Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Beach Bag Recommendations, 2015 Edition

I'm consistently late with Top Ten Tuesdays these days, but this week's topic is a favorite - beach bag recommendations. My idea of a beach/vacation read usually means a great story, but quality writing is also a must. I most often turn to literary fiction or classics.

This year's recommendations are mostly titles I've read in the past twelve months. I've added a couple of nonfiction titles for the first time this year, too. The links will take you to my review, where available, or to the goodreads page.


The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Family dysfunction in an idyllic setting


Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
Can you ever truly come home again? Friendship and love in a small town


An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser 
Based on an actual murder in New York's Adirondack Mountains
It's long, so be sure to reapply the sunscreen.


Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
YA fiction, the title is a play on The Bell Jar  by Sylvia Plath


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The psychological thriller everyone is reading this year


Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Delves into "the gothic underbelly of an idyllic world of privilege and an outsider’s hunger to belong"


Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
And Doctor Thorne, too! If you love Jane Austen, you'll love Trollope. 


Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky ...Will change the way you think about hotels


Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
A pre-blogging favorite


The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams 
At the top of my summer reading list this year - confident in the recommendation because her earlier novel, A Hundred Summers, is my favorite beach read, ever.

A look back:
My 2014 beach bag list
My 2013 beach bag list

What books are you recommending this summer?

34 comments:

  1. Looks good! And I don't think I want to read that hotel book. I'm paranoid enough already. I've wanted to read the Violet Grant book. Need to do that.

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    1. Kay - You'd be better off avoiding Heads in Bed, I think ;-)

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  2. I want to read The Secret Life of Violet Grant! It sounds so interesting. I loved Bourdain's Medium Raw and he talks a lot about Kitchen Confidential so I've been wanting to pick it up. I've already got The Vacationers, Heads in Bed, The Girl on the Train, and An American Tragedy on my TBR though the sheer size of An American Tragedy is probably going to keep me scared off for awhile!

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    1. Katherine - I got The Secret Life of Violet Grant for Mother's Day, and am really looking forward to it. Too bad An American Tragedy is so long...you're not the only one avoiding it for that reason.

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  3. I've got The Secret Life of Violet Grant on my nightstand to read this weekend! You've got a few on your list that I had forgotten about but know are on my Goodreads TBR extremely loonnggg list ~ like Belzhar and Heads in Beds! Have a great week!

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    1. Stacy - Violet Grant will be my first summer read and I have high hopes for it. Can't wait to hear what you think!

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  4. Love your list! You have several selections that I'm interested in reading (especially The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Bittersweet) On the classics front, Barchester Towers is starting to appeal to me more and more . . .

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    1. Monica - Even the setting of Bittersweet is perfect for beach reading. Hope you decide to give Trollope's Barsetshire series a try one day :)

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  5. I think that I have read and loved all of these!

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    1. Patty - I'm not surprised... I think our reading tastes are very similar :)

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  6. Bourdain. Love. His non fiction stuff is great but his thriller mystery stuff is not so great. Great stack of books here. I haven't even thought of summer. I have, but it was only for a brief moment. The weather has been so weird.

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    1. Ti - I never even knew Bourdain wrote fiction! I'll take your advice and stick to his nonfiction.

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  7. A few years ago, when I had to give a presentation at the "Literary Guild" Luncheon, I did it on 'An American Tragedy", and while we were eating lunch I had the movie "A Place in the Sun" playing. The little old ladies loved it! I might have to read that book again. Violet Grant is a book club choice for June.

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    1. Debbie - I loved An American Tragedy and also read Sister Carrie earlier this year. I wish Dreiser was more widely read today... still need to watch A Place in the Sun.

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  8. I haven't read any of these but half of them are in my wishlist. They do have a very summery feel though and that makes them ideal for beach reading.

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    1. Athira - Setting is so important to me... I love books with a summery feel!

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  9. The Secret Life of Violent Grant sounds like a good one.

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  10. Great recommendations! I've had Violet Grant sitting on my shelves way too long now! I will get to it this summer!!

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    1. Nise' - Looks like quite a few of us will be reading about Violet this summer!

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  11. The Girl on the Train is up next for one of my book groups. Fortunately someone was able to loan me her copy, because there were 995 people ahead of me on the library waiting list!

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    1. Lisa - I'm amazed by that number of holds! The Girl on the Train is a fun and entertaining read. Glad you were able to borrow a copy.

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  12. This is such a good list! You have some of my faves on here! Bittersweet, Shotgun Lovesongs! Girl on the Train made my list too this year. And, I tried out The Vacationers last summer, but it didn't really work for me.

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    1. Sarah - My review of Shotgun Lovesongs will finally be posted tomorrow. I remember having a near perfect reading experience with The Vacationers... it was a gorgeous summer weekend on a boat.

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  13. All great suggestions - thanks! I think The Vacationers is a superb beach read. I think also I'd suggest (of things I've read in the past year) The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos and Us by David Nicholls.

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    1. Anbolyn - I'm considering Us as my next audiobook, but will probably end up borrowing a print copy from the library and making it a read/listen combination. The production has gotten rave reviews.

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  14. Now I want to read One Hundred Summers. I am reading Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, very summer worthy reading. I will read the next Alexander McCall Smith book and the next Jan Karon, both of which I bought recently. Two more excellent summer reads.

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    1. Terra - I really think A Hundred Summers is THE perfect beach book! I'll be starting Framley Parsonage at the end of June/beginning of July (probably another read/listen combo). Alexander McCall Smith and Jan Karon are two authors I always enjoy, but haven't read lately... both perfect for summer, I agree!

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  15. I think the only one I've read is The Girl On The Train but I'd definitely recommend it as a summer read, too!

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    1. Lisa - The Girl on the Train was fun, wasn't it?! Hope you get to read some of the other, too.

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  16. I have been reading some of your blog posts JoAnn. You have a very impressive site.

    I agree that summer reading, contrary to the cliche, can include some substance. An American Tragedy is one of several great examples that you provide. It seems to fit the season.

    My wife read Kitchen Confidential and loved it. I should try to give it a try myself this summer.

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  17. Hi Brian - Thank you! An American Tragedy was one of my favorite books last years. I went on to read Sister Carrie last winter - also very good, but not quite AT. Kitchen Confidential was very entertaining, especially the audio version since Bourdain narrates it himself. I'm actually toying with reading Crime & Punishment this summer... have never attempted that one.

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