Top Ten Books to Read at the Beach

Everywhere else in the country, summer has arrived. Here in Seattle, it’s sorta coming…but mostly going. For those of you who have temperatures above 70 degrees, I’m a bit jealous, but you can make use of this list.

The City and the City China Mieville – Mieville wrote the story for his mother, a crime novel with a fantastical twist. Two cities exist side by side, but because of some long ago conflict, residents of one city are not allowed to acknowledge in any way, shape or form the residents of the other city. This can be quite difficult at times, because the borders between the two cities overlap in some places, resulting in “unseeing”. When a young woman turns up dead, detectives from both cities have to work together to solve the mystery. Some of the dialog is unintentionally hysterical; Mieville drops F bombs like they’re going out of style. The end result is two detectives yelling at each other like something out of a 1970’s police procedural.

Becoming Madame Mao Anchee Min – I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but China fascinates me, and Min delivers a poetic depiction of Jiang Qing’s quest to marry Mao Zedong. Qing eventually became one of the Gang of Four, and her rise to power and love and loyalty to a man who could have ruined a country with his hair-brained ideas is touching at times, if a bit misplaced.

Hearts in Darkness Laura Kaye – Imagine getting trapped in an elevator. Now imagine getting trapped in an elevator in the dark with a total stranger of the opposite sex. To say this novella is Steamy, with a capital S, is an understatement. Kaye does an excellent job of building the tension between Makenna and Caden, and their game of getting to know you questions might start out innocently enough, but, well, it’s dark. And they’re alone. You do the math.

Running in Heels Anna Maxted – Beach reads to me equals chick lit, and frankly, no one does chick lit quite like Anna Maxted. She stumbled a bit with her most recent novel, Rich Again, but with Heels she’s in fine form. Natalie is surrounded by ballerinas all day as a press officer for London Ballet, which would give anyone a complex. After attending the wedding of her best friend, Nat’s floundering even more. So she fumbles around, dumping her boyfriend, jumping into another relationship with a man who’s should fall under the heading “Do Not Date. EVER.”, and pretty soon everything’s falling to pieces around her, forcing her to take a good, hard look at her life. Fun, fluffy, and funny, it is the perfect beach book.

e Matthew Beaumont – The inner workings of a London ad agency unfold over the course of the book, told entirely in emails. It can take a little while to get used to the style, but once you do, it’s a quick, funny read.

Nine Stories JD Salinger – Wanna look smart? Read this book. It contains my all-time favorite short story, A Perfect Day for Bananafish, where we learn a bit more about the Glass family (introduced in Fanny and Zooey). And if you’re looking after the kids, short stories are totally the way to go!

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Hannah Green – Also published under the name Joanne Greenberg, Garden contains a wildly imaginative world, lushly detailed and so compelling you want to stay forever. Unfortunately, it’s all inside the head of a sixteen year old girl. A provocative look at how mental illness was viewed in our country, I’ve read this book a number of times, and I never get tired of it.

The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal Lillian Jackson Braun – I cut my mystery teeth on these books, and they’re some of my favorite comfort reading. Cardinal was the first book I read in the series, although it’s not the first in the series. Qwilleran has just remodeled the old apple barn that came with his inheritance into a massive living space (and I’ve got a serious case of house envy over this structure). The residents of Pickax are keen to get a glimpse of the inside, and when the architect ends up swinging from the barn’s rafters, they’re even more curious. Qwill, though, isn’t so sure it’s a suicide. It’s a welcome change from the hardcore mysteries full of blood and violence that I usually read.

House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski – What to say about this book. I love it, and I hate it. It’s incredibly complex, and far and away one of the most frightening stories I’ve ever read, and at the same time I sometimes wish Danielewski could be a little less…edgy. It’s like he’s deliberately trying to be different and cool. What you really need to know is the story of a documentary film maker who buys a house that’s larger on the inside than on the outside will keep you up at night, reading under the covers with a flashlight.

Angels’ Blood Nalini Singh – Elena’s a Hunter, a member of the Guild, and when she’s summoned by the Archangel Raphael to track another Archangel, she refuses. But no one refuses an Archangel, and she’s drawn into a dangerous chase to catch the erstwhile angel before he fully devolves into madness. Just as dangerous? Dancing with Raphael. I love how Singh weaves the two elements of the story together, playing them off each other to bring a bow-string taut tension to the explosive attraction between Ellie and Raphael, even as they risk their lives to bring down a creature more powerful than the two of them put together.

Now if only the sun would come out…

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