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Top Pick

  • Royal We

    The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. “It would be too easy to say this is Wills/Kate/Harry fanfiction. It’s certainly inspired by that, but it’s actually really smart, funny, delightful, and juicy. Perfect summer read, so says USA Today and The New York Times. I loved it.” “This book is absolutely ridiculous. Absurd and flawed, and I absolutely adored it and only wish I’d saved it for the beach, because it really is a dictionary definition ‘beach read.’” About the novel:   “American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.” 

  • Rules of Civility

    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This book actually appeared on last year’s list. It was suggested by publishing industry friend and was published mid-summer. Everyone who read it seems to have loved it: “The writing was just beautiful. The plot reasonably straightforward, with some interesting twists, yet what made this book was the writing. A treat!” And: “I was so surprised when I realized the author was a man.” Another contributor: “chronicle of the life of a young woman in New York in the 1930's. The author writes the way we wish we all could - fabulous metaphors combined with graceful prose that tells the truth, even when it hurts. You won't see the plot twist coming toward the end of the book, either.”

  • Sense of an Ending

    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. “Every sentence builds the story…The book becomes a mystery although for the first half it feels like a very straightforward narrative of Tony Weber remembering his school days, his boyhood friend, his first lover and then his marriage and fatherhood. There is much here about memory and the way we create and shape our own life story into something we can live with ourselves and present to others. In the second half of the book we are shown another side to this narrative and Tony and the reader has to reconsider what we thought of his version of the past. I would recommend reading this book without knowing a lot about the plot so that you can try to piece the story together along with Tony (which is why I'm writing very little about the plot here). There is a lot to think about with this book and I'm still lingering on the after effects.” And: “You will read this short compelling book twice in order to make ‘sense’ of it. A middle aged man looks back on what he thinks are his memories of a college romance, and sees things completely differently the second time around. Short, sweet, and thoughtful.” And: “an interesting reflection on the character's life and some mistakes he made along the way.”

  • Standard Deviation

    Standard Deviationby Katherine Heiny.  This is a "stop the presses" addition to the 2017 top picks list.  This novel features my new favorite character in fiction, the pathologically uncensored Audra.  It's a wonderfully readable story, tailor-made for the GreatBeachBooks.com crowd.  I read most of it on a long flight, and I laughed out loud more times than I can count.  Everyone must read it, then we can all get together and talk about who among our mutual acquaintances have strains of Audra running through them.  If you want to learn more, read this Washington Post review, which does a good job enumerating the book's virtues.

  • Still Alice

    Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I wouldn’t ordinarily peg this as summer reading, but it got SO many positive reviews, and one of you even gave me a copy. (From Amazon): "In this novel, the author, a Harvard neuropsychologist, tells the story of a Harvard neuropsychologist who realizes she is suffering from early onset Alzheimers. A claustrophobic first hand account of her world as it grows ever smaller." Comments: "The most accurate account of what it feels like to be inside the mind of an Alzheimer's patient I've ever read. Beautifully written and very illuminating." "A very interesting book about a female professor who has Alzheimers. It and decribes what is happing to her as she becomes more and more disoriented. It is a fictional book, but the author went to great lengths to learn what Alzheimers patients go through as they slowly lose their memory."

  • Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

    The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. “This is a feel-good novel, very beachy. It’s been compared to the Book Thief, but I think you’ll be disappointed if that’s what you’re expecting. It’s about a very crabby widowed bookseller. An abandoned baby comes into his life and everything changes. It sounds schmaltzy, but it’s really not. Okay, maybe a tiny bit schmaltzy, but not maudlin. How’s that for a review? Just read it if you haven’t already, it’s good for the beach.” “Every now and then I find a book where the words just leap off the page into my eyes as if it's reading itself. This delightful little wisp of a book is almost too fairy tale perfect. There is a cantankerous but loving bookseller, a smarter than average abandoned baby girl, a love story, a scoundrel, a comeuppance, a sad story, a happy story...every single thing you would want in a book that will whisk you away to a perfect little New England island world for a few hours."

  • Story of Beautiful Girl

    The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. Several of you mentioned this new release. From Amazon: “It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl.” Reviewers have used words like "enthralling" and "captivating."

  • Suite Francaise

    Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky: Several people mentioned this book to me in person, plus I got the following reviews: "Beautifully written tale about life during WWII. The book is wonderful, but three times as good once you read the appendix." … "Loved this book. Story is so interesting as is the story of the author."

  • The Rosie Project

    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson—“very charming main character that will make you think about every quirky but kind person you might meet.  There is a heart behind them.”  “A brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife).”  “A brilliant, autistic-spectrum professor with no self-awareness or social skills sets out to find a wife using a detailed survey.  Of course, in the process of his research he meets Rosie, who meets very few of his criteria, but teaches him that love does not follow rules.”  “lovely, funny, poignant book about a professor with Aspberger's (although somewhat unaware he has it) and how he tries to find love and companionship...it sticks with you long after you've read it...One reviewer wrote "Touching and laugh-out-loud funny -- think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time meets Silver Linings Playbook "  “New Zealand-based Professor on the spectrum creates questionnaire to find a wife. Ends up meeting someone who meets none of the criteria, but for whom he develops what he can only assume are feelings. He becomes obsessed with her quest to find her birth father.  A quick read (did it in a two days off and on), and a sweet story."

     

  • Thirteenth Tale

    The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield. Synopsis from Amazon: Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. Comments: "I LOVED this book." and "I wish I'd saved this wonderful, entertaining gothic novel for vacation. The author was artful in how she built to the revelations, much in the style of 19th century gothic novels mentioned throughout." "Very entertaining."

  • This is Where I Leave You

    This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel by Jonathan Tropper. "Think back to the early days of chick lit... when it was good. Now, imagine it from a male perspective. Jonathan Tropper writes fiction from a guy's perspective that, I think, appeals to women (at least it did to me). The book opens with the main character's wife cheating on him, then leads to him joining his family in their childhood home while they all sit shiva for his dead father (who was an atheist). Forced to be in a room with four brothers and sisters day in and day out, stories unfold, hilarity ensues, and some sexual secrets are laid bare... all the chick-lit cliches, but written in a way that doesn't make you want to barf or stab someone." "Laugh out loud funny but tragic at the same time. Read it before they make the movie." "Jonathan Trooper writes compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud funny novels, and his fifth book, This Is Where I Leave You is his best yet." "I laughed out loud with this one and some things are over the top, but a delightful read."

  • Twelve Tribes of Hattie

    The Twelve Tribes of Hattieby Ayana Smith. This book, like many these days, hovers between short story and novel, with stories eventually woven together to form a whole, growing richer as it progresses. Readers learn about a mother, Hattie Shepherd, through the stories of her many children. "Yes, it felt like an Oprah book but still very good." ...  "It's a novel in which each chapter tells the story of one the main character's children. So it's a bit like short stories that are woven together. It is easy to get into and it follows a large family from the segregated south who struggle to find their way out amid poverty and racism. It is compelling and well written and on Oprah's book list."

  • Twilight

    Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Many contributors assured me I would get beyond my doubts. (You know … doubting that I can enjoy a teen vampire book?) Truly, though… The series seems to have gone viral from teens to their curious moms to the big world beyond. Some of your comments:  "My No. 1 beach read... I can't think of anything more perfect to get absorbed in while ignoring the kids at the beach and engaging your 10th grade babysitter in the whole Edward vs. Jacob debate."  "I am so enjoying these books." "If you like Jane Austen, you will like these." "If you have been hesitant because of that "vampire thing," jump right in. There's so much more than that, including an amazing love story, you almost forget the vampire thing. And this was a great series to share with my 12 year old daughter (Note: Definitely pre-read the first part of the fourth book in the series before handing over to a daughter!)” " CRACK! Pure crack. I was a huge doubter... and now I am hooked. I wish I had saved them for the beach .. They would have been perfect, mindless, a one-sitting- book-a-day reads."

  • Unbroken

    Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. By the author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, this is a biography of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner who wound up an Air Force Lieutenant and prisoner of war in WWII. By all accounts I’ve seen, Unbroken reads like fiction – a “breathless” narrative style, in the words of the New York Times. Contributor comments: “I am not usually a nonfiction fan but this story is too amazing not to read. Laura Hillenbrand's story is pretty interesting as well. She lives DC and suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome.” … “Definitely not my usual pick but impossible to put down.”

  • Visit from the Goon Squad

    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Each chapter in this novel, which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is told from a different character’s point of view –friends and associates of a music producer/former punk rocker. Contributor comments: "Smart, modern, and well-written book dealing with the aging of a generation of hip youngsters." … "This is a fun but thoughtful book about...well...about a whole bunch of people who all have some connection to each other, some more than others, all dealing with different stages of life, and we meet several of them over again as they age or in their past. Confused? You won't be. I never felt out of place or out of time in this book. Egan does a great job of quickly establishing where you are at and with which character and then you fall completely into their story."

  • We Were Liars

    We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.   Dark.  Like pitch black, dark, but a fantastic, engaging read.  Do not read any more about it, just read it.  Ignore that it’s shelved as young adult.  “I read this in straight through in basically one sitting today. I really enjoyed the world that Lockhart creates with Beechwood Island and the Sinclair family. I may not have summered on a private island but I felt the New England island atmosphere was really believable and relatable. Lockhart nails so many of those feelings when you are young enough to still be governed by adults but old enough to run wild with your friends all day long. The foursome of The Liars will probably remind many people of their own childhood tribe - either one you were in or one you wish you'd been in. A terrific summer story - read it before you hear spoilers.  I read this in straight through in basically one sitting today. I really enjoyed the world that Lockhart creates with Beechwood Island and the Sinclair family. I may not have summered on a private island but I felt the New England island atmosphere was really believable and relatable. Lockhart nails so many of those feelings when you are young enough to still be governed by adults but old enough to run wild with your friends all day long. The foursome of The Liars will probably remind many people of their own childhood tribe - either one you were in or one you wish you'd been in. A terrific summer story - read it before you hear spoilers.” 

  • What She Knew

    What She Knewby Gilly McMillan. Thriller by this new author is getting rave reviews, calling it very sophisticated and mature, especially for a debut novelist.  "Newly single mother Rachel lets her son run ahead to the swing. When she arrives, he's gone.  With amazing pacing, McMillan weaves a variety of narrators' perspectives in this taut thriller and police procedural.  The author is a keen observer of the savagery of the Internet and insentivity of the press."  "Addictive... Stayed up almost all night."  "Will keep you riveted to the last page."

  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

    Where'd You Go, Bernadette?by Maria Semple. The author, among other accomplishments, wrote for Arrested Development, which might give you some notion of what you’re in for. The book is about a Seattle mother who disappears just as the family is about to go on a trip to Antarctica. Her 15-year-old daughter takes on the task of finding her. It’s basically an epistolary novel, but entire chapters consist of things like medical reports, faxes and police reports. Lots of satirical humor about Seattle, but you don't need to be from Seattle to appreciate it.  "So funny and wacky, Seattle humor." ... "Great beach book about an eighth grade girl whose mother has disappeared. Well written and funny with an interesting (but not off-putting) structure. I read it in three days."  ... “Very funny, clever writing with several LOL moments. Will appeal to Moms in our ‘over achieving’ [DC] area."

  • Woman in White

    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. "It’s a little late to call this a "hot book," considering it was published in 1859. I initially read it because of Nora Ephron’s rhapsodic endorsement here. Ephron wrote, "Days pass as I savor every word. Each minute I spend away from the book pretending to be interested in everyday life is a misery. How could I have waited so long to read this book? When can I get back to it? Halfway through I return to New York to work, to mix a movie, and I sit in the mix studio unable to focus on anything but whether my favorite character in the book will survive. I will not be able to bear it if anything bad happens to my beloved Marian Halcombe." This is EXACTLY how I felt reading this book (except the bit about sitting in a studio mixing a movie, since I wasn’t doing anything a tenth as glamorous). I could not put this book down."

  • Yes, Please

    Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. “No review or explanation will do it justice.  Read this book.  Read it now.  It puts Bossypants to shame.  Even better is the audio version, because Amy reads it and is the awesomest of all things that are awesome.”  "We listened to this on a long car ride and were in hysterics. Maybe not a good idea if there are pre-teens or youngsters in the car.  If there are teenagers (as we had) just be ready to fast forward in places. She's so funny."