8 books to read at the beach this summer


It’s finally summer, and with everything going on in the world right now, you could probably use a little escape. As many of us retreat to beaches and pools to escape the heat, here are eight books from the summer edition of NPR Books We Love that you can take with you.

The exact definition of a range reading depends on who you ask. But hopefully you’ll find something to suit your tastes in our picks below – whether you’re in the mood for a lighthearted romance, short fiction, or a thriller.

I kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

/ Wednesday Books

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Wednesday books

Wednesday books

Shara Wheeler kissed Chloe Green then had the nerve vanish. Luckily, Shara left behind a trail of rose-wrapped clues and a pair of high school whodunits she too kissed. The ragtag trio tear up their small Alabama town in search of Shara – but what they find reveals as much truth about themselves as it does about Shara. He’s a teenager Harriet the spy – complete with Romance, Anguish, Rebellion and Taco Bell. In a year when LGBTQ youth and their families have faced intense political attacks, this book feels like a warm embrace.

Lauren Migakisenior producer, NPR Ed

swimmers by Julie Otsuka

Knopf

In Julie Otsuka’s new novel, swimmers, a motley group of regulars show up every day to do lengths in a university swimming pool. One day, a crack appears at the bottom near the drain, then another, reproducing in spidery clusters. When the pool is closed for safety reasons, the daily rhythm of bathers’ lives comes to an abrupt halt. swimmers is a thin and shiny novel about the value and beauty of mundane routines that shape our days and our identities. Step inside and soak up Otsuka’s distinctive style, which has all the verve and playfulness of spoken word poetry.

— Maureen Corrigan, literary critic, Fresh air

book lovers by Emily Henry

berkley

In someone else’s rom-com, literary agent Nora Stephens is the villain – a city workaholic who the hero dumps for love of a small town. This scenario is reversed when Nora’s sister drags her to Sunshine Falls, an idyllic small town in North Carolina. Nora’s vacation begins well, until she stumbles upon cold-hearted New York book publisher Charlie Lastra, whose family owns the failing local bookstore. Their chemistry crackles as they try to outsmart each other with taunts, teasing and maybe flirtations. Between exchanges of laughter out loud about Bigfoot’s erotica, they ponder what “happily ever after” looks like for two romantic comedy “villains.”

Lauren Migakisenior producer, NPR Ed

This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews

viking

If you’ve ever wanted to read a love letter to friendship, this is it. It could all be different follows Sneha, a 22-year-old consultant in Milwaukee who is building a life for herself in a new city. From dating women to dealing with financial anxiety to finding an unlikely group of friends, the novel explores the tenderness and turmoil of Sneha’s early years into adulthood. Through exquisite observations, Sarah Thankam Mathews reflects on the gift of having people you can rely on, anchoring you through new chapters.

— Nayantara Dutta, freelance writer

The old woman with the knife by Gu Byeong-mo, translated by Chi-Young Kim

Canongate

The opening of The old woman with the knife — Hornclaw, 65, chases his mark in a subway car while passengers avoid offering him a seat — sets his captivating, dry tone. Original title pagwa (bruised fruit), the novel is by turns a character study, a One Last Job thriller, and a dark comedy about the indignities of aging and working (his business as a mum and dad killer is, like everything else around it, undergoing gentrification). But some of its best moments make a poignant record of life’s little stings; Rarely has a peach forgotten in the kitchen been so keenly felt.

— Geneviève Valentine, author and book reviewer

Novelist by Jordan Castro

soft skull

/ Supple Skull

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soft skull

Soft skull

Jordan Castro is a novelist, and also a secondary character in Novelist, a novel about an aspiring novelist trying to write a novel. I understood? Sure, Castro’s fictional debut is as meta as it gets, but that’s part of his immense charm. The narrator of the book, which takes place over a morning, is determined to work on his novel but keeps getting distracted by making tea, the internet and his need to go to the bathroom. Castro’s book is weird – that’s for sure – but it’s also sweet, funny and beautifully written.

Michael Schaubliterary criticism

Mouth to mouth by Antoine Wilson

Avid Reader Press/Simon and Schuster

/Avid Reader Press/Simon and Schuster

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Avid Reader Press/Simon and Schuster

Avid Reader Press/Simon and Schuster

When you save someone’s life, do you become responsible? This is the question that propels Mouth to mouth forward. Set in the wealthy art world of Los Angeles, a young man with a secret seeks his fortune by attaching himself to a wealthy but cruel and deceitful dealer. It’s a lean, existentialist drama, topped off with a satisfying ending.

Anya Kamenetzcorrespondent, NPR Ed

present machine by Gunnhild Øyehaug, translated by Sophie Hughes

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In Gunnhild Øyehaug’s playful but poignant novel, a mother misinterprets a word as her young daughter plays nearby – a mistake that splits the mother’s world into two parallel universes, erasing her irrevocably from her daughter’s life and vice versa. From then on, mother and daughter continue to exist as thinkers and artists – but in their own worlds. The identity of each woman reflects the central duality of the novel: To be a biological mother is to be divided by gestation and birth, but to be creative is to assume an eternal, asexual and indivisible presence. Rejecting the classical concept of tragedy, Øyehaug’s modern Genesis story beautifully unifies life and art.

Thuy Ðinhwriter and literary critic

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