Summer Beach Reads for the Literary(ish) Crowd

While it's not quite summer yet, there's something about Memorial Day weekend that unofficially makes it so, right? Here in Southern California the temperatures are heating up and the schools start letting out in the next few weeks, so we're calling it. That means it's time to take advantage of that pool time, airplane ride, beach lounging, cabin inhabitation, or air conditioner hogging with a good book. 

Despite the heat and overwhelming urge to become a sloth (albeit a tanned one that floats around a pool), I still won't read total fluff during these months. I do often read things that are a little lighter or can be handled in snippets, since my tiny partner-in-crime feels the need to show me his LEGO creations seventy-seven times an hour (in his defense he is quite the Master Builder). Here are some that I've read in the past year or two that would make great "beach" reads (stay tuned for what I'm planning on reading soon):

You Think it, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld: I just finished this collection of short stories by the author of Prep, and while there were holes, I found the majority entertaining and often thoughtful. All female-driven stories, many dealing with issues of sex and relationships, Sittenfeld shows what's it's like to get older, but not necessarily feel old. 

Best for: Floating around a pool with the cocktail of your choice, alternating between reading twenty pages (the approximate length of one story) and napping. Just don't drop your book in the pool (guilty). 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: This one a little denser, with longer chapters, but I still think that it would be the perfect summer escape. The novel centers around four siblings who have their death dates predicted by a gypsy when they are children, and we see how this information impacts the rest of their lives. It's the classic fate versus fate conundrum that will leave you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I found myself becoming so attached to the characters that I was downright angry when their sections ended, only to quickly bond with the next one. 

Best for: A long flight where you can devote a chunk of time to the text (but don't worry, you won't get lost if the person next you is a talker or there's a crying baby). 

Make Trouble by Cecile Richards: This memoir by the current Planned Parenthood president details her journey through advocacy and union organizing, which landed her in the incredibly challenging, vital, gig she has. While I do think this is a little too polished, the message is important and Richards is incredibly inspirational. Even better- it's a good reminder of what is important as we move into an important voting season this fall.

Best for: Waiting rooms (think jury duty, OB/GYN, etc...).

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn: Dunn, a hilarious writer, discusses the difficulties her husband and she had managing their child and household in ways that will make you laugh and nod your head in agreement. While this may not change your life, I think it will make you feel less alone and also serves as a great reminder to remember to try new strategies during the hard times in life. 

Best for: Moms home with kids... dun-dun-dun.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: I remember posting about this novel on social media last year saying that this was your book if you wanted "a beach read that's not pure crap" and I still stand by that. Eleanor is a socially awkward single gal that ends up really struggling with her isolation and eventual desire to make some changes in her life. The character is brisk, quirky, and honest, and Honeyman's writing reflects these sentiments perfectly. 

Best for: Reading under the blasting AC at a coffee shop.

I Hear She's a Real Bitch by Jen Agg: I have a huge soft spot for food-industry memoirs, and this one is one of my favorites. Agg is a restauranteur in Canada who has struggled against the patriarchy in a major way, fighting to rise to the top of the food scene in her country. Agg is brutally honest about her successes and failures starting multiple restaurants and bars, and also gives us tidbits about the same ups and downs in her personal life. 

Best for: The period of anticipating a vacation that will at last partially involve a gluttonous amount of eating. 

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson: This novel is set on a sort of utopian commune, where parents come together to raise their children cooperatively as part of a study. The story focuses on Izzy, who is is a recent, pregnant, high school graduate with little resources and a lot of uncertainty. She joins the program and we see how this concept of "it takes a village" works in the confines of The Infinite Family Project. 

Best for: A long, glorious, day at the beach

Happy Summer! 

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