beach reads!

22 Jul

As I mentioned, I’m on vacation for a wedding in California this week, and I get to do my first beach reading of the season. Even though I live a few short hours from the beach, I just haven’t gotten there yet this year. Yes, I know that northern California beach is much different than east coast or even southern California beach, but I still plan on taking advantage of sand and ocean to get a little bit of beach reading in, even if I’m wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. I’m such an ocean person by nature and I’d rather be in the water than laying out getting a tan. So for me, the ideal beach read has to be something that I just can’t put down, and when I do put it down, I’m preoccupied by it and want to pick it right back up.

For a long time, that meant strictly chick lit but my tastes (and literary sophistication) have evolved significantly and I’m definitely branching out. I still don’t think I’m quite ready for NPR though. Last month, they asked readers for their top beach reads and came up with a list of 600, that the NPR Books Board chopped down to a more managable 200, from which they’ve asked readers to vote for their top 10. Those votes will be used to compile the list of Top 100 Beach Reads. (I smell a challenge!!!)

You can vote for your top 10 beach reads here:

I picked my 10 as follows, with my justification for each:

  1. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein [Seriously, how have you not read this yet?! Potentially one of my all-time favorite books, featuring the most unique, lovable narrator ever.]
  2. Beginner’s Greek by James Collins [A hopeless romantic wishes every time he gets on a plane to meet the love of his life. And he does. The twists and turns this unusual love story take have the potential to frustrate you, if not for the brilliantly crafted characters who you are rooting for the whole way through. Plus it’s a love story from a man’s perspective — not your stereotypical “chick lit.”]
  3. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner [While this is probably is your more stereotypical chick lit, it’s some of the best writing in the genre and one of the most relatable characters I’ve come across.]
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini [This is certainly one of the more depressing books on my list, but it definitely fits the qualifications. Engaging beyond all belief, you just want to keep coming back and you’re dissappointed when it’s over. ]
  5. Lamb by Christopher Moore [This re-telling of Jesus’ life from the point of view of his (fictious) best friend Biff will have you laughing out loud; seriously, people will look at you funny on the beach when you’re rolling around, cackling like crazy. I read this while on a visit to Israel which put it in an entirely new and hillarious perspective.]
  6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides [Middlesex is one of those books that, when someone asks you what it’s about, you’ll have a hard time describing it. On the surface, it’s about a hermaphrodite. But it’s about so much more than that. I dare you to try and categorize it.]
  7. Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger [While the size of the book might scare you off, don’t let it. It is a FAST read with one of the sexiest characters I’ve ever read: a time-traveling librarian. At the real heart of this novel though is a a belief in the idea of one true soulmate, no matter your age or location in time. Plus, it’s great timing as the movie comes out mid-August.]
  8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer [I know the haters are out there, but this is pure, unadulterated escapism at its best. Okay so the vampires sparkle and real teenage boys don’t profess their love so profoundly and quickly. But there is no denying the guilty pleasure factor of this book, and really of the whole series. I personally am a Jacob fan, so New Moon would be my pick over Twilight. They’re worth at least a try.]
  9. Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen [This recounting of life for a vet living with the circus in the early heyday of nomadic life quickly evolves into a grand adventure, full of love, villians, heros and midgets. Great for transporting you to another time and place.]
  10. The World According to Garp by John Irving [I am a huge Irving fan and Garp is probably his most well-known novel. It’s heavy for beach reading but Irving knows how to tell a story in a way that a lot of modern authors can’t do. I will always think of him at the most basic level as a storyteller.]
  11. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling [Okay so I couldn’t pick just 10 books and this one is in fact 7 books, but these books are an excellent example of engaging, transporting fiction. If they could create an entirely new generation of readers, they have to be great.]

I think my picks are pretty tame compared to some of the options on the list (War and Peace? Heart of Darkness? REALLY??) but it is NPR, so I guess I’m not that surprised. There were a few of my favorite beach reads that didn’t show up:

  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series
  • The Silent In the Grave series by Deanna Raybourn
  • The Quiet Game by Greg Iles
  • Jemima J by Jennifer Weiner
  • Any Michael Critchton
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • The Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Evans

These are all pretty soundly not in NPR’s realm, but if you’re looking for easy, fun reads I love all of them.

Is there anything on NPR’s list that makes yours? What about things they missed?


2 Responses to “beach reads!”

  1. Malnurtured Snay July 28, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    Somehow, John Irving COMPLETELY escaped my radar until just two years ago or so. I liked Garth okay, but I fell in love with THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE and OWEN MEANEY.

    • Rachel July 28, 2009 at 11:45 am #

      I think that my favorite will always be A Widow for One Year. I would pretty much read anything that Irving does. Absolutely one of my favorite authors. Loved Owen Meaney too 🙂

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