Not Your Typical Summer Beach Reads
ANNA readers, summer is finally upon us. The sun is shining and the pool is beckoning us to lay in reclining chairs all day and soak up as much vitamin D as we can. The rise of vacation season means we need our next summer beach reads, but I know I’m personally sick of the same silly romances I always read on beach trips. I want to read a book that's actually interesting so I don’t end up accidentally falling asleep and burning myself to a crisp (safe-tanning only please). I figured you guys might feel the same way, so here’s a list of books that I actually read at the pool/beach that peaked my interest.
1. Room by Emma Donaghue
Room is the story of five-year-old Jack and his Ma, a 26 year old who was kidnapped at 19 and gave birth to Jack while being held prisoner. All Jack knows of the world is Room, and we discover the reality of his situation and how desperately he and Ma need to escape with him. The story is told from Jack’s perspective, and it’s one of the most honestly human books I’ve ever read. I just flew through this book in a day at the pool, and it is truly amazing. If you need further convincing, it was recently made into a movie starring the phenomenal Brie Larson, and she won an Oscar for her role as Ma. But of course, read the book first!
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help is one of my all time favorite books because of its depth of subject matter, character development, and unexpectedly lighthearted tone. Stockett’s story follows three women—Abileen Clark, Minnie Jackson, and Skeeter Phelan—who disrupt the segregated norm of 1960s Jackson, Mississippi by writing a book from the perspective of the black maids of the town. The novel is hilarious and poignant, and it made me think of race and de facto segregation differently. You’ll sink into Stockett’s Mississippi twang quickly, realizing by the last page just how important this story is.
3. A Song of Fire and Ice Series by George R. Martin
If you hadn’t heard, it’s Game of Thrones season, which is, for all intents and purposes, a holy time in America. And because the show is based on the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. Martin, it’s probably time you start reading them. The books are every bit as good as the HBO take on it: There’s incest, feuding kings, power struggles, and DRAGONS. The story is actually a little easier to follow in book form because there is a map of their world at the front and you can flip back to sections that were harder to follow instead of having to keep up with the live airing of the show. If you’re going on a longer beach trip, bring the five installments of the texts that already exist, and you’ll stay busy the whole time.
4. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
South of Broad is on this beach read list because no one describes the beaches of Charleston better than the late Pat Conroy. The novel is actually deeply disturbing in a lot of ways, as the main character Leo King attempts to deal with his older, perfect brother’s suicide decades after the event and the new tragedies of his adult life. However, Conroy somehow comforts the reader with grounding descriptions that make the heartbreaks bearable. The text is full of delicious descriptions and painful realizations, making it perfect to study when you have nothing but time on your hands.
5. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
I almost didn’t put in on here, but I had to be true to my heart. If you’ve been searching for a romantic beach read that isn’t tame or predictable, Fifty Shades is your knight in shining armor. The writing isn’t great, and the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is incredibly problematic, but I really did have fun reading it. Anna is funny, and E.L. James makes comments sometimes that let on that even she thinks what she’s writing is ridiculous. I probably enjoyed it more because I know it started off as Twilight fan-fiction, but doesn't that make you want to read it more?? You may or may not find it sexy, but you will find it hilarious.
6. Synthesis: Legion of Stateside Delusion by TC Koury
Synthesis is Koury’s debut novel. Its a seriously trippy mystery that will surely peak your interest. The story focuses on recent graduate Jim who uses his chemistry major connections to sell pure LSD with two of his best friends, and the decision naturally leads to shenanigans and an epic run from the law. Think Breaking Bad and The Fugitive combined into one drama-filled novel. It’s perfect for any of you recent graduates who need a reminder of why your life isn’t really as bad as it seems. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com.
7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
It may seem like I’m selling out with this pick, but I swear Moyes’s novel is so not your typical beach read despite the hype around the recent movie adaptation. Me Before You explores the budding romance and friendship between quadriplegic Will Traynor and his hired companion Lou Clark, a twenty-something with no foreseeable future insight. Lou is stuck in a rut of monotony, and Will helps her see what life has to offer despite his own inability to participate in most of the things he once found enjoyable. Their romance explores what falling in love is all about against the backdrop of a highly controversial topic: doctor-assisted suicide. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but you'll most likely be make-up free on the beach anway. Buy it. Now.
8. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult is a fiction goddess. Her novels are incredibly popular, and most of them feature some legal drama. Sing You Home is about a former couple’s battle over their frozen embryos they had made together when they were married, as Zoe wants them in order to have a baby with her new wife, Vanessa, and born-again Christian Max is convinced to fight Zoe’s decision by his aggressive older brother and a preacher who doesn’t seem all that genuine. The novel explores sexuality, morality, and what forgiveness really means from the perspectives of Zoe, Max, and Vanessa. It’ll make you cry and laugh, and feel genuinely hopeful. 10/10 would recommend.
9. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code is an epic read full of mystery and history that challenges what we know to be true about art and religion. The main character is Robert Langdon, a symbolist who is led on the adventure of a lifetime when he is accused of murdering a renowned art curator. The curator’s body is found mutilated and arranged in a particular way, leading Langdon and the curator’s granddaughter on a hunt for truth among secret societies. I literally didn’t know what was going on around me when I read this book because I was so wrapped up in it. If you’re looking for something to help you escape reality, Brown’s mystery is just the ticket.
10. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
If you don’t know who Harry Potter is, you’ve probably been living on a remote island for the past nineteen years or so, but just in case: the Harry Potter series follows orphaned Harry Potter who discovers he is a wizard on his eleventh birthday. The series focuses on Harry’s battles with Lord Voldemort, the darkest wizard of all time. I reread the entire series last summer, and they were almost more magical to me as an adult. I saw myself at the age I read each installment as I revisited Hogwarts, and it’s easier to appreciate just how masterfully Rowling created the magical world as an adult reader. It’s also perfect timing to reread or read the series now because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the manuscript of the play about Harry’s adult life, comes out in July. You’ll want to have Harry’s story fresh in your mind when reading about his life nineteen years after the series culmination.
Feature photo by Rob Bye/ VIA Unsplash