Beach Reads

So last Sunday night, as I was watching the Chicago Blackhawks lose to the Los Angeles Kings, my Twitter feed began filling with summer reading recommendations from a fellow book lover. With each rec, I said "YES! I loved that one, too." A few times I tweeted back, "Since you loved Book X, you'll probably also love Book Y."

See, I love books. I can talk books for hours. Ask me for a recommendation and I'll give you ten. Inspired by Sarah's list, I came up with my own list of summer reading rec's. Here are ten, in no particular order:

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

I have never read a novel as slapstick as this one. Set in a world where historians study the past via time travel, the story is Murphy's Law in action: whatever can go wrong for the protagonist, does. Even if you don't like science fiction or historical fiction, give this one a shot, just for the humor. It's quite a romp.

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books trilogy by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Imagine a secret library that stores old books so they will never be truly forgotten. According to Zafón, that place--the Cemetery of Forgotten Books--exists in the city of Lisbon, Portugal, and it forms the link among three brilliant books: The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel's Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven. Unlike most trilogies, these books do not tell a story in sequence and do not need to be read in any particular order. While they share certain supporting players, they focus on different decades in twentieth-century Lisbon and different main characters. The stories are not light--they are more like the literary equivalent of a noir film--but they are beautiful reads.

The Dreyfus Affair by Peter Lefcourt

Summer is not summer without baseball, and The Dreyfus Affair is a baseball book. But not any baseball book. Loosely based on the historical Dreyfus Affair, in which a Jewish officer in the French army was wrongly convicted of treason, Lefcourt's novel imagines what might happen if two professional baseball players fell in love with each other. Told with a deft touch and colored with humor, Lefcourt's story is a satire of the professional sports establishment, the media, and institutionalized homophobia. It most definitely has a serious message, but it still made me laugh out loud.

Anything by Bill Bryson

If you've never read anything of Bryson's, start with A Walk in the Woods, a memoir of his escapades on the Appalachian Trail. If you have read Bryson, you probably don't need any recommendations because you've already discovered his dry wit and penchant for misadventures. I have yet to read a book of Bryson's that did not make me giggle at least a little bit.

The Stand by Stephen King

I was torn about which Stephen King novel to list. To me, summer isn't summer if I don't have a Stephen King book to read. My original list had two books by King: IT, the story of a group of outcast kids who form a family and together face down the monster that haunts their town, and The Stand. I decided to go with the latter, a complex story of a disease-borne apocalypse  and the rebirth of civilization in its aftermath, including a good vs. evil civil war. That sounds so high-fallutin' but really the story is about people and the choices they make.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The story of Peter Pan completely reimagined. The focus of this story is, obviously, Tiger Lily, but the brilliance of the book lies in its development of Neverland, which Anderson populates with new and diverse landscapes and characters. This Neverland is far more interesting than the Disney version, let me tell you. And Tiger Lily's account of Peter and Wendy? Well, that's not very Disney either.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

In 1899 Texas, young Calpurnia Tate is far more interested in becoming a scientist like her grandfather than becoming the young lady her mother wants her to be. Her narrative voice and misadventures in science and young-lady-hood create a most charming story. Rumor has it there's a sequel in the works, due out next year. I'm already salivating.

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy--A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing--is a wonderful blend of historical fiction and fantasy. After her mother's death, Gemma Doyle is forced to leave her childhood home in India to attend boarding school in Britain. She struggles with the confines of British society and boarding school life while discovering a magical legacy.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Where to start? Eleanor and Park are two high school misfits who fall in love. While that is an accurate statement of the premise, there is so much more to the story: bullying, race, abuse, body image, friendship, family. How good is it? There are groups out there actively trying to ban this book from schools and school libraries. That should be reason enough to give it a try!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A story of friendship and war and sacrifice, Code Name Verity is told by two narrators: best friends Queenie and Maddie, who meet on an RAF base during World War II. The narration in the first half of the book blew me away: a perfect mix of bravado, fear, and humor. And the plot twists in the second half...well, you'll just have to read them yourself. I don't want to give anything away.