5 Great Beach Reads

by Amy Azzarito


When I was younger, I had a book in my hands at all times – to the annoyance of anyone trying to get my attention. I did everything while reading. Everything. I even perfected a shower-while-reading method. (The secret lies is reading with one hand outside of the shower, drying off that hand and switching.) I devoured books – books about girls with horses, books about girls who dance, books about girls who babysat. It didn’t matter. And when I read those books, I went far, far away. Fast forward a few (ok, twenty) years, and I can barely read two pages on my iPad at night before dozing off. And even if I do manage a few pages during the day, I just don’t have the same level of concentration that I once had. (Thank you, real life.) But summer promises a bit more time for reading, and I’m excited to crack open the pages of something new. Most of these books are very chapter focused. So, if you have some attention issues, like I do lately, you can read one chapter and come back to it. But if you’ve read anything good lately, or have something you can’t wait to page through, add it to the comments!  –Amy

See the full list of summer reads after the jump!

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding FINAL(1)

For: “those with wanderlust”: What I was doing While You Were Breeding: I have to admit that I wish this book had a bit of a less judge-y title because the book itself is not at all judgmental about life choices. It’s the personal story of TV sitcom writer Kristin Newman’s travels around the world to exotic locales (and meeting exotic locals) during her 20s and 30s. Her years working as a television writer for comedies like That ’70s Show, Chuck and How I Met Your Mother gave her money for plane tickets and three months off each year to travel. Not only is Kristin amazingly candid and entertaining sharing adventures like a New Year’s Eve party in a Parisian cathedral and her emergency surgery in the Dominican Republic, but at the same time she is also thoughtful and open. I love reading about other people’s adventures and fell head-over-heels for this book.


For: the “only read fiction”: If you’re going to read a novel this summer, it should most definitely be The Vacationers by Emma Straub. This is the book everyone’s been talking about – it tells the tale of a New York family spending two weeks in a vacation home on the Spanish island of Mallorca. And if you’ve even spent time with a family – yours or someone else’s – for two weeks in a vacation home, you know the sort of drama that can ensue. (Oh, and not too long ago, we shared author Emma Straub’s very cute house!)


For: “those who want to be productive with their reading”: Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong celebrates failure as the only way to learn and grow. Author Jessica Bacal realized that most people are reticent to reveal those times they made the wrong decision, stepped on toes or sent the wrong email, so she addressed that reluctance head-on and asked successful women to share moments of failure. Cheryl Strayed, Kim Gordon and Ruth Reichl, amongst many others, contributed essays about their defining failures. Each essay is followed with tips and takeaways and because the book is broken up into bite-size chapters, it’s the perfect book to read a little, put down, and reflect.


For: the “Paris obsessed”: You might be reading by a lake in Michigan or a beach in Maine (or if you’re me, in a sweaty Brooklyn walk-up), but if your heart’s in Paris, this is the book for you. This is definitely a little weighty for a beach pick, but Joan DeJean is one of my all-time favorite authors (She made my list of 10 Best Decorative Arts History Books) and she has a new book out devoted to Paris. How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City will make you see the city in an entirely new light. For example, did you know that Paris was the first truly walkable city in Europe?


For “the furniture obsessed”: This is one to put on your list for midsummer (it comes out July 15), Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town is the story of Viriginia’s Bassett Furniture company, once the world’s biggest manufacturer of furniture (to the tune of $500 million per year in sales). Beginning in the 80s, the company began to feel the effect of the influx of cheap Chinese furniture. Third generation owner John Bassett III fought back. Roanoke Times reporter Beth Macy tells how he used everything at his disposal – legal maneuvers, factory efficiencies and sheer grit – to save hundreds of jobs. It’s a must-read just for its look at what happens at home when we send jobs overseas and how we all play a role. This one is a page-turner.

Suggested For You


  • If you’re looking for a young-adult cancer romance, I recommend The Fault In Our Stars (although, everyone has been recommending that). If you want a “different perspective” The Good Luck of Right Now is a quick but interesting read (same author as Silver Linings Playbook). I’m def going to add some of these to my reading list, and Factory Man might be an excellent birthday gift for my mom, thanks!

  • I am all about the Mary Russell novels by Laurie R. King. These feature Sherlock Holmes and I’m usually hesitant when someone tries to take up another author’s characters, but King pulls it off very well.
    The first one is /The Beekeeper’s Apprentice/.

  • Can’t wait to check out a few of these!

    I still can’t stop recommending The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – a fascinating novel exploring talent, art, money and friendship, that many of you might enjoy!

  • Great recommendations! Vacationers has been on my list and the Paris book sounds super fun. I love books like that! Similar is At Home by Bill Bryson. I learned so much about the history of how we live now. Fascinating and a fun read. Also, Crazy Rich Asians is a fun, total fluff read that I think is perfect for Summer.

  • I love it when I’m sitting in a chair on the beach and start laughing out loud at some silly book I’ve been reading. People look at you and wonder what’s up, and you get a great feeling of superiority. You’ve managed to find a gem to while away those wonderful days of doing nothing.

  • I just finished The Vacationers and was so so disappointed. I’ve been talking about it for months and it was just a snoozefest.

    I am halfway through We Are Liars and really impressed.

  • The Rosie Project! It’s a cute but wonderful read – lots of humour too. Great summer reading.

  • Great recommendations! I have heard a lot about The Vacationers…will have to pick it up. On my last trip to the beach, I read The Goldfinch – it was wonderful!

  • Mistakes I made at Work will be on my lap in a couple of weeks. I like to read but I really like it to stimulate my thinking. This sounds like just the ticket! Thanks!!

  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley, is my new favorite book. It us an adult mystery starring a ten year old sleuth. It is set in post WWII England.

  • My favorite book so far this spring has been The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s a post-apocalyptic zombie coming of age mystery. I couldn’t put it down!

  • Thanks. I ‘m always looking for something different in my reading. Mistakes I made at work has captured my imagination. Kindle store here I come

  • I also read the Goldfinch this last month, on my vacation to Amsterdam. It was a perfect fit and a great vacation read!

  • I just finished The Vacationers and LOVED it. Now I’m finally reading Unaccustomed Earth, and it is just wonderful. I need to add some of these to my to-read list – Mistakes I Made at Work sounds like a good read. Anything with Cheryl Strayed and I’m sold.