With a surfeit of titles but never enough time, I am on the hunt for the crème de la crème books to accompany me on my all too brief vacation at the beach.
The Guardian recently examined the term “beach read” which connotes escapist frothy fare primarily attached to books that lack any “really weighty themes or social significance” but rather should be “enjoyable and easy with brisk pace and simple diction.” Beach reads usually include best sellers of the James Patterson/Nora Roberts ilk which are readily found in the mass market paperback spinner at your local supermarket. Serious writers don’t usually fall into this genre but literary blogs and magazines have included many novelists of note in their 2016 “must read” summer lists.
Herewith is my curated list of the best of the best books to pack along with my sun screen and thermos of G&T.
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. This is the book that “everyone will be reading” and appears on almost all summer reading lists including CBCbooks.ca. Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. Vogue calls it a coming of age story that follows Tass, a transplant from the middle-of-nowhere who finds work at a fancy French restaurant. The New Yorker magazine pays it homage in its “Briefly Noted” column. Danler deftly captures the unique power of hierarchy in the restaurant world, the role of drug and alcohol abuse and the sense of borrowed grandeur that pervades the serving scene.
EW’s list of “best fiction of 2016 so far” includes The Girls by Emma Cline. The summer of 1969 comes electrically alive in Cline’s tale of an impressionable California teen drawn into a Manson-like cult—though the setting is ultimately secondary to her story’s searing emotional intelligence.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is one of Oprah-endorsed “beach reads that sizzle.” A reckless eldest brother drains the trust fund meant for himself and his three adult siblings, forcing them, with the prospect of a midlife bailout gone, to finally confront hard truths in this closely observed, charming novel.
According to the Huffington Post, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a “Summer 2016 Book you won’t want to miss.” Gyasi maps out the wide-reaching aftermath of the African slave trade, following two branches of a family tree — one daughter married to a British colonizer in Ghana, the other, unbeknownst to her sister, sold into slavery in America — over the course of several generations.
What are you reading on your vacation or, sigh, commute to work ?