Summer is knocking at our door with heat-heavy fists, and it’s time to start thinking about escapes to fresh air! Beach reading is an American pastime, I’d argue on par with baseball and barbecue. But as ubiquitous as beach reading is, it’s hard to find that perfect combination of riveting and refreshing. The quintessential beach read must compete with while at the same time complement your surroundings of sun, sand, and surf. Here are a few suggestions:
Elizabeth Gilbert, of “Eat, Pray, Love fame,” is now equally respected for the literary women’s fiction she writes. “City of Girls” (June 4) is no exception. This love story is told by 89-year-old Vivian, looking back on her life with pleasure and a little bit of regret.
In 1940, Vivian is 19 and has been kicked out of Vassar. Sent to live with her aunt in Manhattan, Vivian is introduced to the unconventional characters of the New York theater scene. It’s exciting at first, but a mistake turns into a scandal that leads to upheaval, though it eventually helps her become a fully realized adult and find the love of her life.
“At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” she muses. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.”
It’s the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and publishers are falling over themselves to sell you books about it. My pick from the litter is “Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise That Launched America Into the Space Race” by Robert Stone and Alan Andres (June 4).
As a senator in 1960, John F. Kennedy ridiculed the idea of space exploration as a massive waste of money, yet only a year later he proposed spending $20 billion to land a man on the moon before 1970.
This book is the companion to the PBS series of the same name that will run throughout July, and contains a huge amount of additional material focused on the small group of people who made it happen, such as science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, the first woman to work in Mission Control (Poppy Northcutt), and the only African-American astronaut candidate (Edward Dwight). It’s a hefty book but perfect for those beachgoers who just aren’t into fiction, and who want to marvel at the big blue sky and all that hides behind it.
I’m going to make a bold statement: young adult fiction is amazing, and you should all be reading it. Here’s three reasons why young adult novels make fantastic beach reads: 1. They’re so quick! Even us non-speed readers can make it through an entire book on one lazy beach day.
2. They bring you back—good or bad, our teenage years were instrumental for us all, and there’s something special about revisiting those torrid days (and being grateful they’re long gone).
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3. Young adult authors are tackling some serious issues in unique ways. Immigration, police brutality, racism, gender nonconformity—if it’s a hot button issue, there’s a really well-written young adult novel about it. Reading these books on your own or with your teen can greatly facilitate these tough conversations.
Now, three reasons you should bring “All of Us With Wings” by Michelle Ruiz Keil (June 18) to your next beach outing:
1. It’s set in post-punk San Francisco, and really, how much cooler of a setting can you get?
2. It’s got a witchy plot that’s right on trend with the growing interest in tarot cards, herb bundles, and magic spells.
3. The author, who is from San Francisco, is Latinx, as is the main character, and it’s important to support diversity in literature!
I cannot possibly write a better review for “Bunny” by Mona Awad (June 11) than my co-worker Ever Reynolds, so I’ll let her take it away:
“Bunny is the lovechild of Otessa Moshfegh’s Eileen and Donna Tart’s ‘The Secret History’ after a chance meeting at a midnight showing of Heathers. On the surface, Bunny seems to be the usual tale of outsider joins clique only to find out their lives aren’t as perfect as their hair or clothes. Awad’s biting wit and meditation on creativity, autonomy, and loneliness (not to mention a surreal plot twist) make it so much more!
“Dark but hilarious, quirky yet insightful, and at times just flat out weird, Bunny is the perfect anti-beach read for those of us who spend summer dreading the outside, opting to stay in burning scented candles (something in the “autumn harvest” family) with our curtains drawn and our white noise machine set to ‘thunder storm.’”