Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beach Reads

I'm making my list of beach reads* for summer 2009 with relish and though I've never read any of these before so if any of you have, let me know what you thought!

*Note: beach reads comprise that marvelous genre which encompasses frivilous reads and gives one the excuse to read whatever will engross the lazy-day mind and hold its own against the sleep-inducing warmth of summer rays and waves in the background.

Nocturnes by John Connolly
This is a collection of short stories I'm inspired to delve into after reading The Book of Lost Things, a very good adult fairy tale. His stuff is a little dark but never needlessly so and he really knows his literature so he emulates other authors without being too obvious or dishonest about it.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
"Irène Némirovsky was a Jewish, Russian immigrant from a wealthy family who had fled the Bolsheviks as a teenager. She spent her adult life in France, wrote in French but preserved the detachment and cool distance of the outsider. She and her husband were deported to Auschwitz in 1942, where he was gassed upon arrival and she died in the infirmary at the age of 39. Her manuscript, in minuscule and barely readable handwriting, was preserved by her daughters, who, ignorant of the fact that these notebooks contained a full-fledged masterpiece, left it unread until 60 years later. Once published, with an appendix that illuminates the circumstances of its origin and the author's plan for its completion, it quickly became a bestseller in France. It is hard to imagine a reader who will not be wholly engrossed and moved by this book." —The Washington Post. The article puts it more concisely than I would, but I can't wait to read this book with such a sad but fascinating backstory.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
This has been called an adult bedtime story, it was inspired by W. B. Yeats' poem "The Stolen Child" . The book plays with the idea of a changling and the balance between a child wishing for its own independence and to be alone vs. abandonment and feelings of unwantedness. I'm very curious about the book, hopefully it will be a good read.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
As a woman teetering on the edge of generation X and generation Y (a.k.a. generation "Why not?"), I'm still debating whether or not it will be worth my time to get into this book (it received mixed reviews) poking fun and deciding the significance of growing up with Zach Morris, MTV's the Real World, and Billy Joel. I'm yet undecided.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
HILARIOUS, the name says it all! Who WOULDN'T want to read something this irreverant? Grahame-Smith has not rewritten but expanded Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, making her an unwitting but undeniable coauthor. This book mixes Edwardian sexual tension with ultra violence, something very rarely done right (I've only ever enountered ultra violence done well in A Clockwork Orange); just to be clear, ultra violence is actually not as bad as it sounds. It refers to violence so outrageous that the audience becomes wholly disconnected with the experience, it creates enough of a psychological barrier between the event and the reader snug in his/her armchair that it takes little effect. Much more damaging are the revolting and highly effectual horror novels masquerading as crime fiction, in my opinion. One of my many literary vendettas. Anyway, I can't wait to start this book; the literary community should never be so proud that they can not laugh at themselves and, likewise, not show prejudice to those who would write outside the box.

The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I am a die-hard fan of Jane Eyre, so I very much look forward to Setterfield and du Maurier's off shoots of the story I love so much. Both creepy, both full of romance and intrigue as I hear it; should be great fun and I purposely have nothing more to say about their respective plots as I've not researched so I wouldn't spoil anything. Aunt Candy, I might be reading a book with Sarah, but I'm reading this one so I can discuss it with you and Mom too!!

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
I revisit this book every summer, I read it the summer of 2003 and I always come back for the story and the education. This is a novel but it's a history of philosophy at the same time. A mysterious writer is sending letters to Sophie Amundsen and giving her the most user-friendly lesson on the history of philosophy. If you ever wondered what Hellenism, Marxism, the teachings of Descartes, Hegel, Kirkegaard...they're all there and seriously, it's so readable. I love this book dearly, my all time favorite for its story and stimulation.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
I'm most excited about this read because I get to share it with my dear Aunt Sarah! We're reading this book simultaneously this summer and plan to discuss (in person?? Think about it Sarah, you, me, the book, the beach...). She's pretty much the woman I want to grow up to be—editor extraordinaire, avid reader, general do-gooder making the world a better place—so it will be extra fun to get her perspective on this promising book. The novel is set in the 1830s and, interestingly enough, Gaskell died before finishing it (Frederick Greenwood wrote the last bit) so I'm curious to see how it ends and I think this gives us as readers permission to create our own ending, if we like, even more so than ever.

That's the list! Again, let me know if you've read any and have any comment. Some from my past years' lists (should you be looking for books I can recommend having actually read them):

The Wide Sargasso Sea, The Dogs of Babel, Water for Elephants, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Lovely Bones, and a must for summer, Dandelion Wine. Happy reading!!


Hannah Furst said...

I recently saw your post about reading Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. I wanted to pass along some information on an exciting exhibition about Némirovsky's life, work, and legacy at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through August 2009, includes powerful rare artifacts — including the valise in which the original manuscript for Suite Française was found, as well as many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there is a special website devoted to her story

Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Chris Lopez at 646.437.4304 or

Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.

Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. If you need any more, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you like Sophie's World, it is my all time favorite!

tiffany said...

K...I officially hate you for being so gosh darn amazing at this. But, I posted a very poor post in your honor. AND Kristen Jordan just recommended to me the Jane Austin Zombie book. You guys crack me up.

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