Despite preferring to sit very still, even indoor kids like me enjoy summer weather. We might not want to move around very much, but we have our ways of utilizing the longer, warmer, brighter days. For instance, when the weather warms up I go a little bananas and fill my backpack with snacks, a blanket, and books to take with me to the beach. I find someplace in the shade (we burn easily, you see) and make myself comfortable. Since Lake Michigan is conveniently close, and since Sheboygan has minimum three beautiful beaches to lounge on, I never have to think very hard about how to spend my days off. Parking isn’t a problem and my gas bill doesn’t exist because I ride my bike. This is what my low-maintenance summers are shaped like and it never gets old. Below, I listed several fantastic books that pair nicely with summer escapism. For book recommendations that are tailored to a specific taste, please consider using Mead Library’s Your Next Five Books book recommendation service.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith
This takes place largely on the sun-baked shores of the Mediterranean. Tom Ripley goes to great and sinister lengths to insert himself into the life of rich and handsome Dickie Greenleaf. This is easily Highsmith’s most famous title. She would go on to publish five Ripley books because the world could not get enough of the dapper psychopath.
Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier
Gothic suspense at its zenith. This is one of the best works of fiction of the 20th century and has an enduring modern audience. Don’t just dream of Manderley, read it.
The Blue Castle (1926) by L.M. Montgomery
Most famous for Anne of Green Gables, The Blue Castle is Lucy Maud Montgomery’s interpretation of the Bluebeard fairy tale with some very satisfying variations on the theme. It is with great pleasure that the reader gets to watch our protagonist pry herself loose from a stifling home life and finding true happiness in a unique way.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954) by Eleanor Cameron
No one is required to leave behind children’s fiction just because they’re grown. I read this as a newly minted 40-year-old and had the time of my life. Two brave boys set off against impossible odds to right some wrongs at a near-to-Earth, but secret, Mushroom Planet.
Beach Party (1990) by R.L. Stine
This is the first R.L. Stine book I’ve read in my life and that was last month. Perfect, menacing, and quick, this book was everything I wanted in a fluffy teen thriller. Even the pocket-sized paperback was pleasingly tactile in a specific way.
Oryx and Crake (2004) by Margaret Atwood
Everyone is all about The Handmaid’s Tale as their go-to Atwoodian dystopia, but I’m an Oryx and Crake kinda gal. Mankind as we know it ends in the not-too-distant future due to excessive tinkering with the environment and our genetic code.
The Word is Murder (2018) by Anthony Horowitz
Beach reading is nothing without a little mystery fiction. This is the first in the Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery series in which the author has cast himself as the Watson to Detective Hawthorne’s Holmes. Probably the most meta mystery book I have ever read, Horowitz seems to delight in melding real details of his life with utter fiction. Horowitz often hits the same notes as our mystery faves like Christie and Ian Fleming. Highly recommended.
The Chestnut Man (2019) by Soren Sveistrup
This one is in heavy rotation as a book recommendation for thriller-lovers because it is so frighteninly effective. One of the best Nordic Noir mysteries I have read in quite a long time, but let the faint of heart be warned, I nearly put this book down in the first ten minutes of reading due to a gut-churning description of violence. I powered through and acclimated to the severe tone, and was rewarded with a twisty, turny mystery for the ages.
Under Lock & Skeleton Key (2022) by Gigi Pandian
Fun cozy mystery about magic (like, the illusionist kind, not the witch kind), identity, secrets, and of course, murder. Pandian is one of the best new voices in cozy mystery fiction and is worth paying attention to. See also her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries as well as The Accidental Alchemist series.
Nettle & Bone (2022) T. Kingfisher
It’s time to admit my book list is biased. I am recommending my personal favorites with zero regrets. Kingfisher is the kind of author that feels like she is writing her books just for me. Her horror titles are spooky and affecting. Her fantasy titles are hilarious, thrilling, and often quite spooky themselves (thinking specifically of her books set in The World of the White Rat) and wildly creative. Her fairytale reimaginings are unparalleled. Nettle and Bone is coming in along these lines and promises to be another fabulous entry into the Kingfisher canon.
Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies (2022) by Misha Popp
Yes, I did include two cozy mysteries in this part of the list, what are you going to do about it? Protagonist Daisy can infuse her baked goods with consequences and intentions which can sometimes result in the death of whoever eats them, but only those who deserve it. Super cute start of what promises to be a very fun series.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty (2022) by Akwaeke Emezi
Emezi wrote one of the best books of 2019 (Pet; read it as soon as you can plz) so I am devoted to anything they publish from here on out. The title alone of this 2022 book is enough to make me salivate slightly.
What are your favorite kinds of books to read on the beach? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what hits, what misses, and how you plan to while away the long hot days of the following months. Happy reading!