100 best beach books

31 Jul

Really. I was nervous. The original list of 200 books that NPR listeners sent in for inclusion on their top 100 beach reads list was daunting to say the least. I posted last week about some of the choices that I just couldn’t get behind. Here are a few more: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I don’t know about you guys, but Catch-22 was hard enough to read when I was getting graded on it. There’s no way I could pick it up on my own as a book to read on the beach. I really thought though that maybe I wasn’t smart enough or esoteric enough to “get” the appeal of plowing through a behemoth like War and Peace or muddle my way through the post-modernism of Snow Crash.

But I was vindicated!

I’m reposting the top 20 here because I’m just so delighted that so many of my picks (as well as ones I would have liked to include but didn’t since voters could only pick 10) made it to the top:

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding
5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
11. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

Okay so Gone with the Wind is up there, but I’ll reserve judgement on whether that’s an appropriate choice until I actually read it :). Some of my original picks didn’t show up (like The Art of Racing in the Rain), or showed up toward the bottom (Lamb), but think especially in the case of these two phenomenal books, they suffered from a lack of readership. That’s the only explanation I have, since they are two of my favs, albeit very different. In Lamb‘s case, it could have suffered from a somewhat controversial topic, but who knows?

One thing I do notice about the top 100 — even the top 200 — is that the definition of a good beach read is really the definition of a good read in general. While I wouldn’t classify Bridget Jones as great literature, it’s nothing if not a great read. Here’s the final list: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106983620. See if you agree.

Something to tuck in your pocket the next time you head to the bookstore in search of your next great read.


2 Responses to “100 best beach books”

  1. DD August 27, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    Omigosh, please give Catch 22 another try. It is astonishing, I promise. Then again, I totally appreciate making unpopular decisions about books, for the record, I think Catcher in the Rye is super overrated (and anyone who names their kid Holden in an attempt to look smart and literary is only proving they never read the book) and Toni Morrison desperately wishes she weren’t just a hack writer who tries to rip off Faulkner’s style and protects herself from much-deserved criticism of her bad writing by writing about a topic people are loathe to criticize (I hate her so much). This is an incredible list though! The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay was a total revelation even though I haven’t like any of Chabon’s other books nearly as much, East of Eden I have to read at least once a year or I get twitchy, I LOVE that they include The Princess Bride amongst all the Vonnegut and Nabokov, but the one that’s always confused me is Pet Semetary. Is there a reason “cemetary” is misspelled? Do I have to read to book to find out? Because I’m not going to.


  1. Beach Reading « a home between the pages - July 19, 2010

    […] July 19, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments I’ve talked about beach reading on the blog before — it seems every summer there’s a debate about what constitutes good […]

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