It’s that time again when the weather warms and our thoughts turn to summer.
Blogging has leveled a serious hit at our reading lists. While time on the old laptops has done wonders for the creative juices, we could use some time away to really unwind and catch up on some good reads. With this in mind, there is only one thing our husbands should do (really, really, really, pretty please) for us this summer: Lifeguard the kids on the beach so we can get some ever-loving reading done. With this miracle day in mind, here are some books that hit that perfect note. These books are kind of like the perfect beach snack—not complete crap, but nothing too fancy either. Bon appetit!
1. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan— Fans of The Hunger Games or Margaret Atwood will appreciate the dystopia of this not-too-far-off future. But there is more to this tale than just a society in freefall—this is The Scarlet Letter for the new millennium, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s got nothing on Jordan. The central heroine Hannah Payne is a rock-solid reimagining of Hester Prynne—sweet, innocent—a little naive—but brave and smart too. You will be cheering for Hannah as she travels from disgraced social pariah to embattled but empowered woman. This novel will get you thinking, and you will have a better summer because of it.
2. The Cure for Modern life by Lisa Tucker— This is a story of love thwarted by ambition and greed. Amelia and Matthew were college sweethearts who now stand not just apart but on opposite sides of the Big Pharma issue. One day someone walks into their lives who offers a chance for them to re-examine the choices they have made and even, maybe, a way back to the future they had once imagined together. This book’s romantic heart and Tucker’s steady hand in bringing these characters to life make it perfect for a day at the beach.
3. In the Woods by Tana French—If you haven’t fallen in love with her books yet, then you are in for a treat. Not only can this Irish writer pace a novel to keep you begging for more, but she is THE master of language. Her beautiful storytelling will keep you mesmerized for hours. This book is a murder mystery where the lead detective was also the victim of a copycat crime years before. The best part? There are two more great novels (with familiar characters) to read right after you finish this one (and you will want to, believe me!) and another coming out this summer. Lose yourself in her fabulous characters and richly imagined worlds and get ready to buy me a drink for introducing the two of you!
4. One Day by David Nichols—There is a cheesy movie that came after this novel, but this novel is the REAL deal—a romance of the highest order. I loved the characters (Emma and Dexter with their infinite charms and charming neuroses) and their drawn-out love story (the story takes place over twenty years on the same date). Put away those 50 Shades and fall in love with romance again with all the passion you can muster. Funny, sassy, and fun, this love story will make you laugh and break your heart. As Nick Hornby said, this book is “the perfect beach read for people who are normally repelled by the very idea of beach reads.”
5. The Good Father by Noah Hawley—This good father’s son is in trouble BIG TIME. But Dad can’t believe it’s true. This story reads a little like a mystery and although you pretty much know what’s coming, you just can’t bring yourself to put it down. It examines the guilt and blind love all parents experience in the context of an interesting and quick-moving story. Without crossing the line into “too much”, this book tackles modern parenting—the good, the bad, and the out-of-our-hands of it. In addition to a compelling story, it might give you something to talk about other than which brand of sunscreen works best.
6. Family History by Dani Shapiro— You are definitely going to need a reliable babysitter for this one, because you will not be able to put it down. This book is about a family’s unravelling, but there is just enough hint of redemption to balance the careening off the rails. Shapiro makes these characters real in the best possible way, so you can explore questions of how great kids go bad, how you can carry on in carpool line as your world collapses, and how ultimately we can find our way back to one another in the wake of betrayal. Come to think of it, you are going to want to buy me another drink.
7. Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner— Any book by Jennifer Weiner is sure to hit the mark, but this one is my favorite. Sylvie’s life has transformed her from her wilder, former self into the quintessential politician’s wife. After her husband’s affair becomes national news, we watch her wrestle with the question of whether it was all worth it. To make the story even more interesting, her daughters have similar journeys as they work through their father’s betrayal. It all makes for a great read worthy of some ocean breezes.
8. Lone Wolf by Jodi Piccoult— Piccoult is our go-to girl for great characters, interesting plots, and topical discussions. She is a known entity which makes her great for this list. Her latest novel is one of her best. Questions of family loyalty are interspersed with the larger questions about euthanasia and end-of-life decision-making. Piccoult always draws her characters convincingly, and this novel is no exception. You can always pack some Piccoult in the old beach bag and be a happier reader for it.
9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides— I already reviewed Eugenides’ newer book, The Marriage Plot , but this book was our book club’s favorite read one summer and deserves to be on this list (and honestly every other list—it’s THAT good!). Spanning 80 years of family history to bring us the transformative story of Calliope/Cal, this is a big, honking book, but you will lose yourself in the story. If you are someone who loves a good, sweeping epic (and come on, who doesn’t?), then this book is for you. The fact that Eugenides is such a wordsmith only compliments this story. We ALL loved it and still speak of it as the perfect summer book club read.
10. State of Wonder— Ann Patchett is a great writer who has only gotten better with time. In this book, she gives us a woman on a mission. Literally. Dr. Marina Singh needs to find her mentor Dr. Annika Swenson who has disappeared into the jungle of Brazil. But, of course, this book wouldn’t be such a great read if that were all it had to offer. Marina’s journey takes her into her past, her future, and even makes her start looking at her work with new eyes. Nothing better than a mission that brings us to ourselves and this one does not disappoint.
So get a lifeguard, get a beach chair, get a cold drink, and get reading!
And I thought of another thing our husbands should do, open a line of credit at Amazon or Barnes and Noble for us. No time like summer time to get our read on! Erin
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski