Beach reads that don't suck

Summer reading that stands the test of time
By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  July 18, 2011


Lists of beach reads — though as reliable as summer itself — are, generally speaking, a sham. Most people who compile them would surely rather be on the beach. Most of the resulting lists are confined to whatever dross the publishers are pushing that season, and summer offerings are notoriously slim. I'd wager that most of the titles that wind up there have never been cracked by those who endorse them.

Not mine. My list doesn't stick to this summer's titles, or even books published this year. Not only have I read all my recommendations, I count some of them among my all-time favorite books.

My rules:

• Paperbacks only! Who wants to plonk down $28 on a lovely hardcover, only to befoul it with water, sand, and suntan lotion?
• The book needs to be in print so your local independent bookstore can order it.
• Length cannot exceed 500 pages — you need room in your bag for a towel and a flask.
• Simple language a must — why waste valuable time looking up words when you could be paddling?
I also tried to stay away from classics, blockbusters, and authors featured This American Life. You can find those on your own.

If you want to add your own, tweet #notbadbeachreads to @eugenia_will or send an e-mail to We'll put it on the our books blog,

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