Every summer, I ask my family and friends to send me the titles of books they’ve recently enjoyed. The result is always a diverse, eclectic mix of good reads. Here are some suggestions to take to the beach.
“The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead Books, 2013): A group of friends meets at an arts camp in the summer of 1974 and are then followed throughout their adult lives. As good if not better than Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom.”
“The Trip to Echo Spring” by Olivia Laing (Picador, 2014): To answer the connection between writing and drinking, Laing examines the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cheever and Tennessee Williams and dissects the myth of the alcoholic writer.
“Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury, 2014): A memoir by the New Yorker cartoonist about caring for her aging parents that is acerbic, touching and very relatable for us baby boomers.
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (Little Brown and Co., 2013): It’s a commitment at 800 pages, but I could not put it down. Tartt takes you inside of the world of a young boy who grows into a man with the possession of a (stolen) precious painting of a small bird that is his talisman. Those 800 pages flew by.
“The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait” by Blake Bailey (W.W. Norton & Co., 2014): The biographer of authors writes his own memoir sparing no wrath for his brother, nor, as it turns out, love. Deeply affecting.
“Eyes Closed Tight” by Peter Leonard (Story Plant, 2014): Peter’s sixth novel is his best so far. Great flawed characters.
“The Accident” by Chris Pavone (Crown Publishers, 2014): Like “The Expats,” full of page-turning intrigue and plot twists. “The Accident” is the title of an about-to-be published, earth-shattering manuscript.
“Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters” by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (Penguin Press, 2007): Just in time for some early Sherlock Holmes to be released under U.S. copyright law, this is a wonderful book about the Scottish creator of the brilliant detective, who was a physician as well as a writer.
“The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer (Hyperion, 2006): In the spirit of “The Liars Club,“ this autobiography of a young man centers on the characters in a Long Island bar that take the place of his distant father, who left the family.
“I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes (Atria Books, 2014): A spy thriller, a lengthy one at that, but one reviewer described being so taken by this book, “it was like as falling down the rabbit hole just like Alice.”
“Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books, 2013): A coming-of-age novel told in the voice of 13-year-old Frank Drum in 1960s in Minnesota. Tenderly written epiphanies that stayed with me long after.
“Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter (Harper Collins, 2012): For that matter, read Walter’s “The Zero,” “The Financial Lives of the Poets” or “Over Tumbled Graves.” Each book is brilliant and vastly different from the last.
“1421: The Year China Discovered America” by Gavin Menzies (William Morrow, 2008): Just what the title says it is. The surprisingly interesting story of how the Chinese discovered the new world long before that guy from Genoa, Italy.
“The Mincing Mockingbird Guide to Troubled Birds” by Matt Adrian (Blue Rider Press, 2013): This book will have you doubled over with laughter. I keep it on my bedside table, and my husband and I read it aloud to each other. It’s so much fun.
“Longbourn” by Jo Baker (Knopf, 2013): The below-stairs story of Jane Austen’s Bennet family. This is the gritty side of keeping the Bennet sisters in clean frocks and the household running smoothly.
“Light of the World” by James Lee Burke (Simon and Schuster, 2013): Twentieth in the series of books featuring Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux, this story brilliantly includes a hint of the supernatural.
“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking, 2014): Profound insight into the cruelty and injustice of slavery.
“Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World” by Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson, 2012): For those of us seeking insights of faith, this is a find.
“Brown Dog” by Jim Harrison (Grove Press, 2013): A collection of novellas about a likeable Native American man, meandering through life in the U.P., who can’t stay away from trouble, women and, of course, fishing.