The Second Annual "So You're Going to Be Reading By the Water, Eh?" List

Hawaii- so long ago...

I know it's a little early to be thinking about summer, but I can't stop- the weather is warming up, the students are getting restless, and I'm fantasizing about our plans to lay by a pool in Vegas with a cocktail (this daydream also includes me being fifteen pounds thinner, wearing a chic floppy hat, heels, pearls, and snapping at a cocktail server named Pablo for another round. Weird).

Back to reality.

People tend to bring reading material when they're sitting by the water (hence the title), their intents varying. No matter what, I've got you covered.

The Distracted Reader 
The Distracted Reader may have kids in the pool, three margaritas in the belly, or a hot life guide nearby (who just so happens to look a lot like Pablo..). They aren't able to expend a high-level of attention and won't be apt to reread confusing sections, look up big words, or analyze characters. It's okay. I forgive you! I mean I obviously think a little less of you and your dedication to all that is literary, but I'm sure you're still a good person. It's summer, after all. Consider:

Mildred Pierce by James Cain- Set in the fifties, a house wife ends up leaving her husband and becoming quite the bitchy entrepreneur. Plus, worse comes to worse, there's a miniseries (which I haven't seen but have heard good things about).

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: Off topic, but I read an article the other day that referred to Sittenfeld as a man, when she is in fact a woman. Shoddy journalism, if you ask me. Anyway, this book is long, but it's pretty straightforward and quite interesting. Sittenfeld, the author of Prep, focuses on a fictional family that is quite similar to that of the Bush's (yes, as in the Texas-living, beer-drinking, war-starting, gibberish speaking, Republican Bushes).  

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn: While this book should absolutely be read at the satirical level, it's separated into 1-2 page letters, so it's easy to read it in sections and to put it down to rescue little Jimmy from the deep end or do shots with the fun college kids who make you feel old. The novella is about what happens to a small island when their government stops letting them use certain letters of the alphabet. 

The On Vacation Literati
The On Vacation Literati generally read pretty high-brow fiction, but sometimes they want a break (just not too much of one). These readers want something light enough to lug on the plane (don't you ereader me, dammit!), but also something that they won't be embarrassed to admit to reading in case a professor or Times Reviewer happens to be sitting next to them. 

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
This novel is the hilarious, smart tale of the Fang family, who creates social chaos as art. Their two kids move away and start their own troubled lives and end up back home for what ends up being part mystery part self-discovery. Ann Patchett suggested that it should have been at least a Pulitzer finalist. I'm not sure if I agree 100%, but it's still definitely worth it.

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognani
This is a great coming-of-age story about two very different teenagers that end up being each others' only friend. One has a heart condition and an over-protective ultra-religious mom, while the other live in a glass dome with his hippie grandmother who has become ill. Oh, and they form a band. Everyone likes music. 

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
The premise for this novel is incredibly interesting- Henry is brought up at a "home-ec practice" house at a university, therefore essentially have many, many mothers. He ends up growing up and working for Disney and the Beatles (he animates) but must endure the attachment issues that come with never truly feeling connected to a mother. Sentimental without being cliche, this novel delves into the classic "nature versus nurture" question. 

The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer
This book about the publishing world is a face-paced mystery that pokes fun at the business while not taking itself too seriously. The main characters are well-written and the plot is perfectly paced.

The Stuck At Home Reader
Some summers don't end up in vacations in terms of time off or traveling. In that case, the Stuck At Home Reader must definitely live vicariously through their reading.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
A big chunk of this book is set in Italy, as well as LA, and a bit in the Midwest. The story itself is decent, it's about an Italian man trying to find a woman he had fallen in love with many years before, but the setting was really my favorite part. 

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Speaking of Patchett, her latest novel about finding the fountain of youth (at least as far as fertility goes) in the Amazon is a fantastic read, both in terms of plot and writing. You'll love the characters, the setting, and the final resolution.

 The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett
I know I've mentioned this a few times before, but in terms of setting it's great. The women leave their corporate jobs and visit places like Thailand, Peru, Kenya, Vietnam, and Australia. The writing isn't exactly amazing, but the places they visit are.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
The tropical island setting of this charming (short) book is a big part of it's charm. The island people must face violence frequently but learn the power of escape from hearing the schoolmaster read Dickens.

The Seasonal Reading Changes are Bullshit Reader
Some people feel that just because the sun is shining, the girls are wearing less and the drinks are served with umbrellas their reading tendencies should not change. I can understand that- summer is no excuse to get lazy.

Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoevski 
Just do it, you won't regret reading only the best book that has ever been written. Murder! Guilt! Russia! I read this my junior year in high school and it will forever by one of my favorites (if for some reason you went to MHS and had Baker you'd vividly remember the interactive notebook, which I loved doing. Seriously). 

Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas
This book is definitely not my favorite, but it challenged me as a reader. The main character is an out of work New Yorker that is trying to figure out how he can allow his family maintain a lifestyle that he can't afford. The narration is stream of conscience, the prose if well-done, but it is quite long.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book is one to be appreciated on many levels: the actual writing itself, the characters, and then the actual organization of the book. Mitchell creates connections and challenges you as a reader to do the same. Plus, you'll want to read it before the movie comes out and they fuck it up. 

So, last summer this is what I predicted I would read:

What is with that goddam Underworld book? Why can't I get myself to finish it? As for the rest, I read them all except Naked Lunch. I'm not going to even try to predict what I'll read this summer. Why set myself up for failure? I know that I will for sure be reading John Irving's new one- it's going to be on my doorstep Tuesday!

Edited to Add: Using this for Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish.


  1. Last summer I read mostly YA during vacation. (Shocking, I know.) I got really into Sarah Dessen. Her books are just the right amount of lightness and emotion and storyline. Perfect for summer.*

  2. I love these categories! So thoughtful. I'm usually either the stuck-at-home reader or the On-Vacation Literati. But since my family sees me so little during school-time, they get a bit annoyed with my incessant reading, which I can totally understand.

    Tomorrow I might have a very quite call in hospital, in which case I'll be a distracted reader.

    1. I'm impressed that you even have time to read! I think med students are temporarily exempt!

  3. You need to have a column. Get on that! These posts read like they came straight out of a magazine or newspaper.

    I am not a huge Ann Patchett fan but somehow you convinced me to read State of Wonder. Nice work.

    1. Thanks! I would so love to do this "professionally"- even for free. Maybe someday!

  4. Great list! That's an interesting way of breaking down your TTT, it definitely helps. Going to have to add some of these books to my want-to-read pile now ;)

    Thanks for sharing this list, here's my TTT for this week =)

  5. I'll have to read the Patchett book. So now I ask you, what exactly is the interactive notebook? :) Your definitions of the readers are great.

  6. Great choices. I am gonna add to my already LONG tbr pile!! Come check mine too:

    Here is my Top Ten post!

  7. I love how you broke down your Top Ten. Fabulously entertaining. New follower via GFC :)

  8. I watched the Mildred Pierce miniseries I'd definitely be interested to see how they'd compare


  9. Ooh so many books on this list that I want to read also - like The Family Fang! Hope you get to all these books and enjoy them all :-)

  10. Ha! I like your categories. I'm Stuck-At-Home Reader this year, but I always like the best, and have to agree with you about Crime & Punishment. But, of what's on your list, I am most intrigued by Ella Minnow Pea. Now that sounds like fun.