it raises plenty of questions. Why is he being stalked by the Mossad? Could he really be a legendary terrorist assassin, or is this a
case of mistaken identity?
Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola
by Kinky Friedman
Not a deep book by any stretch, but supposedly quite entertaining. Operative word here is "quirky." Singer/songwriter Kinky Friedman's flashy mystery stars a Greenwich Village musician named--coincidentally--Kinky Friedman. When a documentary filmmaker suffers a mysterious death, Friedman's search for the missing film forces him to relive his own dark past. If you're looking for a serious book with fleshed out characters that represent the plight of human suffering, just back away from this book, grab your over-priced coffee and go find some stuffy classic. If you're looking for a quick, amusing read that offers nothing more than a cheap thrill, then pick this one up and grab yourself a margarita and a burrito-to-go.
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