Well, tomorrow marks the official First Day of Summer for 2014. For me, the most important part of any summer is deciding what books to read. Whether I am heading to the beach, to the lake, to the pool, or sitting around wishing I was at any one of those places, choosing the right book is a very important decision. Now, I could give you MY top ten choices for Best Beach Reads, but I have chosen to do something a bit different. I asked my sounding board what their picks were and combined them with my own as well as the lists from the copious other sites that have released their own versions of this list. I would call it the definitive list of summer beach reads, but as I am the filter through which this information comes to you, I will admit, it may be a bit skewed to what sounds interesting to me personally. But, this is my blog, and you get what you paid for.
My final list includes 100 Book Recommendations, but 100 books seems like a lot to digest all at once, so I am posting it in two parts. Part I today of the first 50 suggestions and Part II next Friday of the final 50 suggestions. The books are separated into categories for easier navigation and next week will be totally different categories.
Without further ado…
If you want to read what everyone else will be reading:
The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham: Michael Cunningham is the same author wrote the book The Hours, so you can imagine the compelling nature of the novel he has crafted. This is the story of two brothers living in New York trying to figure out what life is all about in the midst of heartbreak and tragedy. This may not be a light read, but it will surely be worth the read.
The One & Only by Emily Giffin: You know Emily Giffin is always an excellent choice for the beach. This summer, she takes us to a football town in Texas where thirty-something Shea, begins to questions her life choices.
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman: Doesn’t the title alone sound like summer? This is the story of a Russian immigrant who becomes the monarch of an ice cream empire. The book spans her 70 year journey beginning in 1913. This is at the top of my list this summer, it sounds like fun take on a rags-to-riches story and you can’t beat a book about a woman building her fame and fortune on summer’s favorite treat.
The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly: The story of the young daughter of a dysfunctional political family in the summer of 1972 who witnesses a violent crime and what happens after. It sounds a little intense, but combined with the cast of characters and the raving reviews which promise devastating wit, I’m sold.
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King: The newest novel by the King himself, the book follows a retired cop haunted by the brutal murder of eight people under the wheels of a stolen Mercedes, as well as, the killer himself who is thirsty for more. It’s Stephen King.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: A New York woman, Rachel, spends the summer with her boyfriend at his childhood home in Singapore. Turns out, he is super loaded, and the most eligible bachelor in China. Hijinks ensue.
I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum: For starters, this book is set in both Paris and London, so if you have the travel bug and are unfortunately stuck stateside for the summer, this may just be the answer. It tells the story of a man realizing that he is still in love with his wife and trying to make her fall back in love with him. In Paris. And London.
The Arsonist by Sue Miller: Someone starts setting fires to homes in a small town in New England. With the tension building between the locals and the summer residents and the mystery of who is committing the crimes, this one is sure to be a riveting tale while you are summering in your favorite town.
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes: The story of a road trip with a single mom, her daughter, stepson and the millionaire who is driving them. It has been compared to Little Miss Sunshine. Who can beat that?
The Vacationers by Emma Straub: This is THE “It Book” of the summer. It is on every “must read” list, comes up in every search (if you search for any of these other 9 books on Amazon.com, this will be in the top three results). This will be the most read book of the summer. If you don’t want to be left out, be sure to read this one.
If you want to read what everyone else has already read:
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: The story of four best friends separated for the summer and a pair of magical pants. But you know this already. Everyone does.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: One of the biggest books of last year, the story takes place in 1866 during the gold rush in New Zealand. Sounds like a great piece of historical fiction set in the wild west (except in New Zealand), but the reviews promise more. The book has won the Man Booker Prize and some pretty fantastic accolades.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding: A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice made incredibly famous through the film adaptation starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and (the world’s favorite Darcy) Colin Firth. In case you were unaware, a third installment of this story was just released entitled Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (let’s call this a bonus book for the list).
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin: As far as I am concerned, this is THE quintessential beach read. It’s fun and a quick book. The story of two best friends, living in Manhattan, who get a house in the Hamptons for the summer. One is engaged and planning her wedding, the other is (somewhat) hopelessly single. Everything I look for in a summer book can be found in this one. The film starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson is also quite lovely.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: A fantastic story about working with a traveling circus. As an old man reflects on his life, we see how he was affected by the Great Depression, what it was like to run away with the circus, and what lengths he was willing to go to for true love. And fair treatment of animals.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: A brilliant book about friendship, the loss of innocence, and the ethics of science. Set in a secluded English boarding school in the 1990s, you know there is something off from the very beginning. There was a beautiful film adaptation starring Kiera Knightly, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: A woman who is trying to rebuild her life buys a home in Tuscany. Tuscany. Do you need any more than that?
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling: I realize that no book in the series is just called Harry Potter, but this is intentional since you can take your pick. I am sure you have read all of them, as I have oft been informed that I am the only human in the entire world that has not yet read this series. Fantastic stories, easy to read (or so I am told). I will read them one day, just as soon as the hype dies down…
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: One of the most beautiful books ever written. Told from the perspective of the recently murdered Susie Salmon who is watching over her family as they deal with the loss of her life, try to solve her murder, and heal.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: Another heavy hitter from last year. A young girl tries to find her recently vanished mother. It is supposed to be hilarious and brilliantly inventive.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: The “It Book” from last summer. This story takes place on the coast of Italy in 1962 and in Hollywood today. Based on the insane number of absolutely glowing reviews from about every major publication I can think of, I have no idea how I missed this one last year. Read some of the reviews on Amazon, you will pick up a copy of the book tomorrow.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: The book begins with six teens at a summer camp for the arts and follows them to middle age. As someone who is currently working toward her artistic ambitions, the book description speaks to me. Plus, who doesn’t want to revisit summer camp?
If you want to read the book before the movie comes out:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: If you have been reading this blog, you already know how I feel about this book. If not, you can read my recommendation of this fascinating novel here. The film, directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike will be released on October 3.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman: This book is one of the loveliest books I have read in quite some time. It is the story of a high school senior who is in a terrible car accident with her family and ends up in a coma. The book follows her as she makes the decision whether to stay in this world or move on to whatever comes next. The film, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, opens August 22. Warning: there may be tears…
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: If you are hoping to read this book before the movie comes out, you are a little late. The film, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort was released on June 6. I have previously written about both the book and the film on this blog. Both are completely lovely and worth checking out.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: This book, which is set to be a trilogy, will not be released until July 8, but the film is already in development with Emma Watson set to play the lead. It is said to be a Game of Thrones for women inspired by a speech given by then Senator Barack Obama in 2007.
The Giver by Lois Lowry: Arguably one of the most influential (and controversial) books written for children, I know it strongly impacted my outlook on the world when I read it as a child. The novel is super short (targeted toward 3rd-7th graders) and I would say a major influence on future dystopian series: The Hunger Games. The film, with an all-star cast including (but not limited to) Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard, and Katie Holmes, comes out August 15, but don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to read this one.
Serena by Ron Rash: The film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, still does not have a firm release date despite the fact that it was shot in 2012. It is supposed to come out sometime in 2014, so if you read the book now, you should be ready whenever the studio decided to put it into theaters. The story takes place in the 1930s wilderness, where Serena (Lawrence) and George (Cooper) are newly married and starting their life together. The two turn out to be quite ruthless and I am sure the novel will prove quite interesting followed by yet another brilliant performance by team Lawrence and Cooper.
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper: This film, to be released September 19, has a powerhouse cast: Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver (Girls), and Corey Stoll (House of Cards) and that is just in the immediate family. It is the story of a family reuniting after the death of their father. Judging by this cast and the previous works of the author, it is going to quite entertaining. I, for one, am starting it this weekend.
If you want to read something by an author you already love:
The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares: My post about this book will go live on Monday here. In the meantime this book, by the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, is one that made a major impact on me. The story of two grown sisters spending a summer at their family beach house.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling): A detective novel from the creator of Harry Potter, so you know the story will be well crafted. Based on the description, the mystery seems very noir with the death of a famous model, a down on his luck detective, and a setting in the world of power and wealth that is the entertainment industry.
Paper Towns by John Green: A mystery from the beloved writer of The Fault in Our Stars. A young girl goes missing and she left behind a string of clues for her friend, Quentin Jacobsen. Green is often regarded as witty and emotionally honest, and I completely agree. I love reading his work and find it both entertaining and cathartic, which is not easy to find seamlessly intertwined in one book.
If you cannot make it to the beach:
The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh: A book that promises a sexually charged vacation to the Southern Coast of Spain. A husband and wife, the teenage daughter and her boyfriend. To quote Amazon, “This is a very smart novel about many things: the loss of youth, female sexuality, the lure of May/December temptation, the vicissitudes of marriage and the politics of other people’s children. It is simultaneously sexy and substantive, and Helen Walsh’s masterful, even-handed tone can’t help but force the reader to wonder: ‘What would I have done?'”
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: On an island off of Cape Cod, a family has gathered for the wedding of their eldest daughter. The book is said to be smart and witty while exploring the mid-life crisis of a WASPy patriarch.
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams: This book is set in the summer of 1938 in Seaview, Rhode Island. A young woman is trying to escape from a failed engagement, only to be confronted by the former fiancé himself (along with her former best friend…).
If traveling in the modern world just isn’t enough:
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares: This book is a truly epic love story that spans throughout all of history as a young man spends multiple lives trying to connect with his one true love. If you have every met someone and felt like you must have known them in a past life, check this book out. It is a truly wonderful novel (once again) from the amazing Ann Brashares.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: A wonderful husband in 1945 and a passionate Scottish lover in 1743. You may have recently heard a raving review of it from Taystee on Orange Is the New Black. The book is also getting its own television series beginning in August on Starz.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffinegger: One of those books you can read again and again and again. And probably have. In case you have not, Henry is a man who, because of a genetic defect, can travel through time. He usually visits his wife.
If you prefer short stories to read intermittently:
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black: Short stories revolving around the truth of relationships.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max: The first of now three books by Tucker Max outlining his appalling lifestyle. I think it is a great choice for the beach because they are short stories that can be picked up then forgotten. And if he gets a little to gross, you can go wash it off in the ocean.
One More Thing by B.J. Novak: B.J. Novak, best known for his portrayal as Ryan on The Office (US), is actually a writer which you would know if you have read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (another bonus book and you can read my post about it here). According to the reviews, after reading this book we may never let him forget it.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace: A series of stories set up like interviews surrounding men and their relationships. Again, the stories are short and easy to pick up and put down when it is time to turn or hop in the water. For when you want to read some David Foster Wallace, but still don’t have the motivation to finally tackle Infinite Jest… Also, a fantastic film adaptation by another The Office alumn, John Krazinski.
Role Models by John Waters: John Waters, of Cult Film fame writes “a self-portrait told through intimate profiles of favorite personalities—some famous, some unknown, some criminal, some surprisingly middle of the road” (from Amazon). This is certainly an interesting read for those of you interested in the weird and twisted.
If you like to add a little mystery to you hot summer days:
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson: A murder mystery set in 1727 in a London debtor’s prison. A young man, named Tom Hawkins lands himself in The Marshalsea Gaol because of his penchant for gambling, drinking and women. Once he arrives, he discovers that he will need to uncover the truth behind the murder quickly, or he may be next.
Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston: A twelve-year-old boy disappears from a small town in Texas. Rather than starting there, this book begins four years later when the boy is returned to his family. The novel is about what happens to a family following a traumatic event and how (if) they can rebuild their lives.
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray: A fourteen year old boy, who attends an all-boys Catholic prep school in Dublin, is found dead in a local doughnut shop. The book is well over 600 pages, so you may not want to haul it very far, but from what I can tell, it does not feel long-winded.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl: The daughter of a cult horror film director is found dead in Manhattan. Her death is ruled a suicide, but a journalist is unconvinced. While seeming like a typical murder mystery, the exploration of the underground film community makes this book at the top of my list for the summer.
Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross: Based on the reviews, this books seems to be more than your average book about a man whose wife was found dead under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The book is a puzzle within itself and may requite more intellect that you are willing to utilize on the beach. However, if you are looking to get your brain working, this book may be for you.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: The recession has lead former web-designer to find employment in a San Francisco bookstore, but he soon discovers a conspiracy lurking in the walls of the shop. One review calls it a “nerdy heist” which is more than enough for me to go check it out.
The Farm by Tom Rob Smith: A psychological thriller about a man who doesn’t know who to trust: his father or his mother. His father has just committed his mother to a mental institution and his mother claims that it is a set up. Sounds like quite the intriguing mystery for the beach.
Just Beachy: Part II with 50 more book recommendations for you to read this summer will go live on Friday, June 27 including such categories as: “If you like you history to be mostly fiction” and “If (when) you are sick of weddings”.