The Best Way to Pick a Beach Read
Best-Selling Authors Share Their Favorites
Kurt Andersen (Heyday: A Novel, $16, bn.com) likes Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene ($15, bn.com), and The Power Broker ($25, bn.com), by Robert Caro.
He says, “My two most memorable beach reads―that is, first read next to bodies of water during the summer―are The Power Broker and Our Man in Havana. Both are compelling from the get-go and have extremely vivid main characters, which are probably requirements for good beach reads. The Caro is huge, which also makes for a good beach read. And the Greene is set in sweltering, sea-breezy pre-Castro Cuba―that is, the story itself reeks of beachiness.”
Augusten Burroughs (Possible Side Effects, $14, bn.com) goes for anything by M.F.K. Fisher, especially The Art of Eating ($25, bn.com).
He says, “Some people mistakenly refer to Fisher as a food writer, but she’s really just a woman with a voracious appetite for life who likes to eat. Her description of gently roasting a tangerine on the radiator of her Paris flat while watching the troops out her window and waiting for her husband to return home will knock your shoulders forward in awe―and you’ll run out to get some tangerines and maybe a husband to go with them. Word by word, she’s an exacting, incredibly perceptive author, with a gift for observing her own relationship to food and how it enriches life. I was told that, far from being a snob, M.F.K. stopped trying to cook potato chips herself after she had her first perfectly slender and golden Lay’s potato chip, feeling like, Why bother? Bother with her books and you will never forget them.”
Susan Cheever (American Bloomsbury, $15, bn.com) recommends Social Crimes, by Jane Stanton Hitchcock ($13, bn.com).
She says, “Summer reading is unlike any other. In the summer I give myself permission to read, to read all night, to read while the phone rings unanswered, to read for pleasure. This has always been so―I remember the summers of my childhood in terms of books read while lying in the coolest place I could find, usually in bed in front of a fan. This freedom has two effects: I can read longer books because I have more time, and I can read less serious books. Last summer I read the new translation of Anna Karenina, and then I read John Irving’s Until I Find You: A Novel [$16, bn.com]. And then I read George Pelecanos, John Grisham, and Linda Fairstein.”
Nora Ephron (I Feel Bad About My Neck, $13, bn.com) loved The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins ($8, bn.com).
She told Real Simple, “I read my all-time favorite book, The Woman in White, in the summer, in my house, out by the pool―everywhere, because I couldn’t stop reading it. I also love reading cookbooks in the summer, because I do more cooking in the summer than I do in the winter. My favorite cookbook last summer was Sunday Suppers at Lucques [$38, bn.com], by Suzanne Goin. And for some reason, I associate Anne Tyler with summer reading, even though I would happily read her any month of the year.”
Linda Fairstein (Death Dance, $10, bn.com) suggests Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds ($11, bn.com).
She says, “When I get to my beach house on Martha’s Vineyard, I settle in to write my own crime novel every summer. I put off reading my favorites―Connelly, Crais, Coben, Scottoline―till fall so that I’m not tempted to imitate their styles or dialogue. Instead, I immerse myself in a book by one of the 19th century’s great storytellers. I love the period, the density, and complexity of Trollope’s tales, and the fact that I’ve got at least 35 more to read before I run out.”
Elinor Lipman (My Latest Grievance, $14, bn.com) likes Mrs. Kimble ($14, bn.com), by Jennifer Haigh.
She says, “I couldn’t put down this tale of a serial husband and the intersections of his three wives. I reviewed Lost and Found: A Novel [$14, amazon.com], Carolyn Parkhurst’s second novel, for the Boston Globe and wrote a rave. It’s a literary version of TV’s Amazing Race, very smart and very funny. The Republic of Love [$19, amazon.com] is my favorite overlooked novel by the late Carol Shields, who won the Pulitzer for The Stone Diaries [$16, bn.com]. Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckled People [$14, amazon.com] is my favorite memoir of the last few years, chronicling his Irish childhood, post–World War II, when having a German mother meant that Nazi epithets dogged his childhood. I’m a huge Stephen McCauley fan, and Alternatives to Sex: A Novel [$14, amazon.com] may be my favorite. And I’ve just discovered Cammie McGovern, whose Eye Contact [$14, amazon.com], about an autistic boy who witnessed a murder, is just what I’m always looking for: a riveting story told beautifully. Anyone who watches Antiques Roadshow must read How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life [$14, amazon.com], by Mameve Medwed, her fourth novel.”