Tuesday, July 08, 2008

“The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.”

I received an email from a friend who is about to leave on a beach vacation. (She referred to me as the "Book Goddess," and you may also. Ahem. Or not.)
She is stocking up on reading material for the trip.
Her requirements:
- Not annoyingly stupid
- Entertaining
- Not heavy/depressing
- Something you can't bear to put down...

So, this is easy.
Here are my 2008 beach read recommendations.
(And I usually prefer to take paperbacks to the beach (but not a hard and fast rule) and definitely prefer to own whatever I take, as there are few things more annoying than a library book full of sand.)

- If you have not read Sandra Gulland's Josephine books (Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., etc.), try those. I am currently reading her newest, Mistress of the Sun, about Louis XIV's mistress, and it's also terrific.
- Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. What a pleasant surprise. Well-written, engaging characters, and a little bit of something for everyone. I have the sequel, Belong To Me, awaiting me...
- Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells. A modern Practical Magic. I just read her second, The Sugar Queen, and I liked it but not as much as her first.
- Michael Lee West's stuff is fun, nice long cozy novels about crazy Southern women; start with Crazy Ladies and its sequel Mad Girls in Love.
- I have been telling EVERYONE to read Lauren Groff's Monsters of Templeton. She is going to be an author to be reckoned with. (Monsters is her first novel.)
- Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is fabulous – maybe a bit heavy for some for a beach read, but no one can go wrong with his Sally Lockhart books. Do yourself a favour and get the fourth, too; it’s not focused on Sally but on minor characters from the first three books, but is easily the best of the lot. Pure Victorian melodrama. Think Dickens meets Maisie Dobbs...

Classic/oldies but always goodies, in case nothing more recent appeals:
- Anything by Josephine Tey.
- Rosamunde Pilcher’s “big” books (Shell Seekers, September, etc.).
- Laurie King’s Beekeeper’s Apprentice.
- Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool (I read this on a flight to London and was actually sorry when the plane landed...)
- Pride and Prejudice.

If you are more interested in nonfiction, I can heartily recommend these riveting but true books:
- In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex – Nathaniel Philbrick
- Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
- The Devil in the White City – Erik Larsen
- The Sex Life of Cannibals & Getting Stoned with Savages – J. Maarten Troost
- Shark: Unpredictable Killer of the Sea – Thomas Helm. This is my all-time favourite shark book, which is saying something, but maybe, after all, not too smart for the beach. Although I read both The Perfect Storm and Close to Shore at the beach, and never blinked an eye.

My number one recc though?
Anna Quindlen has a terrific list of “Top Ten Books That Will Take You All Summer to Read (but are not beach reads)” (meaning that for me they are PERFECT beach reads).
(I would produce the entire list here for those of you who are as obsessed as I am but alas, I cannot find my copy of her book because we are currently rearranging bookshelves and books are piled everywhere. As my pediatrician says while probing the screaming baby's ears, I apologize.)

Anyhoo, it was from this list that I picked Gone with the Wind the first week of my first semester of graduate school. I took her at her word when she said it would take all summer. I gobbled it down in two days, stopping only to finish some annoying assignment for some stupid class, and longed for more. So my quintessential beach read is now Gone with the Wind. Even a guy (Rogue Lib?) might like it (but probably not you, Joke.)

And so off to the beach goes B, and I hope she found something useful here.

When we go down the shore (as we Jerseyites say) in September, I wonder what I will take. Have to start thinking about it now...there’s the new Mary Doria Russell I have been saving, as well as The Terror, Emotionally Weird, and Under the Banner of Heaven.

I can in good faith tell you that last time we went down the shore, I was reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and it most decidedly is NOT a beach read.
Consider yourself warned.

And please tell me what YOU are reading on vacation this summer.

*Isak Dinesen


Anonymous said...

I read Mistress of the Sun and Garden Spells (on your recc), and am just starting Evelyn Waugh's Put Out More Flags. According to some old guy on All Things Considered, it should be hilarious, which has me curious, as the only other Waugh I've read is Brideshead which doesn't get anywhere near funny (but would make for several excellent days of beach reading if you like reading about that place and time).

I just finished Dispatches from a Public Librarian, which sadly left me feeling a little . . . meh. I wanted to love it, but the guy clearly wanted to please every single reader, which means he will likely please none.

Anonymous said...

I am not allowed to spend all day obsessing about this, but I could ... easily.

Here are books in a series that should be read in order. The book I list is the first one of the series.
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich.
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters.
Until Proven Guilty -or- Desert Heat by J. A. Jance.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

Here are some authors whose books don't need to be read in order. I recommend just about any of their books. I put one of my favorites of theirs in parentheses.
Lisa Scottoline (Everywhere That Mary Went).
Carl Hiaasen (Native Tongue).
Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies).
Barbara Kingsolver (Poisonwood Bible).
Tony Hillerman (anything with Jim Chee or Joe Leaphorn).

I have only read one book by the following authors, but I really liked the book.
In the Midnight Rain by Ruth Wind.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
The Girls by Lori Lansens (I see she has a new book out that got good reviews called Rush Home Road).
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

And yes, BB, you are the Book Goddess.

Anonymous said...

One more:
The Host by Stephenie Meyer. It's probably not in paperback yet.

Anonymous said...

I read Nobody's Fool on a beach in Mexico and was dismayed when the sun set and I had to pack up.

I'm almost finished with Chris Bohjalian's newest, but it definitely does NOT meet criterion #3 on your friend's list. Next up: When You Are Engulfed in Flames, which should provide more laughs.

teachergirl said...

This summer, I have read Little Bitty Lies, Savannah Blues, Hissy Fit and Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews. Loved, loved, loved the first three but wasn't very happy with Deep Dish and am now afraid to read Savannah Breeze. Read Love the One You're With and can't decide how I feel about it. Maybe yes, maybe no. Keeping Faith and half of Change of Heart (killing time in B&N) by Jodi Picoult. Typical Jodi. All in all, fairly tasty summer reading. Had to read Founding Brothers to feel better about myself. Read Nell Newman's book about going green. Am on page 121 of Pillars of the Earth. Of course Joke would like GWTW. Who doesn't like GWTW?

Badger said...

I have been reading a bunch of genre crappe, only right now I am reading An Instance of the Fingerpost because my dad loaned it to me and he keeps asking me if I've read it. MAN is it long.

However. Troost has a new book out about China and I WANTS IT.

Also, I think our gal Amanda Eyre Ward's second book (and the first one I read), How To Be Lost, would make a fabulous beach read and fits all of your friend's requirements.

Jess said...

I (sort of) read the new Mary Doria Russell on vacation - I say sort of because I read 90% of it the day I got HOME from vacation. I need more vacation to get through my summer reading pile - ie, all the books I own but haven't read yet. There are some doorstops in that pile.

delta said...

10 Big Thick Wonderful Books That Could Take You a Whole Summer to Read (but Aren't Beach Books) -- by Anna Quindlen (from her book "How Reading Changed My Life")

(because I happen to have the book sitting here on my shelf):

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Vanity Fair - Thackeray
East of Eden - Steinbeck
The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy
Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann
Can You Forgive Her? - Anthony Trollope
Sophie's Choice - William Styron
Henry and Clara - Thomas Mallon
Underworld - Don DeLillo
Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurty

BabelBabe said...

Thank you!

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -of course
Vanity Fair - Thackeray, Not yet...
East of Eden - Steinbeck...unputdownable
The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy...sitting on shelf
Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann...ditto
Can You Forgive Her? - Anthony Trollope..awesome
Sophie's Choice - William Styron. Sob. Do NOT read whilepregnant.
Henry and Clara - Thomas Mallon. havent read.
Underworld - Don DeLillo. HATE DeLillo despite my best efforts
Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurty. Wonderful.

TLB said...

Since the baby popped out I have read The Last Madam and Sin in the Second City (research for my new book), and I have to say if you liked Devil in the White City you will LOVE Sin. Also I finished Jennifer Haigh's newest, The Condition, which I thought was not quite as great as her last two, especially Mrs. Kimble.

Now I'm going to try to plow through my big stack of unread New Yorkers. Those early mornings should be good for something.

Jess said...

How appropriate - Trollope and Galsworthy are both in my to-read pile.

Sarah Louise said...

A list for the Book Goddess and her readers:

This summer I'm into YA books:

Chicks with Sticks trilogy (Lenhard)
Traveling with Pants quartet (Brashares)

The Melting Season (a NY Ballet book, yum.) (Conway, unbelievable that it is first novel)

Introducing Sasha Abrahamovitz (Halpern, can't believe it is first book for kids, she has the voice DOWN)

The Willoghbys by Lois Lowry (makes fun of kids books and she illustrated it)

"Adult" books:

Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison (in almost one gulp...have Garden Spells in the wings)

Dreams from my father (Obama) -- not a beach read--he writes like he talks, you know, using SAT words.

The Russert books. Wisdom of our fathers is the kind of book you dip into, because each letter is so heartbreakingly wonderful that you can't read the next one until you process it. Haven't started Russ and me yet but it's waiting in the wings.

Chick Lit-ish: Names my Sisters call me.

I've just been offered lunch now instead of in eight minutes...or I'd list more. I've been devouring fiction this summer.



Suse said...

Thanks for the Gulland recommendation. I had to do an interlibrary loan request for the first as my local only has it in Italian. (wtf?)

Someone up there commenting re Evelyn Waugh made me think of his caustically hilarious book 'The Loved One' which is quick and light and would make a good beach book. Have you read it? It's set in a [human] cemetery and a pet cemetery. In California.

Of course.

And now I shall bow low to the Book Goddess and take my leave.

Kathy said...

This is what I have with me:

Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey
Who Let the Dogs In? by Molly Ivins
If I am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus (probably won't meet the "light" criteria.)

I read Chocolat by Joanne Harris -- it was lent to me by my friends I was visiting.

Lisa said...

I'll be reading a lot of Jim Butcher this summer, I think.

sshers lists one of my very favorite books- In the Midnight Rain by Ruth Wind.

I have both Love Walked In and Belong to Me in the TBR.

nutmeg said...

Well, I thought I might just "pop over" (more Aussie-speak) your way and catch up on your blog-life (oh, I've been absent too long) and maybe thought I might mention my current read - Monsters of Templeton - and lo I see you've already read it. I AM LOVING IT! Am having a rather slow fiction year so far and can't recommend much else - maybe Small Island by Andrea Levy.

Loving some NF by Carl Honore though.

Glad to read that your chugging along just nicely .... oh, and am loving the rather more voluptuous Nigella more and more. She recently visited Australia and was showing us more of her wares ;-)