This column originally ran in the June 26, 2012 edition of Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. If you haven't already, sign up here for a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.
You'd be hard-pressed to find any two people who define a beach read in the same way. Is it a book about warm weather and beaches? Or a book set during the summer months? A light, easy read, or is summer the time to tackle a heavy, literary tome?
J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine is a novel of family and friendship, the story of three generations of Kelleher women as they descend on the family cottage one summer. Its unhurried, thoughtful pace is perfect for lazy days and long summer nights, while the steady unveiling of family secrets is bound to keep readers riveted through whatever beach distractions may present themselves. George Howe Colt takes on a similar subject--the recurring family vacation to a favorite summer spot--in The Big House, part love letter to the past and part history of the American summer home, told through the history of his family's own summer house on Cape Cod.
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach's much-acclaimed 2011 novel, takes on one of summer's greatest pastimes--baseball. Henry Skrimshader, a young prodigy of a shortstop, is recruited to play baseball for Westish College, where his life quickly becomes intertwined with the lives of four others. Harbach's stunning debut weaves together the narratives of each of these characters seamlessly, building a novel that is as much about baseball as it is about human relationships, love and loyalty.
Justin Cronin's The Passage bears scant resemblance to other vampire novels on the scene today; Cronin's "vampires" are the result of a virus let loose in the U.S., and the consequences are deadly. The plot is relentless, breakneck and, even though it's an 800+ page novel, the ending comes before you know it. With the next volume in the Passage trilogy coming this fall, now's the perfect time to pick up--or revisit--Cronin's nightmarish future.