There is nothing that I love more than reading at the beach. Do a little reading, take a dip to cool off, do a little more reading… heaven. The beach calls for a particular kind of book too – nothing too heavy, really engaging, something you could finish in a day or two. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions of books that would be good beach (or any lazy vacation) reads.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. After the break-up of her marriage and a horrible car accident, Janzen heads to her parent’s house to heal. This doesn’t sound like a particularly uplifting start to a memoir, but Janzen is quite funny. Raised Mennonite, but now a 40-something, non-religious Academic, returning home is a bit of an adjustment, but the love of her family is strong and her sense of humor doesn’t fail her (or us).
Admission by Jean Hanff Korewitz. A fictional look inside the life of an admissions counselor at Princeton University. With Portia Nathan’s personal life is in a rut and some unresolved issues in her past, Nathan faces a challenge when she meets a boy on one of her admissions visits who she wants to admit, but who doesn’t quite match Princeton’s high standards.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. When Marina Singh’s colleague at Vogel Pharmaceuticals dies while on a trip to the Amazon while trying to check on the development of a particularly promising fertility drug, she is sent after him to finish what he started. This is a complete page-turner.
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. This the first book in the Tales of the City series – a total soap opera in book form centering around the inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane in 1970s San Francisco. If you enjoy it, not only are their more in the series (always a plus with quick reads!), but the PBS mini-series based on the books is quite good.
A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell. Set during World War II, A Thread of Grace tells the a fictional version of the very real story of the Italian Resistance who sheltered more than 40,000 during the Nazi occupation.
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith. McCall Smith has said that 44 Scotland Street was inspired by Tales of the City, and both center around the inhabitants of a single apartment building (in the case of 44 Scotland Street, the building is in Edinburgh). I didn’t even notice the resemblance however, as the characters are unique (as all good characters are). My favorite character is Bertie, a smart and funny 5-year-old with a controlling mother. Like Tales of the City, this is a series, so if you like it there are more to come.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. If a girl who plans vacations around historic sites relating to the assassinations of American Presidents sounds like your kind of nerdy, the Vowell is the girl for you. Assassination Vacation is hilarious and smart – and what’s better than reading about vacation, while on vacation!
Blackout by Connie Willis. Willis has a few books about Oxford Historians (from the future, of course) who travel back in time to historic events to study them up close. In Blackout the historians travel back to World War II, the Blitz in London and other spots in the UK during the same time period. Blackout sucks you right in – and you will be glad there is a sequel (All Clear).
The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang. The Latehomecomer is another memoir, and a much more serious one. Yang tells the story of her family (part of the Hmong ethnic group) and their journey from the mountains of Laos to the refugee camps of Thailand to colder climes of St. Paul, Minnesota. Yang is a beautiful writer and her family’s story is a powerful one.
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama. When Mr. Ali, retires from a life of civil service, he drives his wife crazy knocking about the house. To give himself something to do, he decides to open a marriage bureau and assist in arranging marriages. Set in a small city in Southern India, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is a quiet but enjoyable read, in which the problems are small, the joys are real, and the characters are agreeable.
So those are a few books I would recommend. Now, what would you recommend? We have two short beach vacations coming up this summer and I need some good books to take with me!